Tag Archives: maggi hambling

exhibition at aldeburgh gallery : britten centenary

Wednesday 20 November 2013

ahoy there..! after being all at sea for a while, it was nice to be invited to contribute some small artworks for a group exhibition at the aldeburgh gallery, buoyantly entitled britten’s birthday bonanza, which opens later this week on the special occasion of the britten centenary celebrations this weekend – as friday 22nd november 2013 is the centenary of the birth of internationally acclaimed composer benjamin britten.

the exhibition, britten’s birthday bonanza, will feature recent work by three artists: sara johnson (watercolour paintings), gill levin (oil paintings) and chris mound (woodcut prints), alongside a selected exhibition of small artworks by artists associated with the art collective HWAT.

Britten’s Birthday Bonanza
21st – 27th November 2013
Aldeburgh Gallery
143 High Street
IP15 5AN

aldeburgh has become synonymous with the life & work of benjamin britten, a lasting legacy of international cultural importance to a once small fishing town on the suffolk coast – and a boon to local trade & tourism.

a leisurely stroll from the car park situated next to maggi hambling’s scallop sculpture (created in response to britten’s peter grimes) along the shingle beach is an idle pleasure later rewarded by the finest fish & chips to be purchased at the very other end of town… never one to push the boat out…

the liminality of sea, shoreline and shingle, a sliver of silver-green sea glinting in sunlight, or the percussive crashing of the waves, rain strumming over the marshes, the dramatic ever-changing skies, all nature’s moody atmospherics, playing out a performance indifferent to us…

benjamin britten was born in lowestoft, further up the suffolk coastline (his childhood home is now a fashionable B&B), and after studying & working in london and travelling to america, he later settled in aldeburgh with his artistic muse & partner, the singer peter pears (their final home, the red house, is now the location of the britten-pears foundation).

in 1948, with the support of peter pears and the writer eric crozier, britten established the aldeburgh festival, an annual event which attracted musicians and performers from far and wide. in 1967 the festival relocated to more spacious surroundings in the conversion of a former maltings building in the nearby village of snape. the new concert hall was officially opened by queen elizabeth II, who later returned to reopen it in 1970 after a fire destroyed the concert hall in 1969 just before the opening of that year’s festival.

the snape maltings complex is now the centre of aldeburgh music: a year-round programme of concerts and performances in tandem with a creative support and education programme for performers and musicians. snape is also the location of the snap art exhibition, and there are some impressive outdoor sculptures too (as written about previously).

suffolk was a source of much creative inspiration to britten; places of significance to britten’s music are included this interactive map of britten. there is more information about benjamin britten, peter pears and the special britten centenary celebrations at these websites:

Britten-Pears Foundation: http://www.brittenpears.org/

Aldeburgh Music’s Britten Centenary: http://www.brittenaldeburgh.co.uk/

BBC Radio & TV programmes: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search?q=britten

BBC Radio 3’s Britten Centenary weekend:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:

[Ariel’s Song, The Tempest, William Shakespeare]

views from the castle, to cornwall

Tuesday 23 October 2012

last weekend the norwich castle open art show 2012 opened to the public and i was privileged to be on the guest list to attend a packed preview evening. i didn’t apply for this open art exhibition (and i was reminded by someone on the evening that if you don’t try, you’ll never know), but it was good to see some artists i know who had paintings selected for this showcase exhibition. so i have decided to show some pictures of their work here (taken at the exhibition preview).

this densely textured landscape oil painting by the artist mary spicer perfectly encapsulates the local farmland views; i felt like i could walk straight into the scene of this painting…

[furrowed field, january, by mary spicer, oil on canvas]

i’m just looking at the chunky, carved-up clods of black earth, treading carefully between the tractor tyre rucks, boots lead-heavy with mud, breathing the damp, cold air on a still winter’s morning, the motionless grey sky, the hazy orb of the sun barely seen through a soft blanket of cloud…

another artist who focuses on the rough, carved-up and deeply-sculpted patterns of ploughed fields in the agricultural landscape is david page

[starston ploughing swirl by david page, oil on canvas]

david page has said this is one of his most ‘abstract’ pieces. in some of his paintings there is a glimpse of an horizon at the very top of the picture plane to situate us in the landscape, but here the focus is squarely on the striated pattern of the ploughed earth, as if these marks are made not by ordinary mankind, recalling crop circles…

i then came across a lovely painting by the artist mike ashley, who i know through the art group i belong to, artworks. when i first saw this painting from a distance i thought it was a snow-covered fieldside (perhaps fields had over-preoccupied my thoughts, given there are quite a few rural landscapes in this exhibition)…

[rising tide by mike ashley, acrylic on board]

another artworks artist, genista dunham, has one of her splendid papier mache vessels on display in the exhibition. ‘incendiary’ is an interesting fusion between the visual narrative and the pentimenti of the process, powerful stories revealed by the emergence of words which belie the humble materials of newspaper and paint …

[incendiary by genista dunham, papier mache]

it was also good to see some work by chris gamble, yet another artworks artist.

[just looking by chris gamble, drawing on paper]

i like the naturally expressive fluidity of chris’s loose drawing style, seemingly light-of-hand & immediate, having just the right amount of gestural detail to be visually enticing. this series of small ‘heads’ are quirky and amusing, reminding me of the work of jean dubuffet. chris gamble won a purchase prize (or was it two prizes?) at the recent Eastern Open art exhibition at King’s Lynn Arts Centre…

another artist in the exhibition, david rock, also relishes in quickly observing and drawing scenes of everyday life, often with a wry sense of humour. here is a drawing and watercolour study of the disorderly array of tv aerials on rooftops disrupting a more scenic view, a pun in the title.

[aerial views, san gimignano by david rock, ink, pastel and watercolour]

david rock is a previous president of RIBA and his architectural practice is evident in his drawing style. david rock was instrumental in the formation of the harleston & waveney art trail collective (together with his wife, Lesley), elected as chairman and then treasurer for a number of years.

it was a lovely surprise to see this painting by anthea eames, an artist who i showed with last year in the six abstract painters group show at the halesworth gallery. it was a pity that this painting was hung so high on the wall, so the textural surface qualities could only be seen from a distance.

[iceni dreaming by anthea eames, norfolk woad, coastal sand, ochres, chalk, gold pigment on panel]

i overheard someone say the show was like the royal academy summer exhibition, the standard response to any mixed exhibition where the walls are chock-full of art and all of it is for sale. all the 2D work is hung traditional salon-style, mixing and matching, but most are not placed too high nor too close to each other, and the walls and dividing partitions are painted in a very light grey, complementing most artists’ work.

from the rather hectic viewpoint of the preview evening there was a wide spectrum of styles and sizes of work, from the miniscule to the mammoth, mostly figurative (or semi-figurative) to some bold abstracts, and mostly paintings, but there were some drawings, photography, mixed-media works and small sculptures too.

it’s always a delight to see a dee nickerson painting, given that they sell so quickly in commercial galleries.

[flock of pigeons by dee nickerson, acrylic on paper]

this painting depicts a small farmhouse and outbuildings, rolling fields and some grazing sheep. it’s a scene into which one wants to explore and travel through at leisure, curiously delighting in the small incidents and tiny details: up and over a gate or fence, down a quiet lane, through a door or into a shed. this painting feels very much like a map of place that may or may not exist in reality. dee nickerson is represented by the southwold gallery (among many others) and will soon have some paintings included in a group exhibition at the fry art gallery.

[liquid dawn I by sue laughlin, oil on canvas]

last year i visited the studio of the painter sue laughlin and i was able to appreciate the spiritual dimension of ancient trees and woodlands in her oil paintings, and how the process of painting in glazes of colour contribute to an atmospheric, sometimes other-worldly aesthetic in her work. sue laughlin, dee nickerson, david page, david rock and mary spicer are all artist members of the art group, HWAT.

it is no surprise that elements of the landscape should feature so strongly across the range of work in this exhibition, reflecting as it does, the work of east anglian artists. vision & reality aims to ‘celebrate the vitality and diversity of the region’s creative talents’, and the exhibition has been largely sponsored by the East Anglia Art Fund, in partnership with Arts Council England & the Norfolk Museums Service. the East Anglia Art Fund is a charitable foundation working to support and enable new exhibitions in Norfolk, notably the high-profile art exhibitions at Norwich Castle museum, in addition to supporting regional artists by providing opportunities to sell their art (such as vision & reality, the Norwich Castle Open Art Show 2012).

according to the exhibition leaflet there were seven hundred and thirty nine entries from three hundred and twelve artists from across norfolk, suffolk, essex & cambridgeshire. the selectors were looking for work inspired by east anglia as a broad theme for the show. did i mention that i didn’t enter any work into this particular show?

the exhibition subtitle, vision & reality, is a quote from the artist cedric morris:

there must always be great understanding between the painter and the thing painted, otherwise there can be no conviction and truth… this might be called ‘vision and reality’, as opposed to realism. reality is knowledge and realism only the appearance of knowledge.

the three esteemed judges on the selection panel for vision & reality were: John LessoreHumphrey Ocean and John Wonnacott – but at the time of advertsing for the open call to artists the selectors had yet to be revealed, making it difficult to judge what kind of work ‘they’ might select, and whether i should ‘go for it’, or not. the judges selected one hundred and forty five works for this exhibition (from one hundred and forty artists) – so well done to all the artists who had work accepted – and commiserations to those that didn’t.

running concurrently with the open exhibition vision & reality, is Cedric Morris & Christopher Wood: A forgotten Friendship. due to the hustle-bustle of the preview, talking to artists (and taking these photographs!) i didn’t get a chance to view this new exhibition in full (in the adjacent gallery), although many paintings caught my immediate attention, particularly the wall of portraits. this exhibition includes loans from many national museums and galleries, including this wonderful christopher wood self-portrait from the collection of kettle’s yard, which i remember from the recent BBC four documentary, the art of cornwall.

cedric morris (born in wales) is most known for establishing the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing (with his partner arthur lett-haines), with its most acclaimed ex-student being the painter lucian freud. early paintings by freud (as seen in the recent BBC tv documentary) show the initial influence of his teacher. compare this early painting by lucian freud of his teacher cedric morris with this equally mesmeric painting by cedric morris of the young lucian freud in the tate collection. the painter maggi hambling was also a student at the school, and she will be participating in a special panel discussion to coincide with the exhibition at castle museum.

whilst cedric morris’s artistic career was a long and distinguished one (later inheriting the title of a baronet), the life of the artist christopher wood (aka ‘kit’) is more tragic, having apparently taken his own life at the age of twenty nine by jumping in front of a train, just as he was becoming more well-known as an artist – too many issues to discuss here. in the early 1920s christopher wood spent time studying in paris, meeting picasso and other influential artists, connections which proved instrumental to his development as an artist. so, a longer visit to the ‘forgotten friendship‘ exhibition will be necessary to find out more about the connection between cedric morris and christopher wood, with their many artistic associations which are subtly entwined within the history of modern british (and european) art.

i like hearing stories about the history of artists in suffolk, how it sometimes takes an outsider (or outsiders) to stir things up a little. suffolk-born painter alfred munnings (who later rose through the artistic establishment ranks to become president of the royal academy in the 1940s), was famously intolerant of ‘modern’ art, and was probably quite scornful of cedric morris’s new school of art, situated as it first was, in dedham (constable country) where munnings lived for most of his adult life. after a fire broke out in the original art school it relocated to a large house near hadleigh. it seems their paths had crossed previously, as cedric morris had once worked alongside alfred munnings at a military horse stables in buckinghamshire during the first world war.

incidentally, i discovered earlier on in the year that there is, still in the making, a film (called summer in february, based on a book of the same name) on the early part of alfred munnings life and the troubled relationship with his first wife, florence carter-wood (who tragically took her own life soon after they were married). you can read a little about that time here. curiously, there is no mention of this in the artist’s biography at the munnings museum (castle house, dedham), probably in respect to his second wife violet, who founded the museum after his death.

alfred munnings stayed for a short while in newlyn (in cornwall) and then lived at lamorna (1911-1914, where he met his first wife, florence). cedric morris also visited newlyn a little later in 1919-1920, which pre-dates what was to become something of an exodus of artists to cornwall from the 1920s right up to the 1960s and 1970s. christopher wood visited st ives in cornwall with the painter ben nicholson in 1928 and it was then that they discovered the paintings of the naive artist, alfred wallis.

now, i am beginning to think that every suffolk artist needs to make a special trip to cornwall at least once in their lifetime…

Cedric Morris & Christopher Wood: A Forgotten Friendship
20th October to 31st December 2012

The Norwich Castle Open Art Show 2012: Vision & Reality
20th October to 9th December 2012

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
NR1 3DD (Sat Nav, nearest car park Castle Mall)

Both exhibitions are open daily: Monday – Saturday 10am to 4.30pm, Sundays 1pm – 4.30pm

art, it's a snap : maggi hambling & may cornet

Thursday 5 July 2012

more snaps from the Snap 2012 exhibition (Art at Aldeburgh Festival) at Snape Maltings…

in one of the disused malt buildings, an interesting ‘conflation’ of traditional painting and sound installation by the suffolk-based artist Maggi Hambling…

maggi hambling, painting installation, you are the sea, snape maltings, suffolk

you are the sea, maggi hambling 2012

this building is ‘presented’ in a state of elegant abandonment, not unlike a dystopian film set, littered at the boundary with architectural detritus but the floor is scrubbed clean. the eerie sounds of a water sluice (which Maggi Hambling encountered daily while sketching the north sea at nearby Thorpeness beach) meld into the sounds of a wailing voice or a poetical reading of sorts (uncredited) from the circular vented structure (a redundant relic from the building’s former use) – the ghosts of the sea are summarily summoned…

maggi hambling, painting installation, snape maltings, suffolk

i sat on the vent to listen through (as instructed). the accompanying ‘suspended’ canvas painting (Wall of Water VIII, from a series on the North sea) became less compelling as the draw of dark, semi-derelict architectural spaces encourages the eyes to wander & explore – although, bravo to this bold departure from the context of a white cube gallery.

many of the redundant outbuildings here (especially those without windows or roofs) are artfully preserved in a state of semi-dereliction with tidy groupings of architectural & industrial detritus – rusting containers, stacks of wood, bricks and tiles, drainage pipes, scrap metal, engine parts, even the carcasses of old cars – and such arrangements became even more appealing to the senses because on this day it was raining hard (in that dystopian, the-world-is-falling-apart-and-i-think-i-like-it way). no one else was about and this environment needed no other artistic intervention other than eyes to see it (or souls to feel it)…

snape maltings, dereliction detritus, suffolk

snape maltings, buildings, weeds, nature, suffolk

and let us not forget the invasive nature of the flora which some might call ‘weeds’, that serve to remind us of the unassuming poetry in encroaching wildness. nature is reclaiming this building…

it’s an idea purposefully recrafted as a secret ‘Walled Garden’ by the artist May Cornet later on in the Snap tour. stacked piles of bricks have been sown with a medley of wild flowers and grasses, with the white hexagonal structures perhaps mystically channelling these elements of nature. alas, the white gate to this manufactured haven for wildlife was firmly locked, so one was left peering through the prison-like bars from a controlled distance, as if we can never truly be free with nature, wherever we seek it. in truth, this merging of the man-made and nature in the environment can be witnessed anywhere: in urban derelict spaces, the hinterland sprawl, waste sites, railway sidings, rural backyards…

may cornet, walled garden installation, snape maltings, suffolk

the walled garden, May Cornet 2012