Tag Archives: margaret mellis

six abstract painters : a private view

Monday 30 May 2011

walking past st mary’s churchyard from the marketplace towards the new exhibition ‘six abstract painters‘ at the halesworth gallery, this is what you will first see – a most charming grade II listed building, built in 1686 (or perhaps earlier). as with a lot of very old buildings they are altered and rebuilt over the centuries making them difficult to date accurately. this building was formerly the town’s almshouses – that is, a place providing shelter for the destitute & impoverished of the parish.

halesworth gallery - suffolk

i was surprised to discover that this building still functioned as almshouses up to the early 1960s (read more information on halesworth, its history and the halesworth town trail here). the halesworth gallery has exhibited art by some notable names in twentieth century british art – including sculptor elisabeth frink and the painters mary fedden RA, feliks topolski, josef herman, mary potter and margaret mellis

the selection of artists for inclusion in the halesworth gallery exhibition programme takes place in january following a national ‘call for artists’. the exhibitions are planned & organised by a gallery committee. the halesworth gallery is only open from may to september as the building is very old and unheated (it would be very costly to heat it effectively, given the restrictions laid down on modernising listed buildings). so, the halesworth gallery season closes each september with a fabulous ‘open’ art exhibition, where every artwork submitted (with some size restrictions) is exhibited. i am always amazed how efficiently & imaginatively this process is undertaken, and the exhibition always attracts a lot of visitors. i must actually remember to submit a little something this year!

the halesworth gallery is now an established exhibition venue in central suffolk, it is non-profit-making, run by a team of dedicated volunteers, with a commitment to showing high quality, contemporary art (including painting, printmaking & sculpture) by professional artists who have strong connections or links to suffolk or east anglia. ok, let’s go in and take a look around the current exhibition, ‘six abstract painters’

halesworth gallery, suffolk - six abstract painters art exhibition

this is the first room of the gallery, showing mixed media paintings by the painter mari french, along the leftside wall. on the small table is the gallery’s guest book. the view through the window looks across to the church…

halesworth gallery, suffolk - six abstract painters

over to the other side of the first room are mixed media paintings by norfolk artist anthea eames (with one of her paintings hung in the old fireplace). there are two more of mari french’s canvases to the right. these two small works by mari caught my eye, where she has used plaster & textile collage elements to build up surface texture…

halesworth gallery, suffolk - exhibition - six abstract painters

mari french, ancient landscapes IV & V, mixed media on plaster on panel

mari french’s recent series of paintings are inspired by the open landscapes of north norfolk, where she has recently moved to from the highlands of scotland – from one dramatic landscape to another. in mari’s own words: “light and atmospherics play a strong part in my finished pieces, where the build-up of complex layers and the exposure of under-painting all add to the visual intensity.

these two paintings by anthea eames are near the reception desk…

six abstract painters - exhibition - halesworth

anthea eames, coastal dwelling & coastal dreaming II,  mixed media, including norfolk woad, earth pigments and sand

anthea eames‘ map-like abstract paintings have strongly cultural resonances, bound up in the history of ancient sites or tribal landscapes. anthea says that: “my more recent work draws on my present home in Norfolk and frequent visits to Australia. Collecting impressions and subsequently working with these, I attempt to understand my place in these disparate worlds. Each location brings with it its own spirit, colour and textural palette.” also key to anthea’s process is that she sources & uses locally-derived pigments and earth minerals in her work, such as norfolk woad… these are the kind of paintings, embedded as they are with discreet layers of history and meaning, which ask to be deciphered slowly

on through to the next room of the gallery, we encounter the work of another norfolk-based artist, john midgley…

halesworth gallery, suffolk - six abstract painters - art exhibition

john midgley, marsh cut, threshold I & II, oil on canvas

i first came across one of john midgley’s paintings at salthouse 09, where i was also an exhibitor. he describes his paintings as “strident, gritty paintings that grab you by the collar and demand attention.”

this new series of landscape-derived works have a more subdued mood though, reminding me of the poetic daubings of cy twombly. you really have to see these paintings close-up to appreciate the gestural brushwork. this series of paintings are inspired by the same location, salthouse marshes. john has been a member of the salthouse art committee since 2008 and is also exhibiting in this year’s salthouse art exhibition, salthouse 11: ad limina, curated by art historian and gallery owner of art1821, laura williams…

the artist geraldine carratu is exhibiting some large canvases on the opposite wall; she is also based in norfolk. she works in both acrylics and oils. these three paintings worked well together, united in form and content…

halesworth gallery - six abstract painters - an exhibition

geraldine carratu, evening sail, harbour blue & beach hut

this leads us through to the third and final room of the gallery, one that feels lighter and more spacious. to the left are a series of canvases & works on panel by the london-based artist joan hickson. joan works with a muted colour palette and her paintings suggest the weathered elements of the coast…

halesworth gallery - six abstract painters - art exhibition

joan hickson, sleep I, mixed media on canvas, and waterfront study 1 -4, mixed media on board

and lastly, to some of my own paintings in this exhibition…

six abstract artists - art exhibition - halesworth gallery, suffolk

to the right, in the fireplace, the large canvas painting, edgescape rost

and over there, on the church-side wall, three farmscapes

six abstract arttists - exhibition - halesworth gallery, suffolk

farmscape VI, VII and II, mixed media on canvas

you can see more abstract farmscape paintings here…

art exhibition - six abstract painters

edgescape fenn

you can see more pictures of the abstract painting fenn here. the observant might also note a change in orientation – this is because this is (to me) a seasonal painting; in the spring the suggestion of new life rises up from the earth, in the winter it is sleeping below ground…

and lastly, to some of my small iCons

six abstract artists - art exhibition

wildwood I, II, III

six abstract artists - art exhibition

siena (top), congo and redwood (below)

six abstract painters artists - exhibition art gallery

close-up of one of the small iCons – redwood, 2011

you can see more images from this exhibition in the previous post: six abstract painters : an exhibition

Six Abstract Painters, Halesworth Gallery*, Steeple End, Opp. St Mary’s Church, Halesworth, Suffolk, IP19 8LL

28 May to 15 June 2011

open daily, Monday-Saturday 11am to 5pm, Sundays 2pm – 5pm…

if you are holidaying on the beautiful suffolk coast, or perhaps visiting aldeburgh, snape, southwold, walberswick or dunwich, the small market town of halesworth is only a short drive away, a few miles further inland from blythburgh church (with the legendary scratches of the fearsome ‘black shuck’, curious pew carvings representing the seven deadly sins and exquisitely carved angels high up in the roof), and not far from henham park (a private estate which hosts the annual latitude music festival). the town of halesworth is signposted off the a12.

*n.b. due to the unique character and age of the building those with mobility issues will find the steep, narrow stairs to the upstairs gallery difficult. please call the gallery on 01986 873064 should you require any assistance or more information prior to your visit…

addendum: the artist mari french has put up some photographs of the preview evening of ‘six abstract painters’ here…

On snakes and ladders

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Yesterday I saw a grass snake, the first in many years… he appeared languidly from behind some plant pots, taking a sun bath, but as soon as I moved in to view him closer he slithered away into the long grass… and with no camera, no photo opportunity. Significant perhaps as I am the sign of the snake, according to the Chinese horoscope. Ah, the symbol of the snake: enigmatic, graceful, alert but cautious, astute, and somewhat secretive.

Which leads me to think about the board game Snakes and Ladders, a moral parable of the path of life, the ups and downs, taking and giving, greed and temptation versus piety and generosity of spirit. Life as an artist is such a game, in which you climb selfishly to reach new perspectives, but one ladder will only reach so far and it is a solitary adventure: many can help steady the ladder, but only one can climb to the top.

It is a sign that we need to to take risks, move out of the comfort zone, avoid falling into the trappings of formulaic or derivative work. It seems too, talking to other artists, that it is quite natural to have fallow periods occasionally, where the creative urge wanes and needs new input, or when you receive rejections which dent the spirit, or you decide to pursue ideas quietly without any reference to an audience (or an income).

I went to see the Margaret Mellis retrospective and the Constructed (De Stijl, Bauhaus, Russian Constructivism) exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre, and the Mellis turned out to be an eye-opener.
margaret mellis collage
This exhibition is a celebration of her life and her work. Reading and watching a film of Mellis (on the video monitor), she became her most productive after the move to Southwold, the work beforehand was quite minimal in contrast (the dates on the few earlier works displayed in this exhibition are imprecise). I found out a lot about Mellis, such as she lived in a village not far from where I spent some of my childhood years, prior to moving on to the coast, her artistic productivity there helped by the numerous offerings of beach detritus from a generous public far and wide.

It is strange to think that she was creating these textural and abstract constructions at a time when I was finding little joy in art classes at school – classes which consisted of drawing sliced cabbages and reflections of newspapers in chrome kettles – although I am grateful I persisted with a 2B pencil as my only medium, since a myopic scrutiny of things is the natural eyesight of an artist.

Here are some of my own mixed media collages from the mid 1990s. It feels oddly fulfilling & meaningful when you can make some connections between your own art and another artist’s work when you did not know of them or their work at the time of making them…
green mixed media collage

my life, in colour

Sunday 13 July 2008

A digital collage of some of the things I have been working on lately…

collage of works in progress

Abstracted dystopian landscapes of environmental disaster and decay on canvas, some line drawings on graph paper that I have scanned, small collages, and some small works on plaster developed from pages in one of my sketchbooks. The line drawings began as very quick sketches of mundane architectural details, which I then scanned onto acetate and overlayed in various ways, successive layers producing structured and yet chaotic imagery that suggests anything from electrical wiring diagrams to maps and building plans, reflecting the fast pace of redevelopment in the landscape … it’s all so busy busy!! Anyhow, my plan is to develop these linear images in printmaking. The small panels (one, bottom right in photo) I have been calling my incidental paintings as they are by-products of the larger canvases, depositories for random daubs of paint, trying out colour mixes…

The Harleston & Waveney (HWAT) art trail continues this weekend, full details of the event can be downloaded from here. The Harleston Gallery is also worth a visit for the taster exhibition, if not for the scrumptuous cakes served in the cafe, or to dine at the evening bistro; it’s an old Georgian bank building, tastefully renovated…

Anyhow, it’s off to to the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich very soon to see the Margaret Mellis retrospective exhibition, A Life in Colour. I am looking forward to seeing it as I have discovered that she was producing large driftwood assemblages during the period that I moved to East Anglia and starting working with mixed media collage and assemblage (as I had no money for a printing press), but I knew nothing then about her or her work. Mellis was a contemporary of Ben Nicholson and the St Ives group of artists (but there’s no mention of her on Wikipedia), so this recognition of her work is long overdue. She finally settled in Southwold in Suffolk; it is undoubtedly the influence of the coastal detritus that inspires the scavenger in the artist to repeatedly construct something unique from the disregards of others…