Tag Archives: sainsbury centre

on past times and art nouveau

Saturday 31 March 2012

the other day i went to see a new exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre, The First Moderns: Art Nouveau, from Nature to Abstraction, which coincided with the excellent BBC three part series, Sex and Sensibility : The Allure of Art Nouveau, written and presented by Stephen Smith.

so, having watched two of the three art nouveau programmes i was predisposed to enjoy my visit to this exhibition…

dear reader, please, take a seat. the minimalist architecture of the sainsbury centre (designed by sir norman foster) provided a very modernist reflection on the development of art nouveau, a style often associated with the earlier ‘back to nature’ rustic aesthetic of the arts & crafts movement (william morris). however, most evident here in charles rennie mackintosh’s black lacquered chair is the japanese aesthetic influence, leading on to the harmonic, simplified design elements seen in de stijl, bauhaus, and later still, in minimalism…

it was interesting to reflect on the universal, recurring themes of nature and creation in art, from paganism and celtic symbols to the free-flowing abstract patterns of 1960’s psychedelia. as in life, so in art. nature is rarely far removed from the subject of art..

[emille gallé, glass vase]

i liked looking at and contemplating this glass vase; glass is the perfect medium to express ideas of nature & renewal, from its molten materiality and fluidity of lines to the way its solid form attracts, consumes and reflects the light, the light of life itself – it really glows (and grows on you).

minimalism rejected the motifs of nature and, later on, conceptualism had no need to show the ‘appearance’ or a likeness of nature to express a new idea about it. so, i wonder, have we now lost touch with nature? and, perhaps more importantly, what is nature, exactly?

this exhibition reaffirmed how elements of nature continuously feed into art and design (even now, in this brutal, austere age) and i will visit again as the exhibition is on until december 2012.

so, naturally enough, when i later had the opportunity to take an leisurely walk through the fine city’s royal arcade it was with revitalised and more knowing eyes…

i learnt, via the bbc programme, that these tiles were designed and manufactured by a company called ‘daltons’, who also created the mosaics in one of harrod’s foodhalls. this really is a fine example of art nouveau in architecture, perhaps even better than paris…

however, on leaving the spendidly preserved tiled architecture of the ‘royal arcade’, a small sign of modern day reality was waiting directly opposite, as if to quietly express, just in passing, nothing lasts forever

‘this store is now closed’ (repeat, closed) – a sad sign of the times, past times indeed…

past times, as its name suggests, traded on a nostalgia for historical, old-looking things (homewares, accessories). i once received the gift of a drawstring brocaded handbag which came from ‘past times‘; it was obviously a brand new handbag but it had a bohemian aesthetic or style which one might easily associate with the pre-raphaelites, and i liked it…

while on my way out of the fine city, i spotted this architectural abstraction, comprised of metal, plywood and some panes of glass – but it’s just a redundant office block. it is always fascinating to discover mundane, semi-derelict buildings looking ready for redevelopment (or total destruction) which unintentionally reflect a very pared-down, minimalist aesthetic – wood veneer never really goes out of style…

[an office block in modern times]

rebirth: an exhibition

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Rebirth: An ancient culture and philosophy revisited; rediscovered; revitalised; readdressed and remade.

Rebirth, curated by Lorraine Cooke, is an exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Art inspired by Ancient Jomon culture and Japanese aesthetic, in collaboration with the Unearthed exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

The Rebirth exhibition features artworks by Sahoko Aki, Megumi Baba, Shaun Caton, Veronica Grassi, Jazz Green, Tsunaki Kuwashima, Barbara Leaney and Keika Sako. Rebirth, the exhibition, at gallery Art 1821, runs from 29th July to 8 September 2010.

The gallery Art 1821 has a strong curatorial ethos and shows contemporary art by established and emerging artists. Together with exhibitions of new work, the gallery has works for sale by established artists from previous generations. Works by Piranesi, Fernand Leger, Prunella Clough, William Scott and Jamini Roy sit alongside works by established living artists such as Maurice Cockerill, Eric Fischl, Laxma Goud and Colin Self.

i like the linking curatorial concepts behind unearthed and rebirth – as something re-discovered, re-visited, re-contextualised, re-vitalised… i have three large paintings in this exhibition.

i have also been pondering on (the year) 1821 – it was the year Baudelaire was born, and also the year that Keats died…

UPDATE: see some gallery pictures of the rebirth exhibition here…

last chance to see… the NCA 2010 (Norfolk Contemporary Art) exhibition closes at 6pm 21 July 2010

faux, the love of artifice

Wednesday 14 July 2010

some thoughts on the wider significance of the lichens… it seems quite simple – they signify life amongst the decay, a sign of gentle renewal, the circle of life, the quiet resilience of nature, all the more poignant when experienced within the context of a graveyard, existing on the very surface that marks and memorialises a death (as previously seen in these photographs – on looking and lichen, december 2009, and more recently the lichen drawings) – but that wouldn’t fully justify making art or paintings sourced from lichens, as the photographs might convey these ideas quite adequately, in the right context… it would seem there is a challenge inherent in objectifying the powers of nature within art – and artists have been doing this for some time…

it was quite difficult to focus on the quiet matter of some painting over the weekend due to the cacophony of resident noise, (i need not go into the finer details of the myriad power tools in usage, dear reader, except to say that the particular occurence of some petrol-powered hedge-trimming at 7.30am was not music to my sensitive ears)… so, my best painterly intentions went a bit awry… what did i create instead??

lichen textured experiments
some alien biscuits or are they mutant cornflakes? some tentative lichen-ness experiments, which could do with being a little more crusty

like lichen
i attached one to the painting canvas…

lichen art
shown here with the artist’s hand, to give an idea of scale…


just looking, through the lichen-ness…

this idea, of creating fragments to use in work goes back a little… in my mixed media collages of the 1990’s i re-created fragments of stone, rust, metal, etc, which were then assembled into the work – many people believed i had found these fragments – i had not, they were entirely faux…

here’s an example of some eroded fragments from early 1997. you can see some of this older mixed media collage work on my collage art page

speaking of artifice, here’s a small detail of a large painting on panel, edgescape: lichen/algae, a work that precedes the current encusted fascinations by a few years… but it is also relevant to mention here in that it will be included in a new art exhibition…

i am really pleased to have been invited to exhibit three of my large edgescape paintings (algae, corros and rost) with a new gallery in the fine city of norwich, art1821. they will be shown in an exhibition that has been planned in collaboration with the sainsbury centre for visual arts, focusing on japanese art and the environment. the exhibition at art1821 is called rebirth, to coincide with the sainsbury centre’s unearthed exhibition… (many thanks go to BM for helping me get my paintings to the gallery)…

the art1821 gallery has a charming ambience with its low ceilings and irregular, cobbled, whitewashed walls, situated in one of the city’s oldest ‘listed’ buildings in the heart of tombland, the medieval quarter of the city… in a curious way, these historical features seem to complement the showing of modern art (i saw some margaret mellis assemblage works on the wall), in the way that the sainsbury centre’s minimalist open-plan aesthetic, of the transparent, inside-outside architectural design (not much changed since the 70’s), brings a fresh-eyed perspective to a substantial collection of old world artefacts… (for those that do not know, the scva building was designed by sir norman foster) … i would really like to visit the unearthed exhibition…

i had just enough time to also quickly see the norfolk contemporary art show at the forum – did i mention that i have some work in this exhibition too? whilst there i discovered that there is also a series of lunchtime artist talks (but i had just missed one) and also a series of ‘artists-talking’ videos on permanent playback during the exhibition – i enjoyed watching a couple of these short video talks before i had to dash back… i am not involved in this, so anybody desiring to find out a little more about my art and inspiration may find something of interest in this very blog.

i have also added a couple of new webpages to this website, of which this earnest ‘artist journal’ is just a small (but ever-evolving and expanding) section of it…  there is now a new page devoted to the recent/ongoing series of travel-inspired intaglio collagraph prints on canvas. here are four of the canvases currently on exhibition in the aforementioned norfolk contemporary art


norfolk contemporary art 2010

my four iCon works, fjord, tuscany, havana & sushi, are displayed between an intriguing mixed-media assemblage by andy cairns – an artist who was also in the salthouse exhibition i was in last year, and whose work is mentioned in my little bloglet devoted to the salthouse 09 art exhibition – and also a rather small but perfectly formed susan gunn painting… i would like to see this year’s salthouse exhbition, landmark 10, but travelling is a bit problematic at the moment (with a knackered, soon-to-be decommissioned iron horse…)…

i have been thinking about a collective title for these small intaglio works on canvas, briefly considered iCons (or eye-cons) and then decided upon eikons (from the greek, a symbolic or representational object) – it was still a suitably concise-sounding word – but an icon now also refers to little square computer symbols or visual shortcuts – but the variant, more archaic ei spelling also suggested a reference to the electronic internet… with so many con-nections, i was suitably con-verted…

everything is so e, i or ii these days, isn’t it… do you have an e-car yet? i once made a birthday card with a comical u-pod, using an apple-style umlaut, with party like it’s 1978 as the tagline, appropriating an image from a knitting pattern that i found in a charity shop, of a chap modelling an itchy-looking sweater with a (now) very retro, 1970’s sony cassette player – oh, how w-e laughed about the u-pod!!  but i-digress, i-had better just keep to the art (but it was quite artistic, in an ‘i made this just ‘4u’ sort of way)…

so, in the small (ei-kon) works i inverted the process of idea/source to object/meaning by employing various processes and methods to determine a unique ‘identity’ for the work… they began as humble, small-scale textural experiments for printmaking purposes, drawing upon the visual signs of decay in agricultural outbuildings and the local environment – but then some analysis of colour and associated words, and their real-world connections or counterparts, led, inevitably, to the concept of pursuing some virtual travelling, an activity which gave rise to the titles, and thus gave the work a new, more global resonance and identity… those diy paint colour charts were just the start of it…

what’s in a title, a name? is it vital or important, is it meaningful, revealing, persuasive, or just a means of differentiation?  within the context of (or absence of) subjective art titles one might also mention the artist martin creed again, or mark rothko even, but i am just seeing a lot gushing red stuff, so let’s not go there today…

i liked pursuing the open-ended nature of this sideline activity, that i would, in a vaguely lynchian way, create works that followed a more convoluted, non-linear course; the end became their beginning. it was also a deliberate move away from a series of strictly numbered works… the virtual travels also inspired the idea of starting a faux sketchbook… in that, if anyone cared to contemplate upon it, that the vast network of the internet is not just a window to truth & knowledge, but is equally a platform for some deliberate artifice & creative reinvention of one’s identity and sense of place in the world…

random fact alert! i actually graduated in the presence of the great david lynch! he was awarded an honorary degree by the RCA


a lichen drawing in a sketchbook, june 2010

i have also created a new webpage to show some of my recent lichen-esque drawings

i really would like to pursue the idea of doing some larger versions of these – where does one get rolls of good drawing paper, and perhaps, more importantly, is it very expensive?? i probably have one too many ideological plates spinning (or they are just wobbling and are likely to shatter in a very messy, greek fashion) – the eroded circles/discs, the cubed/3d prints, the lichens and their various transformations, the green mould prints, dissolved image transfers, small etchings, virtual travel sketches…

now, i am even contemplating  growing fake lichens in my spare time…