Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Paperworks at the Hastings Art Forum



Paperworks at the Hastings Art Forum
20 September – 2 October

Private View: 23rd September 6.30 - 8.30 







Traditional expectations of works on paper are drawing or watercolours. However, this group exhibition completely overturns any conservative notion of how paper should be used in art. The only works that appear to be watercolours in this show are far from traditional and the drawing consists of graphite renditions of rubbed pavements reassembled into huge paper rolls.


This is a celebration of one of the oldest, most flexible and varied materials we have. It is paper as a means to convey images in multiple forms, as a material for sculpture or installation and as recycled object transformed from practical to conceptual use. In the latter category, for example, books such as the one below must be opened by the viewer to make sense.


The beautifully produced concertina artist books of Nikki Davidson Bowman are collages of images and words perfectly bound into multi-dimensional art objects. Caroline Sax's tiny sculptures are unrecognisable as paper and seem to be made of a different and harder substance altogether.


There is a humorous nod to the subject in several of Ian Barraclough's prints, particularly his depiction of the unique qualities of the final sheet on 9 different toilet rolls.


Gill Streater's work reminds us of the importance of paper to calligraphy while Helen Rawlinson uses paper like a textile on which to add thread, buttons and colours to create small and imaginative abstracts.


Collage features in several guises in this exhibition. The pop art sensibilities and clean minimalism of Duncan McAfee, the apocalyptical colour and atmosphere of Kate Gritton and the surreal compositions of Jeff Stancliff which are compelling, mysterious and not entirely comfortable to view.


As always with such a large group show there is too much to comprehensively preview plus the detail in the works cannot possibly be conveyed here. So to conclude here are images that cover all the participants with their websites following below.









Paperworks at the Hastings Art Forum
20 September – 2 October
Private View: 23rd September 6.30 - 8.30

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Silver Fish, Vermin and Volunteers


Silver Fish and Vermin

“We both live in the middle of the countryside surrounded by all sorts of vermin (rats, foxes, fly-tippers etc). It is hard to find beauty in everything and vermin definitely bring out emotion and reaction where ever they appear. Everyone has their pet hate, hopefully our exhibition will be able to shine a humorous light on some.” Liz Boast and Kirsten Wilson


Unlike many of the exhibitions at the Hastings Art Forum Silver Fish and Vermin is truly a joint show. Liz Boast and Kirsten Wilson’s work is arranged together throughout the gallery and includes a wonderful collaborative piece entitled ‘The Alphabet of Vermin’ which is composed of 27 individual works. This alone deserves time and close study to take in the details, the stories and just the sheer fun and scope of the piece.




In fact, studying the intricacy and detail in much of the work in this show is very rewarding. Kirsten Wilson's multi-layered paper pieces give a sense of just how much time and patience is invested in the act of creation while Liz Boast's atmospheric paintings and sometimes surreal prints add mood and mystery as you move around the gallery.


Both artists are multi-skilled and this exhibition covers all facets of their work. As well as paint, print and mixed media both are excellent silversmiths. This means the inclusion of a contemporary jewellery collection beautifully presented on woodblock stands which are lovely objects in their own right.

Consequently there is a lot in Gallery 1 to keep you entertained. Silver, wood  and a delightful tumble of creatures and landscapes with flying birds, harlequins, schools of swimming fish, strange children, rats, circular zodiacs and ghostly figures emanating light.





The Volunteers Show

The joy of multiple diversions continues into Gallery 2 which is hosting the annual exhibition for volunteers at the Hastings Art Forum.

Almost all of the volunteers at the Forum are artists in their own right. There are painters, photographers, printmakers, sculptors, ceramicists, glass artists and others who are some and possibly even all of the above. Without the volunteers the forum could not function and this annual exhibition is a thank you and a way for the volunteers to get together as artists rather than all the other roles they perform behind the scenes.

I have to declare a conflict of interest here. I am a volunteer at the Hastings Art Forum which means I have some of my own work in the show and know many of the other people exhibiting. So when I say that this is absolutely the most excitingly diverse and brilliant exhibition you will see at the Forum this year, you probably need to take it with a pinch of sea salt. Not too much, however, because this really is an exciting show.

In fact, there is so much to talk about I don't know where to start so instead of talking  I am just going to name all the participants with links (where I could find them) and post up a whole load of photos. These cannot convey the detail, the subtlety, the humour or the range of subject and form but it will give a sense of the skill and diversity that you can see here. It’s wonderful :)














Silver Fish, Vermin and Volunteers

Private View: 9th September - 6.30 - 8.30

Both shows run from 6th Sepember – 18th September

The Volunteers


Alice Maylam           April Yasamee         Carlen Fritze
Caroline Sax           Charlotte Morris       David Murphy 
Dawn Timmins        Edwina Truelove     Gill Streater
Howard Seaton       Jen Painter             John Hacker
John Plummer         Julie Willard            Kate Gritton
Katherine Reekie    Mark Border            Molly Durman
Sally Meakins         Sharon Moore         Susan Miller 
Suzy Tinker            Trish Kilczewski      Valerie Grove

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Robin Holtom and Michael Wilson

Both artists in the current show at the Hastings Art Forum present an impressive mix of painting and sculpture. Robin Holtom’s seven sculptures of dancers and nude female figures are cast in bronze or ingeniously made from plaster reworked and painted to give the surface appearance of bronze. The exception is a white plaster head between two mostly white drawings, themselves exceptions to this show's rather beautifully coloured rule.


The almost exclusive use of darker toned blues, purples, oranges and greens creates an atmosphere of restfulness and stillness in this gallery that also emanates from the buildings and figures in each of the compositions. Skylines at sundown have an early evening hush while the natural and reflected abstracts of Venetian architecture are shaped into blocks and lines of colour. 


Groups of female figures and dancers are composed without physical detail which gives them a slightly ghostly but still sculptural quality. When there is an occasional hint of movement it is slow, gentle and considered. Using combinations of the same colours to depict hard surfaces like walls and steps in one piece, alongside the soft surfaces of the human body in another, is a lovely juxtaposition completed by the seamless transmutation of the human form into bronze.



Michael Wilson’s sculptures are very different in style, subject and substance. Made of light coloured stone, each depicts a biblical story or figure. Surfaces are smoothly worked and the solidity and suggestion of weight gives each piece a strong and captivating presence. The colour and work in the stone is enhanced by the bright airiness of the landscapes around it.


Michael Wilson lives locally and the majority of the paintings are recognisable Sussex landmarks, views or rural scenes. Many are perfectly executed with a scale and perspective of somebody moving through the scene depicted. This is particularly effective in the paintings of the Seven Sisters, the view from West Hill and some of the rural scenes.  Trees also feature strongly in many of the paintings and I particularly liked the almost electric blue of the trees in ‘Out of the Valley’.


However, there is a very strange anomaly in Michael Wilson’s exhibition. Displayed on the end wall is a five piece asymmetric panel depicting the story of Oedipus. Although foundational Greek myths are perhaps a natural historical companion to biblical scenes, the work itself lacks any harmony with the other paintings in the room. It is almost as if a less accomplished artist sneaked into the gallery and installed it when nobody was looking. Incongruity can be interesting but here it detracts attention from the rest of the work which is unfortunate.


The predominant focus of Michael Wilson's paintings also restricts the colour palette but the lighter, brighter and more expansive feel is a perfect complement to Robin Holtom’s minimal colour range next door. There is a link also in Michael Wilson’s pastel studies of nudes, one of which is a female figure reclining in similar pose to one of Robin Holtom’s sculptures. The differences and the similarities in these two shows communicate much about how art is both created and viewed. Each of the artists in this show are mostly painting or modelling a place, a person or a scene that they have observed or are observing. The experience of the audience is that the viewer remains the intimate observer in Robin Holtom’s work whereas it is possible to almost step inside the paintings of Michael Wilson. 

Such combinations of 3D and 2D work in one space are always very satisfying to view. They make the exhibition more interesting to navigate and the visual interaction between the two can create other unexpected observational delights.



Robin Holtom and Michael Wilson
Hastings Art Forum
August 23rd - September 4th 2016
Private View Friday 26th August 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

1066 Mono and Mark Glassman

1066 Mono Photographic Club (Gallery 1) 

In a contemporary environment of high definition, colour saturation and constantly moving visual stimuli, the black and white photograph increasingly seems like a radical  new art form. A moment of restful, monochrome reality in which there are no distractions and no demands other than a slow appreciation of subtle shadows and focused content. 



This group show includes all types of monochrome photography by the 1066 Mono Photographic Camera Club who practice traditional darkroom photography, digital capture and printing, as well as alternative photography like cyanotype and bromide print production. There are 14 photographers in this exhibition and there are some stunning photographs that beautifully showcase the range of interests and skills among this group. Obviously what people like differs greatly from viewer to viewer but there is most definitely something for everyone in this show.
I really liked some of the portraits and how the exhibition communicates a question about what actually constitutes a 'portrait'. This includes a sheep (David Mills), some musicians,(Terence Page and Bob Harvey), an attitude (Liz Scott) and a hand holding a pair of glasses (Rob White).



I also liked how some of the images were composed in a way that suggested photographic history particularly 'Abandoned Mine' (Chris Upton), 'Cliffe Bridge, Lewes' (Bob Harvey) and 'Fairfield Church' (Chris Shore).

'Colossus' (Jeremy O'Keefe) also had that quality about it as well as being a remarkably effective rendition of scale. These images also suggested old postcards as did Lesley Parkinson's remnants of structures on the West Pier, although these are particularly ghostly given the pier's story.   

The mix of perspective and subject in this show reminds the viewer of the achievements of photography and its always current possibilities. I really liked 'The Old Pig Sty, Barrington Court' (Ian Weston) and his image of 'Stormy Lyme Bay'.  David Hoad's series of images using brushes is quite surreal whereas Andy Thurgood's 'Locomotion' is a detail so beautifully shot that it captivates whether you are interested in trains or not. Michael Attrill's 'Accidental Art' provides gently abstracted and unusual views of nature and Robert Barfield's 'The Kiss' is a lovely observation of nature's resilience. However, if it's sheer exhilaration you want then Helen Taylor's dogs running along the shore is the one for you. 

It is of course impossible to photograph photographs behind glass in a very light room so I can't provide any close image details here. I also can't provide a website for the 1066 Mono Photographic Club because they don't seem to have one. This is a shame because it would be good to be able to see some of the works of this group on a permanent basis - both for pleasure and for reference.  


Mark Glassman (Gallery 2)

As often with the Forum, entering the other gallery is entering a different world. In this case it's the world of Mark Glassman, a painter who has spent a lot of time on the beach preparing for this show. Themed around shingle and coastal scenery it is clear that he is fascinated and inspired by the colours, shapes and textures that are found in the stones,  pebbles and beaches of the Sussex coastline.

His colour palette reflects this with browns, greys and yellows interspersed with the blues of sky and water - whether in the distance or retreating back through the shingle to the sea. In fact the meticulous and multiple tumble of ovals and rounds interspersed with light, makes the distinctive sound of stones pushed back and forth by the sea almost audible.


Abstracted body shapes that seem to have become part of the ground itself, sometimes emerge from the paintings and very effectively transmit the Sussex beach experience in which your body ends up contouring itself to the stones. Sand is for wimps in Sussex. 


The shingle paintings give a sense of looking down,  while others look out to the only feasible straight line in nature - that between the sea and the sky. There is a mix in this show of those two perspectives and in each case paint is applied and used differently. The horizons are generally smoother while the ground is more textured and occasionally features pieces of driftwood. A few of the pieces, however, are pure colourful abstractions. 


Once again the contrast between the shows gets you thinking about what each says about the other. Interestingly Mark Glassman's choice of subject often means that the colours are complementary without any overly saturated contrast. In that respect there is a nice juxtaposition with the monochromatic themes next door. The fixed location of the paintings, however, provides an effective contrast with the breadth of subject and place enabled by 14 different photographers. 

The discipline required by photography is certainly not immune to lucky accidents whether analog or digital but unexpected outcomes of a particular moment or mood are a wonderful part of both photography and painting. The frozen expression of a single moment that can be achieved by photography contrasts greatly with the absolute freedom that can be deployed to capture the essence of something in paint. However, both need research and practice while freedom will always benefit from a little discipline. 
    
1066 Mono and Mark Glassman
26 July – 7 August 2016 

Private view for both shows is on Friday 29 July from 6.30 - 8.30


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Eliza John and Wendy Smith



Going to the Hastings Art Forum is always a pleasure and always a surprise. I have seen a huge variety of work there just in the last two months and the new exhibition of paintings by Eliza John and Wendy Smith is different again.

Eliza John’s work touches on themes of family, friendship, place and occasion. She mostly uses oils but also works with combinations of acrylic, watercolour, gouache and charcoal. Most of her paintings are an interplay of abstraction and figuration from which shapes, figures and landscapes emerge.




Scenes and characters melt into the texture and colour of the paint giving impressions of the personalities depicted or reflecting the delicate intimacy of relationships. Sometimes the figures are sublime shadows standing ghost-like against beautiful combinations of background colour. Occasionally, there is an underlying emotional ambiguity in her scenes or characters which can make for uneasy viewing. This is balanced by work using lighter spectrums that allow moments of exquisite stillness and calm subtlety. 



The amount of work here combined with the variety of sizes, colours and frames sometimes makes it difficult to focus on any one piece. However, it is worth taking time to appreciate the fine line between the abstract and the figurative in this work and what it communicates about human perception. There is fascination in believing you see a scene from afar that then clouds over into abstract colour as you get closer.




The work of Wendy Smith also combines abstract and figurative but the contrast between the two artists gives the viewer a completely different experience. There are fewer pieces but they are larger and her palette is bright and colourful. Where figures are present they are from nature - leaves, trees or birds in flight.



The freedom of application sometimes makes it seem as if the paint had jumped there by itself and combined with the colour choices the effect is one of exhilaration and joy. In some cases the limited use of paint leaves white spaces within each work and this adds to the sense of light and airiness around it. Walking into the gallery from a grey and rainy day is like walking into summer. It's worth a visit for that reason alone. 


Although the spectrum and style of each of these artists is very different, both use their mediums freely and both work within the shifting boundaries of figurative and abstract expression. It is in the contrast, however, that the show is complete. The two rooms complement each other beautifully with a sense of lightness and space in one and darkness and intensity in the other. Dipping between the two enables the viewer to shift between two different experiences of art and of life. 


Eliza John and Wendy Smith
Hastings Art Forum
12 - 24 July 2016
Private View - 5.00 - 7.00 Saturday July 16th.