Wed, 02 Aug 2017
To Clapham We Go

LARA, with whom I did a weekend painting course a while ago in their Vauxhall studios, are moving: to Clapham. This is where I live so I'll have an easy visit if I do anything like that again. A good move I'd say! A bit more to see and do around Clapham as well.

We found Clapham North to be a gem of a place: it boasts many coffee shops, bars and restaurants and is only a short walk away from both Clapham Picturehouse cinema and the vast green space of Clapham Common.


Mon, 24 Jul 2017
Waiting for Number Three

A comment online was stop interrupting her and let her get on with the third book!

This interview with Hilary Mantel is actually from 2015, so she's had some time since to get on with the third and final book in her great Wolf Hall trilogy. The interview is very good on the process of writing and research she has. Her favourite novel is Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped, surprisingly enough; a book I read when I was at school but should revisit I think. A cracking adventure. I've been very lucky with my choice of books this year; long may that continue.


Fri, 14 Jul 2017
Not only Oils

Some John Singer Sargent watercolours are on display at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and well worth a look. Sargent was such a great artist, and these paintings show his mastery of more than just oil painting.

Like many, he loved Venice and painted it regularly; it would have been a lot less crowded back then. As well as Venice, there are lovely paintings of friends, family and landscapes, as well as some work done as part of his stint as a war artist.

There are also a selection of photographs to accompany parts of the exhibition, some showing the great man at work or background detail to his travels. He made a good living from his portrait painting and did a lot of travelling around Europe and the Middle East, always busy recording in paint. As a result, he was very prolific, so we have a lot of work to enjoy.



Below: An unusual panorama painting of Constantinople Sargent did in 1891.



Tue, 04 Jul 2017
BP 2017

It's that time of year: a multitude of great art shows around London making for a very busy set of weekends. Some have to be visited more than once. The BP is free luckily.

The BP Portrait Award 2017 is a good as it always was, and perhaps as good as it gets. It's probably the best and most consistent annual art exhibition around, although it is highly selective so we see the best of the best ("2,580 entries by artists from 87 countries").


Right: A Russian Artist in China by Bao Han, Oil on canvas (link)


Right: Portait of Beyza by Mustafa Ozel, Oil on canvas 9link)

The above two are just two of many I might have decided to display here, but they are ones I particularly liked. For the full list, including the prize winners, see : here.


Sun, 02 Jul 2017
RA Summer Exhibition 2017

The RA Summer Exhibition rolls around in June every year and it is always a huge mix, as much "art and craft" as art sometimes. Who is to say where the dividing line is however? It includes art "installation", video pieces, architectural work and even performance art this year. And a few paintings, drawings and prints of course, the things I prefer. There's plenty I don't like but also some beautiful work as usual.

The Bill Jacklin paintings are great: a detail from one is above. Many of his pictures have a great movement and swirl of people, sometimes battling the elements and sometimes dancing or skating. The swirl of crowds in the big city. If you look closely, the individual is barely delineated, fading into the surrounding air. Fred Cuming also had a few works hanging, some of which were a bit different to the ones I've seen before. I love his atmospheric landscapes and he has a small solo show in the Keepers House, as I've reported before (I had another look yesterday).

There's always a lot to look at, although I sometimes find myself moving through the rooms more quickly than usual. It's a lottery who gets picked and perhaps I found less to like than before. I must check out Not the Royal Academy again. Unlike many "Royal" exhibitions, that one's free.


Tue, 20 Jun 2017
The New English 2017

At a recent visit to the RA, I saw the book The New English, a history of the New English Art Club, on sale at half price and bought it. I read it before visiting the NEAC annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries at the weekend and it was a good background. The art world is often full of strange characters and competition, and also some biting criticism. The NEAC often had to contend with the same question asked every few years: is it "new", and what makes it "English"? A worthwhile read but with some great pictures of course.

And so to the 2017 exhibition. Very good as usual and a stand out painting is one others also picked out. This was a large Peter Brown painting, really capturing a very rainy street in Bath :


Above: Absolutely Chucking it Down, George Street, Bath, Peter Brown, Oil, 152x191cm

This was awarded the "The NEAC Critics'" prize for 2017. Very deservedly I think.


Sun, 18 Jun 2017
Grabbing the Goose

The LLEWELLYN ALEXANDER gallery at Waterloo is having its annual show of RA Summer Show rejects, Not the Royal Academy. Always worth a visit anytime, the show this year is full of some wonderful stuff. What gets in to the RA show is very subjective obviously: they don't always get it right.

This painting is not on their web site but I liked it so much they sent me a copy.

Tiptoe Through the Tulips, Oliver Canti, Oil pastel on board.

A really lovely painting and a snip at £1250.


Fri, 02 Jun 2017
Goodbye Mr Tea

I've seen a few funerals at St Patrick's Church in Wapping since my work moved here in January. One funeral had a bit of an entourage, including a horse and carriage for the coffin, but nothing was like the recent funeral for Willie Malone.

The Malone funeral was on a very hot day, so I felt some sympathy for everyone in a suit and tie and there were a lot of people around dressed up. In the café, I was told a bit of background about the deceased, being well known and referred to as "Mr Tea". A real "East End" mix of people, and there were also a couple of (what I guessed were) press photographers. In fact, a report was in the East London Advertiser, with lots of pictures. Apparently, there was a bit of "colour" in his life.

I came by it because the church is across the road from The Turk's Head, a good café/bar I often go to for a coffee at lunchtime. I took my main camera that day, planning on a walk around the sights and taking some pictures.

From the Turk's Head web site :
the original building was once famous for being the local inn where the last quart of ale was served to condemned pirates on their way from Newgate to the Execution Dock


Sun, 28 May 2017
Peploe in Mayfair

On my way to the RA last week, I did some art gallery window shopping in New Bond Street and saw a notice in the window of the Richard Green Gallery about an S.J. Peploe exhibition coming up. Peploe's a well known Scottish Colourist painter of the early 20th Century; an artist and a group of artists I like. The Glasgow and Edinburgh Galleries have a few but you do not get many opportunities to see more unless you do much more travelling.

A good small exhibition of some lovely paintings, particularly the still lives. If you're in the area pop in. You can also see the catalogue online.

Right:
Still Life of Pink and Red Roses in a Chinese Vase
Oil on canvas, 25x25", 1918-1922




Some were from a private collection, some for sale. The price for a larger canvas like this was getting close to a million (pounds sterling).

Right:
Apples and Pears
Oil on canvas, 18x21.5", 1918


Sun, 21 May 2017
Fred Cuming RA

The RA has another "Academician in Focus", Fred Cuming. I'd never heard of him, but this means nothing: there are so many great but unknown and to-be-discovered artists in the world, dead and alive. I really like his work and made sure I had a good look before my visit to the gallery today. He's over 80 now and still going strong.

Below: Etna, 2011, screenprint 30.5x30.5cm

Below:Winter Garden, oil on board, 30x30cm

Below: Rye Harbour Sunset, 2016, oil on board, 26.5x46.5cm

Below:Tuscan Landscape, 2004, oil on board, 68x78cm

To see larger versions, and more, visit the RA site.


Tue, 16 May 2017
Repeat After Me

A few years ago, I wrote about a system of learning called Spaced Repetition and with particular reference to an application called Anki.

A useful blog post went over similar territory recently and it's worth a read. It explains the reason why this learning method is so good, including mention of the actual research behind it. We all know that to hold a piece of knowledge in your head requires you to "imprint" it; then occasionally reinforce the memory. But how often and when should this be reinforced, for the best results? This is where the research comes in handy, distilled into an app :

How to Remember More.


Sun, 07 May 2017
Detail

At the Mall Galleries for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2017, I saw the usual amazingly wide selection of portraits of all types and sizes. It is always very humbling seeing such a selection of beautiful art. A couple of pieces struck me in passing.

The first, Becky by Raoof Haghighi, is so detailed it is astonishing. It is not a large painting, but he even paints the small fine hairs on her face. The second is The Four of Us by Leslie Watts, an amazing pencil drawing, again highly realistic and beautifully finished.

Below: Becky, Raoof Haghighi, Acrylic, 40 x 30 cm

Below: The Four of Us, Leslie Watts, Graphite & wax, 50 x 40 cm



Fri, 05 May 2017
Future Shock

A few weekends ago, I happened to walk past the Cartoon Museum near the British Museum. I've often thought about visiting (when I remember it exists) and saw there was an exhibition on called Future Shock! 40 Years of 2000 AD. I have fond memories of 2000 AD, so this was a great opportunity to have a look at the place.

I just about remember buying the first issue of 2000 AD and was hooked. It came out in 1977: an annus mirabilis for science-fiction fans and small boys (Star Wars was released the same year). Saturday mornings stepped up a gear. There was another man in the museum with his children and I mentioned buying the first issue to him, and he said he had as well (they had issue number 3 on display I think).

With 2000 AD costing 8p, I also remember the shock I had getting to the counter at the big London comic book shop Dark They Were and Golden Eyed (in a much seedier St. Anne's Court) and realising I couldn't afford the comics I wanted (at all of 35p each, if I recall). The difference here was they were US imports. My grandad didn't have an extra couple of pounds on him either, if I recall, and no plastic cards in the wallet either. Those were the days, and Soho's changed a lot since then as well (never mind inflation).

For Star Wars, I remember the special trip (twice) to London's Leicester Square to see the film and being awe-struck with it, from the thunderous first shot through the big cinema sound system. Science-fiction and comics are so mainstream now but back then it was all very new. 1977 was the birth year of a massive new media industry of films, comics, TV and technology. Back then there was no internet, and only three TV channels; now we have wall to wall media saturation. In some ways, not altogether better for it.


Fri, 21 Apr 2017
Copying Lady Agnew

John Singer Sargent's Lady Agnew of Lochnaw is a very famous and accomplished painting, now hanging in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. In this YouTube video, American artist John Howard Sanden paints a copy of it over the course of about three hours (split over two videos) :

It is fascinating watching him do this, also a little hypnotic seeing the painting come together. He explains his thought process and what he thought Sargent did at the time he painted the original in 1892. There are many art tutorial channels and videos on YouTube and this is one of the best I've seen. As Sanden says, all the great art masters copied the great works of past masters, including Sargent. I think the final result is extremely good.

The video itself seems to be from an old tape video from the The Portrait Institute in New York. Unfortunately, it might well be an illegal upload because it starts with a warning about "duplication". So the YouTube video might disappear. In some ways this would be a shame: I had never heard of Sanden, or the Institute, but now I know what a good painter and teacher he is.

Edit: Fixed spelling on Sargent's lastname.


Sat, 08 Apr 2017
Sebastiano (and Michelangelo)

You can't really argue with Michelangelo (not even Pope's do that successfully), which meant a second visit to the National Gallery for the Michelangelo & Sebastiano show.

Part of the interest here is learning more about some of the daily routine, rough competitiveness and petty jealousies of these top artists. Michelangelo was a notoriously prickly person but warmed to Sebastiano, helping him with his composition and anatomy. This seems to have been driven by his hatred of his younger rival for work, Raphael, who many considered the better overall painter. Michelangelo worked with Sebastiano as a way to win commissions from Raphael, and a form of one-upmanship. No friendly rivalry here.

There are some amazing pieces of work in the show of course, including a cast of Michelangelo's masterpiece Pieta, his Taddeo Tondo and Sebastiano's Raising of Lazarus. One of my favourites is Sebastiano's Judith (below), a smaller painting but with a real character, and beautifully painted.

Below: Judith, Sebastiano del Piombo, Oil on wood, 1510

Below: The Raising of Lazarus, Sebastiano del Piombo, Oil on Canvas, 1517-19

There's a good overview of the show and the two artists by the curator, Matthias Wivel, on YouTube. The National Gallery has a channel of its own as well, and is well worth a browse. Some great talks in front of various works.

As I stood in front of The Raising of Lazarus, I thought to myself: that's quite an amazing frame! The painting itself is very large, almost 4m high and almost 3m wide, and the frame is impressively large and solid as well :

Looking for some information on the frame,I discovered a very interesting blog all about frames by Lynn Roberts, a picture frame expert. The blog is called The Frame Blog and has a recent post about the Lazarus frame itself, covering the paintings reframing in great detail. It really is a fascinating post, accompanied by a video :

The inventory number of the Raising of Lazarus is NG1 and so was in the original core set of paintings that started the National Gallery in 1824. This was the Angerstein Collection.

I'll almost certainly return again I think.


Sat, 01 Apr 2017
W's Painting

George W Bush, ex-President of the United States never got much good press, and even this New Yorker article on him and his new paintings has a grudging and slightly mean-spirited tone. Leaving politics, economics and war aside though, the author really likes the paintings :

The quality of the art is astonishingly high for someone who—because he “felt antsy” in retirement, he writes, after “I had been an art-agnostic all my life”—took up painting from a standing stop, four years ago, at the age of sixty-six.

I think they're pretty good as well. Paintings of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan :


Sat, 25 Mar 2017
Setting Sun

Garden in Snow, Setting Sun, Judith Gardner RBA NEAC, Oil.

As seen at the Royal Society of British Artists Exhibition 2017.


Tue, 21 Mar 2017
GVIDVS CAGNACCIVS INVENTOR

At the National Gallery for the Michelangelo & Sebastiano exhibition (which I liked), I also took some time to pop into Room 1 and see Guido Cagnacci's Repentent Magdalene, a painting that used to live in the UK but now resides in California at the Norton Simon Art Foundation.

What a beautiful painting: bright, lively and colourful. Mary Magdalene is caught at her "conversion" as her sister Martha points out the fight between an angel and a devil in the background. Martha's suggesting she ought to hear what a Rabbi she knows is saying. This is quite an unusual representation of the biblical tale (one can question its accuracy).

Below: Guido Cagnacci, The Repentant Magdalene, after 1660 (229.2 x 266.1 cm)


Below: Detail

The title of this post GVIDVS CAGNACCIVS INVENTOR is how Cagnacci signed the painting. Am unusual signature because he knew the work was outstanding. See the painting until May 21st 2017.


Thu, 09 Mar 2017
Big Colour

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972

I went to the Tate Britain Hockney show, a retrospective of his work from his early art school days to his recent works on tablet. From its first announcement last year, this was going to be a very popular show.

As I've mentioned before, I've come to like his work a lot, his newer works in particular. These are often very large, very colourful paintings, sometimes made up of multiple canvases placed side by side. I think his Yorkshire woods and hills are wonderful, and his big Grand Canyon pictures amazing. He's getting on now (almost 80) but showing no signs of slowing down. Extremely prolific, he can knock them out: and long may he do so.

Back in 2014, I suggested this might be his golden age. Looking back now, I think I was right. I also think he's still at a peak.

Below: The Road Across the Wolds, 1997, Oil.

Below:May Blossom on the Roman Road, 2009, Oil.

Below:9 Studies for the Grand Canyon, 1998, Oil.

A recent BBC documentary (BBC iPlayer) has one of his artist friends mention that Hockney was playing with the colour knob of his recently bought colour TV and cranking it right up: You can have it Fauvist if you want, he said.

It's ironic that, having spoken about his bright colours and these being such a big part of the impact many of his works have, I found that some smaller, black and white drawings he made are so powerful. These Arrival of Spring drawings are arranged in rows on the wall and I found them to be a highlight of the exhibition.

Below:Drawings of the Arrival of Spring

Below:The Arrival of Spring, Charcoal, 2013.

Below:The Arrival of Spring, Charcoal, 2013.

One could go on about him a bit now because he really has become a bit of an icon, a "national treasure" even and a lot of people love what he does. He is as articulate in words as he is in paint, and perhaps the greatest living artist. I hope he keeps going as long as he can.


Sun, 05 Mar 2017
After the Fall

A classic painting and one I've always liked, although it has been mercilessly satirised over the years (Muppet version from the RA site itself). It is easy to lampoon: prim, proper, protestant.

Right: Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930, Oil.

American Gothic is the poster-image of the Royal Academy's America after the fall exhibition. Grant Wood painted this in 1930 and he has a number of other works on display: before now, I hadn't heard of him.

Wood is the artist who most stood out for me here, with paintings like Death on the Ridge Road, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and Young Corn.

Right: Grant Wood, Young Corn, 1931

Edward Hopper is a more familiar artist. He has also produced some iconic American pictures and is famous for depictions of truck stops, or diners at night; his work often has an otherworldly quality, an eerieness and, I always thought, a hint of loneliness.

Below: New York Movie, Edward Hopper, 1939

There are a number of other great pictures in this exhibition and it is another very well put together show at the RA. With Revolution on at the same time, Burlington House is well worth an extended visit just now.