Blog, Exhibitions

Lucian Freud The Self Portraits

This small but packed exhibition is on from 27th October 2019 until 26th January 2020 in the Sackler Wing at The Royal Academy of Arts Burlington House Piccadilly London W1J 0BD https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/

Ok let’s start with the biographical bit, Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 and moved to the UK in 1933 to escape Nazi Germany. In the late 1940’s he chose to make portraiture his primary focus of practice.

Freud had two obsessions painting and sex. Author John Richardson once remarked ‘ He turns sex into art and art into sex- there is no differentiation; the two aspects of his senses came together in the act of painting”.

Because Freud was renowned for his works of startling intensity, and for frank, often disquieting nudes, he often required his models to sustain uncomfortable poses for long periods of time. Freud stated that it was only fair that he should subject himself to the same process.

The exhibition shows his work from his early years, including his painting Man with a feather (self portrait 1943) It was exhibited in the Lefevre Gallery in London in 1944.

The first portraits are in pencil and or ink. Encouraged by his mother, Freud had drawn obsessively since childhood. His approach to painting at this time was marked by a preoccupation with line, combining expressive force with a quality of draughtsmanship that led the critic Herbert Read to describe him as the ‘Ingres of Existentialism”

From around the mid 1950’s Freud turned his attention away from drawing to painting, and for a period of about seven years stopped drawing altogether. In order to free up his painting he stopped painting sitting down and from then on painted standing up. His last painting made sitting down is Hotel Bedroom 1954 and is a double portrait of himself and his second wife Lady Caroline Blackwood.

Between the 1950’s and the mid 1960’s Freud’s painting gradually freed up. In 1961 he took up using watercolours, replacing the linearity of pen and pencil with loose painterly washes.

From the mid 1960’s Freud used Mirrors to help him paint his own likeness. He didn’t use photographs and only kept mirrors in his studio not in the rest of his house. He liked the way that a mirror could suggest a new and unexpected angle or perspective.

Freud said of himself ‘ My work is purely autobiographical. It’s about myself and my surroundings…I work from the people that interest me and that I care about in rooms that i live in and know.”

Throughout his career Freud held a succession of London Studios, in Holland Park, Paddington and Notting Hill. They provided the stage for his encounters with sitters- each an intimate environment that was erotically charged.

A series of exhibitions in the late 1980’s and 1990’s cemented Freuds reputation internationally. From then on he held an exhibition every year for the rest of his life. He continued to paint self portraits that display his self- possession and extraordinary mastery of colour, form, light and shade.

Freuds late self-portraits become increasingly built up with thick layers of paint sometimes smoothed at others scratched as though responding to the changes in his physical appearance. He almost disappears into the surface. there is a narrowing of the space between the painter and his work. This is a very popular exciting exhibition and you will need to book to see it.

Blog, Exhibitions

Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy

Antony Gormley is an internationally renowned sculptor. Known mainly for his huge sculptures such as Angel of the North. This exhibition covers his work from his early beginnings in the late 1970’s to his latest works.

            The human body is at the core of his practice, but he is not interested in realistic likenesses, or depicting an ideal form. For Antony Gormley the body is a vessel for feeling. It is both the unique site of our individual journeys, and the one thing we all share.

This exhibition has work I had not seen before, including works on paper, fabric and other media. I loved his sketch-books full of workings for his often very complex sculptures.

            There is one particularly unusual wall hanging made from white pieces of bread hung together in a grid with a cut out human form made by biting into them. Called Mothers pride !

            Another fabulous wall hanging is made from clay and blankets and is from 1983 and is called Blanket Drawing.

            As you enter the courtyard of the RA curled up on the floor is a tiny figure, which were it not for people around taking photo’s, it  would be very easy to miss. The life size cast iron form is of his daughter when she was six days old.

            One of the first rooms you enter is full of slab works, they are dense hard, edged and look like enormous bronze versions of Lego bricks. They are extreme geometric abstractions of the human form. I persuaded a friend to sit next tone of them.

            In one of the smaller galleries is a single life-size body form, with head bent, contemplating the ground on which he stands. He is formed of tightly packed vertical and horizontal steel bars that map the internal space of the body.

            Clearing VII 2019 is an amazing space the artist calls it ‘drawing in space. In this interactive sculpture the viewer climbs in and out and walks round the room that consists of 8 kilometers of square section aluminium tube, coiled and then allowed to expand and uncoil until restricted by the walls and the ceiling.

            Lost Horizon 2008

Inside the gallery, gravity appears to be defied and space folds in on itself as bodies project from all sides, floor and ceiling all at odds with one another. The works are perpendicular to the rectangular architecture of the room, the effect as you move between them is disorienting.

            A more recent work is Cave, it is a sculpture on an architectural scale. The work can be walked into or you can walk round it. Inside it is dark and the viewer or participant has to feel their way through relying on senses other than sight.

            Another 2019 work is Host. A room filled with an expanse of clay and seawater. Described by Gormley as ‘an invasion of the inside by the outside’, the work provides a stark contrast to the gilded ceiling of the nineteenth-century gallery

This is a breath taking awe inspiring exhibition well worth a visit.

Blog, Exhibitions

Queer Portraits by Sarah Jane Moon

Currently on Show at the Gallery Downstairs at The Department Store 248 Ferndale Rd London SW9 8FR

2nd -14th November 2019 Opening hours 10.00-17.00 Nearest Underground: Brixton

I happened to be walking in Brixton last Sunday when I came across a sign advertising an exhibition of portraits. What a piece of serendipity, these are colourful joyful and an outstanding collection of portraits.

Sarah Jane Moon is an award winning professional painter based in London, who exhibits and teaches regularly in the UK and abroad. Her portraiture frequently explores identity, sexuality and gender presentation.

Moon’s portraits represent a cross section of contemporary queer LGBTQ+ life and love. Her subjects are often people close to her or whom she admires greatly for their commitment to live authentically and forge ahead in their chosen industry.

Those depicted include writers, landscape designers, doctors, lawyers, artists and more, and together they create a powerful statement on contemporary life lived with pride.

Moon has been gaining increasing attention this year and this solo exhibition follows swiftly on from her inclusion in the prestigious Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition(9th -24th May 2019, Mall Galleries, London and the internationally renowned and highly competitive BP Portrait Award Exhibition (National Portrait Gallery London- Currently touring to Edinburgh and Belfast.)

The subjects in Moon’s earlier portraits are presented in their backgrounds, offices, sitting rooms etc. You get a glimpse of that person’s life, their choice of furnishings, books and their style. The backgrounds in her later portraits are abstract with bold colourful marks, your eyes are drawn to the subject who has been painted, rather than the peripherals of their life.

Insta @sarah_jane_moon

FB @sarahjanemoonart

Twitter @sarahjane_moon

Blog, Exhibitions, Uncategorized

Jeff Koons at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum

A major exhibition of the work of Jeff Koons (b. 1955) opened at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, on 7 February- 9 June 2019 .

“I couldn’t think of a better place to have a dialogue about art today and what it can be.” Jeff Koons

Until I visited, I couldn’t think of a weirder or more inappropriate place to hold the exhibition. The Ashmolean, attached to Oxford University, one of the U.K.’s seats of learning, holding an exhibition of work that comes over, at first glance, as superficial, overblown and trashy.  Curated by Koons himself together with guest curator Norman Rosenthal, the show features seventeen important works, fourteen of which have never been exhibited in the UK before.

They span the artist’s entire career and his most well known series including Equilibrium, Statuary, Banality, Antiquity and his recent Gazing Ball sculptures and paintings.

Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean, says: ‘In showing Jeff Koons at the Ashmolean, the world’s oldest public museum where the collections range from prehistory to the present, this exhibition provokes a conversation between his work and the history of art and ideas with which his work engages. I am sure it will also provoke conversations among those who see it.’

The press information describes ‘Jeff Koons as surrounded by superlatives. Since he burst onto the contemporary art scene in the 1980s he has been described as the most famous, important, subversive, controversial and expensive artist in the world. From his earliest works Koons has explored the ‘readymade’ and appropriated image – using unadulterated found objects, and creating painstaking replicas of ancient sculptures and Old Master paintings, which almost defy belief in their craftsmanship and precision.’

Well that is true up to a point, the work is beautiful the craftsmanship superb, but it isn’t he who has painted or sculpted. As in the tradition of many of the greats, he has a number of artists in his atelier who carry out the work on his behalf and under his direction, and it is his concept, that he oversees.

Throughout his career he has pushed at the boundaries of contemporary art practice, stretching the limits of what is possible. The Ashmolean exhibition includes important works from the 1980s with which Koons made his name through the novel use of the readymade and the appropriation of popular imagery: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank 1985; Rabbit 1986; and Ushering in Banality 1988. It also explores Koons’s more recent focus on the art of antiquity and the western art canon where layered images of ancient and modern art meet in Koons’s singular vision.

Balloon Venus (Magenta)

Among the highlights are the spectacular Balloon Venus (Magenta) (2008–12). While evoking the tiny Ice Age ‘Venus of Willendorf’, one of the world’s oldest works of art, Balloon Venus (Magenta) is made with Koons’s signature motifs: monumental scale; the inflated balloon with its intimations of transience and mortality; and the flawless mirror-polished surface which positions the viewer in the work. He has put the figure through a double transformation from limestone sculpture to balloon model and from balloons to his trademark, super-reflective, coloured steel on a huge scale. The artist insisted on the model being made from a single balloon to maximise the sense of a continuous pressure all over.

The tiny Ice Age ‘Venus of Willendorf’

Reflective gazing balls are usually sold in suburban American garden centres, along with birdbaths and water features. The one’s Koons uses are handmade , specifically for him. His preoccupation with them ties in with recurring themes in his work: breath (they are hollow and hand blown) and the presence of the viewer in the art work- it is impossible to look at a gazing ball without seeing yourself and your surroundings.

“When I grew up, if you drove through Pennsylvania, people would put gazing balls in front of their houses. There’s a kind of generosity about that. Your neighbour doesn’t have to do that for whoever drives by.” Says Koons.

Shown in the UK for the first time are seven works from the series including Gazing Ball (Belvedere Torso) (2013), Gazing Ball (Gericault Raft of the Medusa) (2014–15), and Gazing Ball (Titian Diana and Actaeon) (2014–15).

“ The gazing ball represents the vastness of the universe and at the same time the intimacy of right here, right now.”

Curator, Sir Norman Rosenthal, says: ‘Jeff Koons’s work plays with our memories of childhood and our “educated” cultural experiences as he blends high and low culture, inviting us to challenge the distinction as we gaze at art and at ourselves. Putting his work in the Ashmolean – the first museum in the very heart of academia, Oxford University – we can take his experiment a step further. For those of us willing to share in his visions, Jeff Koons makes art a magical transformation.’

In case dear reader at the end of this article you think I don’t like his work, this is not the case-I love it. However, I am a great lover of kitsch and I am not sure where we draw the line between high art and kitsch.

book review, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

RELAXED COASTAL STYLE

 

9781849759625

 

When I heard about the book Relaxed Coastal Style, by Sally Denning I was very keen to review it. I met Sally many years ago as she was setting out on her career as a stylist, and she used my house as a shoot location. Since then I have been very aware of her meteoric rise in the ‘styling world’ and so knew this would be a gorgeous book and I was correct.

The first part of the book consists of Sally’s unique take on coastal style, celebrating the colours and textures of the seaside: bare wooden boards, unadorned windows, and furnishings covered in robust linen or cotton that will endure salt water and the sun’s rays or gently fade with age. Sally also explores lighting, furniture and coastal decorative accents such as maps, charts and nautical-themed accessories.

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She draws inspiration from beach combing, displaying shells and driftwood to feel close to nature and the sound of the waves. Sally and her photographer have travelled far and wide to shoot a selection of glorious coastal houses, cottages and hideaways that are guaranteed to enchant and inspire.

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The second reason I was keen to get hold of a copy of this book is that it features the house of Jane and Martin Will who own the old Coastguards cottage on Deal seafront. I grew up in Deal although in those days it was less glamorous than it is today. It is now full of artisan shops, pavement cafes and galleries such as the homeware and gallery ‘Will & Yates’ that Jane co-owns with artist Caroline Yates. The Will’s house is as lovely as the gallery painted in soft greys and inky blues and furnished with simple functional pieces of furniture and ‘brocante’ finds.

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Wherever you live, Relaxed Coastal Style will inspire you to adopt the relaxed, informal simplicity of life by the sea.

Relaxed Coastal Style by Sally Denning (£19.99) with photography by Benjamin Edwards ©RylandPeters&Small.

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Features, Uncategorized

Jehane’s Brighton Artists Open House

Designer, Jehane is having her first open house in five years but in a new location as part of the fiveways Artist group . Each weekend in May, artists open up their homes and studios to the public, to show  and sell their own and other people’s work.

Jehane’s 2018 Open House delivers her signature style, of contemporary artists in her friendly recently refurbished home. At the bottom of her small  garden  stands  a shed with an installation by Phillipa Stanton. As well as running open house Jehane also licences the work of a number of different artists and designers. See the piece I wrote on her on Meet the Maker  Below are a few examples of the work on show.

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Cushions by Cressida Bell

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Take the next step by Eleonora Kolycheva

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Ravilious and Spring Flowers by Debbie George

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A Blade of Grass installation by Philippa Stanton

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Jewellery by Iris de la Torre

Artists open houses run weekends from 5th -28th May in Brighton Hove Coast and Ditchling.  To find out more about Brighton open houses go to aoh.org.uk

 

 

 

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Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Studio – Creative Spaces for Creative People

 

by Sally Coulthard

 Studio - Front Cover FINAL.jpg

If you are a designer, or just love creative people and enjoy seeing how and where they work, then this is must have book.

It is full of inspiration. The author, Sally Coulthard, lives on a farm where she rents out barns to artists. As she says ‘it’s a scruffy space, but the people who work there have transformed the building into something truly special. Not only have the artists organized their studios into useful spaces, they’ve also created rooms that express who they are and inform the work they produce. Each space reflects the personality of the person who works there –studios are like fingerprints, totally unique.’

The first part of the book has inspirational pictures and descriptions of different kinds of studio’s. Included are brights, mono, natural, industrial and collected.AlunCallenderPhoto_SarahCampbell_31_0125.jpg

The second part of the book is divided into different kinds of artists and designers and includes crafters, fashion and textile designers. Fine art, graphics and illustrators studios are featured as are the work shops of bloggers writers and photographers and last but not least are workshops and up-cyclers. nathalie leté 20(1)

Different kinds of buildings are as unique as the artists and designers themselves. One artist works in a shepherds hut another in a barn others in industrial warehouses and lofts. Some work together others by themselves.AlunCallenderPhoto_SarahCampbell_02_0045.jpg

The final section of the book deals with practicalities of how to plan your studio, getting organized, desks, lighting and storage are all explored. As are work tops and drying spaces. If you want to set up your own studio you need look no further than here. The book is truly international showcasing designers and artists from many different countries.CathDerksema_FINAL_HIRES-7.jpg

A joy to read and a very useful handbook.

Published by Jacqui Small at £25

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