Sunday, 31 March 2013

Herbert Art Gallery

Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry.

The history of the area on these panels outside the gallery.

Some of the artworks in the Herbert's permanent collection:

Bus Trip from the Pits, Margaret Green, 1956

A view of the beach at Seaton Carew near Hartlepool. Green was painting there when a coach arrived and the people poured onto the beach. They were from the mining towns of County Durham dressed in their Sunday best.

Bennett's Corner, Alan Lowndes, 1956

A typical working class street in Stockport by an artist who depicted the daily lives of working class communities in the 1950s and 1960s.

Woman with Shopping Bag, Cliff Rowe, before 1960

Cliff Rowe was a socialist whose work represented his concern for working life and industry. He lived in the Soviet Union for 18 months in the 1930s carrying out design commissions for the Red Army. Back in England he helped to found the Artists' International Foundation in 1933. This group saw art as a weapon in the class struggle and aimed to promote peace and oppose fascism. Woman with Shopping Bag is painted in the style of Soviet Socialist art.

The Fishmonger, Kenneth Long, 1956

Long painted everyday people and scenes in an industrial landscape. This work is realistic but there is a hint of abstraction in the emphasis on diamond shapes which produce a connection between the man and the fish.

Victoria, Lisa Gunn, 2003 (liquid light and acrylic on canvas)

Gunn was partially paralysed in a road accident in 1997. Here she photographed herself with her wheelchair. She refers to Man Ray who photographed a naked woman from the back so that she seemed to have no arms (Le Violon D'Ingres). She plays on ideas of a link between eroticism and disability. She alters her photographs with acid or paint to create a more complex image.

The Bridge

The Bridge, John Tunnard, 1964 (oil on board)


1946–47 (project for two forms)

1946-47 Two Forms, Ben Nicholson, (oil and pencil on canvas)

This work is both an abstract painting and a still life. It can be seen as a glass on a table. Nicholson is concerned with the balance between two sets of shapes. The lines of the glass on the right balance an equal area of coloured shapes on the left.

Construction 5, Philip Wetton, 1966 (mixed media)

This is a piece of Op-Art which is made to create optical effects for the viewer. When you move in front of the piece the circles appear to dance in front of your eyes. This is because there are two sets of circles: one set is printed onto a white surface area while the other is printed onto a sheet of clear plastic just in front of you. The two sets are the same design but together they make disturbing patterns.

Sea Wall

Colin Middleton, Sea Wall, 1966 (oil on board)

In this picture the architecture of the sea wall is reduced to a mosaic of interlocking rectangular shapes. The limited colour range and the repeating patterns unify the picture into one decorative scheme. The bird on the flagpole is used to define the location and the scale of the picture.

The Stackyard

The Stackyard, Paul Nash, 1925 (oil on canvas)

Coventry Sculpture, Peter Lazlo Peri, 1959 (mixed media)

Figure (Walnut), Barbara Hepworth, 1964 (bronze)

The work is subtitled Walnut because the bronze was cast from a carving made out of walnut wood. The holes, an integral part of the sculpture, show that the interior space is as important as the solid part.

The Fount, Mark Dobson, 1948 (bronze)

Stretching Girl, Betty Read, 1963 (fibreglass)

Rea was associated with the Artists' International Association in the 1930s, which opposed imperialism, colonialism and fascism through art.

Bowl, Lucie Rie, before 1963.


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Turner at the Tate

J.M.W. Turner at Tate Britain.

Apologies for the reflected ceiling lights in the pictures.

Norham Castle, Sunrise, 1845 (oil on canvas)

Turner first saw Norham Castle in 1797 during his first tour of northern Britain. After his visit Turner exhibited a watercolour of the castle at sunrise, with lines from James Thomson's poem 'The Seasons'. He repeated this several times culminating in this late canvas. This is one of 21 canvases which was exhibited at the Tate in 1906, which helped change perceptions of Turner's later work.

Venice, the Piazzetta with the Ceremony of the Doge Marrying the Sea, 1835 (oil on mahogany)

Although Turner left this painting unfinished, it is easy to imagine how he would have finished it. The top half of the Doge's palace and the Campanile of St. Marco are recognisable. Among the figures in the foreground on the left is the Doge, depicted in the act of wedding the sea through the ritualised gift of a gold ring. The ceremony actually happened out on the Lagoon, and had ceased to take place by Turner's time, which implies that he intended the picture to be of an historical subject.

A Sail Boat at Rouen, 1827-28

This sky and gondola-like boat on the left perhaps indicate that the scene is Italian.

Claudian Harbour Scene: Study for 'Dido Directing the Equipment of the Fleet', 1826-7

This study represents an intermediate stage in the development of a large painting which now is sadly a wreck.

Music Party, East Cowes Castle, 1835

This unfinished study shows a group of costumed figures playing or languidly listening to music in an elegant interior. The sparkle and light of the fabrics were perhaps intended to evoke the shimmer of Watteau.

Brighton Beach, with the Chain Pier in the Distance, from the West, 1827, 1843 (oil on canvas)

This composition is remarkably similar to Constable's view of Brighton, even down to the position of the red sail. Turner would have seen Constable's painting at the Royal Academy in 1827 and was deliberately addressing Constable's achievement. He abandoned this image before resolving it, only taking it up in the 1840s to rework the sky. One anecdote reveals that he resented Constable's encroachement on subject matter he considered his own. He is supposed to have remarked: 'what does he know of boats?'

Sunrise with Sea Monsters, 1845 (oil on canvas)

Although this unfinished painting has come to be known as Sunrise with Sea Monsters, the obscure pink shape at the lower centre of the canvas probably depicts fish; indeed a red and white float and part of a net can be seen nearby. The subject of fishing was of interest to Turner throughout his career as were remarkable sunrises and sunsets such as the dawn depicted here.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Sound of Silence?

The Sound of Silence in Athens, by Annette.

The basic premiss in Annette's video, which I think is brilliant, is that Greek people need to rise up and fight against the austerity measures that have resulted in a huge decrease in the standard of living for the majority of the population; a huge rise in unemployment and homelessness; the erosion of basic human rights and civil liberties; and in police brutality directed at anyone who resists.

There are two schools of thought about this. One is that Greek people are not doing enough to resist. Athens is full of the Wake Up graffitti, a call to arms if I ever saw one - you can't walk more than a few yards anywhere in Athens without seeing another call to Wake up and Rise up, as shown below:

The other school of thought is that people in Greece are resisting on a daily basis. Not a day goes by without some form of strike or another. There have been so many general strikes that I have lost count. There are demonstrations in Athens and the other major cities every week, quite often several days in a week. There is resistance even in small rural areas as in Chalkidiki, where the local community are demonstrating on a daily basis against the proposed gold mining. Resistance surrounds you when in Greece. Some describe the Greek people as the vanguard of resistance to austerity.

So, which is true? I am not sure. In a funny sort of way, both, I think.

If you want to find out more about Greece and lots more on current affairs go to:

Saturday, 23 March 2013


The world was white when I woke up this morning, so I had to go out.

A walk to Old Milverton village

across the fields

a monochrome world

all muted shades of grey

stark silhouettes

against the sky

the views were fantastic

getting closer

a bit of colour

through the kissing gate

Milverton Church - this is where Vera Britain is buried, but I have never been able to find her grave

the pond

the ruins of Guy's Cliff House

a different view of the pond

the weir

Guy's Cliff House again

retracing our steps and a final view of the church.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Mo Jupp

A ceramics day at the Ashmolean in Oxford, where ceramicist Mo Jupp talked about his work.  
He talked about his obssession with making helmets even though he does not know where that obssession comes from. We saw photographs of lots of his work, including a series of sculptures of women that expressed some of the misogyny that is rife in our society: a woman with a bag over her head articulating one of the expressions that boys use about women:  'she should have a bag over her head'; another one with a bird's head, denoting the way women are referred to as 'birds' by some.
I thought that some of his female forms looked a bit like the work of Louise Bourgeois, while others were clearly influenced by Giacometti - these forms were so big that he could not get them into his small kiln, so he cut them in sections and after firing he assembled them using car body filler which he made no attempt to hide.
A lot of his figures don't have heads and this is because he wants to avoid people wondering 'who is this?'
He talked about an exhibition he went to where he was really taken by a tiny Giacometti head that he liked it so much that he put it in his pocket. He said: 'it was so beautiful, I just had to have it'.  On the way out he thought 'what am I doing here?' and put the head back.
He also made quite a few female forms with glass breasts because breasts are women's most vulnerable body parts, and when feeling under any threat women's first instinctive reaction is to put their hands over their breasts.
His work started fetching such a high price that it got to the point where he could not afford to buy his own work, so he made cast figurines that he could sell for £25 so that people could afford them.  He also went through a period where is 3-dimentionalised his favourite paintings.

We then went to a demonstration where he showed us how he makes the small forms that are for sale at the Oxford Ceramics Gallery at the moment. He showed us how he uses a stick to cut through the clay, using it as an internal rolling pin and this is the basis for the legs and torso of the figures.

He showed us how he uses a toothbrush to stick various bits of clay together - none of the scoring with a knife and then applying slip with a brush that I was taught to do: this method is so sensible and easy, why has no one thought of it before? If he has to use slip, he bisquet fires the piece first before applying the slip.

We then went to the Oxford Ceramics Gallery to see the work that is exhibited there:

When a piece has been fired and is finished, he polishes it with beeswax.

There were also some helmets in the exhibition, a form that he has returned to, this time inspired by the film Ned Kelly.

But, it was the large figures from the middle years that I really liked. I have downloaded some from the internet:




and two more from the exhibition catalogue:

 A pear, another favourite motif.
In the afternoon we attended a 'conversation' between Mo Jupp and Walter Keeler, another ceramicist. A very 'light' conversation and I wish they had talked about their work more. One thing that Mo Jupp did talk about was the importance of repetition - making a whole line of similar things, as, as you go on, you get bolder and the work improves.
A most enjoyable and instructive day.