Friday, 4 March 2011


© Melissa Scott-Miller c/o Mark Jason Gallery, London
The joy of stepping in to The Mall Gallery to see the exhibition Pure Gold: 50 years of the Federation of British Artists is twofold: a peep at some previously unseen works by well known artists such as Walter Sickert and John Singer Sargent, but, more importantly, a glimpse at what some of our best contemporary figurative artists are up to. 

What attracts me to this large panoramic painting is its energy and its physicality, (Such a tiny image gives little indication of its power). I love the thickness and crunchiness of the paint.  It’s a celebratory work, It’s a giddy view, slightly vertiginous, painted from the roof of Peter Jones store. It certainly doesn’t look like a studio painting done from photographs. It has weather inside it. And where many painters might be tempted to tidy up the panorama and be a bit squeamish about what is not 'picturesque', the artist is meticulous about the glory of untidy traffic, awkward corners, the tops of trees not planted with an aerial view in mind. There are subsequent pleasures as you examine the Dickensian detail. You sit inside the red bus, peer into windows, loiter on the pavement, feel the shade of the canvas canopy.

There’s no background information on the walls of the Gallery, nothing except a title and the artist’s name. You can walk round 'just looking', with an empty head, no art history buzzing around, no questions about process or technique. Just wait until a work comes off the wall and shake you by the hand.  Three did this to me, (but I’m having trouble getting images of the other two). 

The Federation of British Artists, which set up this exhibition, comprises eight groups including The Pastel Society, the Society of Wildlife Artists and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, of which Melissa is an award-winning member. 

Brian Pearson is a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists, another group represented here, and I’ll be able to include his stunning Sailing Round South Georgia if he replies to my email...

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