Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Oil on board 91 x 121.5cm
At the Cranley Gallery in Cork Street, Peter Spens' exhibition Site Specific is  a dazzling and animated display of cityscapes and landscapes and seascapes. But the sea, the mountains, the rivers and buildings seem not be hanging around as if waiting to be painted. Spens gets the essence of what it's like to be there on that specific night or day. This is equally true of his work on the Jubilee Festival and the Olympics.

In this picture Westminster shares the limelight with the river Thames.It's dazzlingly colourful: the sky echoes the  quivering river reflections, the lights blaze wholeheartedly from those windows and streetlamps. And we're up high - not on the famous Waterloo Eye which you can glimpse (to the right) on the south side of the river where I live, but atop the Millbank tower. The artists describes  'battling high winds and wild weather 380 feet up with a painting board in my arms'. From this vantage point buildings press breathlessly against each other, receding into the distance, giving the work an immediacy which allows a shallow canvas to lead us deep into the city.

Below is Morning, Eigergletscher 2011 , which is another scene it is my good fortune to know well. And a scene which has inspired artists many many times over the centuries. What I like about this painting is that, without detracting in anyway from the sheer sturdiness and  weightiness of the mountains, there's an element of playfulness and joy.  When talking of his work as a painter he maintains 'you must be clumsy in love': artist as risk taker, ebulient, immediate, but without underminng the deep seriousness of the work itself.
Oil on Board 22.5 x 40.5
The exhibition catalogue has an interesting introduction by Olivia Hetreed.  the screenwriter who won awards for her adaptation of Tracey Chevalier's novel Girl with a Pearl Earring. Her radical new version of Wuthering Heights,  opens shortly.

Friday, 21 September 2012


© 2012 Pangolin London
Pangolin is one of the  few galleries in London dedicated to exhibiting sculpture. Its current exhibition is of sculptors' drawings and works on paper, but outside is a changing exhibition of large scale pieces using the public spaces and canal-side at Kings Place. Here is a bull poised at the edge of of the canal, which you can see in the top left hand corner. It has a weighty physical presence - a bull you would not want to tangle with. That tail is sprightly, but not playful; the horns sprout danger. It's made of steel and my Basher Science Book on the Periodic Table (Adrian Dingle) says that iron is the most important metal ever known to humankind and when mixed with small amounts of carbon to make steel, the sky's the limit. The Pangolin Foundry is Europe's largest sculpture factory.

Pig farmer ploughs a new furrow in sculpture is the heading of a Guardian article on Coventry's work, together with an excellent 10 minute video. You'll find it at
Rooks Copyright 2012 Pangolin

 It tells how after 25 years of farming in Cornwall, Terence Coventry's love of art turned him into a sculptor of bronze and steel. In the video he talks of the animals – pigs, cattle, goats, dogs -  that inspire him. Rooks are a continual source of inspiration as they crowd round farm machinery to snatch worms and grubs, particularly the moment when a living bird becomes weightless.  His sculpture, he says, 'is not of a rook but about a rook'.

If you are lucky enough to be in Cornwall at any time there's free access to a sculpture park where there are usually about 25 of his works on display. It's made up of 3 small meadows near the old Cornish coastal path 10 minutes' walk south of Coverack.

Friday, 14 September 2012


... and now for something completely different...oil on canvas, 42 x 42 ins, a painting, a delectable painting which is neither didactic nor ponderous.

Hugo Grenville has been described as Britain's leading Romantic painter, He gives us less a straghtforward representation of a scene, more a re-invention, something freer, full of light and colour. You need to take your time to wander through this painting. Its full title is 'Like a Land of Dreams, So Various, So Beautiful, So New', a quotation from Matthew Arnold's poem 'Dover Beach'. 

The figure in the centre of the frame first catches the eye. She looks familiar, referencing earlier well known paintings, maybe some scupltures too. But there's so much more here to explore: the texture of that pretty carved pink and white chair for a start. And the round polished tables - one so near you could almost reach out and touch it - reflecting bountiful flowers and fruit. And why not walk outside? It's tempting because there seems to be the flimsiest divide between the room and the landscape. Before we know it we are present under a wide and beautiful sky. 

 "Jug Of Flowers, Winter Light"
oil on canvas 36 x 34in
''(My paintings),' writes the artist,' are for me celebrations of life. They are about light and colour and the things that make one want to get up in the morning...There is enough social realism around these days but I don’t think that’s where my skill lies. I think it is a very legitimate reason for painting, certainly for someone like Lucien Freud...but it’s not me...I have made a very conscious decision to separate my work from the time in which we live'.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012



There are some  unflattering comments on the internet from visitors to Tate Modern, who have accidentally come across Reis's sculptures. Does this really look as though a bunch of workmen have just gone off for a ciggie and a burger?

Am I prepared to wait and see?  Not for the workmen to come back, but to give the artist the benefit of the doubt.

Is the work melancholy, or is there a twist of the unexpected? Reis says he sees his work as an extension of his painting. He says he defines space in a gallery using industrial materials such as steel bars, window frames, fluorescent strip lighting, electric cable and glass bars instead of brush strokes Is it fanciful that to see those hollow tubes - stuffed with slim luminous cables which flutter with silver and gold and pink light-  as glowing like the wings of a Renaissance angel? Do those shapes and that lighting suggest a funfair? Probably that's going too far.. And his work is arresting. What looks provisional, even abandoned- - and is given ambiguous titles -  alludes to the 'homelessness' of every human being and could be set alongside the paradoxes of life which theologians and poets and dramatists invite us to consider.