Tuesday, 29 April 2014


Kate McCrickard, Peas, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 38 x 40 cm


at ART FIRST, Eastcastle St, London, until May 17th

This fork looks more like a garden fork - perhaps it feels just as heavy and unsubtle to a small child. Her clothes are subdued, her hair cut is conventional, she is a solitary figure. And a person who's not going to be distracted. The artist has captured what the colour supplements might call mindfulness, a moment of exquisite concentration on the here and now. Her stillness  is set against a background fizzing and popping with colour, a bright world seen with the immediacy of a child's vision.

Studio 2 monotype, 26 x 28cm
Painter, monotype, 26 x 28cm
These monotypes  again press us up against the private world of children.  We are allowed to peep at their activities, careful not to disturb or intrude, and they repay us by getting on with what really matters at that moment, ignoring the bystanders.

The artist says 'I realised it wasn't twee to depict kids in domestic settings through looking at those who had  done it before to great effect' 
Below is Eduarad Vuillard's  Children in a Room, with a characteristic exploration of colour and pattern


Open the Box is Kate McCrickard's first London exhibition. ART FIRST also has an exhibition of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham's later works in the Main Gallery until May 17th




Friday, 11 April 2014


KIDS Screenprint,  paper 65.7 x 100.8, image 48,1 x 84.2cm

ALAN CRISTEA GALLERY, Cork St, until May 2nd 2014

Kids is a print commissioned to raise money for a five-storey mural on the West Wing atrium of Oxford Children's Hospital at the John Radcliffe. 

Our first instinct is to try and find a connection between text and image but there is none. Four 'random' letters which happen to denote children are jammed between 4 random objects: a metronome, a bucket, a torch and an empty drawer.There's no hidden meaning. The artist selected shapes - letters and  objects  - until he found something which 'worked'.

He has described himself as a constructor rather than a painter or draughtsman. I owe a great debt to this artist. I have never forgotten  when I first saw his work An Oak Tree. It consists of a glass of water placed on a small glass shelf at above head height. Below are some questions and answers concluding that  "the actual oak tree is physically present but in the form of a glass of water...Just as it is imperceptible, it is also inconceivable". It is work which is “in the service of the mind,”3 as opposed to a purely “retinal” art, intended only to please the eye. (Marcel Duchamp's words).
Corkscrew, one of  6 etchings in Catalan Suite II, paper 45 x 45 cm, image 29.7 x 29.7 cm

 At the heart of Michael Craig Martin's work is a desire to document the world through images of contemporary life, seen here so beautifully in Corkscrew. 'I see myself as a chronicler of our times'. He points out that originally form followed function and things looked like what they did. The old-style telephone had a handle, with a part you spoke into and a part you listened to. This has given way to a mobile in a thousand different shapes which can tell the time and take a photograph and much more - but gives you no indication of its talents.

The exhibition has sets of outstanding prints Art and Design, where Craig Martin  references iconic 20th century artworks - Andy Warhol's soup can, Man Ray's smoothing iron with spikes and Magritte's pipe - men with a particular interest in re-defining art using humour and more than a touch of antagonism.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014


Photograph courtesy of Sarah Kate Wilson
 TATE BRITAIN until November 2nd 2014

The Duveen Gallery - 100 metres long, with a lofty vaulted  roof - has seen plenty of drama. Each year an artist is commissioned to produce work which responds to  the Tate, its surroundings and the Gallery itself. In 2002-3 Anya Gallaccio's massive oak trees, felled and with their branches lopped, became natural, rough-and-ready 'columns' both mirroring and challenging the classical setting. In 2007 Mark Wallinger  recreated peace campaigner Brian Haw’s sprawling Parliament Square protest. A year later Martin Creed choreographed a live performance, making runners speed through the Duveen as if their lives depended on it.
  And 2014 brings a new paradox. Phyllida Barlow says "Considering a body of new work, I was very conscious of two particular contradictory aspects: the tomb-like interior galleries against the ever-present aspect of the river beyond".

Dock is a monumental, exuberant counterpoint to a calm, graceful, neoclassical gallery. 
It is comprised of 7 inter-related sculptures filling the whole space. When the way is almost blocked, most of us visitors seem to prefer to squeeze against the walls, though it's perfectly possible to wander around inside the sculptures. Perhaps its invasiveness reminds us of the terrible floods higher up the Thames earlier this year, powered by the river upon whose banks the Tate stands. 

So you look up at shapes which reference lofty cranes. Vast shipping containers dangle in the air as if ready to be loaded. Untitled: dock: crushedtower, a functionless wooden tower wrapped in paper is a pastiche of the monumental sculptures surrounding it. We can see that Dock is made of familiar everyday materials - timber, metal, polystyrene, canvas, cardboard and rope. Everywhere they are  suspended, collapsed, stacked, wrapped, folded, jambed, crimped and squeezed. 

 Dock  is monumental, awe-inspiring, captivating. It is also light and airy, The contrast makes you dizzy , even vertiginous.. Each step you take reveals a new vista. And I've included the coral/fuchsia colours in the two lower images because they filling the windows of fashion shops in the West End at the moment.


Saturday, 5 April 2014


Simon Weston (c) National Portrait Gallery
There will be a programme about this picture on BBC One on 13 April at 5.35pm to 6.35pm

It's difficult to stand for any length of time in front of this near life-size painting without being deeply moved. The gallery's director, Sandy Nairne, called it "a powerful portrait of Simon Weston as a strong and inspiring character". Here is the solid substance of a Falklands War veteran, his  badly burned hands clutching medals draped over the back of a chair, which provide the only splash of colour in a sombre palette. And then you look at his face...it is a face which needed more than 70 operations - and an infinite amount of courage and skill - to reconstruct.Simon Weston joined the Welsh Guards in 1978 when he was 16. He suffered 46% burns  while aboard the Sir Galahad during the Falklands war, in an incident when  22 of his companions were killed.

First known for his injuries, Simon Weston is now a writer, a businessman and an inspirational figure who has raised millions of pounds for charities. In a joint venture between the NPG and the BBC he was chosen by viewers of  BBC1's The One Show as the public figure they most wanted to be portrayed. On April 13th you can watch  The People's Portrait, a TV documentary telling the full story.

The National Portrait Gallery has another of  Nicky Philipps' paintings. There is a military connection between the two but the subjects are very different.  Prince William, then 27 and training to be an RAF search-and-rescue pilot, wears his dress uniform with the blue sash and star of the Order of the Garter, and the Queen''s Golden Jubilee medal. Harry, 25, also wears a Jubilee medal alongside his award for service in Afghanistn. It's a remarkable work, capturing an intimate  moment between two family members, modern young men  who are also being true to the tradition which comes from being a member of the Royal Family.

Incidentally, the painting of Simon Weston hangs next to a portrait of 'Kate Middleton', as she was described by the gallery staff member who pointed out the way. Like Simon another commoner, but this time one who has an intimate relationship with one of the princes - she is the Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Prince William and the mother of their baby son Prince George.
 MY LATEST BOOK: Things My Mothers Never Told Me  by Yvonne Craig Inskip, available on line as a paperback and an Ebook.
To read more about the paintings and the artist go to
 Search the NPG collection at www.npg.org.uk/collections.php