Monday, 30 June 2014



Luxor Fishermen was painted from photographs taken when the artist was on a trip down the Nile. Like Jiri Keller (blog 289) she is a member of the Hesketh Hubbard art society which specialises in life drawing. The works in the current exhibition offer a wide range of imaginative and traditional representations of people in a variety of media, including  portraits,  abstract paintings and many nudes.

But here I've chosen a work by someone whose passion is painting  water, with or without figures, boats or buildings. I think that what attracted me to Luxor Fishermen was the water. Though pierced by the spear and the oar, we see water flowing mellifluously over most of the canvas until it becomes almost an abstract painting with a life of its own. Curves and ellipses fill the space and when well-lit - as it was in the exhibition - the layered paint was transformed into a sparkling surface, giving the illusion that we were present there, experiencing one particular moment in time. In the next second the patterns would have dissolved and the water would have swirled off on its own destiny.

Breaking Waves  

Friday, 27 June 2014


Drawn to the Real  exhibition at ALAN CRISTEA GALLERY

A group show of drawings until 19 July by Miriam de BĂșrca, Jane Dixon, Richard Forster, Marie Harnett & Emma Stibbon. 

Deconstructing the North V: Dirt & Roots 34.5 x 50.5cms
What you see on a small screen is a travesty of the beauty of  these drawings: delicate yet tough, anchored yet dancing; compact yet exuberant, crumbly but whole. The title places 'Dirt'. with all its nasty connotations. alongside 'Roots', without which nothing grows.
And  'Deconstructing the North'? The works engage with the artist's experience of her homeland Northern Ireland, with its persisting divisions, its layers and undercurrents. The land is 'quiet and peaceful and very beautiful, seeped in history. Inherited memories, bad ones for some, good ones for others, depending on which side of the division they stand'.

The plants she documents come from Crom and its rural surroundings, an old colonial estate in Co Fermanagh. The artist writes 'To this day (the estate) carries the legacy of colonial rule, in some ways far more subtly, in others more overtly than what exists on the streets of Belfast'. Her drawings 'accentuate the transformation of a place with a fractious history and the conscious effort it takes to recall and understand its past and present'.

Clover: Ink on paper, vellum paper & image 34.5 x 50.5cm

 Clover is  a three-leafed plant laden with legend and history. It's said to be used by St Patrick in Ireland in the fifth century as a theological teaching aid, a symbol of the doctrine of the Christian Trinity: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Bunches of shamrock are pinned to lapels on March 17th, St Patrick's Day, and to find a four-leaf clover at any time is said to bring good luck. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014


open until June 28

Jiri Keller places his own reflection in the top right hand corner of this unconventional setting. I use the Bakerloo line most days, and I see this work not only as a beautifully executed group painting but also as a shrewd and accurate  commentary on changing social patterns.  He remarks 'I was motivated to paint when I caught sight of this charming scene in front of me on a tube train. The carriage light giving a good definition of light and shade, and the relaxed behaviour of the family, quite unusual in these surroundings, seemed interesting and worthy of capturing on canvas'.

In this painting his complex task is to convey a moment of warmth and co-operation between three passengers, linked by touch. He captures beautifully the studied concentration of the girl on the right and the mystery of the upward glance of the central figure: is she holding her head high to accommodate what's happening to her hair or is she simply lost in thought and hardly aware of what's going on behind her? And look at the figure on the left. Is that boredom or humour or simple sleepiness?

But there's more. Once upon a time on public transport you did not put your feet on the upholstery but sat demurely the right way up. And kept more or less still. In the past few years the tube has been transformed. It's become a place where most things can happen. Wafts of spicy food creep along the carriage; small children sit in rows with aprons on and are fed meals. It is mesmerising to watch how mascara and blusher and lipstick are applied with mathematical precision and how hair is brushed and sprayed and plaited; nail varnish applied (with its lasting  pungent chemical  smell). And occasionally some young people use the overhead hand rail to perform acrobatic tricks.

Jiri Keller studied art in Brno, Czechoslovakia, from 1956-1960, immigrating to England in 1969, and has lived in London ever since. He is a member of the British Thematic Association , the UK's national association for theme-based philately and postcards. His collection of art on stamps has grown into a reference library.

The Hesketh Hubbard is London's largest life-drawing society. It has been holding weekly drawing classes since 1930, allowing professional and amateur artists to work in untutored sessions in a variety of styles and media. 110 of their works are on temporary display at The Mall Gallery, a champion of figurative art by living artists.

Monday, 2 June 2014


 Inspired by... is the title of an exhibition hosted by Morley College and open until June19th. It's organised in partnership with the V & A (Victoria and Albert Museum) and NIACE (National Centre for Adult Continuing Education). It celebrates work from across the UK, from London to Penzance, Aberystwyth and Edinburgh.

Morley is 5 minutes walk from The Old Vic theatre and a mere 10-12 minutes down Westminster Bridge Road from Big Ben itself.

Contrapuntal by Nicholas Baelz

I first caught sight of this sculpture in the window of Morley Gallery. What could any passer by do but walk straight into the Gallery? 

My first impression was that it presented a conundrum. Chrome cylinders do not sit demurely on a slope, any more than ball bearings can resist the urge to scatter in every direction. And how do those welcoming, gracious curves - so solid, so present - live together in harmony in such a way that you cannot imagine a different configuration?

Nick Baelz says "I do not draw a work first, rather my work flow is organic; a piece grows intuitively from a basic concept or inspiration. In this case my choice of material was mild steel,which I subsequently painted, and a chrome sphere. The steel was bent in a roller, and after experimenting with various curves and shapes I chose those that flowed and welded them together". 

He goes on to explain the mystery of that glorious silver ball: "The sphere is attached in such a way as to make the join invisible and positioned to ensure the work balances. The class has helped me complete this work by providing me with the technical skills needed for metalwork, encouraged me to develop self-criticism and the support to explore my creative imagination without the fear of failure". 

The supportive class he refers to is at Morley College, which is celebrating its 125th year. I only discovered after I'd made my selection that although there were entries from adult colleges across the UK, the four works I chose were from Morley students. 

Paimio Armchair 1930 by Alvar Aalto. Birch plywood and solid birch
Let the artist have the last word about what inspired him in the V&A: "I chose this piece for its beauty, simplicity and joyful vibrancy of colour. Although designed in the 1930s it still looks contemporary today. I was inspired by its organic form and uplifting curves. The chair is both functional and sculptural. Being solid enough to support the human frame yet at the same time it appears seemingly weightless. It is these characteristics I have strived to reflect in my sculpture".

Sunday, 1 June 2014


  is an exhibition at Morley College - open until June19th - of work inspired by the collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Morley is 5 minutes walk from The Old Vic theatre and a mere 10-12 minutes down Westminster Bridge Road from Big Ben itself.

The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai ca 1831-1833

Neil Macgregor, in his History of the World in 100 Objects, features Under the Wave of Kanagawa' (The Great Wave) as Number 93. He says '(It) is probably the most iconic Japanese artwork in the world. It depicts a monstrous wave about to come crashing down on three fishing boats and their crews. On the horizon is Mount Fuji, dwarfed by the colossal wave. The print was created by Hokusai when he was about 70 years was made using coloured woodblock printing and many thousands of impressions were made - each one sold quite cheaply'.

This much-loved print is said to have inspired many works of art, including both Debussey's La Mere and Rilke's Der Berg. The artist Patricia Leigh writes 'I have always admired the prints of Hokusai and I especially wanted to translate The Wave print from a flat, one sided view into a three dimensional sculpture. 

The Great Wave by Patricia Leigh

Photographs cannot do justice to her The Great Wave, which is sinewy and strong yet has the delicacy of a seashell. It bows with the wind yet hints at jaws which might snap at anything in its path. Its lacey edges could have made of ice. And the joy, of course, is that unlike Hokusai's flat picture, we can move around to see it from all perspectives.

The first waves I saw as a child swept in from the windy North Sea onto Lowestoft's sandy beaches. Someone told me that every seventh wave had special power. This was something I was very prepared to believe, because each one seemed magical. I counted the waves for weeks afterwards. Then a fisherman told me that at sea waves were as big as houses. That, I thought, was a step too far, though I quickly learned it was true indeed it's something of an understatement. 

Patricia Leigh again:" Conceiving the dynamic force of water and elements I want to portrait the surge and beauty of the sea as in the Hokusai print. I tried to capture the entire majestic magic of wind and water in clay which  I subtly highlighted with  some glaze to enhance the effect of light playing on water". gallery,