Sunday, 31 May 2015


Coded for Colour  until 27th June 2015
Pangolin Gallery N1 9AG

Recalling the Dog, 2015 Bronze Edition of 5 246 x 284 x 46 cm (c )Pangolin London
 'The craving for colour is a natural necessity just as for water or for fire. 
Colour is the raw material indispensable for life'. 
Fernand Leger, On Monumentality and Colour

Coded for Colour charts Jon Buck's intriguing journey from his early  brightly-painted resin sculptures to this striking and monumental bronze. Recalling the Dog is the highlight of the present exhibition, on show here for the first time and illustrating new techniques developed by Buck as he continues to explore colour as an important fourth dimension. He uses multiple layers of paint rubbed back in areas to give an almost thermal image of the sculpture. It appears to throb and fade, challenging our senses of sight and touch. His 'naturalism' is pared down to the brink of abstraction in an attempt to capture what Buck calls "the essence of the thing and ultimately to delight the viewer and stimulate the senses to maximum effect”.

Once upon a time Sir Anthony Caro released his sculpture Early One Morning on the world.  Until then we knew what a sculpture was. It was usually made of precious materials such as marble, silver, gold or bronze. It could be 'read' i.e. it represented a person or a place, an idea or a value. And it was so special it was often lifted high above the viewer, mounted on a base or pedestal which seemed to mark it out as untouchable. . Caro broke the rules.  In the early 1960s he began to make purely abstract works: sculpture constructed and welded in steel and aluminium, using beams, girders and other found elements, and painted them  in bright colours. Such works caused a sensation.
Decades later here is another innovation: a new and striking monumental bronze. With  highly inventive chemicals,  raw pigments, and finally with paint Jon Buck has pushed the boundaries of what can be achieved with a medium usually associated with dull bronze patinas. He releases bronze from its centuries-long  constraints.

Repository, 2011, Bronze, Edition of 10, 70 x 38 x 17 cm 
(c) Pagolin London
Repository is a joy to look at but there is more. "Powerful images elicit a feeling, an emotional response, first and foremost, and only then does that evoke an opinion, a thought or an intellectual quest". Perhaps the shape and the colour remind us of a beating heart? Perhaps it is a funeral urn? We know that a repository is specifically designed to contain treasure, sometimes briefly, sometimes for eternity. It may contain a hoard of  precious jewellery, hidden and unworn, stacked underground in vaults, safe, they say, from heists and hooligans. Or a repository may guard something of no intrinsic value at all, like paper or parchment. But a scrap of the Magna Carta or the archives of, say, a Nobel Prizewinner, make the paper or parchment precious, with a value hard to measure and impossible to reproduce. 

Mind Map (below)  is 'a mix of a scientific and mythic response to ourselves, our history and the world we inhabit', at a time when new insights into finding our way round our 'minds' confront us with hitherto unimagined exploration. 
Mind Map, 2009, Bronze, Edition of 10, 45 x 51 x 37 cm
 (c) Pangolin London

Wednesday, 20 May 2015


PETER KENNARD, Unofficial War Artist

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM  until May 30th 2016
I visit hundreds of galleries and other art spaces and am used to discovering variety. Some artists have a particular interest, say landscape, and move gracefully from photography to painting to video. Others stick to one medium, such as glass, but do with it things no one else has done before. But never have I seen so much innovation and passion as in the 5 smallish rooms on the upper floors of the Imperial War Museum, which Peter Kennard's work  is occupying. 

Haywain with Cruise Missiles 1981 Original Photomontage (c) Peter Stannard

The exhibition confirms his status as an artistic outsider, determined to make work which exists  outside the normal channels of the art world and that directly connects with the public.  The original photomontage  Haywain with Cruise Missiles, transforms the warm green peace of the Suffolk countryside into a terror zone. Alongside are displayed posters, pamphlets, badges, placards and T-shirts, lest we forget.

"That sense of ripping into an image, unveiling a surface, going through that surface into an unrevealed truth, is at the core of photomontage. I sit in a room with the tools of my trade and try to pummel these pictures into revealing invisible connections".
Peter Kennard

Newspaper1 1994 80x58x10 (c) Peter Stannard

Each room could have as its motto 'And Now For Something Completely Different', a catch phrase from the hugely successful British TV comedy programme Monty Python's Flying Circus, later made into a film. For example, the fourth gallery recreates a 1997 installation, Reading Room, consisting of 8 wooden lecterns each bearing 2 photographic images of faces photocopied onto the financial pages of newspapers. Using charcoal the images are smudged and blurred so as to appear to merge or dissolve into the stock market figures. 
On the left is a raw and visceral image using carbon toner, charcoal, pastel on newspaper and wood. Claw-like hands reach out to destroy, to eliminate. You can almost smell the charred paper and hear the scratch of the nails as they dig and rip though the news. 

London's Imperial War Museum tells the story of those who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War. Drawing on both the exceptional and the everyday, people. places, ideas and events are used to tell vivid personal events as well as create powerful physical experiences. They reflect war as both a destructive and constructive experience, and challenge us to look at conflict from different perspectives

Sunday, 17 May 2015


Art  First, 21. Eastcastle St

Helter Skelter, 2015, oil on panel, 40x50cm (c)DavidPrice

 When David Price moved his studio to Margate in 2011, he was fascinated by the ruined remains of Deamland, an abandoned amusement park, one of many constructed at English sea-side resorts in the last century, and modelled on a park of the same name in Coney Island, USA, built nearly a century earlier.

"Dreamlands" were popular because they captured  all the spontaneity and thrills of a touring fairground, but their permanent, refined and elegant structures opened up unimagined possibilities: Helter Skelters; Carousels;  a Tunnel of Love where boats  slowly edged their way through dim caverns. At night rainbow-coloured electric lights, thousands of them, turned the scene into fairy land. Well brought up children had to take a nap in the afternoon so as to be awake when this magic happened. There was even space for practical jokes and naughty fun -  you exited from the Ghost House through a door at the front, on an upper floor, at which moment a gust of wind would suddenly blow ladies' skirts well above their knees. 

David Price paints deserted, crumbling buildings, each signalling decay and abandonment. But by a special sort of magic they are  majestic and capricious, celebrating a time, if not of Utopia, of hope of a more democratic and meritocratic future.  

 Helter Skelter is especially intriguing. The viewer is presented with a grid which almost serves to turn the work into a hologram, a three-dimensional image.  You have the immediate experience of peering into the distance through and beyond that which  confronts you. Could that pattern be stained glass or tracery or a mathematical puzzle? Or "just paint"?

Tunnel of Love 2015 oil on panel, 50x40cm,
 (c) David Price
Ghost House, oil on panel, 74cm diameter,
(c) David Price

The three  images here convey energy, wit and intimacy, not least by the artist's use of vibrant shimmering colours. The exhibition publicity refers to the work of Piranesi, an 18C Italian artist famous for his etchings of Rome which were a 'celebration of architectural wonders and human artifice as much as they were a meditation on chaos and decline'. Could you say that Piranesi was imagining Rome as a corrupted theme park?

P.S. In 2011  Margate's Turner Contemporary Art Gallery, designed by David Copperfield,was opened, representing a serious cultural investment on the Kent coast

 “The brilliant thing about Turner Contemporary is that it has given people hope that things are going to change here and also put Margate back on the map.” Tracey Emin,uk

Friday, 15 May 2015


Bullets Revisted#27B chromogenic print 122x153cm Image courtesy of the artist and Kashya Hildebrand Gallery, London


Sometimes artists, such as the British Orientalists, know not what they do. Nearly a decade ago Tate Britain held an exhibition of their paintings entitled “The Lure of the East". Bored, gorgeously-clad concubines lounge in the secret depths of a harem. Watercolours, oils and sketches dating from the late 18th to the early 20th century represented the heyday of British artists' love affair with the Middle East.

But their work has been unpicked and reconstructed by later generations in ways they could not possibly have foreseen. In this astonishing exhibition The Dangerous Frontier Moroccan photographer Lalla Essaydi confronts this delusion head on, with her uniquely dramatic, beautiful and original works. They are colourful, exotic, beguiling and technically brilliant. And they expose imperialist fantasies as the stuff tabloid images are made of.

Essaydi's photographs are the result of a complex performance-based medium; painting. calligraphy, interior design, costume design, stage directing and finally photography. Her imaginative and powerful final blow is to present her work showing the uncropped white borders of the film, with the Kodak brand name visible. Her signal that the settings and identities are fabricated mocks the orientalists'  fantasy scenes which were meant to show reality. 
Bullets Revisited #44 chromogenic print 152x121cm Image by courtesy of the artist and Kashya Hildebrand Gallery

There remain two more surprises. The art of calligraphy was a male-dominated realm. But Essaydi paints intricate calligraphic texts over every available surface: walls, clothing even the models themselves. And she uses  henna dye, used exclusively by women to decorate themselves on special occasions such as weddings.

Lastly what we see are  models and their surroundings  adorned with sparking gold fabrics and metallic materials in shimmering luxury. Or do we? They are but trompe d'oeil images: bullet casings, carefully cut and polished, have been hand-sewn on the models' clothes, jewels and beds, a military juxtaposition which is a chilling reference to the hidden violence endured by some women in some cultures.

An entertaining article by Rachel Aspen includes the reaction of Victorian British women to orientalist paintings:

And a book: Lalla Essaydi: Crossing Boundaries, Bridging Cultures,

Tuesday, 5 May 2015


What I Tell You In The Dark
The Crypt, St John's Church, Waterloo

The title is the advice given to the families of the newly-deceased by Southworth & Hawes, the acclaimed Boston daguerreotypists, who were masters of the process and known world-wide for their beautiful compositions. I'm writing this just after reports that more than  200 strangers attended an Edinburgh funeral to say good bye to an unidentified baby boy, whose body was found swaddled in a blanket nearly 2 years ago: a contemporary way of recognising and honouring an untimely death.

Sheila Wallis' art understands the vulnerability of  every human being, our internal and external conflicts. Perhaps her compassion and honesty as an artist are not unconnected with the fact that she was born at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

She works within the tradition of orthodox, realist painting. She began with self-portraiture out of economic necessity. In 2009 she won the coveted Threadneedle Prize with a nude self-portrait. Gradually her work acquired a new freedom:  a delicate but powerful ability to convey how vulnerable we are without being exploitative or cruel. We have all  experienced family care and concern, love and loss, the things we can choose - and those we cannot escape. More recently she has been inspired by early post-mortem daguerreotypes which are linked  inescapably with our own transient temporal existence.

  After winning the Threadneedle Prize, Sheila gave up her job working for the NHS in order to concentrate on painting, deciding that...
“’s time to take my art more seriously.” Of her latest work she says "The seeming alchemy of the Victorian daguerreotype, captured by the earliest cameras and fixed onto prepared plates. is as unique as any watercolour. My project is to discover if these once private heirlooms might be made to speak of the more universal human themes of longing and limitation'. 

You will find an interesting description of  daguerre history and process in