Wednesday, 25 November 2015


Bell , cast bronze, timber structure.  Photograph (c) Stephen Haywood
A voyage through sight, sound and sea at

One and All is an exhibition found in a series of rooms and corridors in Somerset House, just by Waterloo Bridge.  The title comes from a poem of that name by John Betjeman who in 1965 was writing about the many threats to our coastline. Much earlier, in 1895, the National Trust secured a small piece of land, Dinas Oleu, on the Welsh coast, for the enjoyment of the public. This exhibition  celebrates 50 years of the National Trust's dedicated care of our coast line. 

Tanya Kovaks' tidal bell was cast at Porthcurno beach in Cornwall, near Land's End, where the tide starts its journey around the coast.    She has created a digital drawing that tracks high tide in real time as it moves across the coasts of Britain, arriving at Land's End, splitting north and south, and meeting again in the mouth of the Thames.The bell will be rung at high tide on the river Thames throughout the exhibition.  Online you can access her work, accelerate or pause the tide, discover harbours and headlands, while hearing waves slowed down to 'tide time'.

What does the sea say? by Martyn Ware  (c) Maija Handover
The multi-talented Martyn Ware is a sound artist with vivid childhood memories of outings to the seaside as well as his native Sheffield. You can see this beach hut on the River Terrace at Somerset House, resting after its travels round the country to various coastal resorts, each with strong links to Britain's industrial past. There  the artist, together with the award-winning filmmaker Benjamin Wigley, captured stories from the public which are woven into an online digital journey through poetry, sound, film and tide. Online you can make your own mix of Martyn's soundscape and Benjamin's films.

Owen Sheers' poem On the Sea's Land (ar-for-dir) grew out of two weeks' walking and researching the Gower coastline, seeking "to explore and excavate the internal  and external geography of this ancient, yet ever renewing landscape". Drawing on local history, anecdote and dialect, his poem starts by presenting the visitor with the inevitable question - sea on the left or the right? Whatever the choice the poem can be experienced online in both directions. Here is an extract from the Prologue;
...don't let a fog-forgotten shore,
or storms drawn to water
stop you from stepping out
and taking that path to the edge.

Within two fields crossing 
the light can lift and anchor the land again,
and you, gifted a place in it -
alone on these deckle-edged cliffs
their stone prows emerging from the mist
like armies from a forest....  

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Brooklyn Bridge:Night Ice - wood engraving, linocut and stencilling  22x17cm,
24 .11.15

Ann Desmet is one of only 3 engravers elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in its 247 years of history - and the only woman. But forget for a moment, if you can,  the exquisite  skill and mastery which  makes this artwork possible. 

Start by enjoying the view. You are invited straight into  a  hard, crisp, dry night, almost standing on the bridge itself.  Your eye is drawn  towards a small dark space flanked by what could be cathedral windows or butterfly wings. Scenes of this beauty conjure up the magic and mythology of fairy tales and of cunning Jack Frost. Crusty rime coats those slim poles on the right, whose shadows mark out a stern geometric pattern. On the left your eye greets machinery with spidery legs covered in snow which is covered by ice.  Nothing is soft or blurred, but on this dark, silent night this particular jumble of metal looks positively noisy.
St Paul's:Lights,Wood engraving & stencil on Gampi Vellum paper

 The art critic Laura Gascoigne points out that Ann Desmet is an artist who likes to  'leave our imaginative options open'.

 The sky behind St Paul's dome is crisscrossed with beams. We are not certain why. Is this a City of London Festival delight, a sky pierced by sharp lasers, watched by jostling, cheering crowds lining the banks of the Thames and the surrounding area? Or are those searchlights raking the sky for enemy aircraft? Does it strike a chill in the heart of Londoners old enough to remember the appalling attack, the St Pauls Cathedral blitz ' on  29th December 1940, resulting in what has been called the Second Great Fire of London (the first was in 1666)
 Below is a link to Long and Ryle's exhibition catalogue:
 P.S.  Brooklyn Bridge is roughly a mile long. It opened in 1883  I'm told it carries six lanes of vehicular traffic plus a safe, elevated pedestrian and bike path. It takes about 30 minutes to walk across and a well-meaning  website brings us down to earth with 'walking across the bridge at a moderate pace burns about 100 calories; walking slowly burns about 80'.

Friday, 20 November 2015



Evening Walk, Oil on board 14x21cm

I could begin most of my blogs by apologising for the fact that no photograph does justice to an art work: it's the wrong size, and it cannot indicate the subtleties  of texture, depth and colour etc. But that would be tedious.  I make an exception in this case and offer an apology because Evening Walk is a prize-winning work whose quality cannot be wrapped up and delivered on this page.

Evening Walk is tiny. There is an underlying and satisfying abstract design and above all, an interesting surface texture which  hints at weather and wind. The work has a light-shimmering quality. It glistens.

Winter Sunshine
I featured an earlier work Winter Sunshine in Blog 92. At the time I wrote "The artist achieves a subtle range of colours from a limited palette. And I like her honesty. Sometimes the North Sea looks like molten glass. It’s heavy and strong, not playfully shredding itself into channels and ripples, nor dashing itself against rocks. Here it looks unhurried yet determined. The reflected sun makes a silver overlay like a lace cloth".

 ING Discerning Eye is a show of small works independently selected by six prominent figures from the art world, including Emma Bridgewater and Nicole Farhi, Stephen Doherty and Steve Pill. A total of 457 works – including paintings, prints, sculptures, drawings and photographs – by 197 artists were on display this year. Delia Tournay-Godfrey writes " I was amazed and delighted to win one of the eight purchase prizes at ING Discerning Eye on Thursday evening – The Lincoln Seligman Purchase Prize for my painting Summer Evening Walk".

Sunday, 15 November 2015


LONG & RYLE, LONDON 16.11.15

It's the 1930s and this 'Napoleon hat' clock is what you would see centre stage on the mantelpiece of many a household, above a roaring coal fire. But when you walk into a gallery and approach this exquisite pretender, the last thing you must ask is 'What's the time?'
Ancient and modern, solid and shifting, paper and stone jostle together in Ann Desmet's creations. Laura Gascoigne describes her as 'a beachcomber, scouring the sands of time for interesting fragments to use in her work'. Worlds within worlds appear: a palm tree and a classical column stand shoulder to shoulder inside the clock. Collaged images, wood engravings and prints  are embedded within convex glass lenses. The view changes as the observer moves around. 

 Jim Anderson. in a profile of the artist in Printmaking Today remarks that her focus shifted from the human form itself to human concerns, often conveyed in architecture. Rome, where she studied, felt like a time machine: a collage of pagan, early Christian, medieval and baroque fragments. And what better place to explore this passing of time and challenge the viewer than to transform vivid images into a 'pop up'  theatre inside the cavern of a sedate, trustworthy wooden clock?

One of the inspirations behind this radical new departure in her work is  Joseph Cornell.a man the New York Times called “a poet of light; an architect of memory-fractured rooms and a connoisseur of stars, celestial and otherwise”, and whose work was to be seen in an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art earlier this year. This is the same Royal Academy  as appointed Ann Desmet a Royal Academician in 2011, one of only three wood engravers so honoured in its 247 years of history.
Moonlit Afternoon; wood  engravings and monotype (printed from found lino block0 collage on paper presented under convex glass face of wooden 'Napolean Hat' clock
Collage of linocut & wood engraving prints on paper, plus small mirror and other found objects inside hinged wooden door at back of clock at' clock (1920s)