I had forgotten that the month of January is so cold with a rawness that goes into your bones; it’s post-Christmas which means that there is little in the way of gatherings to look forward to and this leads me to thinking about hibernation. But one thing that keeps me going is noticing that the sun rises earlier and sets later each day.
In last month's newsletter I wrote about a book called Ways of Seeing by John Berger, which I came across in a bookshop in Bath. The book was published after a series on the subject, created by Berger, had been show on BBC television in the 1970s. The film quality, production style, fashion and hairstyles of the period are quite amusing to see – it’s interesting to see how much things have changed. The program starts by the presenter John Berger ripping/distroying the canvas of a classical painting - just take a time to see the start.
The first episode (just google John Berger Seeing Ways on You Tube), which I found fascinating, looks at the role of painting in its original form and the power of such a form. Berger explains this power by showing a film extract of a pilgrim, hundreds of people paying their respect to their patron saint, by visiting a statue of the saint. Before copies, the religious followers would only be able to pay their respect too their saint by actually visiting the statue. Once we were able to copy an original form (take photograph and mass reproduce it) the followers could now worship their saint by visiting the image of their saint in their own home, even on the go from a photo in their own wallet. Berger goes on to explain that once an original image was copied, the copied image could be misinterpreted or ‘manipulated’ just by putting another image next to it; or in the case of film, adding sound. He talks about how we see reproduced images everywhere (and this was before the digital age) in magazines, postcards, posters and in our homes. He explains how the different context in which we view an image can give it a different meaning to the original one intended.
As an artist in todays world, it is not possible to exist as an artist with out making copies of work. I have postcards and greeting cards of my work, for a while, I offered small mounted prints of landscapes and of course I use copies of my paintings in this article and on instagram. I often think through the prose and cons of selling original art and prints of art. I like the rawness/power of the original painting. To keep this value, I crop the image for the original painting to define that it is a reproduced image. Of course most of the time, you are totally unaware of this subtle difference. In the art world, it is said that a good reproduction comes from a not so good painting and a really good painting makes a bad reproduction. Another technique that I sometimes use to see whether a painting is good or not.
There is nothing more powerful than an original painting and I want to remind you to take the time to visit galleries and take even meditative time to experience of being in a gallery, really looking at a painting, undistracted by the noised of the external world.
This Dark Country: Women Artists, Still Life and Intimacy in the Early Twentieth Century by Rebecca Birrell'A brilliant book ... A truly radical aesthetics fit for the twenty-first century at last!' - Therese Oulton '
[A] wonderful book. I am impressed and fascinated. It is beautifully written' - Celia Paul
This book is vital to mark some under estimated artists who where the wrong sex for true success, but make their mark in their own way.
One review I found wrote: 'Lemons gleam in a bowl. Flowers fan out softly in a vase. A door swings open in a sparsely furnished room. What is contained in a still life - and what falls out of the frame? For women artists in the early twentieth century, including Ethel Sands, Nina Hamnett, Vanessa Bell and Gwen John, who lived in and around the Bloomsbury Group, this art form was a conduit for their lives, their rebellions, their quiet loves for men and women. Gluck, who challenged the framing of her gender and her art, painted flowers arranged by the woman she loved; Dora Carrington, a Slade School graduate, recorded eggs on a table at Tidmarsh Mill, where she built a richly fulfilling if delicate life with Lytton Strachey. But for every artist we remember, there is one we have forgotten; who leaves only elusive traces; whose art was replaced by being a mother or wife; whose remaining artworks lie dusty in archives or attics. In this boldly original blend of group biography and art criticism, Rebecca Birrell brings these shadowy figures into the light and conducts a dazzling investigation into the structures of intimacy that make - and dismantle - our worlds.' written by Kathryn Hughes for the Guardian
CURATED, HUNG, CELEBRATED AND NOW DISPLAYING ITS OWN RED DOT
I can't tell you how moving the ceremony to mark the opening of the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy is. Firstly this ceremony is only for the artist, it was a nerving thing to do to turn up and be celebrated. I arrived at the RA on a Monday in September in time for the traffic to stop as 400 artists walk down Piccadilly to St Jame's church for a celebrating service for Artists. We sang a few hymns, listened to the professional and skilled choir of the church and heard moving lessons from the President of the RA, Rebecca Salter. Hymns sung were: Angle Voices ever singing, Dear Lord and Father of mankind and Immortal, Invisible, God only wise. The choir, who were much more skilful than us artists, sang beautifully; William Byrd (c1540-1623) O quad glorious and Herbert Howells (1892 - 1983) Like as the hart desireth the water brooks. I was immensely moved by the history that the church represents and the honouring of artists, an often self-forgotten profession.
After the service, another traffic stopping walk back to the Burlington entrance to the RA and after a short dance session to the steel band, I entered the show. The place is spattered with faces I know but then realising I don't know them at all as they are either famous actors or artists! I went to find my painting first, an exciting adventure to distract me from the over whelmness. The Summer Exhibition comes with its own A5 catalogue with all the artworks and their artists listed, I found my painting listed as 1111, in room IX, which had been curated by Vanessa Jackson RA and Evaa Rothschild RA.
I found chatting to other artists a real pleasure and stayed right until the end where a friend and I played dressing up with tiaras. A story that is priceless but to be told another time.
I am a professional painting artist, with a passion for space, freedom, colour and balance - constantly pushing forward to express more of what I see and feel visually.