Reviews

Personal Effects.

Figurative  painting with industrial resin by Ruth McLees.11.02.12_14.04.12

Llantarnam Grange.

The small yet perfectly formed Gallery at Llantarnam Grange, held a treasure within, with the exhibition of Ruth Mc.Lees exquisite paintings. Her work uses retro materials such as seen, on the walls or furnishing’s reminiscent of the late 1050s and early 1960s.

Here Ruth paints in a bold yet fluid way, young women, look out from canvas’s layered amidst patterns and ripples, as they become physically morphed with the fabric on which they are painted. Portraits stretch and drip over the parameters of the canvas, with wax like resin, oozing through long shaggy hair. Altering the conventional flat surface’s, she use’s compounds with rubber,glass, and paint like consistencies, to break out of the constraints of the canvas edge.                                                                                               Creeping across walls, or tumbling out to the space below.

 I am mesmerised by these faces, they have a pop art quality , yet succeed in becoming so much more than a flat representation as tradition has previously offered. I look forward to seeing what ruth Mc klees does next, this is an exciting and original collection of paintings.

 

Cordelia Alice Hitchinson.

Taurus Crafts exhibition 10th March until 15th April. Seaside and Besides.

Cordelia graduated from Bristol University in 2004, where she had the opportunity to study both History of Art and Fine Art in Florence. Studying in Florence at the Charles Cecil School of Fine Art was a chance to learn some of the old Atelier techniques and study in depth from life models. This has influenced her work and she continues to go to various local centres of Art to draw and paint directly from life models.

Cornelia’s work is particularly concerned with the effects of the contrast of colour and texture. Taking inspiration from the patterned designs of Matisse and the vibrant use of colour of John Singer Sargent. Many of her recent works are inspired by the sea and the English seaside landscape, as a keen sailor she spends much of her time on the coast. The Forester Newspaper 2012.

I was at once attracted to these perfect little paintings, they capture the light and reflective surface of the wet sand so perfectly that I am at once transported to my childhood , sat on the sand hearing the calls of gulls above and watching the light shimmer and dance of the rolling surf.

The people within these paintings are unaware of the viewers gaze as they are happy in their oblivion, busy in the task of soaking up the warm sun or the art of making a sand castle. Her ability to portray with what seems like effortless ease, the holiday maker, be it children playing, or adults relaxing in stripped deck chairs is enchanting.

Most of these paintings and prints are not much bigger than 12”x 2” so for me at least this not only makes them, desirable from practical point of view, with most of us having little wall space for larger works, but also they seem to echo that of a holiday photograph. Caught in a moment, nostalgia is a large component in my own study and it is these moment’s, for me at least that capture some of these very moments.

Her other works such as Walk through a park oil on canvas 12”x 12” and  Marmite limited edition Giclee print, Cordelia demonstrates here ability to switch subject matter with  ease and great ability. I look forward to seeing further works by this artist in the very near future.

 Mass Photography Blackpool through the camera lens.On November the 5th 2011 I drove halfway across the U.K to attend the final day of this exhibition. I couldn’t believe my luck; here I was in the middle of a module at University based on the Traditions and rituals of the every day, in and around the British seaside. When I found that I had but one day left to see this show. I quickly booked a Hotel and planned my jaunt.

There is no better way to study your subject matter than actually immersing yourself within it (so to speak). My research for contextual studies had touched rather heavily on the seaside town of Blackpool during the interwar period. Now my appetite had been well and truly wetted.

I was actually going to be able to see for myself, the very pictures that had been taken for the mass observation project. As a voyeur and anthropologist this was an exciting time indeed.

Not the easiest place to find The Grundy Art Gallery Blackpool, it meant walking through the very hub of Blackpool’s golden mile, except it was a lot further than a mile and not in the very least bit golden. By the time I stumbled into the right street, I was more than a little anxious to get indoors and away from the kagool wearing throngs of pathment trawlers.

The gallery is an open and airy building; it has the feel of an old institute such as a grammar school or library. The kind of building that still has those chunky cast iron radiators that have long since been old-fashioned and are now considered very contemporary. It was altogether quiet and this was a blessed relief from the hub bub of people outside.

I collected a catalogue and climbed the stairs to the gallery space. All the walls in this place are white; three rooms of photographs hung in long rows of perfect symmetry.

Here they were , the works of people such as Alfred Gregory, Peter Marlow, Martin Parr, Tony ray-Jones, Humphrey spender, and Chris Steele-Perkins.

These instances captured like extinct butterflies and pinned out for our delectation, monochrome moments in seaside History. I was at once transported to the heady days of the working class holiday. People outside of their everyday environment fuelled with excitement, jostled and crammed onto piers with barely an inch between them.

I was able to hear the steam organ, and the seagulls mixed with the chorus of so many voices, they sound like a chicken hatchery, such was the evocative power of black and white stills. The 1930,s images, I think were the most magical for me, I was motionless and waiting with bated breath, who are these people? Where are they now? Are they all deceased? The mass observation project was perhaps the only time in our history were people s lives were observed so candidly, affording us with a wealth of information , here on these walls were we can look into the faces of these carefree and momentarily happy souls.

Side shows, tattoo parlours, fun fairs and palm readers, from the shy girl who’s dress in tightly held down on the fair ride, to the more confident and daring women standing outside the tattoo parlour. A very different time for women, here they had a certain element of freedom, with a sexual awakening brought about by a holiday flirtation, here trapped on paper for the entire world to see and wonder. They made me feel sad for their hardships, and happy for their short instances of carefree abandon.

Martin Parr has a different feel to his journalistic almost documentary, (wild life even) displays. I believe that a great many off Parr’s works are like a back-handed compliment, the subject matter though seemingly unaware is displayed with an element of ridicule. Rather like being the last one to get a joke and then realising that the joke is in fact on you. Is this ok? Um, if the photograph he has taken has been created with consent then I guess it must be ok? Though there is that niggling part of me that feels just a tad uncomfortable. It is this that makes his work brilliant; though he has not been without his critics I do enjoy these rather scathing depictions of Holiday makers enjoying themselves in an apparently dysfunctional environment.

Parr’s work has a way of making me feel rather like a dirty peeping tom. Perhaps it has to do with a desire for titillation? And titillation is rife at the seaside resort, the stuff that made Donald Mc Gills bawdy post so alluring.  From neon signs to hectic chip shops and over spilling bins, the essence of Britishness is stamped firmly in his seaside photographs.

I crept around the gallery enjoying this time in silence, the need to respect this captive collection was great, and for just over two hours I digested every part of them.

Leaving the exhibition had an air of melancholy to it, for the people who I had seen smiling and busy and carefree would soon be packed up again into files and boxes and it had a sense of finality to it.

 

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