Wednesday, 27 July 2016

1066 Mono and Mark Glassman

1066 Mono Photographic Club (Gallery 1) 

In a contemporary environment of high definition, colour saturation and constantly moving visual stimuli, the black and white photograph increasingly seems like a radical  new art form. A moment of restful, monochrome reality in which there are no distractions and no demands other than a slow appreciation of subtle shadows and focused content. 

This group show includes all types of monochrome photography by the 1066 Mono Photographic Camera Club who practice traditional darkroom photography, digital capture and printing, as well as alternative photography like cyanotype and bromide print production. There are 14 photographers in this exhibition and there are some stunning photographs that beautifully showcase the range of interests and skills among this group. Obviously what people like differs greatly from viewer to viewer but there is most definitely something for everyone in this show.
I really liked some of the portraits and how the exhibition communicates a question about what actually constitutes a 'portrait'. This includes a sheep (David Mills), some musicians,(Terence Page and Bob Harvey), an attitude (Liz Scott) and a hand holding a pair of glasses (Rob White).

I also liked how some of the images were composed in a way that suggested photographic history particularly 'Abandoned Mine' (Chris Upton), 'Cliffe Bridge, Lewes' (Bob Harvey) and 'Fairfield Church' (Chris Shore).

'Colossus' (Jeremy O'Keefe) also had that quality about it as well as being a remarkably effective rendition of scale. These images also suggested old postcards as did Lesley Parkinson's remnants of structures on the West Pier, although these are particularly ghostly given the pier's story.   

The mix of perspective and subject in this show reminds the viewer of the achievements of photography and its always current possibilities. I really liked 'The Old Pig Sty, Barrington Court' (Ian Weston) and his image of 'Stormy Lyme Bay'.  David Hoad's series of images using brushes is quite surreal whereas Andy Thurgood's 'Locomotion' is a detail so beautifully shot that it captivates whether you are interested in trains or not. Michael Attrill's 'Accidental Art' provides gently abstracted and unusual views of nature and Robert Barfield's 'The Kiss' is a lovely observation of nature's resilience. However, if it's sheer exhilaration you want then Helen Taylor's dogs running along the shore is the one for you. 

It is of course impossible to photograph photographs behind glass in a very light room so I can't provide any close image details here. I also can't provide a website for the 1066 Mono Photographic Club because they don't seem to have one. This is a shame because it would be good to be able to see some of the works of this group on a permanent basis - both for pleasure and for reference.  

Mark Glassman (Gallery 2)

As often with the Forum, entering the other gallery is entering a different world. In this case it's the world of Mark Glassman, a painter who has spent a lot of time on the beach preparing for this show. Themed around shingle and coastal scenery it is clear that he is fascinated and inspired by the colours, shapes and textures that are found in the stones,  pebbles and beaches of the Sussex coastline.

His colour palette reflects this with browns, greys and yellows interspersed with the blues of sky and water - whether in the distance or retreating back through the shingle to the sea. In fact the meticulous and multiple tumble of ovals and rounds interspersed with light, makes the distinctive sound of stones pushed back and forth by the sea almost audible.

Abstracted body shapes that seem to have become part of the ground itself, sometimes emerge from the paintings and very effectively transmit the Sussex beach experience in which your body ends up contouring itself to the stones. Sand is for wimps in Sussex. 

The shingle paintings give a sense of looking down,  while others look out to the only feasible straight line in nature - that between the sea and the sky. There is a mix in this show of those two perspectives and in each case paint is applied and used differently. The horizons are generally smoother while the ground is more textured and occasionally features pieces of driftwood. A few of the pieces, however, are pure colourful abstractions. 

Once again the contrast between the shows gets you thinking about what each says about the other. Interestingly Mark Glassman's choice of subject often means that the colours are complementary without any overly saturated contrast. In that respect there is a nice juxtaposition with the monochromatic themes next door. The fixed location of the paintings, however, provides an effective contrast with the breadth of subject and place enabled by 14 different photographers. 

The discipline required by photography is certainly not immune to lucky accidents whether analog or digital but unexpected outcomes of a particular moment or mood are a wonderful part of both photography and painting. The frozen expression of a single moment that can be achieved by photography contrasts greatly with the absolute freedom that can be deployed to capture the essence of something in paint. However, both need research and practice while freedom will always benefit from a little discipline. 
1066 Mono and Mark Glassman
26 July – 7 August 2016 

Private view for both shows is on Friday 29 July from 6.30 - 8.30

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Eliza John and Wendy Smith

Going to the Hastings Art Forum is always a pleasure and always a surprise. I have seen a huge variety of work there just in the last two months and the new exhibition of paintings by Eliza John and Wendy Smith is different again.

Eliza John’s work touches on themes of family, friendship, place and occasion. She mostly uses oils but also works with combinations of acrylic, watercolour, gouache and charcoal. Most of her paintings are an interplay of abstraction and figuration from which shapes, figures and landscapes emerge.

Scenes and characters melt into the texture and colour of the paint giving impressions of the personalities depicted or reflecting the delicate intimacy of relationships. Sometimes the figures are sublime shadows standing ghost-like against beautiful combinations of background colour. Occasionally, there is an underlying emotional ambiguity in her scenes or characters which can make for uneasy viewing. This is balanced by work using lighter spectrums that allow moments of exquisite stillness and calm subtlety. 

The amount of work here combined with the variety of sizes, colours and frames sometimes makes it difficult to focus on any one piece. However, it is worth taking time to appreciate the fine line between the abstract and the figurative in this work and what it communicates about human perception. There is fascination in believing you see a scene from afar that then clouds over into abstract colour as you get closer.

The work of Wendy Smith also combines abstract and figurative but the contrast between the two artists gives the viewer a completely different experience. There are fewer pieces but they are larger and her palette is bright and colourful. Where figures are present they are from nature - leaves, trees or birds in flight.

The freedom of application sometimes makes it seem as if the paint had jumped there by itself and combined with the colour choices the effect is one of exhilaration and joy. In some cases the limited use of paint leaves white spaces within each work and this adds to the sense of light and airiness around it. Walking into the gallery from a grey and rainy day is like walking into summer. It's worth a visit for that reason alone. 

Although the spectrum and style of each of these artists is very different, both use their mediums freely and both work within the shifting boundaries of figurative and abstract expression. It is in the contrast, however, that the show is complete. The two rooms complement each other beautifully with a sense of lightness and space in one and darkness and intensity in the other. Dipping between the two enables the viewer to shift between two different experiences of art and of life. 

Eliza John and Wendy Smith
Hastings Art Forum
12 - 24 July 2016
Private View - 5.00 - 7.00 Saturday July 16th.