Formerly Art Appreciation
June 2017 Newsletter
My sincere apologies go to Barbara and Nadia. In the last newsletter, I inadvertently left out a large chunk of their article. They have very wisely re-sent it to me and it is included here in this issue. Sorry girls. Ed.
Nottingham Contemporary was our February visit when we were given a superb talk and guided walkthrough of The Place is Here, a survey of black artists’ work in 1980s Britain. On display were works exploring issues of identity, representation and black feminism in a decade frequently characterised by racial division, economic inequality and civil unrest.
Sonia Boyce’s four-part painting, Lay Back, Keep Quiet and Think What Made Britain So Great pitted Britain’s colonial past against the patterns of the Arts and Crafts movement.
A South African Colouring Book by Gavin Jantjes was a play on the racial groups as identified in South Africa’s Population Registration Act and the dilemmas involved in classifying people by colour under apartheid. We all enjoyed Lubiana Himid’s reworking of the 18th century satirist William Hogarth’s A Fashionable Marriage – a life sized tableau in which Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan play a part. With over 100 artworks in the exhibition it was impossible to view them all, but many agreed they would return to explore in greater depth. It was a thought provoking afternoon, not always that comfortable but very stimulating, made even more meaningful by our young guide’s reference to current world events.
In March, we visited The Object is Alive exhibition at Nottingham Castle where the gallery’s curator Tristram gave us an introductory talk on the sculptures by Matthew Darbyshire made especially for the gallery.
Influenced by the work of the Polish artist Tadeusz Kantor, who was interested in the role and state of objects, Darbyshire reimagined twelve objects from the Castle collections. His selection included an anatomical votive from 200BC-100AD, an eighteenth-century salt-glazed bear jug, an 1800s North American animal figure, a fertility doll from Ghana and a small plastic figurine from the Castle shop. By playing with, and substantially increasing the scale of the objects, recreating them in an experimental concrete material, and then displaying them as classical sculptures in a traditional gallery, the viewer was challenged to look at them anew. Our response was mixed – some found them playful, others did not like them at all.
Later when we found the original objects on show in the Castle’s collections, what the artist was trying to do made more sense and we could see how he had given them new meaning and life.
April saw us make the journey to the Harley Gallery near Worksop to view First Rain – Indian Warli Tribal Art
Everyone was fascinated with the intricate detail of this art form, which is normally created with rice paste and painted directly onto the mud and dung walls of the houses by local women in the Maharashtra region of North West India to celebrate special events taking place in their lives. This style of painting has now been transferred onto linen backgrounds, which can be hung in traditional style, and the effects were stunning. Seemingly simple, even naïve on first sight – brown muddy backgrounds with white line detailing. It was only when the paintings were closely examined you could appreciate the intricacy, beauty and symmetry of these breath-taking works. A spider’s web painting so realistic, if touched you felt it would break. A huge mound of rice painted in another work where you could see each individual grain. A fisherman’s net which appeared to ripple as though still underwater.
More modern interpretations were also on display. Renowned Warli artists Ramesh Hengadi and Jivya Some Mashe, who spent time at the Harley Gallery, had painted their versions of Welbeck Abbey and the farming seasons on the Estate. A tribal art form successfully transformed into contemporary visual art.
We can’t remember such an enthusiastic response from all on the visit.
Barbara Johnson and Nadya Lancaster
March 2017 Newsletter
January saw AGV members visit the Victor Pasmore Exhibition at the Djanogly Gallery. A superb guided talk by Ruth Lewis-Jones introduced us to this remarkable English artist born 1908 and died 1998 – truly a 20th century man.
His figurative works from the 1930s to early 1940s on show in the exhibition showed influences from many of the artists he admired including Turner, Whistler, Degas and Seurat. However, after the Second World War his work took on a dramatic change as he explored a modernist style and he finally ‘went abstract’ after viewing paintings by Paul Klee. This then saw Pasmore producing works which experimented with shape, form and texture. Some of these works through to the 1960s were also part of the exhibition and showed the huge swerve in style the artist’s work had taken in the second half of the century.
In the mid-1950s he collaborated with architects in designing the north eastern new town of Peterlee, especially in the layout of roads and houses on a site called Sunny Blunts, including a manmade pool. He designed a pavilion to overlook the pool called the Apollo Pavilion – a 2-storey concrete construction with painted designs at each end which after completion was immediately vandalised and later almost demolished. However, it survived and after a return visit by Pasmore in the 1980s he described the graffiti as ‘a colourful exhibition of free child’s art’.
He and his wife (also an artist) moved to Malta where they spent the rest of their lives, continuing to work influenced by the landscape of the island.
Barbara Johnson and Nadya Lancaster
December 2016 Newsletter
In September we visited two exhibitions at Nottingham Castle Museum and Gallery, Leonardo da Vinci: Ten Drawings from the Royal Collection and Evelyn Gibbs: In Peace and Wartime. The ten drawings from Leonardo da Vinci had been selected by the Royal Collection but the exhibition was staged by the Castle Gallery. In anticipation of the level of interest the exhibition would draw, and the limited numbers allowed in the exhibition room, the walls of the anteroom were lined with background information about the Renaissance in Florence.
We viewed the drawings in different media, pen and ink, red and black chalk, watercolour and metal point chosen to show the scope of Leonardo’s interests. His interest in engineering could be seen in his design for machinery to lower the statue of a massive bronze horse into place. There was a study for the head of St. Anne and examples of botany, zoology and anatomy. The fascinating story of Expressions of fury in horses, lions and man was a marvellous example of the artist’s attention to detail.
Evelyn Gibbs was evacuated to Nottingham with her students from Goldsmiths’ College during World War II. Whilst here she founded the Nottingham Regional Designers Group which later became the Midland Artists’ Group. She is also remembered for her work in art education. The exhibition contained many detailed etchings and engravings but for most of us it was the energetic series of works she made as a War Artist recording life on the Home Front, that left a really vivid impression. These works showed the manufacture of munitions at the Raleigh Bicycle Factory appropriated by the Ministry of Defence. The restrictions the artist was under during World War II was evident in an extract of a letter from the Ministry of Information who had commissioned the works. It stated – “It will be necessary to submit all your preliminary sketches and studies as well as the finished work for censorship. I must caution you not to show any of these works, even to your friends, before they have been submitted by us to the censor.” Two different exhibitions, hundreds of years apart, but both extremely enjoyable and stimulating.
After September’s successful visit to the Castle Gallery, part of October’s visit carried on the interest in Evelyn Gibbs. We drove to the Church of St. Martin’s in Bilborough where Evelyn Gibbs’ Annunciation Murals, painted in 1946, have been rediscovered and restored after being hidden by a 1970’s false ceiling and layers of emulsion paint. They are now on show in this beautifully renovated C14th church. Heritage lottery funding has enabled the restoration of the murals and also many other improvements to the building. We were given a talk by Hilary Wheat who has been heavily involved in the project from the start. Her passion for the murals was evident as she explained when, as a child, she remembered seeing them on her regular visits to the church. Moving away for many years she then returned to the area and the church but no sign of any murals! One day a chance remark about them to an electrician working above the false ceiling was rewarded with “Yes, I can see them”. The rest of the story unfolded, how the church involved architects, conservators, art restorers and obtained the funding necessary to work on the murals and whole church. Fascinating – if you get the chance do go and see the church – an absolute gem.
Moving on a few miles we then visited All Saints Church on the Strelley Hall Estate. Of similar age to St. Martin’s but totally different in style and character, and full of history of former owners, the Strelley and Edge families. Met by Marian Henshall she gave us a potted history of the church and families before describing some of the stunning architectural features of the building. Two alabaster tombs said to be the finest in the country – one which has Sir Sampson de Strelley and his wife Lady Elizabeth holding hands – very unusual apparently. The carving of this locally quarried stone is exquisite. A beautifully carved C15th screen dominates the church and rumour is that it was originally built for another church. Other features are an oak panelled pulpit with Jacobean canopy, remnants of C13th and C14th stained glass, carved ‘miserere’ seats in the choir stalls and flamboyantly painted wall panels and ceiling dating from the early C20th refurbishment.
Again what a contrast – 2 churches built in the same period, a couple of miles apart but so very different. The visit ended with afternoon tea at the Mulberry Tree Cafe – lovely cakes (dread to think of the calories!!).
November’s AGV will be an afternoon ‘Reviewing’ 2016’s visits. What was liked, what wasn’t, favourites and ideas for 2017. No visit in December, but January 2017 will be at the Djanogly Gallery to see the nationally acclaimed Victor Pasmore exhibition.
Happy Christmas to all our AGV members and everyone in Beeston U3A
Barbara Johnson and Nadya Lancaster
September 2016 Newsletter
June’s visit was to the New Walk Gallery in Leicester to view the Mary Sloane exhibition. Mary Sloane (1867-1961) was one of Leicestershire’s most distinguished artists, trailblazing the way for modern women during the Suffragette period. Her early works included watercolours and etchings of Leicester, the local countryside and the framework knitters of Enderby, giving a detailed insight into the social history of the late 19C and early 20C.
After moving to London to study and expand her artistic talents, in 1907 she became a member of the Women’s Guild of Arts and in 1912 an Associate of the Royal Society of Painters, Etchers and Engravers. A firm friend of May Morris (daughter of William Morris), Mary began travelling around Europe expanding her portfolio which included many watercolours and etchings of famous cities and historic sites. Her work showed great detail and draughtswomanship in her portrayal of working class life and of cityscapes, whilst her portraiture showed a delicacy and sympathy to her subjects – a very talented artist in many genres.
July saw us pay a promised repeat visit to the Harley Gallery complex, part of the Welbeck Estate near Worksop, to view the newly built Portland Gallery and its contents – The Portland Collection. Alongside, in the established Harley Gallery, were 2 other exhibitions: ‘Made in China’ by Clare Twomey and ‘Arms of the Portland Vase’ by Sarah Danays.
The Portland Collection – on show some of the fine and decorative arts from this huge aristocratic collection. The gallery, completed earlier this year, now houses many treasures, from miniatures to full size portraits, jewellery (including the pearl earring worn by Charles 1st at his execution), silver, racing trophies, maps and books. The exhibition will be rotated as even this brand new facility cannot display all of this vast collection.
‘Made in China’ – Clare Twomey. The exhibition featured 80 x1.5 metre tall identical vases. The artist sourced and ordered them via the Internet from Jingdezhen (the porcelain capital of China). 79 were massed produced – cast in several pieces, assembled, joins and surfaces smoothed by hand, decorated with a red glaze and a ‘gold’ transfer design. The 80th vase was delivered completely unadorned to Royal Crown Derby – there it was fired with the red glaze and hand painted with 18 carat gold.
As we walked among the 80 vases (yes – we did actually walk amongst them!!!) the task was to identify the hand painted vase placed in the midst of the other 79. (It took longer and cost more to decorate the 1 vase than the other 79). So what was the artist hoping to convey – juxtaposing mass production alongside the talent of artisans? Can the 2 types of production ever complement one another? Royal Crown Derby cannot mass produce vases such as this, but they have world class skills in specialist decoration. In this exhibition differing techniques and traditions meet.
To create her template for the sculpture Sarah copied the decorative frieze of the Vase. Enlarging it 7 times, she discovered it matched the vertical proportions of the figures round the Parthenon building. Stripping away all but the arms of the adult figures on the frieze shows a minimal composition. The artist’s sculptural installation of the arms does not aim to be anatomically correct, she exaggerates them, isolating them as full sculptures ‘in the round’ not as reliefs as on the Vase. Her work celebrates the genius of the unknown makers of the Portland Vase.
Next visit 15th September – Da Vinci drawings and Evelyn Gibbs at the Nottingham Castle Gallery
Barbara Johnson and Nadya Lancaster
June 2016 Newsletter
In March we visited the Djanogly Gallery for a guided tour by Ruth Lewis-Jones of Vision and Memory, an exhibition of works by David Jones. David Jones, the son of a Welsh printer worked in different media: water colour, oils, drawing, engraving and wood carving. Imagery and symbolism underpinned much of his work. He was also a poet, mostly known for his narrative poem about his experiences in the war, In Parenthesis.
There was evidence of his early talent in his childhood drawings of animals which were quite amazing in their detail. His crowded water colours were full of twisting flowers and foliage which sometimes made it difficult to separate one object from another. His experiences of war could be seen in seemingly everyday landscapes. The massed ranks of back gardens behind his parents’ house in Suburban Order (1926) suggest the trenches of the First World War.
There was a varied response from our group to the works, but most of us agreed that the wood and copper engravings and works of inscription were the most engaging.
Lincoln welcomed AGV members with a beautiful Spring day in April as we walked from the train station to the Collection gallery situated in the museum building. Our visit was to see the 1:1 scale model of the Russell Chantry with new murals by Lothar Gotz, plus other artwork by him, and also Duncan Grant the original artist for the murals in Lincoln Cathedral’s Chantry. Duncan Grant was commissioned to decorate the Chantry in the 1950s with murals based on St. Blaise, patron saint of wool workers. The work, unveiled in 1959, was only open to the public for a short period before, sadly, it was closed. However, many years later and after some restoration work it re-opened in 1990.
The Collection invited Lothar Gotz to produce a new mural in the 1: 1 scale model of the Chantry rebuilt in the gallery. Gotz spent hours in the Cathedral absorbing the colours and ambience of the building before starting work on the new murals.
His dynamic use of colour and shape was breath-taking, using over 18 paints (all available from DIY outlets!) applied with meticulous care and attention.
Five layers of paint gave depth and impact to the design – the whole mural being ‘masked off’ every time a new coloured section was added. (His later works also include commissions for interior design in many European buildings where his individual use of colour turns the buildings themselves into artwork!)
The talk by Ashley Gallant, the director of the Collection was fascinating.
Ashley explained Lothar’s love and use of abstract form and colour which was evident in his other works on display. He also enlightened us on the featured works of Duncan Grant which showed studies of friends and family he had used in the design of the original murals. The day also included a self-guided tour of the Usher Gallery (just across the road from the museum) and a delightful lunch in the museum’s cafe. A great day out!!
It was smiles all round on our May visit to the Nottingham Contemporary to the Simon Starling Exhibition, the second part of The Grand Tour. Our guide Ariana took us through exhibits which stimulated most of our senses.
This was the Grand Tour through Simon Starlings contemporary vision but our guide helped us make sense of it. Joseph Wright of Derby’s The Alchemist Discovering Phosphorus (1771-95) set the theme of industry which ran through the exhibition. In the same room was a new work specially produced for the exhibition, Project for a Crossing, a magnesium boat Starling intends to sail to cross the Dead Sea.
Red, Green, Blue, Loom Music (2015-16) referred to manufacturing processes that anticipated digital systems and began from a visit to an Italian fabric weaving factory where many of the looms are still automated using the late 18th century technology of Jacquard punch cards. We all particularly enjoyed the transformation of this to a musical score played on a pianola.
Starling’s concerns with the physical properties of photography were realised in two works: The Nanjing Particles (2008) in which two silver particles from a photograph were enlarged into two steel sculptures, and La Source (2009) in which the half tone printing dots of an image are realised as a floor of glass balls which form the image when viewed from the raised platform.
We left the exhibition amazed at Starling’s creativity and grateful that Ariana’s guidance had allowed us not only to access, but to enjoy the art.
Barbara Johnson and Nadya Lancaster
March 2016 Newsletter
In January we visited the Djanogly Gallery where Ruth Lewis-Jones introduced and highlighted some of the sculpture and paintings in the Elizabeth Frink Exhibition – The Presence of Sculpture. Ruth explained the casting process for the bronze sculptures and we were able to handle small quantities of the alloy to appreciate the weight of the full size sculptures – unfortunately touching the actual works (no matter how tactile) was not allowed!!
Many of the works were commissioned for public places and included male figures, male heads, animals and birds. The only female figure was The Walking Madonna which usually stands outside Salisbury Cathedral walking not towards the cathedral, but away from it. (Parish Elders took the decision that the Walking Madonna should be moving out from worship to be where human needs are to be met, not just in Salisbury but in the wide world) It was a wonderful collection of works and we were quite amazed that it had no permanent home. The reconstruction of the artist’s studio and Ruth’s enthusiasm for the artist and her work, and her personal stories gave us a vivid impression of this leading twentieth century sculptor.
February’s AGV saw us on an architectural tour of a beautiful Elizabethan house. Although familiar to us all, how recently has one visited this wonderful building, even though we only live a few miles away! Wollaton Hall was built for Sir Francis Willoughby in the 16th century. The original Wollaton Hall, we discovered, was built close to the current village church, but Sir Francis decided he needed a much more impressive building, so the architect Robert Smythson was commissioned to design the new Hall which was to stand on a sandstone hill in the middle of the parkland.
By the time Smythson arrived in Nottingham he had already been involved in the design and build of Longleat, and after Wollaton went on to design Hardwick Hall and earn many more commissions throughout the country. Smythson stayed on in Wollaton and became firm friends with Sir Francis. The architect died in 1614 and his monument is in St. Leonard’s church in the village. Our guide Richard was so knowledgeable about the Hall, the Willoughbys and Smythson that everyone was thrilled by the tour which followed.
Behind the scenes we climbed a spiral staircase to the Prospect Tower – wonderful views of the park and the city, down another set of stairs and out onto the lower roof where Richard described some of the different influences to the external design, Italian and Dutch, to name just two. In off the roof and down staircases to the kitchens, wine cellar (heavily protected!!) and finally down again into the cellar system cut under the Hall into the natural sandstone. What a great tour – many steps and stairs, but well worth the effort. Architecture and a good bit of history too, but if you get the chance and can cope with the stairs – just go!!!!
The future AGV programme will include visits to Lincoln, Leicester, the new Harley Gallery, as well as our usual ‘haunts’ of the Djanogly, Nottingham Contemporary and Nottingham Castle. Join our Group – discover amazing art and architecture.
Barbara Johnson and Nadya Lancaster
December 2015 Newsletter
In September we visited Nottingham Contemporary Gallery’s Pablo Bronstein and the Treasures of Chatsworth, a contemporary interpretation of the Grand Tour. Pablo Bronstein is interested in how architecture and design reveal the values of the owners and how we physically interact with these environments. In the first room we were encompassed by digital representations of Chatsworth on the walls, an amazing visual experience. In another part of the exhibition a Neo- Classical temple with a mirrored interior housed some of the silverware of Chatsworth, and some beautiful Delft flower pyramids, all items showing the status and wealth of the family. The gallery, containing marble classical fragments, including a marvellous marble bath and a foot (with visible corns) from a statue of a goddess believed to have been eleven metres high, was surrounded by drawings of Pablo Bronstein inspired by the Via Appia, a work commissioned for the exhibition.
October’s visit to the Bonington Gallery to Alan Kitching and Monotype: celebrating five pioneers of the poster could not have been more different. Alan Kitching’s work celebrated the work of Tom Eckersley, Abram Games, FHK Henrion, Joseph Muller Brockmann and Paul Rand, five influential designers. We were able to see the research, sketches, and a sample of the printing process as well as the completed pieces and appreciate the visual impact created by simplicity of typography and design. Whilst at the gallery we were able to view a small exhibition, The Alms-house Tempera Project. Four contemporary artists investigated local alms-houses through the medium of egg tempura with some interesting results. It instigated some interesting conversation amongst the group
The last AGV of 2015 in November took us to Southwell for a two-part visit, but before the visit began many of us met up for a pre-Christmas lunch, at a local tearoom in the town, which was very enjoyable and enabled new and existing members to get together for a chat. We started with a talk by the artist Hilary Tinley on her exhibition entitled ‘RESPONSE’. She specialises in ecclesiastical embroidery and this exhibition focused on contemporary text art. Hilary lives in West
September 2015 Newsletter
A very hot June day saw the AGV group drive north to the Harley Gallery near Worksop. The exhibitions we were due to see were Paul Scott ceramics and David Poston jewellery, both internationally acclaimed artists with permanent exhibitions in the V&A, New York, Swedish and Norwegian galleries.
Gallery director Lisa Gee guided us around the Paul Scott exhibition – an amazing display of what at first seemed to be a collection of the traditional blue and white willow patterned pottery. It was only when one examined the pieces more closely that you saw the additional work he applied to the older pottery pieces, sometimes subversive but very thought provoking – representations of the last foot and mouth epidemic, the cockleshell pickers tragedy in Morecambe bay, and also reflections on issues such as fracking and climate change.
A smaller exhibition of David Poston’s jewellery showed pieces very simple and beautiful in their design , compared to others which were extremely large and complex – one entitled ‘Necklace for an elephant’
He uses very different mediums including rope, wire, and glass, papier mache, iron and steel as well as more traditional jewellery metals – gold, silver and titanium.
Several pieces were available to ‘try on’, although this did lead to one member of the group getting well and truly stuck in a bangle!! We did manage to extricate her with no ill effects!!!!
We were then treated to a sneak preview of the new multi million pound gallery under construction which opens in Spring next year and will house the permanent collections of the Portland family. No doubt we will be back to visit this new venture. All who came enjoyed the day which ended with a visit to the adjacent farm shop to sample their unusually flavoured ice creams – delicious!!
In July we gathered on Beeston train station before taking the short trip to Leicester to visit the German Expressionism Gallery in the City’s New Walk Museum. The collection held by the gallery is regarded as one of the finest collections of early 20th century German art outside of Germany.
In his introductory talk Simon Lake, the curator of the gallery, conveyed something of the history of the collection, the foresight of the former director of the gallery, Trevor Thomas, and tales of German exiles who had made important donations which formed the basis of the collection. Simon then guided us through some of the works on display, explaining the different movements of early 20th century art, the individual artists, and highlighted aspects of the techniques they used. The collection included works by Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Kathe Kollwitz, Otto Mueller and Franz Marc.
Despite the size of this new impressive exhibition space, the collection does rotate as the gallery’s holdings on German Expressionism far outweigh their available display space. The New Walk museum also houses permanent exhibitions of Picasso ceramics and an Egyptian collection. Well worth a trip on the train!
Barbara Johnson and Nadya Lancaster
June 2015 Newsletter
Our April visit took us away from the more conventional galleries we usually visit, when we toured the Malt Cross Victorian Music Hall and Arts Centre in St James Street, Nottingham.19 members of the group, including 3 new members, met in the cafe area of the Music Hall, before we were given a complete tour of the 5 levels which can be visited.
Dr Rebekah Wood led a guided talk showing off the architectural features of the two level music hall and how it has been sympathetically restored to its original colours, talked about the history and gave us a colourful account of its varied uses over the years. The two modern lower levels now house an arts centre which features an exhibition area, art workshops space, rehearsal room and small chapel (the centre is now run by a Christian charity).
Finally we were taken down to the lowest level where we found the current artist in residence, Oliver Lovley, capturing the atmosphere of the caves. A thoroughly entertaining and informative afternoon which ended with tea and cakes in the cafe area.
The May visit took us to Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery to view “Cornish Light: The Nottingham 1894 Exhibition Revisited”. Sarah Skinner, the exhibition curator gave an introductory talk about the original exhibition, the lure of Cornwall for artists, and how this new style was a departure from the traditions of Victorian painting. She then guided us around the exhibition in which certain themes emerged. There were delightful paintings of the sea and fishermen many with an emphasis on young and old, and paintings of the womenfolk coping with the bad news of disasters at sea. It was fascinating to see the catalogue of the original 1894 exhibition and the detailed press coverage it received. Sarah led us into an interesting new work by Natasha Daintry, a ceramic installation “Ocean”. It is a policy of the gallery to present a contemporary work alongside a historic exhibition.
We particularly enjoyed the insight Sarah gave us into some of the issues involved in curating an exhibition and her reasons for the placing of paintings.
We now have over 30 members – numbers to the galleries are sometimes restricted, but, if you would like to join our friendly group please get in touch by email to one of the following: Barbara Johnson – firstname.lastname@example.org or Nadya Lancaster – email@example.com
|Forthcoming Programme NB There will be no meeting in August|
|18th June||Harley Gallery, Welbeck||Paul Scott ceramics and David Poston jewellery – guided talk from Dayle Green|
|16th July||New Walk Gallery, Leicester||Guided tour of the new German Expressionism gallery|
|17th September||Nottingham Contemporary||The Grand Tour|
March 2015 Newsletter
Hello, we have started the year with two very good outings, first to the Djanogly Art Gallery with a guided tour of the ‘In the Shadow of War’ exhibition, with Ruth Lewis-Jones; and recently to Nottingham Contemporary, for their new exhibition, ‘Rights of Nature; Art & Ecology in the Americas’. This may sound hard going, and could well be rather baffling visiting on your own, but with an amazing guide like Arianne, it becomes, if not easy, then at least engrossing and informative as she talked and walked us through this complex exhibition in the most fluent and enthusiastic manner. Many of us had to retreat to Thea Caffea’s for tea & plum bread to regain our strength afterwards.
But our main news this time is that I am stepping down as leader of AGV, after nearly three years of taking the group from Art Appreciation where we were confused with big sister Art History, and into Art Gallery Visits, which does indicate for members what we do. I’m delighted that two of our members, Barbara Johnson and Nadya Lancaster have agreed to take over as dual leaders, and I know they are already planning visits for the coming months. I am not leaving the group and look forward to future visits planned by our new leaders. The photograph at the Contemporary does place Nadya and Barbara almost centre stage; with a caribou migration taking place in the background.
My last meeting in March will be at CRMC which brings me nicely round in a full circle, as my first meeting as leader was there, and I’m trusting Sue Ward who is giving us a presentation on The Getty Centre in Los Angeles will send me out in style – no pressure on you then Sue! Details to members coming soon.
So it’s farewell from me and welcome Nadya and Barbara & I know AGV is continuing in very capable hands.
Marie Potts writes: Thank you Janet, from Beeston U3A, for all your hard work over the last 3 years and a personal thank you from me for all the interesting articles that you have written for the Newsletter. And good luck to Barbara and Nadya.
December 2014 Newsletter
In September our visit was to the Djanogly Gallery to see ‘And Now it’s Dark,’ an exhibition by three American photographers, which gave a sense of the impoverishment of much of American life. Though – naturally – rather dark, those featuring neon lights added vibrant splashes of colour and life to the pictures. Ruth Lewis-Jones who conducted our tour added greatly to the pleasure of our visit with her knowledge and thought provoking commentary.
In October, for a completely different venue we visited the Royal Crown Derby Factory in Derby. Here we had another excellent conducted tour – we were counted in and we were counted out – and no gold was found in our possession! We saw all stages in the factory, some of which we found quite surprising. There is a large female workforce employed decorating the china in different ways; and much to the surprise of several of us the old patterns are still very popular, and still made in large quantities. Factory tours can be booked by just a couple of friends, or larger groups, but you need to check first as tour numbers are limited.
Our November visit, still to come as I write, will have been to the Roman Catholic Cathedral on Derby Road. This has some architectural features by Augustus Pugin, so I’m sure we will have found this another interesting visit.
September 2014 Newsletter
In June we visited two quite different contemporary exhibitions; first to the Bonington Gallery for Nottingham Trent’s ‘Art & Design Degree Show’. (See photo left). There was a huge range of styles and formats, and the phrase, ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ came to mind – though there was an ever-filling bath! Those interested in textiles found lots to admire, but fine art, apart from one large oil painting on the floor that visitors were encouraged to walk over – not a concept that we felt at ease with – was in short supply. Our next visit was to the Castle for husband and wife painters Dan Perfect and Fiona Rae. We were lucky to hear a talk from a lecturer at the Lincoln School of Art who was an excellent speaker. We were told that Dan is painstaking in obtaining his desired ‘abstract’ effect; but our group, consulting later, saw exactly the same image in more than one painting. In July we were at the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield for ‘Recording Britain’ an exhibition of paintings of the 1940’s chronicling the countryside during and after the war. There was also an excellent showing of graphite and charcoal award winners of the 2014 John Ruskin prize.
We were so sorry to hear of the death of Doreen Hutchby, a stalwart member of AGV from the start. Some of us will remember her brave attendance at the Djanogly Gallery early this year when she was already very ill.
June 2014 Newsletter
In March at a CRMC hall meeting, Alan, an AGV member, and admirer of Richard Parkes Bonington, gave us a very informative introduction to this local artist, who died aged only 26 in 1828. Alan brought in his print, an excellent image printed at Nottingham Castle, of R P Bonington’s ‘The Grand Canal Venice.’ The discussion was opened up around the neglect of Nottingham artists (as opposed to football managers) as Alan had been trying to trace a statue of R P Bonington which had been damaged in WW2. After numerous inquiries he located it, – see photo – looking rather out of place, in the foyer of Gedling Council Offices in Arnold. Due to this talk we are visiting The Bonington Gallery at Nottingham Trent University in early June, which will make amends for having missed our April meeting. For our May visit we were at ‘Somewhat Abstract’ at Nottingham Contemporary. Our guide Chloe was very knowledgeable, and happily answered numerous questions. The exhibition, on till 29th June, ranges from Francis Bacon’s ‘Screming Pope’, through all manner of photographs, paintings, & sculpture to a chandelier which lights up sending out a Morse code version of the composer John Cage’s diaries. All strange but fascinating.
January 2014 Newsletter
Our start to the New Year was to the Djanogly Gallery to see ‘Pop Art to Britart’. This exhibition was from the private collection of David Ross, a co-founder of Carphone Warehouse. We were lucky to have Neil Walker, the curator, to take us round as Neil had been to the Ross home to make this selection, and was able to give us an idea of how the art was displayed in private. Many well known artisits from the 1960’s to the present day were there from Bridget Riley and Peter Blake to Damien Hirst – no sharks, just spots – and Marc Quin; together with the very brightly coloured paintings by Patrick Caulfield. The image with the greatest impact for many members was Richard Hamilton’s portrait of Tony Blair in full cowboy outfit, pistols at the ready. Painted in 2010 and entitled ‘Shock and Awe’, it is an image for our time.
In complete contrast, although still at the University, in February we visited the Museum of Archaeology. Clare Pickersgill, the Museum Keeper, first showed us round the museum for a general introduction, before letting us handle some of the artifacts. Clare is such an enthusiast about her subject that it would be difficult for anyone not to engage with her passion for the objects. We handled pre-historic axe-heads, Roman bracelets and a most beautiful ear pick! Small gaming stones, called ‘snobs’, and some very fine replica glass-ware. I am only sorry that in our group photo Clare is rather hiden in the centre back of the above photo, but many thanks to her for a very absorbing afternoon.
December 2013 Newsletter
This autumn we visited two quite challenging exhibitions. On a suitably wet afternoon we toured ‘Aquatopia’ at the Contemporary. (left) Our guide was a young Japanese student – Chie – who managed to put a distinctly Japanese slant to our tour, in a very engaging way. Chie had not heard of the U3A before and expected a group inclining towards ‘Close encounters of the third kind’, & was happy to see we were a rather ordinary group of people. Thanks to Chie our close encounter with the exhibition was a delight.
In contrast at the Djanogly Gallery we saw ‘Art in the Asylum’. Here we were given an excellent insight into this complex area of art by Ruth Lewis-Jones, whose guided tour greatly increased our understanding of the exhibition, so we felt we had had a very rewarding afternoon. In November we visited St. Mary’s Church on High Pavement. (right) Michael, our guide, a dedicated volunteer for the Church, regaled us with the history, architecture and artefacts of St. Mary’s, giving us an afternoon to cherish, a lovely visit to round off our autumn programme.
September 2013 Newsletter
In June for our first meeting under our new name, we were – as it happened – at CRMC. Jane Wild gave us an excellent introduction to the development of Abstract Art over the past 100 years. Her examples, together with those from members gave rise to some light-hearted and quite heated debate, which proved both enlightening and enjoyable. The piece that appealed to most members was by Cornelia Parker, the work is composed of objects strung as a giant mobile which looks both powerful and graceful.
July saw us at the Castle where Deborah Dean from their art team gave us a very good introductory talk and slide show on ‘The Moderns’, mainly English artists working between 1910-50. We then looked at the Castle’s collection of these paintings, at present grouped together, making it easy to study and compare them with Deborah’s talk.
We were very sad to hear of the sudden death this summer of one of our members Pam Fletcher. There is an obituary for Pam earlier in this publication, but as a dedicated member of our group, always keen to visit art gallery’s and to contribute to talks, she will be sadly missed.
To end on a lighter note, although we don’t meet in August, I suggested members may enjoy visiting Reg Taylor’s ‘Sculpture in the Sanctuary’ at Normanton near Southwell. Some members have been and these are some of their photos. The exhibition is only on till 8th September, so hurry if you want to visit.
June 2013 Newsletter
We had an excellent visit to the New Walk Art Gallery, Leicester, in March to see the Attenborough collection of Picasso ceramics. Richard Attenborough grew up in Leicester and he and his wife have donated their collection to the Gallery in memory of their daughter and granddaughter who both died in the 2004 Boxing Day Asian tsunami.
Our guide gave us a detailed background to the collection, answered numerous questions and despite running over time gave us a brief introduction to the German Expressionists paintings, a collection we will return to view in detail next year. The Gallery is well worth a visit and under a 10mins walk from the train station. Unfortunately photographs of the ceramics are not permitted, so here is the proof we were there.
In April at the New Art Exchange we visited an exhibition of photographs taken by Middle Eastern women. Here we felt we needed more background than our guide, a stand-in for our booked speaker, could give us. The exhibition notes stated that the women were challenging western stereotypes of gender, culture and religion; and we did see photographs of male Middle Eastern body builders and transsexuals, but most poignantly, for me, were videos of women singing, but with no sound, because public singing by women is banned in these countries.
We had our second trip to the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield in May. This was a good day out visiting ‘Force of Nature – picturing Ruskin’s landscape’. The exhibition started with very detailed drawings of small stones, and then opened into an array of landscapes from JMW Turner to George Shaw. Shaw paints very detailed, usually suburban, landscapes using Humbrol enamel paints, the same paint that is used for ‘Airfix’ models. It made me wonder what Ruskin would have thought of Shaw’s painting of a piece of Midlands waste ground. If he could have overcome his abhorrence of the subject and the type of paint, could he have admired the detailed reality? Probably not. There was also some beautiful glassware by Peter Layton, a blue and white piece called ‘Glacier’ and a piece in earth hues which was placed next to a Turner painting with similar tones; they complemented each other very pleasingly.
So all in all a very good 3 months gallery going. And if anyone still hasn’t heard about the Djanogly exhibition ‘The First Cut,’ on until 9th June, do go – it’s well worth a visit.
March 2013 Newsletter
For our January meeting in CRMC one of our members chose the topic ‘Public Sculpture’ and introduced us to a sculptor she admired called Colin Wilbourn. Jane heard Colin give a talk several years ago, and was very impressed with his imaginative approach to art, work and life and of course with his sculptures, and because of the way he made his sculpture link in with the local setting and add meaning to it. Jane brought in a range of images of Colin’s complex and intriguing sculptures, some of which are very clever optical illusions. (Google Colin’s name.) Colin lives and works in the NE which is where most of his work can be found.
We also looked at sculpture in Nottingham and the question was raised as to why some work catches your imagination, so you want to return to it again and again, such as Anish Kapoor’s ‘Sky Mirror’ at the Playhouse, but on the other hand some sculptures leave you cold despite an often grandiose title, ‘Aspire’ on the Jubilee Campus at Nottingham University seemed to fit this category. Members also contributed with images of Barbara Hepworth’s and Jaume Plensa’s work and of Icelandic sculpture. We also heard a short history of labyrinths as an illustration of land art. (Photos courtesy of Jane).
We had an excellent gallery tour at the Nottingham Contemporary for our February meeting. The exhibition – Piero Gilardi and John Newling – followed on very neatly from our January meeting. John Newling, a Nottingham artist is concerned with the natural world and society. Taking a two pence coin for shape, and its metal, bronze, he makes connections with economic systems and with religion. He has also collected dirt from coins and incorporated it into round, of course, shallow glass bowls. He also uses natural materials, growing Brassica oleracea, now hardening in the gallery over the length of the exhibition, from which he makes walking sticks. Also growing are two Moringa oleifera trees, very rich in vitamins and protein, which hopefully will be grown to aid famine relief as they can grow in arid conditions. Piero became known in the 1960’s for his view that art should not be confined to art galleries – this is the first time much of his work has been on show in an art gallery. His art, made from foam, is shaped to represent grass, rocks, flora and fruit. It was to be touched, sat on, played with and even worn. Later he became involved with designing posters, some on show, for workers’ organisations and against psychiatry, believing people should be accepted for who they are. I feel that Peter, our guide, gave us a much clearer idea of the rationale behind these artists than I have been able to do justice to here, so go see for yourself, on until 7th April.
December 2012 Newsletter
Our venue for our September meeting was the Derby Art Gallery, to visit the refurbished Joseph Wright gallery. With welcome visitors from Art history, we were treated to an excellent talk by Lucy Salt, Keeper of Art at the gallery. Lucy not only gave us a very insightful background to Joseph Wright and to his paintings and painting techniques, but also gave us a context to the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ encompassing the biological, scientific and literary events of the age which made us all feel extremely ‘enlightened’ ourselves. The photo shows our group with Lucy against her favourite Wright painting ‘The Widow of an Indian Chief watches the arms of her deceased Husband’, which is not a painting many of us knew. One of our visitors commented that the afternoon had been ‘a real art treat’, which I think went for all of us. We even found a nearby café offering locally brewed beer in a tea-bread, just the way to round off our art afternoon.
In October on the same day as our scheduled meeting, Pamela Gerrish-Nunn, an authority on early 20th century women artists, was giving a (free) lecture at the Djanogly Art Gallery, in connection with their exhibition ‘Laura Knight in the open air.’ This was too good an opportunity to miss, so our members were encouraged to attend, as nothing I could organise would have the same kudos. I was, unfortunately, away but did get to one of the lunch time tours and was very impressed with the range of paintings on show. One of our group has kindly written the following report…
Pamela Gerrish-Nunn spoke entertainingly and informatively about how Laura Knight established herself as a recognised artist in a man’s world. Her talk focussed on how Laura met the challenge of breaking into the male dominated art world at the start of the 20th century. At this period the two main art establishments, the Royal Academy and The Slade School of Art, were distinctly condescending to women painters. Women artists who did produce work to exhibit were expected to confine themselves to what the R A deemed to be suitable subject matter, eg. women, children and flowers. Knight was prepared to make art which was commercially acceptable, in order to earn a living and gradually gain recognition, and her strength in painting outdoor scenes was soon acknowledged. Ms. Gerrish-Nunn spent some time discussing Knight’s 1909 submission to the RA ‘The Beach’, a lovely depiction of a busy beach, bathed in sunlight, with young girls looking out from the foreground. I really enjoyed the range of paintings on display at the Djanogly but as ‘The Beach’ was not included in this exhibition; it was really good to have an opportunity to see it!
There is just time, before the newsletter deadline, to report on our November visit to the Castle for ‘Lace Works’ a fusion of old Nottingham lace and a contemporary take on lace. Deborah Dean, the curator of this exhibition, gave us a brief reminder of the history of the lace industry and a background to the contemporary artists before we looked round. I for one would not have thought a modern take on lace would be so fascinating; metal spades with lacy blades, steel doilies, Victorian pantaloons and chemises hung from above and lit inside to reveal surprising embroidery and decoration. My favourite work was lace cut into small oddments, painted in muted colours and rearranged to look rather like delicate lichen or… mould! If this all sounds rather bizarre the exhibition is on until Feb 3rd so you have time to see for yourselves.
September 2012 Newsletter
Our June meeting started with an enjoyable lunch at the Lakeside Pavilion Café before we dodged the showers crossing over to the University Summer Exhibition at the Djanogly Art Gallery. The variety of subjects, styles and media on view gave us much to mull over whilst looking round, and some of us continued our mulling over tea and cakes in the Gallery Café.
In keeping with this Olympic summer we looked at sport in art for our July CRMC hall meeting. We looked at images of the classical discus thrower, based on Myron’s lost sculpture of Discobolus from the 5th century BC, and an early (also BC) Minoan fresco of bull vaulting, not part of the Olympic games, unless I missed that bit! We looked at Victorian tennis & at William Roberts’s solid quite static cyclists and swimmers of the 1930s, and ended with ontemporary paintings of canoeing, cycling and sailing that conveyed a real sense of movement.
We do not meet in August but have a trip planned to the recently refurbished Derby Art Gallery in September.
June 2012 Newsletter
Over the past 3 months Art Appreciation members have enjoyed an impressive array of art in different venues. In February we were at the Castle for the Anish Kapoor exhibition where we had an illustrated talk, before viewing his work for ourselves. This included not only his wax sculptures, but also some intriguing optical illusions. March saw us at CRMC with members bringing in their own illustrations on the theme of ‘Art & Literature’. The art ranged from the spiritual mysticism of William Blake, through the Pre-Raphaelites love of poetry and Shakespeare to the graphic satire of Raymond Briggs and the Falklands war.
But the highlight of the Spring, for those who made the trip to Sheffield on a soggy April day, was at the Millennium Galleries for ‘The Family in British Art’ exhibition. This eclectic exhibition taking in painting, sculpture and photography was a delight. This time the range was from William Hogarth to Tracey Emin. Some of us made a quick dash across the road to the Graves Art Gallery, where they were showing Andy Warhol self-portraits. Members unfamiliar with the Sheffield main art collection viewed parts of that; but most of us were drawn back to ‘The Family’ to take in as much as possible of this diverse collection of art. Despite the success of this exhibition our tour guide, Anita, told us that Sheffield was unlikely to be staging exhibitions on this scale in the foreseeable future, because transport and insurance costs are too high in these times of council budget cuts.
So for the time being we count ourselves lucky that in May we can visit the ‘Living in Silk’ exhibition at the Castle; we are having a summer lunch at the Lakeside in June, where the Djanogly is holding the ‘University Summer Exhibition’ and there will also be a D. H. Lawrence exhibition in the Weston Gallery. July will be a CRMC hall meeting before our August break.
March 2012 Newsletter
For our January meeting quite a few of our members took advantage of a public lecture on the L S Lowry exhibition at the Djanogly Art Gallery. Our excellent speaker, in choosing around 10 of Lowry’s works to focus on, brought his life, the social times he lived through and his artistic styles to life. We were amused by the story of his being told when at art school in Manchester, attending evening classes because he worked during the day as a rent collector, that unless he stopped using white paint as a background, he would not find buyers for his work. Lowry continued in his own style and was very successful in his own life-time.
The exhibition (sorry – now closed) was an eclectic mix from his early impressionist pastels, through sketches and drawings to large oil paintings. Many show the depressed years of the 30’s and 40’s and many of his post-war paintings depict either desolate cityscapes or people-less landscapes. Even in his more colourful beach scenes the, for once happy, crowd seem stranded on a small area of beach which will soon be under water again when the tide turns, making their pleasure short-lived.
On a lighter note Lowry helped aspiring young artists, and took an interest in a young woman artist, Sheila Fell (1931-1979) from Aspatria in Cumberland (now Cumbria) in the 1950’s. Sheila’s father was a miner, and the family always struggled financially. Having met Sheila’s parents Lowry enjoyed their company, visiting them several times, once by taxi from Manchester to Aspatria, arriving in his slippers.
In February we will have had our own talk at the Castle for the Anish Kapoor exhibition, and in March we will be in the hall at CRMC. These hall meetings where members bring art books, pictures and posters, often with their related stories, have become very enjoyable and quite surprising sessions. I’m sure we will have another good event with our next theme – ‘Art and Literature’.
Lastly I would like to thank the Art History group for offering us places on their trip to Cambridge for the ‘Vermeer’s Women’ exhibition. We all had a marvellous day, so many thanks to Christine once more.
Janet, March 2012.
December 2012 Newsletter
We have been on two visits this autumn. On a warm sunny afternoon in September we went to Southwell Minster, many of us taking advantage of the free (with bus pass) service bus. For £5.00 each we enjoyed a 60 minute conducted tour. We were shown the varying architectural styles, the stained glass windows, which range through ancient and modern, and the intricate and intriguing carvings in the Chapter house and choir stalls. We were also impressed with some of the modern sculptures, in particular Christus Rex – the Risen Christ – by a local sculptor Peter Ball.
In October we visited the Castle Art Gallery and viewed, the hang in the Long Gallery, where we were given a short history of styles of hanging (pictures!) and looked at some of our local artists on show, including Dame Laura Knight and Richard Parkes Bonington. We also looked at one of the large paintings on show, Hercules vanquishing Diomedes painted for Cardinal Richelieu in the mid 17th century by Charles Le Brun, which we decided would be more impressive if it could be cleaned, unfortunately not at all likely in our present economic times. The Visual Arts and Exhibitions Manager at the Castle, Deborah Dean, kindly gave us this free 30 minute talk and is giving us another slot in the spring when an Anish Kapoor exhibition is at the Castle, which should prove a very different art experience.
Although we meet on the 3rd Thursday of the month – from 2.00 – 3.30 pm when in the CRMC, we do organise quite a few visits which involve far more time, so if you are interested in joining us please take note.
Janet, December 2011.