North of Princes Street, in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, hangs the work Keith Epps an Edinburgh based painter in his first Solo Exhibition. While this collection of work is a far step from his early figurative drawings, he still manages to include them, lurking within the undergrowth providing a dark and unsettling surprise to the onlooker. Epps was lead to Landscapes through his fascination with clouds.
One word would describe this painting perfectly. Lush. This is also a beautiful representation of Epp’s creative process. This is not one reference image – rather a collection of images amalgamated together to produce one cohesive and jaw-dropping piece. 3 references were used in total, the first; the luscious green valley stretching out is the Devil’s Kneading Trough in Kent, the Isle of Arran can be seen in the distance at the very edge of the Horizon line and the dark section is a section of the Moorfoot Hills. Together they create an all-encompassing image that sings of birdsong, fresh air and of summer. Within the gorgeous valley lies a hidden interloper, whose presence is alluded in the title. I feel the original inclusion of a figure (in this case Miss Muffet of nursery rhyme fame) would have taken away from the nature of the piece, but having the spider hidden within the corner gives the onlooker a far more natural and menacing narrative.
In “Low Sun- Lomond Hills” we see a greying cloud gathering above the peaks of East and West Lomond, an everyday sight for the locals of Fife and the east coast. The cloud is what slowly grabs your eye, giving a sense of foreboding before working its way down towards the unusual peaks of the Lomond Hills. You initially think the painting is void of human presence until you notice the 3 dark figures in the right corner, hiding within beauty, a recurring element within Epps’ work. There’s a softness and a movement like quality to this piece, upon research the reference was taken from a train from Perth to Edinburgh and explains that flatness and lack of texture that makes it feel like a memory. I get a feeling of nostalgia with this piece as these are the hill I would play on as a child having grown up in the village at the foot of these hills, and with the absence of the street lights, the greying clouds were often an indicator to head home for cover.
Talk with the Artist
Nipping into the Open Eye Gallery, I stumbled across this exhibition. Realizing that the artist was there in the gallery, we shared a joyous conversation on cloud-spotting and beautiful countryside.
The artist, Keith, talked of ruined tanks and clouds for contrasts. He was thinking about the bad and the good, a sort of Yin and Yang. The newsreels of Yugoslavia in the 90s resonated the light and darkness of the situation, just like the classical idea of “Et in arcadia ego”.
Keith spoke of his time after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art as he drifted into working as furniture restorer till 2005. He resumed painting part-time in 2007. This exhibition is a culmination of his work from that period till now. His meticulous draughtsmanship is not to be missed.
Billcliffe Gallery, Glasgow Until the 24th September, 2019
I recently visited the Billcliffe Gallery to view a solo painting show by young artists and recent Gray’s School of Art graduate, David Rae. The show was a collection of oil on canvas paintings depicting photorealist scenes of various landscapes. Housing derelict buildings, football goal posts and golf courses. At first glance the images may appear cold and alienating through their lack of human figures occupying these environments. However, on further inspection, the nuanced themes of nostalgia and a distinct care for preserving memory became more apparent. Walking around the gallery I found myself caught studying the small details. Reading the canvases as though they were stories of a time gone by. Glimpses into a mind that has been left abandoned and untouched. Only to be rediscovered, with a renewed sense of care that can only be had at a distance. The viewer is also reminded of the all-consuming power of nature. Claiming dominance above any human intervention on the landscape. And a return to the artificial, as the inevitable gears of change kick into action. The show left me feeling hopeful and satisfied with a new appreciation for the power of contemporary landscape painting.
In ‘Goals remake’ we see two goal posts at either side of the canvas with a broken rope still tied to one and draping across the green football pitch. Described in warm, lemon-lime hues. In the periphery we see another set of goalposts, this time still intact, offering a small rectangular point of focus at the centre of the canvas. We are drawn into a sense of calm contemplation. Like a melancholy thought pulling you into a daydream. The vast sky above is applied with a flat tone of neutral grey. It is taking up two-thirds of the image and allowing the viewer to ease into Rae’s mind as the boundary between our world and his is being dismantled. Personally, this work felt like the right place to start viewing the paintings from, heading clockwise around the gallery. The artist’s handling of oil paint comes across varied, balanced and thoughtful. With small dry marks complementing the dominant flatness.
The 19th hole 2, seemed to act as the home base when considering the body of work as a metaphor of a journey into the mind. The viewer is offered a chance to stand back and think about the bigger picture. Quite literally, as I had to take several steps back to view the image in its entirety. For a moment I am reminded of the work Andrew Wieth, with an almost spiritual aura created through such close attention to detail. Here, a balanced composition is paired with varying rhythms of dark and light areas of colour. This approach pulls us in and back out of the image as we scan its surface, giving it a pulse. The contrasting textures demonstrated in Rae’s painting vocabulary, causing the viewer to feel focused and switched on. A path lines the bottom third of the foreground, again reaffirming ideas of a journey or voyage. We see themes of the old and new, illustrated in the beams at either end of the central building. On the left, the supports appear to be almost crumbling in front of us. On the right, the poles seem strong and able to support the structure. Rae skilfully marries hard-edge painting in the wall cladding with the feathery technique used to create shards of glass, clinging onto the black, void-like windows. The landscape in the background seems distinctly Scottish, with rolling mountain ranges of sunshine yellows and forest greens. Conjuring images of the brain, in the lobe like structures of the hills on the left. On the right we are again released to drift into the distant peaks described in softer hues, creating perspective.
The painting ‘Shooting Target’ presents us with a yellow dream. The beautiful sky takes up half the composition, complementing the dark ground in the bottom half of the canvas. This painting offers the viewer a look into a landscape that is at the same familiar and yet unknown. Like a memory that can not be reached. Our view is blocked by a large black gate. Framed by a neat row of trees at either side – their branches, a network of neurological pathways. Densely packed separating out to a sparse new growth at each end of the gate. As our eyes attempt to read the centre point, like we were previously encouraged to in ‘Goals (remake)’, the gate disrupts our enquiry. As though we are forbidden to see the complete story. Instead, we are left to scan the image for glimpses of the copper hills in the distance. This work has a mystical quality with it’s handling of the foliage and colour choice, reminding me of an old fairytale illustration. And as such, manages to create a sense of darker undertones but without being too overtly ominous.
Passing a number of other works, depicting various dilapidated buildings, including public toilets, pubs and golf courses set into sprawling backdrops, I made my way to one of the smaller pieces in the show. ‘Creating Planet Golf’, displays the inevitable signs of change coming in over the horizon of a new day. We see the Mars-like surface of ground being levelled by a digger. As though a letting go is taking place, to allow the new it’s room to grow. Topped off by a dazzling orange sky, the painting felt like a natural progression in the narrative of the show. As the previous works toyed with the idea of impending change. My thoughts went to a post apocalyptic scene from one of the 90’s classics anime such as ‘Akira’. The intense colour creating warm highlights throughout, enables the piece to remain ambiguous in it’mood. Allowing the viewer to set the tone for the painting by using their imagination. This seems to be a recurring strength in Rae’s work, as he manages to give us so much and still keep us searching for more. The show boasts a large selection of high-quality paintings, totalling around 20. Which, for a recent graduate’s first solo show, is very impressive. I would highly recommend a visit to the Billcliffe Gallery and a trip into the mind of this ambitious and promising young artist.
Antonio Pisanello was born in Verona, 1395 & would go on to work in Venice, Ferrara & Rome & other places (yut not Florence) as an instrumental shaping force of the early Renaissance. He is famous for his intricate medal-work & his incredibly detailed animal studies – he has painted birds as only the Japanese would have. As the fleshier Renaissance painter, as he picked up the pick-axe of Altichiero, he dug a bit deeper, observed objects more closely, individulised people more subtly, render distances with better effect, & so on. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, kinda thing.
Unfortunately, of his vast output only two frescoes, two sacred subjects & three portraits have survived. Most of these paintings bear witness to Pisanello’s interest in the courtier’s life. the fresco at Saint Anastasia in his hometown of Verona is a classic case in point, a knightly pageant to which he added a shed-load of gold, much of which has now flaked off. His portraits are heavyweight possessions – the Leonello of the Morellu Collection at Bergama, the ‘Este Princess’ in the Louvre & the ‘Lady’ in the Clarence Mackay.
There is a naive wonder to Pisanello’s work, rather like a modern child prodigy with a paintbrush. Despite drawing as well as Van Eyck, & painting almost as well, why much of Pisanello’s work was lost is a quasi-mystery. The Florence School & his lack of a connection to it may be to blame. History is written by the victor after all. But we do have enough of his ouevre left to us – like the scattered sculptures of the Younger Polykleitos – to recognize the genius of Pisanello.
Four years ago, the above painting, the Madonna of the Quail (Italian: Madonna della Quaglia), dated to 1420, was housed in the Castelvecchio Museum of Verona. The painting depicts the Madonna with Child crowned by two flying angels, sitting inside a rose garden in typical late Gothic style. The painter put a great attention in the representation of vegetables and birds, including the quail in the foreground, which gives its name to the painting. The heavenly appearance of the scene is enhanced by the gilt background. The rendering of the Madonna and her clothes resemble those of the works by Gentile da Fabriano, whose workshop Pisanello was a member of at the time. The setting is also similar to the contemporary Madonna of the Rose Garden by Michelino da Besozzo or Stefano da Verona, also in the museum of Castelvecchio.
Then it got stolen! Then it got found again! A group 17 Old Master paintings from Verona’s Castelvecchio Museum stolen in November 2015 were recovered in Ukraine. The paintings, by such artists as Peter Paul Rubens, Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Francesco Caroto, Hans de Jode, Jacopo Bellini & of course Pisanello, are estimated to be worth €16 million ($18.3 million). The robbery had been carried out by three masked men, who entered the museum as it was closing but before the alarm system had been activated. The security guard is suspected of assisting the robbers, providing his car as a getaway vehicle. In March 2016, authorities made 12 arrests in connection to the heist. Most of the suspects were from Moldova, and the paintings were recovered just one mile from the shared border, hidden in plastic bags.
Did Shakespeare eve visit Spain the vast hiatus that were the ‘Lost Years’ of his youth (1584-88). Sir Henry Thomas writes of the ‘Tawny Spain’ phrase as found in Love’s Labour’s Lost as, ‘so apt a description of the landscape, at least in some parts of Spain & at certain seasons of the year, that it suggest personal observation. If such it really was, the trip to Spain might be a youthful escapade, for Loves Labour’s Lost is one of the earliest plays.’ Like any good tourist, Shakespeare would have availed himself of the opportunities to wander foreign caches of culture. While visiting the Court of King Phillip II in Madrid, he would observe two paintings by the great Italian renaissance painter, Titian. Their names were The Rape of Lucrece and Venus & Adonis, & the substance of each one would be utilised by Shakespeare for two long poems printed in the early 1590. On its publication in 1593, on the title page of Venus & Adonis, Shakespeare calls this poem ‘the first heir of my invention.’
A key factor in placing Shakespeare directly in front of & staring at Titian’s painting as a young man can be observed in the poet’s rejection of Ovid’s version of events, & his following of Titian instead. Like Shakespeare’s depiction, the painting has Adonis backing away from the advances of Venus, shirking Ovid’s portrayal of the young god happily embracing his bonnie suitor. ‘Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone, Well-painted idol,‘ says Venus, who around the neck of Adonis, ‘her yoking arms she throws: She sinketh down, still hanging by his neck.‘ This is just as is pictorially described by Titian, as is Shakespeare having Adonis ‘urging release… from the twining arms.’ Shakespeare also appears to be mirroring the painting when he writes, ‘O, what a war of looks was then between them!’
More evidence that Shakespeare saw the painting & wanted to recreate the story it told in words comes within the poem itself. Erwin Panofsky, in his, ‘Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographical,‘ writes, ‘Shakespeare’s words, down to such details as the nocturnal setting and “love upon her backe deeply distrest,” sound like a poetic paraphrase of Titian’s composition,’ & gives stanza 136 as a good example;
With this he breaketh from the sweet embrace Of those faire armes which bound him to her brest, And homeward through the dark lawnd runs apace; Leaves love upon her backe, deeply distrest. Looke, how a bright star shooteth from the skye, So glides he in the night from Venus’s eye.
Jo Hummel’s work is characterised by a painted and paper collaged surface on which she employs spontaneous variations of space, colour and form. Although her painting collages are physically engaged and materially driven the context is purposefully anthropological and Hummel’s works are informed by human habits and behaviour, with a particular interest in determinism and freewill just as much as formal concerns.
Hummel runs experiments where the process often determines the outcome and provides a safe arena for improvisation, a place where rational procedures can co- exist alongside intuition. In doing this she explores the unpredictable nature of intuition and spontaneity – her practice functioning as a simulation of decision making experiences which enable her to grasp, and make use of sensations such as anxiety or serenity. And it is via these conflicting emotional states of comfort, satisfaction, anxiousness, repulsion and so on that Hummel is able to tap into the ubiquitously felt state of human uncertainty. The social structures we all exist in guide and interfere with how we feel and what we choose to do on a daily basis. Our social class, religion, gender and ethnicity all play a part in what we deem pleasant or unpleasant.
The nature of collage is that throughout its creation a work is in constant flux. The artist must negotiate the canvas by rearranging, choosing and adjusting, often over long periods and having explored hundreds, even thousands of the infinite possible outcomes. In this way the creative process itself is as significant as the final outcome.
Hello Jo, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking? I’m from Farnborough and now live and work on the Isle of Wight.
When did you first realise you were artistic? I’m not sure about artistic but I had an urge to draw from my earliest memories of holding a pencil.
Can you tell us about your training? I’ve packed a lot of training in. I’ve just completed a years correspondence painting course at Turps Painting School. I graduated my 2 yr MA at Royal College of Art in 2006. Before that was a BA at Kingston university and before that a one year foundation at Falmouth College of Arts.
What for you makes a good piece of art?
What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like? On our favourite beach Priory Bay, with my husband and kids, a couple of friends, cooking on a bbq and swimming.
What are the prime elements to the creation of collage? For me its using a material such as paper which is in constant flux until the end is reached.
You are bringing an exhibition of your work to Edinburgh, can you tell us about it? Transformer I & II is a split body of work which is shared between And Gallery and Nordic art agency in Sweden. The concept is a nod towards what we’re currently witnessing in politics and also references precarious social and physical experiences from childhood.
Where, when & why did the idea for Transformer I originate? The themes I wanted to address were separation, safety, and the illusion of safety. I had the two exhibition dates booked in, in Edinburgh and Malmo, Sweden, and saw an opportunity to make the delivery of the two shows central to the concept by linking them. Hence Transformer I&II.
What has been the biggest challenge about creating this exhibition? The biggest challenge was creating over 50 works in an intense, very focused time period of about 6 months. Its been exhausting at times but in doing so I’ve reached a heightened level of understanding which wasn’t there before.
How does your interest in determinism and freewill manifest itself in your work? Freewill and determinism governs our rudimentary instinct for making choices. My work is a constant process of decision making. In choosing the colours, form, size, and countless adjustments to the composition. During this process I am battling between intuition and intellect, order and disorder, freewill and determinism.
The current exhibition at &Gallery is a contemporary, conceptual, abstract mixed media ( acrylic,emulsion,watercolour paper on plywood) experience reminiscent of Mondrian, Klein and a tiny splattering of Jackson Pollock. Bright vivid colours complement the darks and acrid lemons. Not to say that Hummel went to the Royal College of Art to become a copyist.Far from it. These works have a 21century outlook in that they deal with difficulty of decision making. Its not always the easy path that is the right one and Hummel has honed this exhibition by concentrating on spatial issues in tandem with form and colour. Reinventing an older genre (modern art) she playfully rips, tears and precisely cuts her way through each collage till satisfied with this collection that tackles sensations such as ‘…anxiety or serenity.’
It’s not just the good, the bad and the repulsive that interest Hummel, but the entire human condition. She wants to delve into the social structures, the laws in place to control/interfere with what we really feel like doing. Barrier breaking has been intrinsic to quality Art and Hummel embraces her practice with aplomb as well as a sensitivity rare to colourfield work. Prices range from a reasonable £400 to good investments at £4,500. Her prices are as varied as the topics explored which are intrinsic to her interest in both inclusivity and non inclusivity, ‘…social class, religion, gender and ethnicity (which) all play a part in what we deem pleasant or unpleasant.’
That said, I went into the beautifully airy gallery without reading the text or luscious catalogue because I like to see what the paintings say to me. My initial reactions were sublime, a feeling of euphoria, a heady happiness at the uncluttered exuberant lusciousness of sheer joy in the application of colour without overwhelming the viewer. These are not quite paintings but they don’t scream for your attention either. They dwell on the pristine walls waiting patiently for you to be drawn in, fascinated at the juxtaposition of colour that sometimes mars but mainly compliments their neighbouring tones.
The colours in ‘Factor’ (£400) spoke to me of gender, displaying baby blues and dusky pinks as well as a plethora of vibrant hues thriving around the central macaron brown that allows the smaller areas of tangerine, yellow, grey and dark hookers green to sing. Although this work has not been selected for the catalogue I found myself particularly attracted to it. ‘Bathing’ (£500) in all its simple complexities also was a draw for me. I lost myself in its limited palette and the abstracted process of additive colour that float surreally on their white blue backdrop. The mind is a curious thing, there was an infantile primary connection for me to these intimate two works, the dialogue I had with them will be different to yours and also the artist who created them, such is the beauty and subjectivity of Fine Art. We are bound by the agenda we bring to it. Such is life’s rich tapestry.
Adjusting to the complexity of now, our less than brave new world , the insularity of our mobile madness, compliance and the difficulty/futility of aspiring to perfection is profoundly dangerous to the younger generation.The ongoing infantile side within our adult self and our specific histrionics create afire guard around us allowing for blissful escapism in, ‘ Transformer ‘ the exhibitions namesake, attempts to take back the power, addressing the fear bubble. ‘ Transformer ll ‘the Swedish sequel takes place at Nordic Art Agency, Malmo, Sweden from October 18th – November 23rd 2019. Mentally tough, Hummel’s eclectic investigation of the human condition will move you, guaranteed.
Welcome to the first ever Mumble ART-icle. The twenty-first century is trundling along nicely, thank-you very much, everybody is buzzing off the way social media & its connected devices have become our new brains, the way Burnley Football Club are firmly established in the Premier league, & also the way some things never change. Among these are the artistic aesthetics of a number of drink bottles established deep into the previous century, which this little article will be taking a look at forthwith. These drinks were essentially icons to be worshipped, & the idea then, as now, is to manipulate the public into buying said products with a certain sense of sleek, hypnotizing familiarity. Art sells, & of course, helps to sell.
The tooth-rotting recipe of Coca-Cola was born in the days of snake-oil, quack medicine & hucksters peddling patent remedies at travelling fairs. It would eventually become institutionalized in America, & then the world, whose most endearing legacy would be to change from green to red the clothing of Father Christmas in an early advertising campaign.
In 1915, they created the iconic glass Contour Bottle, which was designed to help Coca‑Cola stand out from other drinks at the time. The design brief was to ensure that the bottle was recognisable even in the dark. The bottle evolved thro’ the century, from its prim neolithic phase, thro’ the full-blooded Mae West curves of the 1920s, to their anti-buxom slenderization suggested by Raymond Loowy in the 50s. And sure, there’s nothing like holding a chilled bottle of coke on a hot day, when the anticipation of opening it & quaffing the sparkling remedy is a quasi-sexual experience.
The Dutch brewery, Grolsch, is over four centuries old. On entering the twentieth century, a certain company boss called Theo de Groen introduced the flip-top, or Quillfeldt stopper (after the inventor, Charles de Quillfeldt). The mouth of the bottle is sealed by a stopper, usually made of porcelain or plastic, fitted with a rubber gasket and held in place by a set of wires. The bottle can be opened and resealed repeatedly and without the use of a bottle opener, with the wires acting in the same way as a latch clamp. By the 1920s, almost everybody else in the brewery world began using the crown-top to bottle their beers, but Grolsch stuck to the flip-top & you’ve gotta admit, its a funky thing still. The bottles are useful to, in the 80s the cool kids threaded the bottle-tops thro’ their laces, while the rubber gaskets are used sometimes by guitarists as an improvised straplock. The bottle itself is also a triumph of the glass-blowers art, with its proper fancy insignia.
Perrier sells over a billion bottles of water a year, a large part of which is down to the familiarity of its bottle & its Art Nouveau-style logo, which ooze a seductive & stylish freshness for the thirsty. This quintessentially French objet d’art owes its fame to an Englishman, actually, St John Harmsworth. It all began at Les Bouillens, in Languedoc, whose natural spring had been used as a spa since Roman times. Local doctor Louis Perrier bought the spring in 1898 and operated a commercial spa there; he also bottled the naturally carbonated water which bubbled to the surface.
Enter Francophile Sir St John Harmsworth, a younger brother of publishing magnates Lord Rothermere and Lord Northcliffe, who bought the company from Dr Perrier & placed the water in the distinctively tapering bottle. It was modelled on a club-shape Harmsworth had seen out East, where he used to swing Indian clubs to exercise. Through his marketing efforts, the water was exported to all corners of the British Empire and also became popular with the Royal Family. Following the Second World War, Perrier was re-acquired by the French, & using chic advertising helped position the brand as desirable at a time when many people still thought that it was crazy to pay money for something you could get for free from a tap.
NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE
Newcastle Brown Ale, fondly nicknamed ‘Broon Dog,’ is a dusty throwback to a long-departed age, long before the homegenous & homegenized paradise of shopping malls & fast-food outlets that mark our modern world. In 1924 a gentleman called Colonel Porter came up with the recipe for the North East’s most famous tipple, who said of his potent new concoction: “We tried for a long time, all ends up. I wanted something different but not far too strong. No one was allowed to mention what was going on, but we varied it so much that few really knew.”
The brand should have been killed off in the 1960s, but managed to cling to life long enough to become fashionable once more, thro’ its strong indivuality, distinctive flavour & of couse its unique bottle. The key to this bottle is less its shape & more its big, brashy blue star on the packaging which stands out a mile. Introduced in 1928, the year after the beer was launched, & while Newcastle United were champions for the England for the last time; the five points of the star represent the five founding breweries of Newcastle. By the late 1990s the beer was the most widely distributed alcoholic product in the UK & as the 2000s dawned, there were huge sales in the United States where fans included Dirty Harry star Clint Eastwood who said it was his favourite beer – all down, one expects, to that shiny blue star!
3 Aug – 25th Nov 2019 Time: 12.00pm – 5.00pm Free – Drop-in – no ticket required Closed Mondays
Chicago based artist Nick Cave (not the Australian musician) known for his wearable sculptures named ‘Soundsuits’ that hide the race, colour, gender and class of their wearer has now expanded his already mammoth practice by filling the main Tramway gallery with crystal chandeliers and ornaments in his ‘crystal cloudscape’,a weird smiley face and the word POWER on the beaded cliff wall and the majority of the space a kinetic spinner forest comprised of laser cut steel. Referencing Mardi Gras parades as well as shamanism and drag queens Cave has been collecting his culture junk and racist tat for around a decade to turn into his crystal cloudscape which is perched atop four brightly painted yellow ladders that the audience is invited to climb up.
Eclecticism on steroids, this massive array of gutterchunder boldly addresses political themes such as gun culture – 16,000 windspinners weighed down with huge circles of metal,17 cast-iron lawn jockeys and 1 crocodile to name a fraction of the thousands of objects carefully choreographed/arranged all beg the artist’s question which is , ‘Is there rascism in heaven?’ His windspinners have guns precision cut into the steel , some painted bright colours ,others glinting their steely rawness. Other windspinners contain bullets, targets and teardrops.An exhibition that is mesmerizing in its volume and fun in its maximalism
This exhibition reminded me of Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Weather Project’ from The Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall Unilver series sixteen years ago.Though much more minimalist in execution, Eliassson wanted to bring a part of London’s weather system into the building, recreating a unique feeling of warmth unexperienced in such a vast concrete space, so much so that onlookers were sunbathing in the artificial light.Here, at the Tramway, Cave has reinvented all his spending sprees in antique junk shops and brought his cloud into a similar vast environment.This juxtaposition is interesting because Cave’s cloud has the opulence of the upper (class) echelons of the business world and high class living literally supporting the cheap ornaments and Mark Twain Negro memorabilia of the 19th century America. Whether this was intended by the artist or not , it is thoughtprovoking none the less.