Art on show in Brighton and Hove & East and West Sussex
My creative instincts were stimulated by today’s exhibition opening at Cameron Contemporary Art in Hove, entitled “Sussex – Land, City and Sea”. The work on show conveys a sense of atmosphere, a quality of place and and time, of ‘being there’. When I feel this, I want to try myself, to take part in this process of evoking a moment in time. Review by Russell Honeyman
The place is Sussex, and the time is now. This is gallery owner Robin Cameron’s third show in these premises. I might venture that he selects pieces which combine traditional fine art with a contemporary edge. Take Mark Johnston’s large oil painting A Distant Echo, which dominates the gallery. The dark and yellowy tempest is given a luminous quality through layering and glazing, a time consuming traditional oil painting technique. Beneath the murky yellow a bright core shines through. I thought of Turner’s painting of a snow storm, seemingly expressionist in style and centuries ahead of its time, as defined by the conventions of art history. Johnston’s work contains glimpses of Turner’s luminescence, but allows full rein to the modern expressionist impulse.
Expressionism is quick to execute but slow to gestate. Layering is simply time consuming. David Cameron said Mark takes years to complete paintings, and I guess this is reflected in the £14,000 price tag on A Distant Echo. But, says Cameron, that’s what people are paying now for Cameron’s work. Ten years ago that would have been £1,400. Johnston paints locally and his paintings grace many local homes. There were also some smaller studies priced in the hundreds.
Another piece which caught my eye for its strong sense of atmosphere was Patsy MacArthur’s Heavenbound III. It’s a refined charcoal drawing, on high quality textured Fabriano paper, of a woman in a swimming pool. Thus far, it’s a figure drawing, a genre which got chased out of galleries by modernism in the 1970s, but returned ten years ago as figurative art. What gives it that contemporary edge is the unusual cropping – our view is underwater and we see only a woman’s legs in the pool.
The figure is swimming out of the picture, and the most part of the large frame is given over to a study of light and dark in the turbulence and reflections in the water. This brings to mind contemporary painters of women’s figures in water, also female: Samantha French paints young women surfacing from swimming pools, and Alyissa Monks blazed a trail in self portraits in the shower. These painters, free of the objectifying ‘male gaze’, are able to paint women’s bodies from the point of view of one who lives inside that body.
The difference, quite subtle, that colours women’s painting of women, comes across in Patsy MacArthur’s drawing of young women running across the South Downs, also in the show. Again, it’s a drawing of legs, on a big scale, and not quite so technically perfect as Heavenbound. But the atmosphere, the feeling of being there, running across the soft grass, comes across strongly, and here the exact feeling of the sensuality of the moment makes the woman’s gaze so important.
I do have a soft spot for hyper-realism, and wondered if I might honour that slot with Natalie Martin’s perfect rendition of the feel of the Corn Exchange in a certain evening light? The atmosphere seems teased out of realism, transcending photography. Similarly, the chalk-cloudy waters swirling around the broken old West Pier refer to photography, but oil paint takes us into the semi-opaque essence of the stuff.
Solange Iriate’s illustrations of Hove’s classic architecture have a classic feel – compromised by a quirky anarchy to the line. This comes to the fore in the huge Embassy Court diptych (below), where the giant space is commanded by meandering grey and black brush marks of a coastline viewed from lofty heights.
Maria Kuipers small, intense studies usher’ in the hazy evening light. I’m reminded that Rothko’s inspiration was reputed to be layers of misty air diffusing the sun’s light. Work in a dose of textural painting.
These are only some the artists that inspire – see below for others – but I hope my limited words convey a little of what excited me. For info (address, opening times) click link: http://wp.me/p488Yn-sP