Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Jesse Leroy-Smith at Tremenheere Gallery, Penzance, Cornwall, UK 2019

Jesse Leroy - Smith, exhibition at Tremeneere, near Penzance, Cornwall
24 May to 23 June 2019

As Jesse Leroy - Smith was giving a talk, I arrived half an hour earlier to take a view before hearing

Bloody blue sky thinking

Chopin's vigil, we mash up.

Love bombing

Oh Solace

Palmer White at the entrance

The dearly departed

Th good son

Large paintings. They have images, heads, animals, lots of colour. It's about something, illness,
struggle, death, love, ceremonies? He can draw an attractive head

Why this ceaseless coming and going?

 but the pictures are not done to
look attractive. They are messy, exuberant, their meanings unclear.

The talk lasts an hour. 

Jesse Leroy -Smith can talk and tells us a lot about himself, his difficult last
7 years, separation from his partner, breakdown, reconciliation. He had a painful leg infection
caused by some combination of paint and glue, cured by antibiotics.

A teacher of art, he decided he needed some mentoring himself and allowed the critic Sacha
Caraddock, who he asked to take on this role, to edit, to suggest using a different format, doing a
frieze, not trying to cram everything into one work.

He keeps scrapbooks of images, went to Berlin and drew Greek sculpture on tracing paper,
changed from heavy wooden supports to canvas. He took a year off drinking, had therapy, returned
to his partner.

He uses music to help him work and considers a band is the epitome of collaboration.

He has worked with great energy, on various projects, exhibitions, performances, with various

He worries about producing more and more stuff, the environmental impact. [Could work smaller I wonder?]
He tries to start each painting anew.

My first Impressions seem fairly accurate now I know more of the artist and how he works.

And what a lovely audience, mostly artists, some his students, an atmosphere of gentle interest, of
shared struggles, of intuitive understanding. Thoughtful questions.

I hear one comment that they are beautiful, another that they're pretentious.

I can't agree with either. To me these are genuine explorations, authentic struggles.

I know the students he mentors are often also using art as a personal therapeutic enquiry and
expression because I have seen their shows.

Now Jesse Leroy - Smith is more settled and happier it will be interesting to see what comes next.

Huguette Caland, tate St.Ives 2019

Huguette Caland exhibition at Tate St.Ives, May 25 to 1st September 2019

This artist is now aged 88, a Lebanese artist whose daughter came to introduce the show.

It's always of interest when another show opens and the director, Anne Barlow, has selected another 
woman for the new big gallery space.

At the preview the director spoke but the acoustics are so bad that it was like an announcement at
a station and I couldn't hear the destination, not one word was audible. Can't a solution to this
problem be acheived?

I obtained a bit of information from a helpful attendant and read the wall notices. The artist's having
a husband and simultaneously a lover and then leaving both to go to Paris to study art is described
as ‘an uncompromising perspective’ and I wondered if a man behaving like this would be seen so

The paintings and drawings show a variety of influences. There's a drawing

recalling Roger Hilton's 'Oy Oi Oi' of an exuberant naked woman, and the Hilton was done several
years earlier in 1963. There are line drawings 

surely after John Lennon's 'In his own write' which
came out in 1964 well before these Caland drawings.There are lines approaching one another or
shapes barely touching 

that remind me of what seemed to be in the air when I was at art college in
the 60's when sex was invented and embraced and I too was using abstract metaphors to express
my explorations of bohemian liberated attitudes.

We are all a product of our times but I would like to have seen these influences acknowledged.

There are boiled sweet acid diluted colours and cartoonish heads. There is an unflattering 

green picture of her parents and a fellow onlooker said to me maybe they weren't very nice parents?
There are blown up bottom shapes accommodating themselves to the rectangle of the canvas.
There are a couple of capacious decorated kaftans one of which has a striking design.

It's ok.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

‘Timbuktu’ film directed by Abderrahmane Sissako 2015

‘Timbuktu’ film directed by Abderrahmane Sissako 2015

As this film starts with background music it is clear it can't be on the side of the reactionary Muslim
faction that are shown taking over the town. Other Muslims, who have been living there are shown
as they attempt to carry on despite various rules being imposed. Inventively they mime a game of
football because the real game is forbidden.
People playing musical instruments quietly inside their own homes and singing are tracked down
by armed guards who break into their houses and arrest them. A woman subjected to 40 lashes
with the community helplessly watching starts to sing in protest.Two adulterers are stoned to death.
One of the invading men demands to be married and is found a wife, who is non consenting and
crying. They justify this with reference to the Koran. A man and woman run towards one another
and both are shot dead.
At the beginning of the film a deer is seen running through the sparse dry brown landscape and
this image is repeated towards the end, nature's life going on despite the drastic changes in the
The film goes at a leisurely pace, the beauty of everything contrasting painfully with the pleasure
destroying rules of a new regime.
The images linger in my mind and I feel a humane empathy with the people whose lives are
disrupted by men with guns who arrive abruptly and claim religious justification for their behaviour.
An eloquent, poetic protest

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Sam Bassett at Anima Mundi St.Ives April 18 to June 1st 2019

Sam Bassett at Anima Mundi, St.Ives, Cornwall, UK, 

April 19 to June 1st, 2019.

Three floors of paintings and several have sold at several thousands of pounds each.

As usual the blurb gives an impression of some profound grappling with something profound.
Some mention of paganism, a family with ancestral credibility in an ancient landscape, angst or bit less angst than previously.

'In the clouds, Below the Tor'
Now the paintings. I try but my impression is of fractured images in muddy colours, some heads and bodies drawn crudely, a few words - Berlin, some rude ones, an incoherent messy way of painting, dull grey blues, pasty pink, scratches. They're large paintings with a recognisable gestural look, repetitious habits of colour and composition. Scenes of struggle perhaps but a bit stylish, the influence of Bacon? without the clarity or sense of vicious nastiness.

'Do your coaches go to Berlin?'
One person tells me Sam is a really nice chap, another says he must be authentically expressing something. Both use the word 'dark' of the work.

'Burning Boat'

I ‘m going to really take another look at one -‘Burning Boat’
I can see the boat and a lot of orange paint. The space goes back beyond the picture plane, some of the surface is smeary and atmospheric like a smoke filled night scene. Why is the big orange blob used instead of any depiction of fire?, a bit like a head shape. There’s a recognizable photographic head in the background in black and white tones. There is a central focus, drippy areas of paint. It looks as if its got layers of effort and alteration to get to something the artist wanted. It makes no sense to me.

No I don't like them. I see reference to bars and drinking but not to west Penwith landscape or any meaningful statements about life.I dislike their incoherent banality, the hastily drawn heads, the scratched trendy words, the stereotype of a youngish youth, male ego given free rein, the splashy sloshed on areas, the impact of so many big pictures given so much space.

'Eat your fish and Them Bloody Crusts'

Ecstatic remarks in the visitors' book. 

Sloop Dogs
So,  many people do not agree with me and I hope they will respond with illuminating comments.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Bonnard, Van Gogh and Munch in London, May 2019

Bonnard, Van Gogh and Munch, all exhibited in London, April 2019 - at Tate Modern, Tate Britain and British Museum respectively.

These three artists are so well known from books but I still have such an urge to see the actual
works that I am willing to spend considerable time, money and energy to get myself to London from
Cornwall. Even an English breakfast so lukewarm and disappointing that I tell an American in my
hotel lift that I feel I should go round the dining room apologising for it hasn't dampened my joy at
the prospect of firsthand encounters with the pictures.

The Bonnard evokes the south of France so powerfully that I can smell the mimosa, taste the cake
and want to rush down to the sea. 

He's a rare artist whose pictures of his bathing wife seem
suffused with love, not exploiting a woman's body to leering glances. 

There's old black and whitefootage of him holding his little daschund, looking sensitive and slight. However did those colours in those proportions come to his mind, vibrating like ciccadas through the afternoon? I want him to be as wonderful as his art and wish I didn't know he was unfaithful to his wife and his mistress killed herself. After all who knows the circumstances? I share those lingering moments of joy he depicted.

With Van Gogh and Munch I also know quite a lot about their lives.

Vincent shows the heavy solid grief of a woman so strongly,

 then the wild hot landscapes with twisted tree trunks and brush strokes that make a dance all over the surface.

 Everyone wants a moment to be in the centre of the Starry Starry Night,

 to take their own photo of it, a hot glittering
night of passion, of beauty, despite a lonely life, an unsuccessful career, a brother who although he
was an art dealer couldn't sell his work.

Munch is even more tragic, a claustrophobic space, very dark, the pictures and prints on a
scale so much more impressive than on a page. 

I keep seeing people with white tragic faces,
identifying with Munch. When I come out there's a man slumped on a seat looking so sad and full
of grief as if exhausted by it all.

In each case the artist has balanced the subjects, the content, with the form so exactly that I can't
separate them.

The gift shops are a light relief, a bridge back to the everyday life outside. I buy a knitted daschund
to make myself feel more like Bonnard, who my art teacher at school sincerely told me painted like
I avoid a Vincent key ring, insufficiently like him, or a Munch Scream pendant, too gruesome to

Yes it as worth the effort. Yes art IS an experience that enriches my life and a sustenance through

Visiting the British Museum

Visiting the British Museum. May 2019

First I go to book to see the Eduard Munch finding out that they don't accept my press pass but
also that there is a little publicised half price deal if you are old enough after 12 noon on Mondays.

The buzzing hall where the shops and tickets are has the acoustics of a swimming pool and bright
lights that combined make me feel a bit woozy. I leave choosing between plastic cups decorated
with the writing from the Rosetta Stone, plaster copies of the Lewis chessmen and a thousand
other mementos until later and negotiate the stairs to the subterranean loos wth their noisy hand

The Parthenon frieze is as subtle and attractive as ever and I fancy more Greeks than any other
nation are there to admire the spoils of the British aristocracy. I find myself photographing friezes of
visitors, come to process around our Empire's collections.

There are two fairly new and stunning Islamic galleries where calligraphy appears written before
your eyes right to left in various scripts on illuminated screens. You can handle some objects, in my
case a thirteenth century ingenious wooden lock mechanism and an elaborate hollow silver
bracelet with volunteer knowledgeable attendant to explain all about them. Further on I find a
single ear piece, through which I hear intricate oud music whist seeing the instrument before
slotting the speaker back into its magnetic place.

Alongside the old exhibits there are contemporary pieces such as two porcelain doves printed with
the forms that Saudi Arabian women have to submit to be allowed to travel without male escorts.

There is much evidence in the displays of earlier times when people and animals were allowed as
decoration under previous islamic rulers.

At one point the cheerful babble of a school party of Muslim infants stops abruptly as their teachers
signal them to listen.

Down in the basement the African Benin bronzes from Nigeria are found alongside contemporary
masquerade figures. From the video I at last get it clear in my head how the Benin metal lost wax
casting is done.

There's a general air of wonderful interest and delighted reverence for craft and art in the visitors
quiet appreciation and it encourages for the lone visitor an occasional cheerful exchange about the
objects we see glowingly lit in the gloom or where to find the pizza restaurant with the varieties of
ice cream.

Queuing to have your bag searched on the way in, paying to leave your coat and avoiding the

instructions requesting £5 donations all seems worth it to be visiting the world's cultures without your feet leaving the ground.