An unexpected bonus at the Houghton Moore exhibition (see two posts back) was a small but high quality exhibition of paintings in the stables. Don’t wince: these are not any old stables but high quality stables, doubtless for high quality racing and hunting horses. The stables’ preservation is excellent, and one of the admirable characteristics of this art exhibition is that the display, curated by Norfolk by Design, makes not a mark on the integrity of the architecture or its fittings.
I select just three paintings by two artists. Will Cutts’ painting above is called ‘Blaxhall, Suffolk, after rain’ and seemed to me an interesting way of treating an unremarkable landscape in ink and gouache on paper. I also liked its local interest, for Blaxhall is the next village to Snape to the west. The next painting, also by Cutts, is also of local interest: called ‘Towards Iken’ (2019)’ it is a treatment in oil on canvas of a view towards the next village to the east.
To me, often bothered about how to show hedges, bushes and trees, I found these two treatments helpful both in using a track centrally and disappearing into the mid-distance, and in making the ordinary worth a second look.
My third choice is by Philip Jones (1937-2008), ‘Grove Lagoon Study’, an oil on canvas work of 2002:
Somewhat more enigmatic and exotic than the Cutts’ works, it nevertheless treats of the unremarkable with simplicity and a restricted palette.
Now for something completely different: two works from a major exhibition of an artist unknown to me. The exhibition was in Aldeburgh during the Aldeburgh Festival; the artist was John Keane, an official war artist in Iraq 20 years ago who has subsequently travelled the world painting before, during and after wars. This first painting, in oil on linen and priced at a cool £70,000, is called ‘Bound’ (2015). 200 x 200 cm in size, it is a remarkable painting which the photograph fails to bring out, though the symbolism is clear.
Equally remarkable is my second choice of a Keane:
This is called ‘Fear Not’ (2013) and, at 200 x 280 cm is even larger. Made of oil, gold leaf and inkjet transfer on jute, it is inspired by the Pussy Riot feminist punk rock protest group and their treatment by the Russian authorities. If you Google ‘Pussy Riot’, as I have, you will understand where the image comes from. Anyway, it is (was?) yours for only £50,000.
I feel quite exhausted after that so I’m going to end now with something completely different:
This was the scene the other day when I went to the RA’s Summer Exhibition and, also feeling similarly then, turned tail and fled at the sight of the crowded rooms and serried ranks of ART all over the place. I’ll go back and ‘do’ it properly when it is less crowded and I’m feeling stronger.