Now is the season of just one exhibition after another. We saw two yesterday, one brilliant, the other of incomprehensibly bad drawings.
The first was, unsurprisingly, back at one of my favourite haunts, White House Farm, Great Glemham. Jason Gathorne-Hardy and family are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Aldeburgh Festival with an exhibition there of material demonstrating the very close connection between the Cranbrook family and the foundation and early years of the Festival. It was news to me that Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears were frequent visitors to the Farm in the 1940s and, indeed, that many of the early meetings planning the creation of the Festival were held there. Fidelity, Lady Cranbrook, chaired the Festival committee for 35 years; she was also an accomplished artist in her own right as several of her paintings here exemplify. She presided at White House Farm where many of the family lived during the war years while Great Glemham Hall, the ancestral home a mile away across the park, was used first for evacuee children and then by the army.
Interesting though the historical records and memorabilia are, however, the outstanding pieces of the current exhibition are (in my humble opinion) a number of paintings by Jason from the early years of the 21st century. This is a facet of Jason the artist I have not seen before; here and elsewhere his oeuvre over the last few years has been represented largely by highly skilled and idiosyncratic drawings, both after Becker and in close-ups of heads of animals and birds. Recently we have seen some slight, impressionistic line drawings of Lakeland landscape where he apparently has another hideaway, but I had not realised that these harked back to an earlier phase of landscape painting represented here by a stunning series of works of subjects painted a thousand times before by eager amateurs (including me!): boats on the beach at Aldeburgh and views south from Aldeburgh towards the Martello tower.
I have often photographed, painted and written about the latter in relation to coastal erosion. But in Jason’s perspective these cliches cease to be banal and become invigorated in an almost new dimension. Perhaps his works here so appeal to me because I have looked at the subjects so often myself, and perhaps because this oeuvre contains flashes of the idiom so characteristic of artists associated with the mid-20th century ‘St Ives school’.
Aldeburgh Beach III, 2003. Ink, graphite, earth on paper
Martello Tower Study VI Graphite, estuary mud on River-washed paper
Both paintings by Jason Gathorne-Hardy.
The ‘bad’ exhibition is also part of the 70 year anniversary celebrations of the Aldeburgh Festival, but for that you’ll have to cross over to the Snape Maltings and the next post. (The format I’m using does not like many more than 300 words per post and I’m already over 450 with this Jason-fest).