My October art diary features several artists I have interviewed or featured previously who have work on display this month.
The Arx are currently showing works by two of the artists I have had the pleasure of interviewing previously for Artlyst. The display of paintings by Louis Carreon at The Arx provides a first opportunity to see his work in the UK. Carreon reimagines classic art through the lens of sampling, echoing the spirit of hip-hop’s homage and creation. His “story of transformation, from addiction and incarceration to redemption through art and religion, is an inspiring testament to the power of creativity”. The images shown allow viewers to delve into his world, “inspired by art giants like El Greco and Caravaggio”.
I interviewed Carreon in 2021 when he said: “Some of the greats I sample are Greco, Bernini, Paul Rubens and Caravaggio. With less attention and emphasis being paid to history, we are forgetting our past. Growing up, I did not know who Bernini or Caravaggio was. Those who knew either had money, went to college or had parents who went to museums – they weren’t from my neighbourhood. Unless technology catches up and promotes awareness of the greats to young people, knowledge of them will be lost. Young people care about YouTube and movie stars but don’t know anything of the greats. Like hip hop sampling the greats and waking up music in a different form, I seek to disrupt and modernise the images of the greats in ways to which young people can relate.”
Key sculptures displayed at The Arx – ‘Creation’ and the Life-Burgers – by Alexander de Cadenet are among those that I showed at St Stephen Walbrook in 2017. The Life-Burger sculptures explore the relationship between the spiritual dimension of art and consumerism and investigate what gives life meaning. De Cadenet is a visual artist working in London who has been exhibiting his artworks internationally for the past twenty years. His artworks reveal an exploration into philosophical and spiritual questions such as the meaning of life and death and the nature of human consciousness.
When I interviewed de Cadanet in 2017, he had recently interviewed Ekhart Tolle. He shared that: “One of my favourite lines in Eckhart’s ‘The Power of Now’ reads: “Presence is needed to become aware of the beauty, the majesty, the sacredness of nature. Have you ever gazed up into the infinity of space on a clear night, awestruck by the absolute stillness and inconceivable vastness of it?” This says a lot to me, and if a piece of art can give a sense of this or be a signpost to look in this direction, I believe it has a great value to humanity, not just for people today but I think also for future generations.”
When I interviewed Marcus Lyon in 2021 about his ‘Human Atlas’ projects, he explained that: “A Human Atlas is a social impact art project that brings together a specified number of nominated change agents to tell a deeper story about how we self-author and co-author, a more hopeful future through portraits, interviews, soundscapes and DNA mapping … With the Human Atlas you’re listening to a voice, so you end up not only having a relationship with the portrayed, but you also have this ability to be held in a space where you have to stop and put your judgements aside. I think we can be very judgemental about two-dimensional imagery; we look at it, we make our mind up, and we turn our back, and we walk away.”
De.Coded – A Human Atlas of Silicon Valley, his latest project, is an exploration of 101 remarkable change makers from Silicon Valley. This multi-media book was built on a year-long nomination process where a group of local grassroots leaders and activists nominated extraordinary individuals from across all their networks and communities. Each featured nominee was chosen for their extraordinary contribution to the region and beyond. The book brings together the portraits, oral histories and ancestral DNA maps of this remarkable cohort to inspire a deeper understanding of our humanity and the importance of service in our societies. The final work honours the exceptional diversity of the valley and tells a deeper narrative about one of the most influential regions on earth.
Hannah Rose Thomas is an artist with a similar humanitarian focus. In 2020, I interviewed her regarding ‘Tears of Gold’. This exhibition was part of an online exhibition for the United Nations with Google Arts & Culture ‘The Future is Unwritten: Artists for Tomorrow’ launched to mark the UN’s 75th Anniversary. She said then: “As a portrait painter, I hope to communicate something of the beauty and worth of each individual in the eyes of God, regardless of race, religion, gender or social status. The use of gold leaf for my paintings of Yezidi and Nigerian women is to show the sacred value of these women in spite of all that they have suffered. It is symbolic of the restoration of dignity, especially important considering the stigma surrounding sexual violence.”
Thomas is currently part of ‘Ukraine: one year on’, an exhibition originally sponsored by Jess Phillips MP and World Vision UK in the Houses of Parliament to mark the anniversary of the war in Ukraine 20th-24th February 2023, which is now touring cathedrals. The exhibition powerfully captures the stories of displaced Ukrainian families who were forced to flee their homes during the conflict through portrait studies by Thomas and artwork by Ukrainian artist Maria Tsymbal.
This year’s International Original Print Exhibition, organised by the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers to celebrate the best in all types of contemporary printmaking, featured work by Christopher Clack, who was awarded the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers Prize. Painter, sculptor, digital artist and photographer, Clack trained at the Royal College of Art and Camberwell School of Art. The surface has always been an important aspect in his work, and his challenge is one of bringing into the digital medium a sense of the physicality of things.
I interviewed Clack for Artlyst in 2019 (https://artlyst.com/features/christopher-clack-connecting-material-immaterial-interview-revd-jonathan-evens/). He said then that: “Contemporary Art has very much to do with experience, and when we get down to our experiences, we find we have much in common with each other. I think art shows us how to get to the heart of our experience. ‘What does it mean?’ is not the appropriate question about contemporary art, but how does it alter my perceptions? Does it open things up? Meaning is found, but in a relationship or engagement with the work, much as in any human relationship meaning is found in the engagement itself.”
In my July Art Diary, I featured ‘A World of Private Mystery: British Neo-Romantics’ at The Fry Gallery, which includes work by John Craxton. Now Pallant House is providing a retrospective of Craxton’s work, which explores his experiences of confinement and exile, his personal liberation as a gay man, and his celebration of travel and colour, all set within the historical context of mid-century Britain and Greece. The exhibition follows his work, from melancholic images of poets within brooding landscapes created in Britain in the early 1940s to radiant paintings and drawings inspired by his adopted homeland in the Mediterranean. Along the way, Craxton takes inspiration from Greek archaeology, mythology and Byzantine mosaics, as well as his affinities with acquaintance Pablo Picasso and youthful best friend Lucian Freud.
Craxton’s versatility will be shown not just by glorious paintings but also by poetic drawings, book cover illustrations, ceramics, dynamic theatre set designs, and rarely-seen pieces from the Craxton Estate. These will be set within the context of some of his contemporaries in a separate display of pieces from the Gallery’s collection. Selected by contemporary artist Jake Grewal, this exhibit will include works by Graham Sutherland, Keith Vaughan, John Piper, Paul Nash and John Minton (all of whom feature at The Fry Gallery). Shown for the first time alongside this exhibition, contemporary artist Tacita Dean will present ‘Crackers’, a new two-screen film projection that she recently created in Crete as a musing on her friendship with the artist.
I reviewed, for Church Times, Richard Kenton Webb’s recent solo show with Benjamin Rhodes; this was their fifth exhibition together but after a 29-year gap. Kenton Webb has said that the “pursuit of colour” has become his “life’s work” and that it is only when artists are “engaging with the physicality of paint” that “an alchemy takes place” and they “make equivalents for emotions and memories”, as colour “can also be a translation of what we feel”. He has followed up his solo show with a group exhibition at The Brownston Gallery that celebrates the ethos and practice of teaching painting, drawing and printmaking at its very best. Led and curated by Kenton Webb, ‘Paint’ exemplifies the language of painting on which his teaching ethos hangs and “has always had the power to speak to the human soul”.
The exhibition brings together his colleagues Monika Rycerz and Robert Manners, who also teach drawing, painting, and printmaking at Arts University Plymouth, with four other wonderful painters, students from BA and MA Degree courses: David Fletcher, Karmin O’Brien, Kieran Walsh and Charlie Dyson. Also invited are other painters Kenton Webb has taught throughout his 37 years of teaching, all now doing well and thriving: Iain Andrews, Tom Musgrove, Elisabeth De Las Casas, Victoria Jinivizian and Clare Thatcher. Additionally, through the years, he has been proud to work with artist John France, who is now an External Examiner, and two conference collaborators and champions of painting, Benny Fountain from Whitworth University, USA, and Andrew Stahl, Professor of Painting at The Slade School of Fine Art London. These also feature in this unique exhibition, which showcases both established artists and the talent of the students who have graduated or are about to graduate from Arts University Plymouth and the University of Plymouth.
A new discovery for me is Gareth Mason, an artist for whom creation is “a personal act of risk and disclosure” that “can be both gift and revelation if we are alive to it.” “The best art,” he argues, “is felt first and reasoned later” and “springs from a child-like curiosity and relish of the stuff of earth, an evolving well of experience and a love of mystery.” A potter of 35 years standing who exhibits internationally, Mason’s exhibition at Carpenters Workshop Gallery is his first UK solo exhibition in over a decade.
Mason’s unique ceramic works include foreign objects, such as debris foraged from his local river, challenging porcelain’s immaculate history. When creating his works, Mason doesn’t envision a completed and final result, as a surprise is a key element within his creative process. His carefully wrought yet disaster-strewn surfaces are fruits of past “failure”; in this way, Mason embraces clay’s nuanced individuality whilst never ignoring the material’s universality. The artist’s elaborate process consists of throwing the pieces by hand, altering the form through firing and glazing, and adding unexpected materials of detritus such as glass, metal and shards of pottery. In doing so, the artist elevates the flotsam by making a case for their aesthetic value. The result is an avant-garde collection of richly layered works in texture, colour, and form.
Rachel Bebb Contemporary is a new venue for me to cover. Their Autumn Exhibition ‘Transfigured’ celebrates letter carving, and exhibitors have been encouraged to use offcuts in the spirit of recycling, reusing and reducing to transform them into something more beautiful or elevated. Letter carving by hand is an ancient skill worthy of preservation and promotion. RBC is an enthusiastic supporter of the work of the Lettering Arts Trust and artists who carve beauty and stories into stone and wood, engrave glass, and inscribe on paper. Exhibitors in ‘Transfigured’ include Lisi Ashbridge, Nia Bennett, Rachel Butler, Emi Gordon, Pip Hall, Eric Marland, Anna Louise Parker, Tom Perkins, Helen Mary Skelton, Annet Stirling, Louise Tiplady, Zoe Singleton, Will Spankie and Pippa Westoby.
Complementing the display of letter carving will be engravings by Beatrice Forshall, whose printmaking revolves around species and themes central to conservation. Beatrice’s book, ‘The Book of Vanishing Species’, documents threats to 69 species threatened with extinction due to pollution, loss of habitats and trafficking, all caused by apex predators, human beings. Forshall says, “Because they can’t speak for themselves, I’d like to tell their story … art can play a role”.
St John’s Waterloo is a venue that I have featured previously, particularly in regard to their annual Festival. Their latest exhibition features pieces produced through The Loving Earth Project, a community-based textile project that helps people to engage creatively and constructively with climate justice without being overwhelmed. Linda Murgatroyd, who initiated the Project, is a member of Faith For The Climate and the Quaker Arts Network.
The project began in 2019 through a group of Quakers and quickly spread across the country and generated international interest. By the time COP 26 was held in Glasgow in Autumn 2021, over 400 textile panels had been created by people from across the UK and beyond. On display at St John’s is a selection of textile panels and their accompanying texts. Those wishing to engage with the questions at the heart of this exhibition can access online resources, including guidelines to produce panels, meditation guides, and publications.
In the face of growing environmental breakdown, this exhibition seeks to memorialise and celebrate the wonderful things we cherish and love. The exhibition aims to remind us of the beauty of our world and the human experience and to share positive examples of change and why people take action for the sake of love.
The latest exhibition I have organised is ‘From Hong Kong to Wickford: A Multifaceted Pictorial Display with Stories by Ho Wai-On (Ann-Kay) and Friends’. Best known as a composer and creator/director of combined-art works and projects, this multifaceted pictorial display features Wai-On’s lifetime of interaction with UK and Hong Kong-based artists/people, resulting in many creative works. It also tells the stories of these people and their work.
The exhibition features, among others, visual art from Juliet Chenery-Robson, Ruth Cutler and Polly Hope; computer graphics from Marcus West; digital design from Benson Wong; photographs from Clark Ainsworth, Graham Ekins, Kitty Kwan, Herry Lawford, Stephen Matthews, Ben Rector, Roy Reed, and Martin Singleton. Wai-On says: “My memory of life in Hong Kong is about 15 years, which is about the same as I have been living in Wickford. In between, for more than 30 years, I lived mostly in London and went back to Hong Kong from time to time. With UK-based professionals in creative and performing arts, I created and staged performances of works/projects that combine music, dance, drama and visual art across different cultures, sometimes with relevant displays. This multifaceted pictorial display at St. Andrew’s Church features stories of my lifetime’s interaction with UK-Hong Kong-based artists and people and the resulting creative works and tells you about these people and their work. I hope this might encourage audiences to get to know more.”
Finally, ‘Love is the Meaning’ is a group exhibition at three churches associated with Julian of Norwich, which celebrates the 650th anniversary of her shewings (visions or pictures) that she then recorded in ‘The Revelations of Divine Love’. To celebrate this anniversary, the Friends of Julian and the Julian Partnership wanted to focus on the pictures themselves, not only the words of this remarkable woman. So, challenged modern artists to think about Julian’s “shewings” and imagine what she actually saw. Over forty artists from several different countries responded, and the results will be on show in three venues from 18 October.
The exhibition will take the form of a pilgrimage walk and exploration of the art and history of these important churches. Special guided walks on some dates will introduce visitors to Medieval Norwich to help visitors explore the city that Julian would have known so well. Curator Lucy Care says: “Julian counselled people daily throughout her years as an anchoress, and we want to reawaken the conversation. This exhibition exploring her pictures through the eyes of modern artists allows us to see her work with fresh eyes. Prepare to wonder, be confused, indignant or refilled with happiness as her conviction that love is the meaning of God’s creation is made visible. That love resides in every being, every drop of water and every organic cell of the universe, just as the artist’s DNA can be found in every fibre of their own work.”
Lead image: Donna Thompson ‘Simply Be’ Installation of cardboard boxes. ‘Love is the Meaning’, Norwich.
A diverse international programme of exhibitions from up-and-coming and highly-acclaimed contemporary artists
‘De.Coded – A Human Atlas of Silicon Valley’
‘Ukraine: one year on’, 16 October – 13 November, Rochester Cathedral.
International Original Print Exhibition, 21 September – 1 October 2023, Bankside Gallery.
‘John Craxton: A Modern Odyssey’, 28 October 2023 – 21 April 2024, Pallant House Gallery.
‘Paint – Richard Kenton Webb and Friends’, 30 September – 28 October 2023, The Brownston Gallery.
‘Gareth Mason: Seeing Things’, 10 October – 22 December 2023, Carpenters Workshop Gallery, London.
‘Autumn Exhibition: Transfigured’, 7 October – 4 November 2023, Rachel Bebb Contemporary.
Loving Earth Project, 19 October to 26 November 2023, St John’s Waterloo.
‘From Hong Kong to Wickford: A Multifaceted Pictorial Display with Stories by Ho Wai-On (Ann-Kay) & Friends’, 26 September – 16 December 2023, St Andrew’s Church, Wickford.
‘Love is the Meaning’, 18 October – 16 November 2023, St Julian’s, St John the Baptist, and St Stephen’s, Norwich.