A memorial exhibition to artist/teacher Gerard Hemsworth (1945-2021) opens next week at Cross Lane Projects in Kendal. It is the most extensive exhibition of contemporary painting held at the project space to date. As a teacher and artist, Hemsworth influenced a large number of artists working in all fields of art. Hemsworth began teaching on the MA Fine Art course at Goldsmiths College, the University of London, in the 1980s, becoming Professor of Fine Art in 2004 until 2011. His students included Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger and nominees Fiona Banner and Glenn Brown.
‘High on Hope’ brings together a selection of Hemsworth’s canvases alongside the work of eight artists he taught on the Master’s programme at Goldsmiths in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The exhibition, devised by the painter and co-founder of Cross Lane Projects, Rebecca Scott, focuses on artists whose work she sees as resonating with Hemsworth’s own engagement with a type of “post-conceptual figurative or representational painting”.
For Hemsworth, the criticality of art was central in his work and his teaching. He saw all art as falling into two broad categories: “art that celebrates the world we live in, and art that questions it”, or to put it another way, “art which addresses what we know, and art which addresses what we do not know”. It was the latter of these positions that governed much of his thinking in the studio and pedagogically.
This exhibition brings together a group of artists he taught: Mark Fairnington, Roy Holt, Rebecca Scott, Bob & Roberta Smith, Michael Stubbs, Jessica Voorsanger, Mark Wallinger and Suzy Willey and shows their work alongside Hemsworth’s.
The show’s artists reflect Scott’s circle of influence and interest in the language of representation in painting. Scott carefully selected each work to draw out allegiances, connections, and what she describes as “trickles of thought”.
Mark Wallinger’s primal id Paintings (2015) spotlight, through their resemblance to the Rorschach test, perennial questions associated with all paintings – what do we read into a painting from our own subjective experiences? And how much of what the artist has made is unconscious and impulsive? Other artists in High on Hope also complicate the reading of pre-existing imagery. Suzy Willey has consistently used comic strips as a format to speak about the nature of making and communication. Her slowly made paintings are all about painterly concerns – edges, colours and brushstrokes. Rebecca Scott and Michael Stubbs use, to consistently different ends, a process of visual layering within their paintings. Both artists place fragments of one image on top of another, recognising how painting as a language is an unstable and frequently growing palimpsest of past positions.
There is also a jamming together in Jessica Voorsanger’s embroidered wall-hangings. These complex and decorative works employ a variety of home-spun sewing and tapestry skills in balanced but wonderfully eccentric compositions. Voorsanger sees tapestry as the ultimate form of popular art and one that is both democratic and yet anonymous. The artist Bob & Roberta Smith is exhibiting text paintings that ask us to consider how we should engage with art as individuals and citizens. They emphasise the importance of active participation and the universality of art. Smith’s paintings are perhaps best understood as urgent and joyful rallying cries. In Mark Fairnington’s carefully observed canvases, such as those of horses or bulls, the pedigree of both a type of painting and the animal itself is put under scrutiny. Roy Holt’s paintings are similarly paradoxical and meditative. They revel in asking questions—both in what they depict and how things are depicted.
Cross Lane Projects was founded in 2018 by Cumbrian-born artist Rebecca Scott and her husband, Mark Woods, a sculptor. The pair established the project space to bring new contemporary art and debate to Cumbria, presenting a regularly changing curated programme featuring the work of local, international and British artists accompanied by public talks and discussion events. The gallery, situated in a former Kendal Mint Cake factory, has gained a reputation and recognition for bringing new contemporary art and challenging debate to Cumbria with a programme of exhibitions and events featuring the work of local, international and British artists.
Top Photo: © Artlyst 2022
High on Hope, Cross Lane Projects, Kendal, Cumbria 23 July – 24 September 2022.
The gallery is free to visit and open Wednesday – Saturday, 12-5pm.
Some of the text has been extracted from Daniel Sturgis’ introduction to the exhibition High On Hope, featured in the catalogue alongside original texts by Julien Delagrange and Mo Thorpe.