Category Archives: Gallery & exhibition visits

Gallery visit: Jo Broklehurst and Quentin Blake

This weekend I visited The House of Illustration to see the above two exhibitions. 

Brocklehurst’s work was new to me. It was great to see an artist focusing on unconventional subjects. A lot of her work was large format pastel, quite sparing in how she filled the paper with more focus on line than shading which I am now keen to try and has given me confidence with larger formats which my tutor has encouraged. 

You can tell she studied life drawing from how well she draws the figure, and her background in fashion shows in the swaggering poses she captures – presumably executed at speed if she was working in nightclubs. I liked her unusual mix of media and colours too – paint and pastel, neon, metallic and uv paint as well as a range from muted to garish colours depending on her subject. Below are a few pieces I found particularly interesting that show this. It was encouraging to see her pale blue lines where she sketches out forms first before committing using a darker colour on the first two below which are large format pastels. 

As someone who costumes for charity, her approach to art as performance with her Alice in Wonderland pieces has given me ideas about how I might be able to draw my fellow costumers before and after events. 

I adored the Quentin Blake exhibition which was a selection of bird drawings. I tried to identify the media used before looking at the hand guide and was pleased I got it right in all cases. I was surprised he uses watercolour pencils as I always thought these were perhaps a poor  relation to painting and drawing ‘properly’. I love the uneven, loose way he draws, the amount of expression and emotion he conveys with such sparing lines. I grew up loving his work and characters from things like The Muppets and The Labyrinth. Inspired, I did two cartoon sketches this weekend in Blake’s style. The first is the winner of the worlds hairiest man competition, inspired by an idea in a book about illustration. The second is my friend and I having a coffee after the gallery visit. 

When drawing these I was beaming from ear to ear and laughing which doesn’t happen when I work in other styles. Joyous, I’d say is the right word for how this style makes me feel. It’s ironic I can’t loosen up when I’m doing what I previously saw as ‘proper’ drawing – a view that has changed since studying Blake’s work which may look simple but is not. 

My daughter and husband laughed and really liked my illustrations. I loved that I could bring them pleasure in this way. My husband says I have a great sense of humour and keen observational skills. I feel this style is where I belong and am at my happiest. This may also be due to its immediacy as it feels I have a mountain to climb with eg pastel. I was able to use skills practised on this course in both drawings below e.g. perspective.

The surprising outcome is I think I will be more suited to the illustration modules of the degree course so I will investigate their content and see if this is the case.

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Exhibition: Law Society Art Group 2017

Today I visited The Law Society Art Group’s 2017 exhibition run by Jon Corballis (tel: 01903 879 320, email: JCorballis@aol.com, LSAG facebook page). I run an art club at my work place and was contacted about this internally via one of the solicitors who has a family member involved with running it. There were about 60 or so paintings and drawings and also some sculptures. Disappointingly no chalk pastels but there were some oil pastels that were interesting.

My favourite two pieces were these wonderful charcoal drawings showing scenes of London. She has captured the light and sense of dusty, dirty but lovely London beautifully.


 

Gallery visit – Guerilla Girls at Whitechapel Gallery

On 7 January I visited the Whitechapel Gallery to see the Guerilla Girls’ Is it even worse in Europe? exhibit. This was a small exhibit in terms of physical space but one that packed a lot of punch in what it was highlighting. It shared results of a 2016 survey they sent to 383 European museum directors regarding diversity, specifically the coverage of artists in their exhibitions who are women, gender non-conforming or from non-US and European countries.

The headlines were quite shocking, one of which – that only a quarter responded – is on a banner outside the gallery. The exhibit contained copies of all the completed questionnaires and you were invited to ‘walk over’ a list on the floor of those who didn’t respond. The yellow, red and grey colours used on the posters to share the results was jarring which I am guessing was their intention.

In the supporting press release the Guerrilla Girls said:

With this project, we wanted to pose the question ‘Are museums today presenting a diverse history of contemporary art or the history of money and power?’ We focus on the understory, the subtext, the overlooked and the downright unfair. Art can’t be reduced to the small number of artists who have won a popularity contest among bigtime dealers, curators and collectors. Unless museums and Kunsthallen show art as diverse as the cultures they claim to represent, they’re not showing the history of art, they’re just preserving the history of wealth and power.”

As someone who has worked in organisational development and change for many years, I know from first-hand experience how powerful it can be to simply ask questions as a mechanism for drawing attention to an issue. For example it has taken European legislation on gender reporting to force organisations under the microscope with regard to their practices and even now there is evidence of firms only acting to deal with what they are judged on externally, which I find incredibly sad.

I wonder whether more could be done to share the Guerilla Girls’ survey results and work outside the gallery environment. How might we get it into places where young female and non-gender specific minds may be considering a career in art? Would it inspire more young people to art if they could get passionate about using it to help achieve positive cultural and political change? This unpacks a whole package of thorny issues such as how you can influence the curriculum and the role education plays. 2016 was a sad year for art in this regard, with A-level art history being axed by the Tories, with a paltry 18,533 signatures to date on the survey to ‘Save art history being cut from the A level curriculum‘. I learnt a huge amount about history and different countries’ political, cultural and social contexts when I recently started studying the history of art. It’s incredibly short-sighted of the Tories to do this.

I can’t say I “enjoyed” the Guerilla Girls exhibition as the responses provided by some of the galleries made my blood boil but I am glad they are out their fighting for change. I’d like to know what they want us, as the “customers” of the galleries to do to help drive change through too.