SAGT Newsletter 66: May 2020

Newsletter 66

Dear Reader(s)

Welcome to our second newsletter since the lockdown. Our introduction is slightly different this time as Jeremy has been busy with his Chairman’s report, amongst other things.

Life is continuing in a strange fashion as we all try to adapt to our new situation. Although our movements are restricted, for those with access to the internet there seems to be no lack of suggestions as to how we might spend our time! Otherwise we are enjoying a beautiful Spring with opportunities for many to walk out and enjoy it, also to use the time for painting or writing. Most of the major art galleries and museums are offering ‘virtual tours’ of their collections.

Our newsletter reflects some of these interests; Tami has given us a piece about a great painting enthusiast Winston Churchill and the solace he found in painting, Jeremy has given us a wonderful picture of a hare by C.F.Tunnicliffe with his personal responses to it and I have written about Naum Gabo at Tate St Ives.

As you know, one of the casualties of the present situation is that our exhibition ‘eARTh’ at the Brewhouse has had to be cancelled. Whether we will be able to hold the exhibition this year depends on the Brewhouse and how long present restrictions continue.  In the meantime, one of our members Zoe Ainsworth Grigg has offered to make a film of people’s work and publish it on YouTube. If SAGT Members would like to send Zoe a photo of their work (up to 3 pieces) she will make a video together with a short biography. It would be similar to Zoe’s website portfolio, with viewing time a little longer. Zoe can be contacted on [email protected] and her website is https://www.zoeainsworthgriggbooks.com/. Thank you Zoe.

At risk of internet overload I can suggest two art-related links – Philip Mould (of TV’s Fake or Fortune) is offering daily tours of his house on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoqTM4IljJM) giving the background art history on his personal collection. I can also recommend The Open University’s ‘OpenLearn’

Programme which offers free courses, short or long on a wide variety of subjects including art and art history (https://www.open.edu/openlearn/free-courses/full-catalogue).

Your committee send you our very best wishes and hope that you and your families will continue to keep well and safe.

Anna Mullett

Painting as a Passion

“Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep painters company to the end of the day.” Winston S. Churchill

Winston Churchill painting at Miami Beach, FL

Winston Churchill painting at Miami Beach, FL

 

My mother loved Churchill and read many of his biographies and autobiographies.  Many of my visits would find her with one of his books by her bedside.  She found comfort and knowledge from him, not to mention giving him full credit for getting her through the war, when growing up in Central London.

I found myself turning to him, ironically, these few weeks for a different reason, only to find a similar thread. I discovered Churchill’s essay on painting a few years ago, 2016, written in 1932, (my edition 2013).  I was re-reading it and it spoke differently to me this time. Churchill’s essay Painting as a Pastime is an essay on the joys of painting-

“Many remedies are suggested for the avoidance of worry and mental overstrain ….” And he continues, “the constant and common element in all the remedies is Change….  To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least 2 or 3 hobbies and all must be real.”

He speaks of other things before “painting” for about a quarter of the essay to explain the how and whys. One of the things raised happened to be “the library” and having/reading books.  One lovely thought was how he views books as friends and acquaintances.  And we should always handle our books even if we do not read them or read them completely.  They are our acquaintances, if not all our friends.

He later gets into painting and explains how “painting is a companion with whom one may hope to walk a great part of life’s journey.  Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety.”  Churchill speaks of how happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely.  Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end, or almost to the end, of the day.

He finds painting astonishing and enriching.  He tells us not “how” to paint but how to get enjoyment from doing it.  He calls it “new mental food and exercise”.  He also warns not to try to be masters or inspire to masterpieces but be content with the “joy ride in a paint box.”

W.S. Churchill View of Chartwell (1938)

W.S. Churchill View of Chartwell (1938)

 

Churchill shares his own personal experience and how it was during the long hours in which he had to contemplate the frightful unfolding of the war that painting came to his rescue.  And this is where the essay spoke to me in a different way than the previous time.  We had not been at “war” then.  I felt “this time”, sadly, it might be more appropriate for ourselves.

Churchill goes on to say that like in battle, one needs a plan and to study the achievements of the great captains of the past.  This can be applied to painting and when one paints themselves, suddenly you look at previous art differently.

Another point I felt was pertinent; the chief delight that he says comes through trying to paint, is the heightened sense of the observation of Nature. What better time than now.

“Painting is complete as a distraction.  I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind, whatever worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them in the mental screen.”

If you have not experienced it for yourself before now, I hope you are tempted to seek it out.  What better time than now?

Tami Boden-Ellis

Sitting Hare

C F Tunnicliffe RA ‘Sitting Hare’ (1949)

C F Tunnicliffe RA ‘Sitting Hare’ (1949)

 

I found this old birthday card recently when tidying up.  It is a superb drawing of an animal much appreciated by my wife and me. She wears a silver hare badge and responds to hares for their joy, vitality and pugnacity (their boxing). On our late night drive to a farmhouse in the Dordogne last June we caught a hare in the car’s lights sitting transfixed in the middle of a country lane. We were delighted to have such a close up for a few seconds, and took this chance meeting as a welcoming sign, in what turned out to be a very happy family reunion. Tunnicliffe has created a still, alert and attentive sitting hare, half turned towards us. Every line and mark that make up his body, including his whiskers, is lovingly drawn; and the attention to detail within a carefully balanced composition, is such that there is an overall harmony of light and shade, with space for our eyes to move up and down, and so take in the whole as well as the parts. I don’t usually get so excited by engravings but this one thrills me. It causes something within me to match those two ears, so pricked, with some cloud passing behind them.

Jeremy Harvey

Naum Gabo at Tate St Ives

Just before the present lockdown came into force I was fortunate to go with a friend on a day trip to St Ives to visit the Tate. St Ives was looking beautiful with blue skies and rough seas. The Tate itself had greatly expanded since I last saw it, now with new galleries which were celebrating St Ives and West Country artists and those whom they influenced and vice versa. The main exhibition marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Realistic Manifesto (1920) in which Naum Gabo together with his brother Antoine laid out his artistic principles.

Naum Gabo (1890-1977) was born in Russia and originally studied engineering before becoming an artist. Known now as a Constructivist he wanted to present a vision of his time and the future, using geometric and mathematical forms which involved movement, kinetic waves and music. In the Manifesto Gabo stated that ‘space and time are the only forms on which life is built and hence must be constructed’, and intended that his works should reveal themselves through their interior space rather than through form and mass.

Gabo’s concepts are easier to understand if you are looking at his artworks. As you enter this beautifully laid out exhibition the first piece you see is his monumental metal Head no 2 (1916). In this work he demonstrates how volume can be achieved through interlocking planes and light and shade without using solid mass. Another art work near the beginning of the exhibition is a replica of his Kinetic Construction Standing Wave (1919-20), a slender metal rod which when you press the button gives an illusion of space as it vibrates. It was quite mesmerising and merited several button pushes!

Like other Constructivist artists Gabo believed that art should be part of everyday living and he made designs

Naum Gabo Head No 2 (1916)

Naum Gabo Head No 2 (1916)

 

for public buildings, monuments, towers and fountains. Although he used wood and metal and other industrial material he also graduated to plastic which being clear enabled the viewer to see a three dimensional work from a single viewpoint. He designed architecture which would be transparent, animated by the people who would pass through it.  He formulated his ideas on a small scale using card which he cut out and glued before making the full-size sculpture. Several of these models, together with his drawings are in the exhibition.

One of the most beautiful artworks in this exhibition is his Linear Construction in

Space no 2 originally conceived in 1949.  Made of nylon filaments strung around interlocking planes it is subtle, delicate almost ethereal if that is not too fanciful a word.

Naum Gabo Linear Construction in space no.2

Naum Gabo Linear Construction in space no.2

 

Gabo’s influence was far reaching. He travelled widely and in 1939 having moved to England he came to live in St Ives at the invitation of Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, becoming one of the artists who helped establish the town’s international reputation.  His influence can be seen in the work of St Ives artists such as John Wells (below).

Gabo believed that art was a force for good and wanted to communicate through his work, in his words, ‘the rhythms and forms of our material and spiritual worlds’. Sadly this wonderful exhibition due to close on May 3rd may not now be seen, one of many casualties in the art world at the moment. On a more positive note the Tate St Ives website states ‘Opens June 1st’ – we can only hope!

Anna Mullett

John Wells Sea Bird Forms (1951)

John Wells Sea Bird Forms (1951)

SAGT Chairman’s Report 2019-2020

chairmans 2020

Dear Reader(s)

This report covers –broadly –  April, 2019 until March, 2020. I continue to be grateful for SAGT’s existence in a county where, in varied & vibrant small scale ways, the fine arts have a rhythm and continuity that augur well. Yet we exist against a UK backdrop where funding for the arts has become much harder to obtain. We need something extra:  both Governmental good will for and committed interest in the arts, for our SAGT dreams to be realised.

However, voluntary organisations such as ours keep our heads down and get on with what matters to us. In that respect we have had another good year. There was a strong 2019 programme of five talks for both members and interested persons. These took place at Trull Church Community Centre which has become our base for these evenings. We made small profits from these talks, and now have a healthy bank balance with £5,660.19 in our main account and £2,988.46 in our subsidiary one. We ran two enjoyable painting days in the Summer and combined our AGM with the option of seeing a Rembrandt film afterwards. Christine Marsh again ran a coffee morning for us, and our other social event was Christmas Lunch at the Quantock restaurant at Bridgwater and Taunton College.

To keep in touch with our members we compiled four newsletters. Nearly all our recipients receive them online. Our webmaster once more was Toby Veale of Dexterous Designs. Laura Crofts liaised on our behalf with Taunton Youth Culture And Arts (TYCA), a first year Festival of youth events, which has funding for some four more years.

Our thanks go first to our speakers and their audiences. We invest in these talks and our speakers invest in preparing them and then giving them an audile and visile life. These talks are a kind of art form with craft included. In 2019 Trish Jones (18 February) spoke about Louise Bourgeois and Yahoi Kusama, Grand Old Dames of Modern ArtSara Dudman (18 March) spoke of Howard Hodgkin: A Painter’s Painter; and 20 May Wayne Bennett gave A Short History of British Art Museums. After a break we continued with the annual Ken Grieb lecture on 5 October given by Jan Cox on Thomas Fearnley & the Golden Age of Danish Art. On 23 November I rounded the cycle off with Mondrian and Nicholson: Birds of a Feather?

Thanks, too, to our sponsors Dexterous Designs; to Mail Boxes who produce our leaflets and pocket-sized annual  programme; to Christine Marsh for her hospitality; to Arts Taunton, the Brewhouse, the Museum of Somerset and SAW, partners and supporters of our cause. Thanks as always to our committee who work well and enjoyably on your behalf, and are willing to continue in office, if re-elected. Special thanks to Anna Mullett for her membership duties, editing our newsletters and distributing our information; to Sandra Spalding for her work as Treasurer; and to Tami Boden-Ellis, David Smith, and Kevin Saunders for their  backstage roles, suggestions and creativity in enabling things to happen.

Talking of backstage happenings, you need to know that several things have been going on: I lobbied Rebecca Pow about arts funding and what we are trying to do.  Anna and I attended an event  she had arranged at TimEverett’s Hatherton Park Studios, and Rebecca Pow and her sister looked in to meet people during the interval of the Ken Grieb lecture in October. Anna and I met Tom Mayberry, Sam Astill and Sara Cox at the Heritage Centre to map a way forward with them, to the mutual benefit of the Museum of Somerset and ourselves. We are very happy with this arrangement. We do feel, at times, that some organisations can forget that partnerships for the flourishing of the arts have to be reciprocal.

We also receive gifts of art from time to time: Rob Cann and Geoffrey Bailey are recent examples; and we are very grateful. That in turn requires us to store and find ways of showing these works to members and, when possible, the general public. We hope to work with the Museum to arrange a small exhibition of Ann Le Bas’ paintings and etchings, say, in 2021.

Sadly three members have died: John Foden, a regular attender of our events; Ann Le Bas, a distinguished Exmoor artist, and  Pat Dixon, a past committee member. We remember them with great thanks. And our hopes and plans for this new year have been frozen, put on hold for the past month, because of the pandemic of Covid-19. We are currently in lockdown as I write this. It remains to be seen how much of our 2020 programme we can carry out. We did hear Trish Jones (17 February) on Ovid & the Metamorphosis of Desire, the first of this year’s talks..

But we shall meet again, as the Queen put it, and we shall not be deterred from going forward, when we can. On  behalf of us all I look forward to that.

Jeremy Harvey Chairman 21 March, 2020