I celebrated the recent completion of a project (which will be up here soon) with a short holiday in London. I caught up with friends, spent time with my sisters and put aside a couple of days to look around some of those London galleries you’re always hearing so much about.
I’ve always felt my knowledge was lacking when it comes to fine art. So, I promised myself I would remedy this as soon as I had finished the mystery project mentioned above. I saw my London trip as a way to kick-start my new period of learning, to push my understanding more and to find inspiration for new projects.
My first stop was the National Portrait Gallery. I spent a good amount of time looking around the 2013 Portrait Award exhibition, scrutinising a couple that my Dad had mentioned. This was a good exhibition to start with – all the pictures had in common was portraiture. Beyond that, there was a huge variety of approaches and styles.
I also worked my way around the gallery’s permanent exhibit. I enjoyed the corridor of bearded man portraits. The subtle differences in where each one decided to place his hands gave a real intimacy to each painting. (I like the one-hand-in-trouser-pocket approach).
The find of the day was a selection of William Nicholson woodcuts, including this one of Queen Victoria. He is turning out to be a big influence on a project of mine currently in development.
The next day I wanted to visit the National Gallery for the Lowry exhibition, but being short on both time and money, I went for the smaller (and free-er) Whitechapel Gallery instead. Their Black Eyes & Lemonade exhibit was fantastic. It comprised of original items from a 1951 exhibition curated by artist/illustrator/professional collector Barbara Jones, exploring the concept of British popular art. Jones’ take on this very much appealed to me, as she drew inspiration not only from traditional folk art, but also from mass-produced items, fairground rides, food decoration and funerals. Her book, “The Unsophisticated Arts” is at the top of my Christmas list.
I finished the day with a look around STEADman@77 at the cartoon museum. I love that place, and every piece in the Steadman exhibition was an eye-opener for me, in particular his early efforts to improve his (already impressive) draughtsmanship, and his wonderfully inventive illustrations for Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Also, keep an eye out for “Francis Bacon’s Christmas Dinner” – I laughed for far too long at this.
So, I’m back in my studio now, keeping my twinkly-eyed enthusiasm topped up with reading and drawing and looking. I’ll try to keep you all up to date with my findings.