A conversation at the Black Shed

19 Jul

I had been aware for some time that there was a contemporary art gallery near Robertsbridge; friends have recommended it; I follow it on Twitter; fellow MA student Jenny Edbroke, whose work I wrote about in July 2015, exhibited there last summer; Susan Fynes who graduated this summer, see last week’s post, is to exhibit there soon. I had even thought I had noticed a discreet sign to it on the A21. But Robertsbridge is about half an hour’s drive away, not a particularly onerous journey admittedly, but still not next door. So, it was not until a couple of days ago that I finally decided to investigate. I ignored the Robertsbridge turning, found that I had been right about the sign and drove up narrow country lanes and finally arrived at what looked at first sight like a group of farmyard buildings. All most improbable.

What is perhaps even more improbable, as many people dream of starting a gallery, is that owner and director Kenton Lowe has clearly made it a huge success. His eye for interesting and collectable artists mean that buyers are prepared to make the journey to find London quality work in the heart of the country. Look up Black Shed on a map and the red place marker is in the middle of sea of green, but the number of red dots on the corners of paintings, suggest that those who come keep their credit cards at the ready.

The current exhibition was certainly worth the drive. Artists Bent Holstein and Alan Rankle are described as having a conversation about landscape painting. I am not usually convinced by this idea of a conversation between artists. Too often it is used loosely to justify grouping together people who have only the most tenuous links. In this case I really felt it worked; the approaches were very different yet there was a genuine connection; the colour palettes of the two artists complemented each other. While Danish artist Holstein had a more abstract style, Rankle’s work also included an abstract element. Indeed, you could imagine the paintings discussing the place of abstraction.

Before going I was not acquainted with either artist. At first it was Holstein’s work which attracted my attention. I liked the subtle tones and the gentle impressionistic style that takes you into his mysterious landscapes so that you imagine more than you can actually see.


Bent Holstein: As if standing on Fishes Blue 2016

But as I looked round the exhibition, it was the works of Rankle that grew on me. When commentators talk about works being semi abstract they normally mean that you can kind of make out what it is that the artist is painting. Indeed I would have described Holstein’s works as being just that.

Many of Rankle’s paintings are semi abstract in a completely different way. In part they are very precise;  in his working of trees, he reminded me of Constable. Originally educated at Goldsmiths, it turns out that he had gone on to study classical techniques, particularly the Dutch Old Masters. So here you can have a tree as well-painted as as the most ardent fans of realism could desire; you can make out the leaves; if you are good at that kind of thing, you could identify the species. But in the piece below you also have the bold splash of yellow providing mood and emotion. The two elements could almost have come from different paintings but Rankle’s skill is demonstrated by the fact that they worked as one.


Alan Rankle: Enigma Patricia Kalitzca + the Object

Contemporary art should challenge our ideas and see help us to see things afresh. If my first reaction to these unexpected explosions of paint was “I’m not sure about that”,  it quickly gave way to admiration and wanting to see more.

The Black Shed Gallery   is open on from Tuesday to Friday 10.00 am-4.00 pm and on Saturdays 10 am to 4.30 pm.

Great space: great show – MA students suceed at Brighton

12 Jul

Jealousy is to be deplored  but I couldn’t help feeling a twinge to see the space that this year’s MA graduates at the University of Brighton had been allocated to show their work. There was a whole new exhibition area devoted to sculpture and the downstairs gallery was not interrupted by partitions as it has been when I was showing a year ago. This year the works had room to breathe and the graduating students made the very best of it. It was interesting to see how those who were first  years in 2014-15 had developed and it was also fascinating to see works from people whom I did not know, who had decided to go for the gruelling route of taking an MA in just a year.  In a varied and imaginative show here are a few of the pieces that caught my eye.


Kyunmin Kim: Traces of Time

I was particularly impressed by this work by full timer Kyunmin Kim, Traces of Time in the downstairs gallery,  it is beautifully embroidered, not on fabric but on wire mesh, which is torn in the middle. Writing about the work Kyuhmin explained that “even memories become faint with traces of time. The memory is still alive and is ready to come up to us at any time.“The statement seems a contradiction but then maybe that is the point of the work – the gaps in memory and the unexpected recall.

Doreen Munro started the MA at the same time as me but had a year out for family reasons. That year appears to have served her well.


Doreen Munro

I remember that Munro’s work often featured pieces being wrapped, or in some way concealed, but none, I felt,  had worked as successfully as the juxtaposition of the corrugated iron and the paper in this piece here. The newness, crispness and fragility of the paper was the perfect foil to the rusting iron.


Ruijong Hang: Non Linear Existence

Ruijing Hang another full timer’s work is hard to photograph; Non Linear Existence is constructed from white paint on clear acrylic. I particularly enjoyed its lyricism and dream-like quality. Among many showier pieces it demonstrated a quiet authority.

In marked contrast to Ruijing’s restraint was this playful piece by Yanting Li , You In. It was the first work I noticed on entering the sculpture exhibition and the humour and colour were particularly appealing



Yanting Li: You In

Caleb Madden’s works are hard to miss as his sound sculptures permeate both the main exhibition hall and performances in the sculpture exhibition. I particularly enjoyed Hot Fizz an ingenious work in which a bag of water was allowed to drip onto  a hot cooking hob making a satisfying hiss every time it did so, the sound of which was then amplified so that you did not at first understand its origins.


Caleb Madden: Hot Fizz

Among many excellent paintings I like this little one by Tori Day of a gimlet. Day specialises in celebrating common objects which might otherwise go unnoticed. It is painted on piece of 19th century floorboard. I liked the cleverness of the painted nails holding the painted paper on which the gimlet rests.


Tori Day: Gimlet

Susan Fynes polished and intricate geometric abstracts are always interesting. They take months to complete and I am just amazed at the patience and dedication that is involved. This one Hope is typical of her work – eye-bending but beautiful.

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Susan Fynes: Hope

The University of Brighton MA show is open until July 16, 10.00 – 5.00 at University of Brighton, Grand Parade, Brighton BN2 0JY  

Sculpture for Eastbourne Pier

21 Jun

Soon the judges will decide which of the four finalists will be commissioned to  make their sculpture to commemorate the fire on Eastbourne Pier. Yesterday we all set up our displays at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne. They were very different.

Phoenix Vane is the sculpture I designed with Caroline Pick who was a fellow student on the Brighton MA course. We have roped in James Price who is a blacksmith designer who lives near Lewes.

Phoenix Vane utilises girder from the pier as well as burnt wood and was inspired by the photographs of the enormous billow of smoke which the fire produced. The bird is a weather vane and the smokey tail will move in the wind while the beak of the bird will point out the wind direction.fire


Phoenix Vane: Sue McDougall and Caroline Pick with the Time and Tide Bell display in the background

Devon artist Marcus Vergette had a display of Time and Tide Bell;  Marcus is aiming to install twelve bells around the country and a number of these are already in place  including at Appledore, Devon, Bosta beach in the Outer Hebrides, Trinity Buoy Wharf in London and in  Aberdyfi, Wales, July 2011. The idea would be for it to hang under the pier. You could listen to the sound effect as the waves caused the bell to toll.

Certainly a strange and mournful sound and an exciting project, wonderful in an unpopulated part of the coast, but which might possibly become annoying to those living in the vicinity or even for holiday makers on a sunny but breezy afternoon.


Gulls by Cynthia de Wolf

Cynthia de Wolf had been inspired by the seagulls surrounding the pier and produced a striking seagull sculpture Gulls.

Finally, the London firm George King Architects produced Forged by Flame a sculpture which would be made out of the burnt twopenny pieces which were salvaged from the amusement arcade where the fire started. They hope that it would be a meeting point for people on the beach. The mystery hand which has somehow got itself in the photograph is not included.


Forged by Fire: George King Architects

The four sculptures will be on display  near the cafe at the Towner Gallery.  Devonshire Park, College Road, Eastbourne,BN21 4JJ until June 29

Members of the public are invited to comment to Sculpture@eastbourne.gov.uk  

If you felt moved to support Phoenix Vane – that would be very nice.











Doppelgänger at the Eagle Gallery

19 Jun

I often feel that artists should keep quiet about their works. I know that the concept is important and in some works the concept is everything but particularly with paintings you can sometimes see something marvellous on the wall and then read what it means and either find it is about something completely different from what you had imagined, or sounds so pretentious that it diminishes the work. Painters can often express complicated multi layered ideas in paint better than they can in words: that is why they are painters.

Explanations are not a problem with James Fisher, whose exhibition has just opened at the Eagle Gallery in the Farringdon Road. He believes in giving very little information, allowing the paintings to speak for themselves.We have the title of the exhibition: Doppelgänger which suggests an exploration of  identity and there are titles which in some cases are people’s names – Thomas Bernhard – Sophia Jex Blake, though there is no information about the people and no obvious link to the subject.

In other cases the names are ambiguous; Eiko could be referencing a Japanese born choreographer and dancer an illustrator or even a playable figure in Final Fantasy IV. Okiku is Japanese for doll and indeed looking it up I find there is an story of a supposedly haunted okiku where its hair is supposed to keep growing. Is that relevant? I liked the painting; do I need to know what it means?

Not even gallery owner Emma Hill knew quite how to interpret them  We discussed Thomas Bernhard shown below. “There is clearly a hat;” I said, “Are those rabbit ears? But what is the shape above the hat?”WP_20160617_16_12_02_Pro (2)

She too was unsure; “I don’t know; I’ve been trying to work it out. He will tell me eventually,” she said.

I rather liked the mystery; it made one look more closely at the paintings which are highly skilled. The paint is built up in layers, has been sanded and repainted so that elements of the original marks are evident. The geometric shapes add  complexity; whereas the recognisable representational shapes tend, as in this painting, to appear two dimensional, in some the geometric areas have a 3d effect that suggest flex and provide solidity.

Birds and cats are a reoccurring theme. In Margaret Morse Nice, the birds are apparent while in  Althea R, you realise that the bird is half hidden; the geometric patterns are in the shape of a cat’s head.JAMES-FISHER-Althea-R-2016-oil-on-linen-81-x-71cm-

But the painting I liked the best, Neko, which is the Japanese for cat, had, I thought at first, portrayed no cats at all.

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Then looking at the photographs later, I wondered whether the projections at the top were ears and the geometric part was a cat’s head. I hope not: I preferred to think of it as representing the brain or multi-faceted thought. That is the way with interpretation: sometimes you prefer your own.

James Fisher, Doppelgänger is at the Eagle Gallery, 159 Farringdon Road from 16 June to 16 July


Keeping busy

29 May

It’s over a month since I have posted on Artelogical. I have been busy doing art rather than writing about it due to a series of commitments that were all bunched together. While it is wonderful to be busy, at times it all seemed a bit much and I found myself quite looking forward to getting to the end of it. But such is human nature, that now that it is over and I have no immediate exhibitions on the horizon, I am not exactly fretting today, but can see that I might start fretting in a week or two if nothing turns up.

The run started back in February when I had an exhibition of my floating sculptures, Nostalgia for the Body at Tom’s Etching Studio in Hackney Wick; then there was getting the maquette ready as one of the four finalists for the competition for a sculpture to commemorate the fire on Eastbourne Pier.  That will be showing at the Towner Gallery in June.



I had arranged last summer to have an exhibition at the Olive Museum in Ano Gazea, near Volos in Greece to coincide with the Greek Easter which this year was on May 1. The Olive Museum is in the most perfect position overlooking the Pagasetic Gulf.


The view from the Olive Museum, Ano Gazea

Apart from displays about the olive industry, the museum also has a small exhibition space for contemporary art. With hindsight it might have been sensible to postpone, but the prospect of setting up an exhibition in the sun was just too tempting. It did provide the perfect space for my installation Stone, Sea, Skin which is about the short span of human existence in the context of geological time.


McDougall: Stone, Sea, Skin installation

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McDougall: Stone, Sea, Skin

At the same time I was trying to get my sculpture Flightpaths ready to be delivered to Broomhill for the finals of the National Sculpture Competition with a May 21st deadline. Flightpaths imagines the trajectory of birds and insects which have flown through the air at that spot in Broomhill in the past.

It is a huge honour to be one of the ten finalists. My sculpture will be in the park for a year. One of the ten will be chosen as overall winner by a panel of judges and the  public also have a chance to vote for their favourite.  Whilst winning either award would obviously be lovely, it was wonderful just to be part of it,  to see Flightpaths in place and also to meet other artists as well as the owners Rinus and Aniet and have a chance to look round the sculpture park and see the amazing works they have there.

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McDougall: Flightpaths


You can read about the process and how it developed in my posts on the Broomhill competition blog here

It was then back to Hastings on Saturday and on Monday I was setting up for my exhibition at Project 78 in St Leonard’s. It was the floating sculptures again – more of them than ever before.  This  is my attempt to persuade myself that mortality is all for the best. For my beings are disembodied spirits, missing their time on earth; whilst they have consciousness they lack agency; they cannot feel the sun on their backs or enjoy a good meal.


McDougall: Nostalgia for the Body



Or that was the idea – at the Private View last night, people told me that my beings were not unhappy, that they were enjoying themselves.

So the beings, nostalgic or possibly partying, remain for a short time at Project 78  and I am left looking for a different project. It’s not that I don’t have lots of ideas rather that I am unsure at the moment which one to pursue; that brings its own problems; with no immediate deadline, it gives me absolutely no excuse not to tidy up the studio.

Maud Cotter – capturing the intangible

12 Apr

It was back at the beginning of 2014 that I came round to the possibilities of cardboard; I had previously been sceptical that anything interesting could be made from it but I was impressed by the work of  Michelangelo Pistoletto at the Cent Quatre Arts Complex in Paris. In that case the cardboard was left pretty much in its natural state but was looped around to form a complex internal maze. My conversion to cardboard has just taken another jump forward with a visit to the extraordinarily discreet Domobaal gallery in Bloomsbury to see Matter of Fact, a solo exhibition by the Irish artist Maud Cotter.

Unlike Pistoletto,  Cotter does not adapt cardboard, but uses it as a raw material and transforms it through painstaking work into a thing of beauty. Her creations, which can take months to complete, start with cardboard of the three ply corrugated variety, the kind from which sturdy boxes are made. She slices it into thin strips about half a centimetre wide, dips the pieces into resin and reassembles them to create structures that appear both light and fragile, they can be supported, as in the work below, solely by thin yellow hand-tied mason’s line. But they are in fact tougher than they look.  I know that to be true as, unexpectedly, in view of the normal don’t touch rule, I was invited to tap one by the gallery owner. It didn’t feel like cardboard at all, but was hard like an eggshell.


Maud Cotter: Litter Bin

Look closely and you can see that the structure has been made up of panels, like some kind of three dimensional quilting. The photograph shows quite clearly how the strips of cardboard are teased into complex whorls and patterns.  For works which are so complex, they have surprisingly prosaic names: Litter Bin, for instance.  Writing about her work, Cotter explains that her aim is to hold on to intangible moments, which  I take to mean the very stuff of our everyday lives, which for most of us is prosaic enough. Although these creations involve a huge number of hours work, in their lightness of touch they resemble sketches in the air; there are the lines drawn in metal, delicate and intricate;  the cardboard forms are the shading.


Maud Cotter: Matter of Fact

Whilst it is the central form which first attracts attention, the surrounding stand,  is equally important; its little swirls of metal reflect the cylinder it contains. You can line these circles up and squint through them; it’s like looking down a telescope.

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Maud Cotter: Matter of Fact

The exhibition also includes other smaller works, there were some things downstairs which looked a bit like beakers of cappuccino. I liked the way the lines of the larger work were referenced by this wall mounted piece, Falling into Many Pieces  and then made double through the shadows cast by clever lighting.

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Maud Cotter: Falling into Many Pieces

Unlike many successful artists Cotter believes in making her works herself rather than handing it over to assistants or a fabricator. She cuts and bonds the cardboard, bends the mild steel of the stands over her knee  and then welds the pieces together, only to cut them up once the construction is made to insert hand made joints which allow the works to be assembled and disassembled.

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Look carefully and you can see the irregularities that this method produces. I like that. There are some who argue that the concept is all, and you should never make what others can do for you;  but for me the thumbprint of the artist adds something, intangible even, but important

Matter of Fact is showing at the Domobaal Gallery, 3 John Street, London WC1N 2ES, till May 14



Up against the Wall

3 Apr

If I had seen the maquette of Luke Hart’s Wall before seeing the full-sized version currently showing at the William Benington Gallery, I would have thought the work demanded a wide open space.


Luke Hart: Wall maquette

In fact, the way that this imposing flexible sculpture filled the gallery was really exciting. You couldn’t stand back to view it but had to edge round it but this was good because it gave visitors a chance to examine the strange rubbery joints which gave it flexibility.


Luke Hart: Wall

It was clear that it had to have been assembled in situ: it was far too large to go through the door. Apparently building it up like a super sized Meccano took three days. But the construction of the piece as a whole took five months. It involved  welding the steel pieces and producing joints by a special injection system which forced rubber into specially created moulds, which somehow left the intriguing gaps and gave the structure a strange organic element.

The booklet that accompanies the exhibition includes a quote by Oscar Wilde  from the Picture of Dorian Gray – “all art is useless.” Indeed this is a wall which gives the impression of  only just being able to support itself; it does not divide or contain. You could walk round it – or indeed if you were so minded go through it. The point I felt was its precariousness; despite the pull of gravity, it twisted but did not fall.


Luke Hart: Wall edition piece

The gallery owner told me that the whole thing can  be purchased for around £30,000 but small parts are available as an edition, a joint in its wooden box. You can even purchase part of it. But I very much hope someone buys the whole thing; it deserves to be kept together. It may be useless – you would have to stop the kids treating it as a climbing frame; it wouldn’t protect you from intruders or keep you warm but  it would give you a conversation piece. It could conceivably be mounted outside if it were laquered or the decision were made to let it rust, though I would be concerned how it would be pinned down. The exhibition proves you don’t  need a lot of space for it. I reckon it could fit in an even smaller area than the gallery. Just think, you could have your very own wall-room.

Wall is showing at the William Benington Gallery, 20 Arlington Way, London EC1R 1UY until 14 May 2016.



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