Chapman Brother (singular) at Sussex Coast College

“Run for the Hills the Chapman Brothers are coming,” the slightly annoying poster at Sussex Coast college said, annoying because it meant the opposite, just in the way that businesses calling themselves the Secret Toy-shop or referring to themselves as the best kept secret don’t actually want you to stay away. At the due time – 12.00 on Friday – some seventy or more students congregated in one of the classrooms and we waited. The report went round that Dinos was not coming, and we waited some more. Then we heard that Jake was parking and would soon arrive and we waited a bit longer.  Then we heard there were problems on the motorway.  He was not exactly up to the Justin Bieber standard of keeping  people waiting but when you are trying to get work finished  before your final exhibition, you can think of better ways to spend time.

Students at Sussex Coast College getting ready for the Gap,am Brothers
Students at Sussex Coast College getting ready for the Chapman Brothers

At 1.00 some people started wondering whether this was performance art and just about everybody disappeared for a bit to find something to eat. Finally at about 1.20 when most of them had come back, Jake arrived accompanied by some bloke who sat up at the front and didn’t introduce himself. I guess he was a PR. Jake seemed very affable and rather bored and the PR kept talking which was irritating, as we were there to hear Jake.

Jake Chapman and unintroduced bloke talking to art students at Sussex Coast College
Jake Chapman and presumed PR bloke talking to art students at Sussex Coast College

Damien Hirst had been on Desert Island Discs that morning and Jake told us he was a good chap and implied he didn’t much like Tracey Emin because of her attitude to tax and because she was a Conservative supporter, which seemed fair enough. He explained about making a replica of her tent, All the people I have every slept with,” the one which got burnt in the fire at the Momart Warehouse. “We called it  ‘The same only better’ “and went on to say that they had been thinking about making a number of replica tents, which people could sleep in at a music festival. So that sounded quite fun.

A few of us asked questions – I asked about the relationship the brothers had with each other, which he had clearly been asked a million times and then about whether they had ever rejected any idea on grounds of taste and Jake said they didn’t set out to shock – which you might believe, or again you might not;  but it was all quite friendly and jokey.

Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal
Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal : Chapman Brothers

Then one student asked why his work featured pre-pubescent girls, which seemed a fair question but brought a slightly odd reaction. Now anybody who knows anything about the Chapman brothers, must be aware of the fibreglass mannequins which have penises instead of noses. Not everybody will know the name of the work, which is quite a mouthful  – Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal. Instead of answering the question, Jake started prevaricating about which work she was referring to, and then the PR stepped in and said they weren’t human, and Jake said they weren’t pre-pubescent and it was easy to misunderstand, or something like that. Then his mobile went and we didn’t get a full answer and he went off to talk to someone more important. We had had all of 20 minutes.

I reckon if you are a celebrity artist you ought to be able to manage to talk to a bunch of art students without a PR to support you. If you have one,  you really ought to have a ready answer to questions like that. One possible answer might be that he depicts pre-pubescent girls to satirise the way that the media sexualises them. That they are ‘not human’ really won’t do,  particularly when the dehumanisation of women and girls is part of what drives rape culture.

That evening Jake was holding a session at the Jerwood Gallery. I had the offer of a ticket, but I decided I had had enough. Those that went said it was quite good fun. He had people playing Exquisite Corpse, you might have played the game at school. You  fold up paper and then different people draw  heads, bodies and feet and you unfold the paper and – bingo – you have a result.  It sounds as if a reasonably good time was had by all. A group of Sussex College Students almost won the competition for the best drawing. They were down to the final two.   The first prize was a visit to the Chapman Brothers studio. The second prize – you’ve guessed it  – was two visits to the Chapman Brothers studio – actually it wasn’t – I made that bit up.

Tom Hammick and Patrick Adam Jones’s Map

About a year ago, Julian Bell, Tom Hammick and Andre Jackowski held what was billed as a joint exhibition  – Dreams of Here at Brighton Museum. In the event the result was more like three separate exhibitions; not only were the three artists in separate rooms but even of the colour of the walls of the rooms were different. So when Hammick and Patrick Adam Jones were invited hold an exhibition together at the Baker Mamonova Gallery  in St Leonards, the two artists were keen that the exhibition should be a dialogue. When I visited Map this weekend, the paintings in the window gave an initial impression that they might have succeeded. Inside  it was clear that whilst the pair might have arrived at the party together, once there, they merely nodded politely at each across the room rather than engaged in deep discussion.

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Paintings by Tom Hammick and Patrick Adam Jones in the window of the Baker Mamonova Gallery

It was hardly surprising; their styles are very different. Tom Hammick’s are the more representational; shacks, gardens and people, particularly his wife and daughter, frequently feature in his works and while the viewer may not immediately understand all the thinking that goes into the painting, they will have a fair idea of what it that they are looking at. In contrast, Patrick Adam Jones works are often layered and the details may be partly obscured so that the complexity only becomes apparent through study.  Hammick chooses bright, bold, vibrant colours – he achieves some wonderful blues and purples; Adam Jones frequently favours shades of white and near white and works in wax which give the works an extraordinary translucency. They come together to some extent in the size of the works and, in this exhibition, there was supposedly the link of the map, though it was somehow rather hard to spot: Adam Jones sometimes uses maps as a base for his works and with  Hammick the works are – well – loosely connected to places – but then aren’t most things?

It was interesting to see how the artists had developed over the last year. Hammick’s works were familiar;  the subject matter and colours were those one has come to expect. They included the woodcut of the Exon filling station and the painting Compound which both appeared at Brighton last year and an extremely desirable print Edgelands, which has also appeared before in different colour combinations – all classic Hammick works. There were also some new paintings, on a smaller scale than I had seen hitherto, including Orchard a simple but beautifully coloured painting of a ladder against a tree and Island Study.

Tom Hammick: Compound
Tom Hammick: Compound
Tom Hammick: Island Study
Tom Hammick: Island Study

Adam Jones had a number of his wax based paintings in the exhibition, such as Inside, shown below. I like the way with these works that you can see different elements in different lights.

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Patrick Adam Jones:Inside

There was  a departure in the highly complex piece,  Of Course, a large mixed media piece, involving a collection of works on paper behind glass on which he had applied a series of digits.

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Patrick Adam Jones: of Course

It was interesting and I was intrigued by the way the digits were more evident against some of the backgrounds than against others; this was a work which needed time appreciate the different elements. I particularly liked the way that the numbers gave the impression of the passing of time.  But, probably annoyingly since it must have taken  ages to create, some of the water colours impressed me as much – there was a  series of nine that worked extraordinarily well together.

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Patrick Adam Jones: Watercolours

There were some of the familiar words which Adam Jones has used in many of his paintings – I could have been a farmer but these little paintings which had clearly been done quickly had a freshness and somehow a sense of mystery which made you want to study them and which I really liked. So it appears do other people; three had been bought already; I predict it will not take long before the others are gone as well.

Map is showing at the Baker Mamonova Gallery in  43-53 Norman Road, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex  until June 1.

The allure of an irregular sun

I have been thinking about the shape of the sun. You know it is definitely round because you can see it is in the early morning, or behind cloud or come to think of it in these extraordinary pictures by NASA. The rest of the time you can’t see the shape of it because, if it is out and shining it is simply too bright to look at. I have been reflecting on the appearance of the sun because I have just spent a few days with friends staying with prolific landscape artist Jean-Claude Roy and his Canadian wife Christina at their beautiful farmhouse in the heart of the Charente-Maritime. Roy is quite an extraordinarily successful artist, represented by some 15 galleries in France, Canada and the US. He finds it hard to keep up with the demand for his work.

Jean-Claude Roy is seen in the rear of his studio surrounded by his paintings
Jean-Claude Roy preparing paintings for exhibition in his studio

He must also be one of the most productive artists alive today. Some  forty-five years ago he read that Picasso had painted 10,000 works in the course of his lifetime. Roy decided to see if he could do the same. He reckons that so far he has totalled 6,800. Some 800 of his paintings of Newfoundland ‘outports’ – fishing villages – have been brought together in a book designed by Christina; already it is on its second printing.

When I caught up with him, he was busy preparing for his next exhibition and there were paintings everywhere in the large airy studio where the works are finished. While Roy works in the French impressionist tradition by painting outside, he also likes to view his paintings under artificial light because that is how they will be seen when purchased.

A painting by Jean-Claude Roy is on a table outside his studio
A painting by Jean-Claude Roy of the market at Saintes
The same square as shown in Jean-Claude Roy's painting of the market at Saintes
The square at Saintes where the market took place

Roy specialises in the landscapes of the Charente-Maritime and of Newfoundland and, possibly because it may be difficult to paint in the open on rainy days, the sun appears in many of his paintings and has become something of a trademark. He explained to me that while the landscapes he paints are all of actual places, the sky is largely abstract. In early works the sun appears to have started out as an orb but one day after trying to peer at the sun too closely he was left with black spots in front of the eyes which lasted for days; after that the suns in his paintings became black and dotty, then over time he came to depict them as black in an otherwise sunny sky.  These days the sun is more usually an irregular shape but often with a black edge.

 A painting in the studio of Jean-Claude Roy; it has a characteristic black sun
A painting by Jean-Claude Roy showing a black sun
A painting of the Charente Maritime landscape in Jean-Claude Roy's studio
A work being finished in Jean-Claude Roy’s studio

Amazingly, after looking at the landscapes in the studio and then touring round the Charente-Maritime  and seeing the old towns, the ‘claires’, salt water ponds, where the famous oysters are produced, and noticing the extraordinary light of the region produced by the mixture of land and marsh and sea, not only did the landscape seem more and more to resemble one of his paintings but the sun itself coming out behind cloud, seemed to take on that characteristic irregular shape with a black edge.

More paintings can be seen on Roy’s website: