Hockney to Himid – Common Stories Told in Print

Lubaina Himid, Birdsong Held us Together, 2020, lithograph © the artist

The current exhibition at Pallant House Gallery, Hockney to Himid – 60 years of British Printmaking, is drawn from the gallery’s remarkable collection of prints gifted by the teachers Dr Mark Holder and Brian Thompson over twenty years.
Across the centuries the world’s greatest artists have been drawn to the mediums of print. This exhibition focuses on the modern British artists of the 20th century including artists like Frank Auerbach, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, Richard Hamilton, Graham Sutherland and Lucian Freud. And from the 21st century contemporary artists like Paula Rego, Bridget Riley and Lubaina Himid.

This processional exhibition highlights the extraordinary breadth of expression of experiences in print.

During the 2020 lockdown Hepworth Wakefield commissioned a group of artists to create works to engage primary school children. Amongst these artists was Lubaina Himid who produced the lithograph Bird Song Held us Together. Commenting on the project she stated “It is vital that our young people can feel that they are important to us and begin to understand that we are all committed to investing in every way we can to help them expand and extend their potential.”

Over the last decade, Himid has earned international recognition for her figurative work. Her background in theatre design is often apparent. Her art and life is currently the subject of a major exhibition at Tate Modern. Described as ‘a cultural activist’ she explores Black experience and women’s creativity.
Himid often commentates on overlooked and invisible aspects of history and the experience of contemporary everyday life as in the lithograph on paper, Birdsong Held us Together. It is an expression and commentary on how important nature became to the national experience during the early months of lockdown. I am moved to remember how bird song rose like an anthem in the silence that accompanied the absence of cars and planes. The lithograph provides a powerful expression of a shared narrative. Common stories which bind us together as communities.

Lucian Freud, Kai, 1992, etching © The Lucian Freud Archive/Bridgeman Images

Lucien Freud’s highly personal study of his stepson, Kai, captures not only the physical but the emotional state of the sitter. Freud was close to almost all the people he portrayed. The studies were born out of lengthy, intense sessions which would last for hours over days or weeks.

Here, Kai is shown casually dressed against a stark background. The setting contrasts with the detailed depiction of his facial features. Although he had exacting standards for his etchings, Freud embraced unintentional marks transferred from plate to print and faint lines that came from modifications to the composition.

This generous exhibition born out of the gift of two teachers over decades is a delight to the eye and imagination. Hockney to Himid – 60 years of British Printmaking runs at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester until the 24th of April 2022.

Old Masters and the Modern Art Show

Jean Antoine Watteau, Etude de Quatres Personnages, avec Deux Femmes Assises, c.1708, Sanguine chalk on paper © Pallant House Gallery

This week I am returning to Pallant House Gallery in Chichester to see Old Masters, Modern Masters, Drawings from the Hussey Bequest.
This small, jewel like exhibition showcases some of the most beautiful and significant objects in the gallery’s collection. The selection of old master drawings, ballet prints and British landscape watercolours are taken from The Very Reverend Dean Walter Hussey’s collection.

In the exhibition’s accompanying essay Simon Martin, Director of Pallant House Gallery, explains that by their very nature drawings are vulnerable to light and can only be exhibited very occasionally. He describes them as ‘hidden secrets’. So it is a great treat to see so many on display at one time.

Walter Hussey’s collection of artworks became the founding collection of Pallant House Gallery some 40 years ago.

Hussey held the conviction that so long as the quality was right there was no barrier to placing art of different periods side-by-side, a principle he applied to his commissions of Modern British Art at Chichester Cathedral during his time there as Dean.

Hussey often selected works on the advice of the modern British artist who he worked with. The beautiful sanguine chalk drawing of a group of figures by the French rococo artist Jean Antoine Watteau from 1708 is a good example of this. He purchased the drawing on the advice of the sculptor Henry Moore. The accomplished depiction of the drapery of the ladies’ dresses gives them form. Henry Moore often incorporated figure groups into his own work.

Henry Moore, Two Sleepers, 1941 Crayon, chalk and wash on paper © Pallant House Gallery

This is apparent in the study Two Apprehensive Shelterers from 1942. Henry Moore’s depiction of these two vulnerable figures has a poignancy which speaks into our own times with the experience of the people of Ukraine. It is one of a body of work known as his Shelter Drawings which Moore produced as a war artist during the Blitz. Returning to his studio, the Shelter Drawings were often made from his memory of the experience of people sheltering underground as the bombs fell on London and elsewhere. The figures are depicted with dignity recording feelings of confinement and claustrophobia. Whilst the figures are anonymous the relationships between them is clear.

Other drawings on show include Hussey’s passion for Old Masters and the British landscape with watercolours by Giulio Romano, Thomas Gainsborough, John Robert Cozens, Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland and others.

Old Masters, Modern Masters, Drawings from the Hussey Bequest, provides an insight into the tastes, influences and thinking of one of the 20th century’s most important patrons of art. It runs until 10th April 2022.

Shipley Arts Festival 2022 Launched at Toovey’s

Andrew Bernardi and Maria Marchant at the 2022 Shipley Arts Festival launch
Andrew Bernardi and Maria Marchant at the 2022 Shipley Arts Festival launch

Community and enduring friendships were celebrated through the music of Andrew Bernardi’s Shipley Arts Festival which this year was launched at Toovey’s Washington salerooms.

The celebration began with a dinner in support of Chestnut Tree House at Arundel Castle. Mike Rymer, Chair of the charity’s trustees, greeted guests in the library before the dinner which was hosted by Henry, Earl of Arundel who spoke passionately about the work of our remarkable children’s hospice.

Malcolm Singer, the former Director of Music at the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music and current Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London had written a remarkable piece for this year’s festival with solos for Andrew and his Stradivarius violin and one of the talented young musicians at the heart of Andrew’s work, Grace Shearing. The piece is profoundly moving capturing the joys and sorrows of our human experience of the world. The violin solos are light-filled dancing hopefully above an underlying lament which draws on the Jewish tradition. Malcolm said “It was very special to première Eli, Eli Fantasy at Arundel, and it was a lovely experience working with those young musicians and Andrew.”

At the Festival launch on Sunday evening at Toovey’s Andrew Bernardi was once again joined by the acclaimed Sussex born British pianist Maria Marchant whose performance of Roderick Williams’ Goodwood by the Sea (written for the festival and Maria) delighted the festival supporters and friends. It was lovely to see another celebrated Sussex musician, Victoria Greenwood, returning to the festival. Victoria with her Viola played Rebecca Clarke’s I’ll bid my heart be still, inspired by the Thomas Pringle Poem of love and loss was beautiful, timely and moving.

Grace Shearing, a member of Andrew’s String Academy showed a maturity beyond her 15 years. She captured the audience with her passionate rendition of the 2nd movement of Bruch’s violin concerto.

Andrew and Maria transported us with Edward Elgar’s Sospiri Op.70 The festival launch concluded with Andrew an Maria treating us to Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending.

The festival celebrates the local, national and international qualities of our nation gathering a community of many of the nation’s leading musicians whilst providing pathways to emerging talent. This work is recognised and supported by the Arts Council of Great Britain.

Speaking about the festival’s sponsors Andrew says “What we have in common with our sponsors, musicians and supporters is that we care about people and bringing our communities together.”

As the longest standing sponsor of the Shipley Arts Festival I am delighted that Toovey’s and myself remain at the heart of this remarkable celebration of music and community. Together with our fellow sponsors Kreston Reeves, Nyetimber, NFU Mutual at Henfield and Chichester, Wakefields and YuYuan Art, we look forward to West Sussex continuing to be at the centre of our nation’s musical life thanks to the determination and talent of Andrew Bernardi.

For more information on the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival concerts go to www.bmglive.com.

John Hitchens: Inhabiting the Landscape through Art

Artist John Hitchens in his Sussex studio © Anne-Katrin Purkiss

Nothing can prepare you for the scale, drama and beauty of John Hitchens’ work. Following on from his important and celebrated retrospective exhibition Aspects of Landscape at Southampton City Art Gallery in 2020 John Hitchens’ work is the subject of a selling exhibition, Convergence, at the Felix and Spear Gallery in London.

Born in 1940 John Hitchens has spent most of his life living in the Sussex landscape which continues to inspire him.

The perspective of the paintings and three-dimensional works converge gifting the viewer with a sense of inhabiting, of being present in a landscape. The show focuses on John Hitchens’ artistic output during the first decades of the 21st century.

A period of aerial photography over the South Downs and a love of maps with their contours were the catalysts for these increasingly abstract landscapes from the last twenty years. Forms are reduced to a series of lines, dots, circles and patterns which provide motifs for the shapes created by ploughing and harvesting. The dots and the black areas in the compositions recall burnt stubble, a sight no longer part of our landscape. As you stop and stare subtle details reveal themselves. They reflect our human relationship with the land and our influence on the landscape. These qualities are reflected in the painting Convergence with its dramatic charcoal ground. The dots and furrows are expressed in earth hues.

Throughout his career John has often renewed his exploration in art by putting to one side those things which have been central to his work, brushwork, the relationship of the sky to the land, in order to develop and evolve his artistic voice and creativity. He has described how, in order to move forward, he got rid of the skyline by ‘tipping the land up’.

John Hitchens – Convergence, oil, circa 2001 © the artist

Although these points of decisive change can appear revolutionary he is a processional artist whose art remains about the landscape he is rooted in. His early work was painted en plein air but today John works in his studio giving voice to the unspoken conversations between found objects, nature, the landscape and music in his art.

John Hitchens’ prodigious creativity is born out of a generous discipline of ‘looking quietly’. There is a profound sense of inhabiting, of being truly present in the landscape in his work. He describes painting as a ‘calling’. His artistic practice is driven by both curiosity and delight in the familiar woods, fields, coast and Downs of Sussex. His life and art lend credence to the truth that you can journey far by remaining in the same place.

John Hitchens – Convergence runs until 27th March 2022 and John will be at the gallery between 12 noon and 3.00pm this coming Saturday 12th March 2022. To find out more visit www.johnhitchens.com.