Harold Gilman at Pallant House

Harold Gilman – Canal Bridge, Flekkefjord, c.1913, oil on canvas © Tate London, 2018

The Harold Gilman exhibition currently on show at Pallant House Gallery is visually stunning.

Harold Gilman (1876–1919) has been described as an English Post-Impressionist. His portrayal of life in the early 20th century combines the gritty formality of the Camden Group of artists with the vitality of post impressionism.

Harold Gilman was a founder member of both the Camden Group and the Fitzroy Street Group. He enrolled at the Hastings School of Art in 1896 and in 1897 moved to the Slade School of Fine Art in London where he received a traditional training.

Gilman was influenced by the artists Walter Sickert and later Spencer Gore and Lucien Pissarro, all of whom had connections with and worked in Sussex. Gilman’s paint became more textural, a little more broken and opaque in texture. By 1912 he was being grouped with the Post Impressionists.

In 1912 and 1913 Gilman visited Sweden and Norway where he experimented with vivid colours often employing a patchwork of flat, simplified areas of paint as can be seen in his depiction of the Canal Bridge at Flekkefjord painted in 1913. Gilman’s work was never slavish to the current vogue – he took only what was necessary to his own needs. Even during his periods of experimentation Gilman would often work in a traditional way from drawings squared-up for transfer with colour notes. It was this practice which allowed him to present a complex subject like the scene at Flekkefjord in a painterly and coherent way with beautifully articulated compositions.

Harold Gilman – Interior with Mrs Mounter, c.1916/17, oil on canvas © Ashmolean Museum

Amongst the most famous of Harold Gilman’s pictures are those he painted in his lodgings at 47 Maple Street, Camden Town, London between 1914 and 1917. There is often an underlying discipline to the depiction of these interior scenes which lends them an internal dissonance contradicting the richness of his tone and palette. He revels in the mix of patterns, colours and objects – symbols of his middle-class upbringing. They are at once joyful and forlorn.

His paintings of women, whether nude or clothed, of whatever age or class, reveal a rare tenderness which is apparent in Interior with Mrs Mounter. Mrs Mounter was his housekeeper. Her apron, headscarf, the cloth covering the washstand in the background and her pose create a scene which seems ill at ease with itself. Gilman expresses the physical and social separation between Britain’s classes in the early 20th century as society changed. This was especially poignant for women and the issues of suffrage.

In 1919 at the age of just 43 Gilman fell victim to the flu epidemic and died. This exceptional exhibition gives a wonderful insight into the heights that this extraordinary and very British artist reached in the last years of his life. You must treat yourselves and go.

Harold Gilman – Beyond Camden runs until the 9th June 2019. The exhibition can be seen at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. For more information go to www.pallant.org.uk.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Contemporary Surrealist at Pallant House Gallery

Cathie Pilkington., RA, in her studio, 2017, courtesy of Eamonn McCabe’

London based artist Cathie Pilkington., RA, has been invited to create an installation at Pallant House Gallery, as part of the Royal Academy’s 250th anniversary celebrations. The exhibition is titled ‘Cathie Pilkington: Working from Home’ and explores motherhood and domesticity in an ambiguous way.

Pilkington creates her figurative work combining traditional fine art methods of modelling, carving and painting with craft techniques. Her doll-like forms transcend the everyday causing the viewer to explore in their imaginations an unconscious reality beyond their immediate perception.

Pilkington describes her use of the doll as “a fantastic, potent thing and a lot of that is a question of material and scale. Everyone who has a doll when they are growing up undresses it to look at how it’s made. You see the plastic limbs and the soft body and the perverse discrepancy between the two; you understand the false naturalism and you somehow want it to be more convincing. I think everyone has had that kind of experience with objects that pretend to be real.”

Cathie Pilkington’s ‘Twinkle’ and ‘Pietà 1: Playing Dead’ at Pallant House Gallery

Talking about this exhibition Cathie Pilkington comments “Being able to approach such a collection of works in the intimacy of domestic architecture is one of the things which first drew me to Pallant House Gallery. I am convinced that work made on an intimate scale, involving the viewer in close proximity has as much power to deal with big subjects as any macho museum scale art.”

The early 20th century avant-garde Surrealist movement in art and literature sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind juxtaposing images in seemingly irrational ways. Cathie Pilkington’s installation takes the form of a Surrealist exposé exploring the themes of motherhood, privacy, domesticity and the unconscious.

She draws heavily on the gallery’s collection and architecture rooting her own work in the intimate context of the house’s 18th century interiors. One of the delights of this show is the way that it allows you to see the collection through new lenses.

The installation is disruptive challenging the visitor to reconsider powerful cultural imagery to reveal what the artist perceives to be at the heart of familiar narratives. Her Pieta 1: Playing Dead is particularly disturbing in the company of the figure Twinkle. The room is hung with surreal and imaginative landscapes – works from the gallery’s collection by Edward Burra, John Craxton, Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland – which adds to this series of playful but unsettling juxtapositions.

This powerful exhibition is beautiful as well as thought provoking and Pilkington’s choice of works from Pallant House Gallery’s collection is exhilarating.

‘Cathie Pilkington: Working from Home’ runs at the Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant, Chichester, PO19 1TJ, throughout their winter season until 31st March 2019. For more information go to www.pallant.org.uk.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Norman Ackroyd’s Wild Islands at Pallant House

Norman Ackroyd, The Rumbling Muckle Flugga, Shetland, 2013 © The Artist

The celebrated Royal Academy print maker and watercolourist, Norman Ackroyd, is the subject of a retrospective exhibition titled Wild Isles at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. The show coincides with the RA250 celebrations.

Norman Ackroyd., CBE, RA, immerses himself in the wilderness of the landscape to paint and etch, creating intensely atmospheric work in the romantic tradition.

Norman Ackroyd has been attracting much attention in this his eightieth year. Speaking with the writer Robert Macfarlane on BBC Radio 4’s outstanding Only Artists series Ackroyd describes how he has focused on the landscape and especially the West Coast of Britain. His prints are representational. Using his visual and aural memory together with sketches made en plein air Ackroyd says “…I just get the atmosphere and feeling of how I felt then…that’s the image, and it’s an image which can’t be described…it’s like trying to catch a butterfly and it comes from memory…What I hope for most when I’m painting is for all my rational thoughts to disappear: my eye, heart and hand become connected, and then I can distil the real essence of the landscape.’

Norman Ackroyd works in aquatint. It was John Piper’s book Brighton Aquatints which was credited with the revival of this print technique in the 20th century.

The process of creating an aquatint involves exposing a plate, usually of copper or zinc, to acid through an applied layer of granulated, melted resin. The acid incises the plate between the granules creating areas of evenly pitted surface. This can be varied by applying additional resin, scraping and burnishing. Different strengths of acids are also employed. When the grains are removed and the plate is printed it results in variations of tone. The effect often resembles watercolours and wash drawings, hence the name Aquatint.

His study of the British Isles’ most northernmost point, Muckle Flugga, Shetland, is an image of a fixed place and point in time. The cliff has a real sense of mass. In contrast the birds, sea and sky are alive expressing movement. Ackroyd has said “…an etching is not the black ink, it’s the white paper you leave – it’s the reverse.”

Norman Ackroyd, On Twyford Down, Deacon Hill, 1993, etching on paper © The Artist

In contrast On Twyford Down, Deacon Hill captures the softer southern hills outside Winchester, though still with a sense of drama.

Rooted in the English tradition Norman Ackroyd’s work often relates to a place – a landscape. He brings a particular quality of engagement to his subjects, capturing the poetic, his emotional response and thoughts, as well as the essence of the physical reality.

‘Wild Isles’ runs until the 24th February 2019 and thanks to the generosity of sponsors, DeLonghi, admission to the exhibition is free. The exhibition can be seen at Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant, Chichester, PO19 1TJ. For more information go to www.pallant.org.uk.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Virginia Woolf’s writings are an inspiration

Dame Laura Knight, The Dark Pool (1908–1918), Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE, RA, 2018. All Rights Reserved

This summer’s must see exhibition in Sussex has just opened at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. It is titled ‘Virginia Woolf: an exhibition inspired by her writings’.

Inspired by the writing of Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), it explores women’s suffrage and the metaphors of landscape, the room and still lives; bringing together more than eighty works by leading Modern British and Contemporary women artists. The exhibition is born out of a partnership between Tate St Ives, Pallant House Gallery and The Fitzwilliam.

This visually stunning, light-filled show is beautifully curated and hung. The domestic scale of many of the paintings and objects are brought to life at Pallant House as the narrative of the exhibition cleverly unfolds in a series of rooms.
Although this is not a biographical exhibition it illustrates how Virginia Woolf constantly drew on her relationships and experiences in her writing to articulate a sense of self and place.

In her early childhood she spent every summer at Talland House in St Ives. She would recall how formative these early recollections were in A Sketch of the Past: ‘…lying half-asleep, half awake, in bed in the nursery of St Ives…hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind.’ Laura Knight’s oil painting, The Dark Pool similarly captures a fascination with the sea as a young woman stands on the rocks beside a shore looking reflectively into the pool’s depths, free in her thoughts. For Woolf the Landscape would often become a metaphor for a new freedom and power for women. In contrast through the metaphor of the room she would express the ambiguity in a place of potential autonomy and liberation which also symbolised societal restraint over women at the time.

Vanessa Bell, View of the Pond at Charleston, East Sussex, c.1919, oil on canvas, Museums Sheffield © Estate of Vanessa Bell / Henrietta Garnett

Vanessa Bell’s outward facing, liberated oil of the Pond at Charleston in Sussex is filled with light, movement and hope. It combines the landscape, room and still life.

Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell were sisters and throughout their lives they inspired and influenced each other’s work. They gathered around them a circle of influential Modern British women artists, many of whom are represented in the show.

Sussex, like Cornwall, played a significant part in Woolf’s life and work. Indeed Vanessa Bell only moved to Charleston in 1916 on her sister’s recommendation. The house would become a meeting place for the Bloomsbury Group.

In 1919 Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard bought Monk’s House in the village of Rodmell in East Sussex where she would live until her suicide in 1941. This 17th century cottage allowed her to write in the tranquillity of the Sussex Downs near to her elder sister Vanessa Bell who was extremely important to Woolf’s sense of her own self and wellbeing. Woolf loved to discuss art with her sister. This desire to learn was both personal and intellectual. It brought her closer to her sister and artistic friends who included Dora Carrington, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry and the author Vita Sackville-West.

I am delighted that Toovey’s, together with De’Longhi and Irwin Mitchell, are amongst the headline sponsors and supporters of this exceptional exhibition. ‘Virginia Woolf: an exhibition inspired by her writings’ runs at the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester throughout the summer until 16th September 2018.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Pop Art Records a Changing Britain

Pop artist Peter Blake and exhibition curators Claudia Milburn and Louis Weller with his iconic ‘The Beatles 1962’and ‘Girls with their Hero’ © Christopher Ison / Pallant House Gallery

Pallant House Gallery’s major spring exhibition ‘POP! Art in a Changing Britain’ celebrates the diversity of art created in the two decades after the Second World War.

This visually arresting exhibition has been put together by the Gallery’s new Senior Curator Claudia Milburn, and Curator Louise Weller.

Claudia Milburn explains “The key themes which emerged in Pop Art included American consumerism, popular culture, advertising, sex, glamour, celebrity, technology, science fiction and politics.” These themes are vividly explored through the works in the show. Many of them were generously gifted through the Art Fund by the architect Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson and his wife and fellow architect M.J. Long to Pallant House in 2006.

Wilson participated in the London Independent Group meetings in the 1950s where a generation of Post-War artists and architects came together. His very personal collection reflects his relationships with these artists. The members’ disparate approaches were united by a shared vision of a new era. Claudia says “Pop came about as a resistance movement, youthful in energy and spirit, breaking through in response to a time when traditional values were being challenged as never before. It was an attempt to redefine the boundaries between popular culture and fine art merging high and low culture.”

After post-war rationing and austerity these dramatic images signalled a new youth culture and unparalleled access to an explosion of images, film and popular music.

The artist Richard Hamilton would remark ‘…somehow it didn’t seem necessary to hold on to that older tradition of direct contact with the world.’

Peter Blake’s work offered a dialogue between new and traditional forms of popular culture. In his painting ‘The Beatles 1962’ (c.1963-68) he reflects on the nature of celebrity. This theme is repeated in the earlier ‘Girls with their Hero’ (c.1959-62) where the Elvis phenomenon is expressed through the imagery of mass-produced pictures in newspapers, photographs and posters.

Richard Hamilton, Swingeing London ’67, 1968, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Wilson Gift through The Art Fund, 2006) © The Estate of the Artist. All rights reserved, DACS 2018

One of my favourite images in the show is Richard Hamilton’s ‘Swingeing London 67’ (c.1968). Louise Weller describes how it actually relates to an incident in Chichester rather than London. The piece was based on a press photograph which ‘shows Mick Jagger and gallery owner Robert Fraser handcuffed together, seen through the window of a police van as they arrive at the court in Chichester to be charged for unlawful possession of drugs.’ Hamilton’s depiction brings into focus the tension between the liberalism of the sixties and societal restraints on personal choice. The image also provides a commentary on our relationship with the motor vehicle whilst the framing gives it a cinematic quality.

These works provide as relevant a commentary on our society today as they did when they were produced some fifty years ago and it is this spring’s must see show in Sussex. ‘POP! Art in a Changing Britain’ runs at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until 7th May 2018 for more information go to www.pallant.org.uk.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.