Nicholas Usherwood, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Federation of British Artists / Mall Galleries and Chairman of its Exhibitions Committee, tells us of four works from Buy Art | Buy Now which stood out for him.
After a variety of careers as a lecturer in art-schools, administration (at the Royal Academy) and exhibition organisation, Nicholas has spent the last 40 years as a freelance writer and consultant, nearly twenty of those as Features Editor of Galleries Magazine, a position he still holds. A particular passion has been 20th Century British Art, in particular, the resurrection, through exhibitions and catalogues, of the reputation of many of its unjustly neglected heroes – Algernon Newton, Tristram Hillier, Richard Eurich, Evelyn Williams and Sir Alfred Munnings among them. That said, supporting the work of still practising artists is still no less important to him, again through writing and exhibitions.
Luminous Wind, £2,330
Contemporary art from Cornwall is going through a remarkable revival currently as a whole new generation of younger artists creates an incredibly vibrant and hugely varied body of work, far removed from the pale imitations of Ben Nicholson, Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron that have characterised it for so long now. Penzance-born Louise McClary is very much at the forefront of this development, her intensely mysterious and richly coloured semi-abstract canvases filled with references to the paradisical and strange landscape of the Helford River on her studio doorstep. 'Luminous Wind' is a fine example, a visual poem in which elements of the landscape – reed and tree-forms and areas of gleaming water - are brought together in a resonant harmony of pinky-grey-greens, lemony yellows and rusty reds. A felt landscape as well as a closely observed one.
Joan Yardley Mills, £7,600
At first sight Peter Clossick's portraits and single figures, empirically observed and set down in thick impasto paint, would seem to belong firmly in that Bomberg and Euston Road tradition that runs through Auerbach, Kossoff and Lucien Freud even, their almost sculptural use of paint an equivalence of matter set against the physical realities of the people and rooms depicted - “the spirit in the mass” that Bomberg so urgently sought. Clossick then takes the whole thing a stage further, as in this powerful, reflective portrait of Joan Yardley Mills, where he succeeds in giving to her image a powerful sense of the inward as well, so that they come to possess what, as the critic Corinna Lotz has acutely observed, feels like “an otherworldly awareness of the transience of things.”
Tea in the Garden, £3,100
I first came across June Berry's work 10 years or so ago when she wrote to me out of the blue asking me to write a text to accompany a CD of her work that she about to have issued. I went to her Beckenham studio and was immediately entranced by the complete pictorial world that she conjured out of a life lived between South-East London and deep rural France and the real feeling that she was able to convey of people's lives in the landscapes she portrayed. Now in her 90s driving to France is no longer feasible but she still works with an altogether undiminished vigour and feeling, her dense, almost Bonnard-like textures and subtle tonalities, as in 'Tea in the Garden', deployed on an albeit rather smaller scale, convey an evocative sense of the passing seasons. In the process time and place, along with memory, all play crucial roles in June Berry's subtle art.
Beatrice Forshall, £980
Natural history illustration has been in my blood since childhood when I first came across books with images by Audubon, Edward Lear and Charles Tunnicliffe in them. Later, in the 1970s I had the privilege to organise an exhibition of Tunnicliffe's measured drawings and notebooks at the Royal Academy and met the artist. So when I saw Beatrice Forshall's beautiful and distinctive work on the BABN site it was, as they say a 'no brainer'. I was particularly struck by her stunning black and white image of 'Osprey', a drawing of wonderful clarity and power, combining a quite remarkable technical skill with a quiet intensity of feeling. Forshall, who trained in illustration at Falmouth College of Art, combines her activities as artist and book illustrator with her work as a committed environmentalist, particularly for the charity Survival International. She is too one of a talented younger generation of wild-life artists that are, in a sense, re-inventing the genre all over again for 21st Century