Viewing the New English Art Club in Quarantine

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Quarantined at home for 10 days after visiting her mum in her hometown of Lisbon, Portugal, Jessica used some of this time to browse the New English Art Club Annual Exhibition online.

“My most favourite is ‘Orange’ by Hashim Akib, the bright colours and sharp contrast are so beautiful. It makes me remember hot summer days being outside with friends having drinks and ice cream. The painting is of Vinegar Yard, in London Bridge, an area I know well from having previously worked nearby. But this scene could be anywhere that the sun shines.”

Hashim Akib Orange Acrylic 66 x 81 cm £1,100

“I also really like ‘Studio Scene’ by Kayoon Anderson. The attention to detail in the clothing and building outside the window is fantastic. I love the warm colours in this portrait of a girl reading a book. Having an interest in True Crime myself, I am also fascinated by this being a location used by The Clerkenwell Crime Syndicate, ‘the Adams Family’; the tape on the window covering a bullet hole according to the artist! I’m now following Kayoon on social media, there are many more of her works that I like. I hope to see her work in person once my period of self-isolation is over.”

Kayoon Anderson Studio Scene Oil 88 x 63 cm £2,000

Jessica Dias is an Administrator at the Royal Courts of Justice, London.

She'll be returning to work and gallery visiting this week, after completing her period of self-isolation and testing negative for covid.

If you are also self-isolating, you can view the exhibition online and take our virtual tour. If you are out and about, book a ticket to come and see the show in person (just remember to wear your face mask!)

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Hashim Akib, Orange (detail)

New English Art Club member, Charles Williams, on hanging the NEAC Annual Exhibition

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New English Art Club member, Charles Williams, on hanging the NEAC Annual Exhibition 2021

The first time I got involved properly in hanging the Annual Exhibition I was Tom Coates’ gopher. He was the big cheese: we used to race each other to get to the gallery first and I always won, because I lived in Hackney at the time and the bus got me there before Tom’s T Cruiser was parked in Carlton House Terrace. The problem was that he knew how to get in the doors before me. ‘I won’ he would say. Then we’d spend a couple of hours lugging paintings around the gallery. He never said much - it was pretty early - but we’d work out roughly what was going where before anyone else turned up.

There are hundreds of paintings to find a spot for. It’s not like hanging a degree show or a solo show, where you are telling individual stories in a space, or like a curated exhibition, where there’s a theme, an idea that you need to explore. In a show like this, you are trying to get every single painting to show itself at its best, alongside all the others. And there are so many others.

There’s the famous story about Turner letting Constable hang his vividly coloured painting next to his own, misty seascape and then putting in a Venetian Red funnel in the middle of his grey harmonies, which made the Constable look gauche and overdone. I don’t know that I buy that story now. I am not sure that effect would have lasted long anyway. Constable didn’t really make unsubtle colour decisions after all. But it’s the anxiety you have - will my decision to put this painting next to that painting make one of them look dull or the other clumsy? With such a large show, how can you make all these relationships work?

The answer is of course that you don’t. Well, I don’t. When Tom handed over the job to me, at an Executive Committee meeting when he became our second ever President, I was flattered. Then he explained that the reason was that sometimes artists were upset by where we hung their paintings and that, as a big chap, they’d think twice about taking a swing at me. It’s never happened! But it might. I delegate the hanging; anyone in the Club is welcome to lend a hand, and I put people in charge of different sections, after I’ve sort of worked out the larger decisions, where the big works will go, whether we should group all the smaller pictures together and so on. I take the responsibility though and if a swing is taken, it should be at me.

An example of what gardeners might call ‘companion hanging’ that I did make though is placing Robert Wells’ paintings with Peter Brown’s - I was very surprised to see the correspondence between colours and tonalities in paintings with such differing intentions. Funnily enough, I hung Toby Ward’s wonderfully playful and extremely vivid work, with Laura Smith’s right opposite them - again, such surprising correspondences. There’s another strange grouping elsewhere, Ken Howard’s with Paul Gildea’s and Grant Watson’s, but they’re just the ones that spring to my mind.

One of the most interesting things this year was the route that visitors must take, turning right at the front doors and going around the East Gallery first, and the big screens in the middle of the West Gallery. The New English Art Club is a rambunctious and unconforming lot but one thing we all agree on is the importance of spending time drawing from observation, and the path we ask visitors to follow moves through a section dedicated to work on paper. There are also walls of small, eminently possessable paintings as well as huge great show-off things like my own. Who’s going to put a painting like that in their house? Well, that’s not entirely the point; the New English Art Club’s ethos is not in making sales - there are private galleries who do that job - but in artists setting their own standards of what’s good in painting. Perhaps after all the Chief Hanger does have a theme to explore in the Annual Exhibition: it’s ‘this is what good painting looks like’.

The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition runs at Mall Galleries from 25 June to 3 July 2021.

New English Art Club Annual Exhibition Prizes & Awards 2021

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The New English Art Club and Mall Galleries are delighted to announce the Prizes & Awards from the New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2021. 

Congratulations to all artists who have been awarded prizes by our generous prize givers. 

The exhibition is open at Mall Galleries until Saturday 3 July. 

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If you cannot make the exhibition we hope that with videos, audio, images, and statements by the winners to watch, hear, see, and read, you can experience and enjoy their works wherever you are.

Prizes Winners include:



The Doreen McIntosh Prize

Paul Newland NEAC

The Deanery by the River

A prize of £5,000 to reflect the best in figurative painting in British Art.

The Doreen McIntosh Prize is for an artist whose work fulfils the New English Art Club’s ideals of rigour, immediate engagement with the visual and a searching attitude.

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Chris Beetles Gallery Prize for Figurative Art

Cherryl Fountain

At Home with Waggis

£2,500 for a non-member artist. Selected by Chris Beetles of Chris Beetles Gallery, St James's, London

“The Chris Beetles Gallery £2,500 Prize choice is a perfectly observed antidote to lockdown; closeted, cluttered, comfortable and consolingly domestic. 

I have watched Cherryl’s consistent professionalism with admiration for more than 30 years and recommend her to all buyers and exhibiting societies” – Chris Beetles

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The Dry Red Press Award

Cherryl Fountain

At Home with Waggis

The winning work will be published as a greeting card in the Dry Red Press 'Prize Winners' range, with royalties from the sale of the cards going to the artist.

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The Hermione Hammond Drawing Award

Zuzanna Salamon

I've Been Looking for Someone to Share my Light

£2,000 for a drawing by an emerging artist aged 35 or under


The Bowyer Drawing Prize

Andrew Barrowman

Tree Study

Selected by the Bowyer family, £500

 

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The Winsor & Newton Award

Chris Polunin

Space

Art materials to the value of £500

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The Peter Ashley Framing Prize

Tim Benson NEAC PROI RP

Daphne, Haringey Resident

Presented by The Artistic Framing Company: A bespoke handmade picture frame will be created for the winning work, to the value of £500

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The Michael Harding Award

Sarah Spencer VPNEAC

Whitstable Wide Seascape

£500 worth of art materials

The estuarine coast between Whitstable and Seasalter is a favourite place to paint. It’s a walk I do each day, and the light and weather approaching over mudflats is changeable and always engaging, even on the murkiest of afternoons.

I’m delighted to have won the Michael Harding prize, and it’s particularly fitting that this painting was painted with a considerable amount of Michael Harding’s titanium and warm white oils!

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The NEAC Critics' Prize

Richard Pikesley PPNEAC

Eggardon, Cattle and Western Sky

A prize of £250

The location is an iron age hillfort close to where I live in West Dorset. I've walked and painted up here for more than forty years. The high hill gives long views out to the coast running down into Devon. The light here in the moments around dusk is a theme I return to often.

The grazing cattle, which a few minutes before are visually very prominent in the landscape begin to merge with the hillside. I can hear their breath and their chomping at the grass as I shove the paint about trying to make sense of what I'm seeing.

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New English Scholar

Nicholas Baldion

A scholarship awarded by the New English Art Club to emerging artists with the most promising portfolios


New English Scholar

Juliet Levy

A scholarship awarded by the New English Art Club to emerging artists with the most promising portfolios.



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Empty Chairs in the New English Art Club Annual Exhibition

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An empty chair in a piece of figurative artwork is often representative of the person who would sit in it, so they are, in a sense, a form of portraiture. In addition, a chair is a highly personal object. We form a strong sense of ownership to our items of furniture, and the chair implies rituals. For example, in the family home, each family member may be attached to their chair or sit in a specific spot at a particular time of day.

From the depictions of chairs, we can begin to ascertain a sense of the personality of their owners. This is because the chair acts as a stand-in for a person, characterising what would otherwise be an empty space but reminding us of the potential presence of a human. 

Cherryl Fountain At Home with Waggis Watercolour 90 x 55 cm £1,800

Cherryl Fountain’s At Home With Waggis depicts an empty chair, although the scene is far from absent from life, especially as Waggis the dog sits in the foreground. Fountain explains, ‘Waggis, the last dog my Gamekeeper father trained at the age of 89, is posing obediently for his portrait. The cushion, taxidermy pheasant and game still life on the wall reflect Waggis's (formerly known as Haggis) working career as a gundog. The watercolour depicts him at 16, enjoying his retirement.’ The cushion on the chair tells the viewer about Waggis’s life, and there is so much character and personality in the piece as a whole, reflected in the array of patterned fabrics, colourful ornaments and belongings. Although the work is devoid of human presence, it is far from being devoid of personality. 

Nia Mackeown The Sun Room Chair Oil 38 x 32 cm £395

A lone chair may, however, be representative of loneliness or solitude. It could suggest the owner of the chair lives a life without much companionship. But equally, the singular chair may not necessarily represent unwanted loneliness. Instead, the lonely chair could act as a calming respite after a chaotic day. The chair provides refuge and comfort and shows a commitment to spending time with ourselves. Nia Mackeown’s The Sun Room Chair is incredibly inviting. She writes about her piece: ‘This alla prima painting finds inspiration from the dappled light seen on the Persian rug and antique chair. I enjoyed the play of warm and cool tones within the sunroom and hoped to capture the inviting feeling of the empty armchair.’  How the light skims the edge of the seat calls to the viewer, and we feel compelled to occupy it.

Jason Line Interior with Lloyd Loom Chair Oil 38 x 33 cm £1,200

But a very different atmosphere is portrayed in Jason Line’s piece Interior with Lloyd Loom Chair. Although the chair is similarly pictured next to a window, the trace of presence is still visible. With the paper in the window and crease in the cushion, the overall light is much more gloomy. The grey undertones create a less inviting sense of loneliness and solitude, and our attention is drawn to the presence of absence. Rather than immediately wanting to occupy the lack, the absence is felt, creating a paradoxical portrait of absence. An empty chair can be used to symbolise grief. For example, in the musical Les Miserables, the song ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ reflects the lack of life or the life that once was, that no longer occupies the chairs. 

However, even in empty chairs, a greater sense of interaction can be felt in depicting multiple chairs at once. For example, in Susan Ryder’s Garden Chairs, her chairs are positioned next to one another to suggest companionship. The chairs, surrounded by the beautiful greenery and flowers, entice the viewer. You can imagine enjoying another’s company as you sit amongst the garden, either engaging in conversation or mutually absorbing your surroundings.

Susan Ryder RP NEAC Garden Chairs Oil 51 x 61 cm £2,100

Jason Line Chair Meeting Charcoal 74 x 94 cm £1,500

But this sense of companionship is not necessarily felt within depictions of multiple chairs. In Adam Stone’s painting Lobby, the sense of absence becomes the centre of attention for the viewer. From the collection of chairs, we may expect to feel a sense of companionship again or be able to imagine the array of conversations that have occurred in this space. Still, through the monochromatic palette, the heavy shadows and lack of signs of human life that could be hinted at through additional objects, the piece feels representative of evidence of long-absent occupants.

Adam Stone Lobby Oil 92 x 114 cm £2,900

Through the context provided in Stone’s description, we learn it is, in fact, an abandoned space; ‘The painting Lobby is of a room in the abandoned Merrion Hotel, Merrion Centre, Leeds. The room had been left untouched for several years after the operators went into liquidation. This work seeks to convey the absent presence experienced in the space. It forms part of a five-year investigation exploring sites of the uncanny within the Merrion Shopping Centre.’

While some of the New English Art Club’s pieces show multi-purpose chairs, others have particular functions. For example, in Rosie Clark’s piece Studio, she depicts the essential chairs to the working day. Drawn in a very technical style with architectural lines and visual guides that accurately portray perspective, the sense of seriousness and purpose is reflected.

Rosie Clark Studio Pencil 66 x 55 cm £525

We can also think more broadly about how we define a chair, as in Christopher Slater’s painting The Old Throne, he depicts a toilet, which is also, in a sense, a chair!

Christopher Slater The Old Throne Oil 50 x 30 cm £585

Lastly, we can think more creatively about chairs, such as in Mary Jackson’s painting Under The Trees, through which she creates an incredibly enticing setting, depicting hammocks hanging from the trees. The golden hues in the light create a warm and welcoming scene, and the viewer can use this painting as a form of escapism. We transport ourselves to a sunny riverside as we imagine ourselves precariously settling into a hanging hammock. So next time you see a depiction of an empty chair, perhaps sit with it for a while.

Mary Jackson NEAC Under the Trees Oil 56 x 71 cm £3,000

The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition runs from 25 June to 3 July 2021

Discover the whole exhibition

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Written by Hannah Martin

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Susan Ryder NEAC RP, Garden Chairs (detail)

People reading books in the New English Art Club Annual Exhibition

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Books have universally been used to represent knowledge and learning, so we explore artists in the exhibition who have chosen to depict subjects reading.

Kayoon Anderson Studio Scene Oil 88 x 63 cm £2,000

Firstly, in Studio Scene by Kayoon Anderson, she has created a self-portrait in which she is engrossed in a book. Kayoon writes:

"This is a self-portrait in my previous studio - a painting in which to remember the space. The earthy palette reflects how grounded I felt in this small space during the winter months I spent there. The room has an interesting history, having been used by the Adams crime family of Islington. The tape on the window shows where a bullet hole has been covered up."

The earthy tones and the way she describes feeling grounded suggest how comfortable and at ease she felt in the space, a perfect spot to relax into a book!

Norman Long Bookish and Splayed Oil 65 x 65 cm £1,850

Next, we look at Bookish and Splayed by Norman Long. Long explains, ‘Working on this painting over an extended period allowed me to develop a wide range of surfaces through thick applications and glazes. For me, the invented image of the spade in a bucket is symbolic of the man's thoughts, wandering from his book. Or perhaps the hidden lady's thoughts?’

The thick glazes and the textured surface reflects a dreamy, hazy atmosphere that can be felt on the beach during a sunny day, where you escape into the fantasy realm of a book.

Eve Pettitt Lockdown Reading Oil 77 x 57 cm £1,050

Eve Pettitt’s painting Lockdown Reading has an interesting composition. The subject is pictured on a chair directly placed in front of the wall, where the building curves create an unusual alcove. The shape is almost tunnelling and could be reflective of the trapped feeling many of us experienced during the lockdown, where at times, there was little else to do except sit and read a book. Still, the subject’s small smile suggests the enjoyment many felt when we realised we were granted the free time to spend with a book.

Jeannie Kinsler Laura Reading - Tuscan Series Oil 92 x 102 cm £2,700

Next is Jeannie Kinsler’s painting Laura Reading, which is part of her Tuscan series. Kinsler explains ‘This is one of a series of paintings made from a memorable summer family holiday in Tuscany. The late afternoon and evening light was wonderful. I did many sketches and took photographs, working from one of them through last year for this piece which depicts my daughter Laura at the end of a day lying on the floor reading, light flooding through the open door.’

The shadowy patterns and angles of refractive light coming from the open door create quite a fantastical image. The light focuses explicitly on Laura’s eye, showing her single-minded focus on the book, and these magical elements of light could reflect the escapist realm the book has sent Laura to. 

Paul Handley NEAC Victoria Line, Warren Street Oil 45 x 61 cm £1,100

Lastly, Victoria Line, Warren Street, one of Paul Handley’s paintings from the London Underground, shows a collection of people on the tube, finding different ways to occupy their time during their journey. A familiar scene to many of us, whilst some individuals are using their phones; others are looking at newspapers or reading books.

The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition runs from 25 June to 3 July 2021

Discover the whole exhibition

Book your timed ticket now

Written by Hannah Martin

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Jeannie Kinsler, Laura Reading (detail)

Catching Mice: An Interview with Peter Clossick NEAC

Venus de’ Medici Triptych by Peter Clossick, 2017. Oil pastel and paint on paper, 118 x 86 cm. Image Felix and Spear..jpeg

Peter Clossick NEAC talks about his influences to Lucy Cox of The Aura of Abstraction

Lucy Cox: You grew up in post-war London. What was your life like during this time, and could you recall your earliest memories of the city’s art galleries?

Peter Clossick: London, where I lived during my early childhood, particularly Kings Cross, Somers Town and Camden Town, was full of bombsites. Like many children, I played in them and later realised that they were the forerunners of adventure playgrounds. For the first four years of my life, I lived with my brother and parents in two rooms, with a gas stove on the landing and a toilet two floors down. I did not come from a position of privilege but have lived through free and privileged times.

Art galleries were not on the agenda during early childhood. Instead, it is more the business of day-to-day living. My cockney mother worked as a cleaner in the mornings whilst my Irish father worked six days a week on building sites and garages. One day I visited Tate Britain by myself. Blown away by Ivon Hitchens and David Bomberg, I thought, “I can do that.”

LC: Why did you decide to become an artist?

PC: I am not sure it is a decision you make, to be an artist, but something you have to prove to yourself. From an early age, I realised that play and imagination, rather than academia, were my best strengths. Perhaps it is a cliché, but, as a young child, I frequently lost myself in childish scribbles; drawing became a means of escape. So, creativity was my best hope for the future. Initially, I never considered this a career, but more an area of life in which I found myself.

LC: In the early 1960s, you attended evening life drawing classes at the Working Men’s College. Could you discuss your experiences and how drawing, particularly in the traditional sense, became fundamental to your practice?

PC: At fourteen, I had run away to Ireland and, after being picked up by the Gardaí and shipped back home, expelled from my catholic grammar school for moral turpitude. I was desperate to find my own space away from the crowded council flat, where I lived with my family, and the Working Men’s College happened to be close by.

I remember visiting the college’s beautiful Victorian studio for the first time; the smell of oil paint was like coming home. Although I was underage to join the life drawing classes, the elderly tutor, who had possibly trained under the likes of Henry Tonks at the Slade School of Fine Art, took me under his wing. The college provided an old fashioned art education whereby drawing and painting from the subject was the norm. Before I even started to question the meaning of drawing and painting, this traditional approach has stayed with me as the bedrock of practice. At the same time, some Royal College of Art students, through whom I became aware of the advent of Pop Art and Op Art, invited me to attend some of their classes. However, I was taught no knowledge of line, tone, colour and perspective, and wanted to learn more about visual language.

Op Art Study by Peter Clossick, 1963. Image courtesy of the artist.

LC: Which artists were you looking at during this time, David Bomberg, and the School of London painters?

PC: Those influences on my work came much later. Initially, I attended Leicester Polytechnic to study shoe design. After being rejected for a foundation course at London’s Central College, having no support or private funding, to make a living I decided on commercial design. This was the mid-1960s; therefore an exciting time to be young and fashion was king. Whilst working at a design studio above Browns, on South Molton Street, I became a successful shoe designer. Then, in my early 20s, I reverted to my original desire to study fine art and attended Camberwell School of Art, where the Bomstream ideology took hold of me. I developed an interest in Frank Auerbach and other painters within the School of London. The Human Clay exhibition, organised by R.B. Kitaj, also had a significant impact on my practice. Although I had dabbled in abstraction and other experimentations, over time, I knew figuration was where I wanted to be as it suited my thought processes.

Peter Clossick’s shoe designs, 1966. Image courtesy of the artist.

Abstract painting by Peter Clossick, 1978. Image courtesy of the artist.

LC: Why was The Human Clay exhibition important to you?

PC: In 1976, The Human Clay reinforced my desire to work from the human body and explore figurative language and its psychological implications.

Similarly, the 1984 exhibition Hard-Won Image also gave me the confidence to pursue a traditional direction. For me, it reflected contemporary art going back to basics. Art is about drawing from life, a characteristic that had become irrelevant. I thought the modernist narrative of ‘new-ism’ had played itself out. Undoubtedly, we were at a watershed moment, similar to the Mannerist period between Renaissance and Baroque, re-iterating the tropes of early modernism. By then, I realised that I was not interested in radical politics or opportunist irony as entertainment. Most obscure conceptualism can be discussed endlessly with art speak. As George Orwell wrote, obfuscation is ‘a cuttlefish spurting out ink’. Having already rejected the fashion world for what I regarded as a more serious engagement with my life, art as fashion had passed me by.

 

Portrait of Mother Asleep by Leon Kossoff, 1963, oil on board. Kossoff was one of six artists who exhibited in The Human Clay. Image: Mitchell-Innes & Nash.

Painting by Peter Clossick, Camberwell School of Art, 1974. Image courtesy of the artist.

LC: How do you begin a painting?

PC: I could say the beginning of any painting is on the back of one’s previous failure and is very subjective. Any picture is a journey into the unknown; everything I do is an experiment toward this end. I do not regard myself as a jobbing artist, making a product. Fundamentally, I believe in drawing in all its forms. My particular style is from the body and the Zen idea that the only changeless thing is change. My visual perception is in post-existential theory, from philosophers like Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who believed that we could not meet in the world in the middle, with Cartesian duality. I do not see any separation between mind and body; the world looks back and mirrors me. Self-construction is always in the moment and forever changing.

Head Study by Peter Clossick. Charcoal and chalk on paper, 67 x 50 cm. Image: Cotswold Contemporary

Mirror Mirror by Peter Clossick. Oil on canvas on board, 2016, 80 x 68 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

LC: How do you stay motivated?

PC: Motivation is never a problem. Creativity poses too many questions, for which I do not have answers; the engagement with the act of painting and not knowing the outcome is forever entertaining. My motivation is curiosity. By not creating a work of art solely to sell a product or treating it as a means to an end, the activity becomes my form of total freedom. I make the rules and set the parameters.

LC: Do you have a favourite painting of yours?

PC: Some works of art have become markers along the way. The best practice is not necessarily the most recent. To make any judgements about what I produce, I need distance. For example, Goya’s painting The Dog became a subconscious influence on my work. In the early 1980s, Frank Auerbach’s model, Joan Yardley-Mills––‘JYM’ for short––sat for me as a friend over several years. Only years later did I make the connection with Goya’s painting through the broadly similar composition. They say originality must have an origin. Art history is significant to me, from prehistoric cultures to the present day.

       

Goya’s The Dog 1819–1823. Oil mural on plaster transferred to canvas. Image: Wikipedia.
JYM (After Goya) by Peter Clossick, 1983. Image courtesy of the artist.                                                                     

LC: Which other historical paintings are essential to your practice?

PC: Three obvious favourites are Rembrandt, Titian, and Goya at the National Gallery. When my daughter was born, I drew Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna of the Meadow, probably reflective of my catholic upbringing, as was Titian’s The Tribute Money. One of my biggest thrills was having an actual Rembrandt etching (loaned!), which I copied. Later, by drawing Goya’s Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate, I noticed the compositional stability of a triangle within the rectangle. Picasso once said artists should steal, not borrow.

       

Three Studies of Old Men’s Heads (After Rembrandt) by Peter Clossick. Image courtesy of the artist.
Three Studies of Old Men’s Heads by Rembrandt, 1630. Image: Wikipedia.

      

Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate (After Goya) by Peter Clossick, charcoal on paper. Image courtesy of the artist.
Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate by Goya, 1805. Image: Wikipedia.

To learn, I observe other works and ideas and find digging through the past more fertile than contemporary art. I could name a long list of historical paintings and sculptures that have influenced me, from ancient to modern: my initial surprise at seeing Rubens’ painting, Descent from the Cross (such a vast scale!), and Holbein’s The Ambassadors, wondering how the human mind conceived such works; Van Gogh; Giacometti; Etruscan votive figures; Cycladic sculptures. They are all influential. I have a full-size plaster copy of the Venus de’ Medici in my studio (the original copy dates back to 1st-century BCE), a source of endless inspiration, which measures the distance between then and now. I love history.

Venus de’ Medici Triptych by Peter Clossick, 2017. Oil pastel and paint on paper, 118 x 86 cm. Image: Felix and Spear.

Lockdown Studio by Peter Clossick, 2020. Image: The New English Art Club.

LC: You have been making art for over fifty years. Have you ever been discouraged? If so, how did it affect your creativity?

PC: Being an artist in our capitalist-driven world, you learn to accept rejection and roll with the punches. When I was a boy, I received a medal for ABA boxing. Boxing taught me not to be frightened of defeat; it is all part of the contest. As someone once said, the art world is hugely competitive, with too many artists and not enough crumbs on the table. Over time you develop a thick skin, so much so that the only real judge is yourself.

LC: What are the components of truthful painting?

PC: Some artists use a two-dimensional surface with marks, shapes, colours, tones, and lines, all of which construct a visual language. These constructions, used for multiple purposes, can be read in various ways. We express verbal, written and musical communication through linear time, and visual language happens simultaneously. You know instinctively if you are lying, doing a cover-up job, or gilding the lily. So ‘truthful’ painting is purely subjective and cannot be proven rationally, except what it feels like through communication. It is not a claim to be better than others, only a way of thinking through painting. As Willem de Kooning said, when you see two people kneeling in church, we do not know if one is praying and the other is working out the shopping list. Jackson Pollock commented to de Kooning, “you know more, I feel more.” How can that be proven? Yet we know what he means.

The Last Few Days by Peter Clossick, 2019. Oil on board, 127 x 127 cm. Image: The New English Art Club.

LC: What is the best advice you have received?

PC: It is not advice that some sage artist has given me, but a two-word Chinese proverb that says ‘perseverance furthers’, which I read analogous for life, from birth to death. Another saying appeals to me for its rationality: ‘Matters little if it’s a black cat or a white cat, as long as it catches mice’.

 

Peter Clossick NEAC studied at Camberwell School of Art and Goldsmiths College. He regularly exhibits nationally and internationally. Clossick is a member and the Past President of The London Group, an artist collective established in 1913, and a member of The New English Art Club.

You can see Clossick's work in the New English Art Club Annual Exhibition from 25 June to 3 July

Discover more of Peter Clossick's work 

This interview originally appeared on theauraofabstraction.com

 

 

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Venus de’ Medici Triptych by Peter Clossick, 2017. Oil pastel and paint on paper, 118 x 86 cm. Image Felix and Spear..jpeg

Image credit

Venus de’ Medici Triptych by Peter Clossick

David Cobley Reflects on Painting, People and Portraiture

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Ahead of his upcoming retrospective, David Cobley reflects on his thirty-year career and his unlikely path into portraiture.

Many will know David Cobley as a portrait painter. Throughout his thirty-year career, he has painted actors, performers, comedians, lawyers, judges, politicians, professors and princesses. It is unsurprising then, that the focus of Cobley’s upcoming exhibition is people. “I'm absolutely fascinated by people, the human race, what makes people tick," Cobley explains.

While it is portraiture for which the artist is most widely known, his oeuvre spans still lifes, landscapes, some abstract pieces and many surrealist twists – all of which explore humanity in unique ways. The full spectrum of Cobley’s work will be displayed together like never before in All By Himself, a retrospective of over 200 paintings and works on paper, opening at Mall Galleries, 10 to 15 September. The exhibition coincides with the launch of a new book by the same name, written by Cobley’s longtime friend, the artist and art critic, Peter Davies.

David Cobley Portrait of and Artist (Pool with Three Figures), Oil on linen, 122 x 172.5 cm – to be sold at auction

The works in the show date as far back as 1971. The earliest work is a self-portrait painted when the artist was just 17. More recent works include ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Three Figures)’, a large painting that many will recognise as being based on David Hockney’s record-breaking ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)’ which uses the motif of a swimming pool to explore the complexity of human relationships. The original was created by a heartbroken Hockney in the 1970s. The man in the pink jacket, Peter Schlesinger – the apparent love of Hockney’s life – looks on at someone in the pool (who isn’t Hockney). 

David Cobley Summer ’71, Oil on Board, 91.5 x 61 cm – NFS

Cobley’s painting was also inspired by the breakdown of a relationship, though in his version, it is he who stands on the edge of the pool observing the figure of his ex-wife submerged below. “In this painting, I am looking on in bewilderment at her new-found faith. Perhaps also with some nostalgia on the time spent bringing up our daughters before the chasm that opened up between us.” The swimming pool, as in Hockney’s original, creates a sense of concurrent closeness and distance, like observing someone from afar, or through a window, unbeknownst to them.

Since becoming a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1997, Cobley has worked extensively on portrait commissions, painting everyone from Princess Anne to the actor Steven Berkoff and most famously, the comedian Ken Dodd – “I remember really being bowled over by him as a boy,” Cobley recalls, “His hair and his teeth. Cracking these jokes one after the other. He was an extraordinary person. Whether you liked him or not you had to admit he was extraordinary.”

David Cobley Sir Ken Dodd OBE, Oil on Linen, 76 x 91.5 cm – NFS (courtesy National Portrait Gallery)

His favourite commission to date is of a man he met at a party, a friend of his brother named Trevor. “I casually told him how much a commission would cost and he said he wanted me to paint him,” Cobley recalls. The result was ‘Blues, Beer and Rock 'n' Roll’ in which the sitter is captured from above, surrounded by his beloved record collection, a beer in hand. The piece is characteristic of the “composite” nature of Cobley’s work, as Peter Davies notes in All By Himself, “the iconographic combination of interior, unposed portrait and still life in one compellingly candid composition.”

Cobley admits that commissioned work comes with its own set of challenges. In some cases you may not click with, or particularly like, the person you’ve been asked to paint, admits Cobley. “But you have to find a way if you're being professional about it. Sometimes you might find you learn a lot by painting somebody that you don't initially warm to." Besides from the relational aspect, portraiture is technical and exacting. "Painting the human face is difficult,” Cobley explains, “only a slight variation and it doesn't look like them." Cobley himself is too humble to admit it, but one only has to look at his vast repertoire to see that capturing a person’s essence is a skill he has mastered.

David Cobley Blues, Beer and Rock 'n’ Roll, Oil on Linen, 122 x 122 cm - NFS

It might seem as though Cobley was born with a paintbrush in hand, but his route into art was a strange and meandering one. Shortly after moving to Liverpool to attend art school as a young man, Cobley was approached on the street by a stranger. The artist remembers this as a period of uncertainty in his life. "I was vulnerable because I was in a big city. I was only 19. I had no friends and I was open to new ideas. I had all kinds of questions about the meaning of life.” The man was a member of a religious sect known as the Moonies. "Cutting a long story short, they got me," Cobley reflects. 

After three years as a full-time member, he was sent to Japan with a group of a thousand others from all over Europe, where he was paired up with a Japanese work partner. “That was an amazing experience and I got to see a completely different culture,” the artist says, and ultimately an eye-opening one. He left the Moonies and studied at Sophia University in Tokyo, which he funded by teaching English. “I was learning all kinds of things, which had known before I met the Moonies, I wouldn't have joined them in the first place." After nearly ten years abroad, he moved home with his young family, working as an illustrator for some time before becoming a full-time painter. Cobley, now agnostic, sounds somewhat regretful when talking about his time with the Moonies, but ultimately accepting of it. "With hindsight, everything looks different. But you can't live your life backward, as my brother has pointed out."

David Cobley What Are You Doing Here?, Oil on Linen, 61 x 61 cm – £2,350

If anything, this colourful life has informed the dynamic way in which Cobley paints the world – with his eyes wide open. In the Foreword of the book, Pete Brown, President of the New English Art Club recalls sharing a studio with Cobley: “Being so adept meant that he was always looking for new angles.” An instinct that perhaps comes from a life lived, at various points, through a multitude of perspectives. If one looks closely, this familiarity with the road less travelled is evident in the layered nature of Cobley’s work which often appears to hint towards some deeper resonance beneath the surface meaning. “Rather than dazzle, he prefers his work to pose questions,” Pete Brown writes. “A true observer in a self-obsessed world dominated by people who shout the loudest.”

David Cobley All By Himself is on view at Mall Galleries from 10 to 15 September.

Plan Your Visit

 

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David Cobley

Commissioning a Painting of Your Garden

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Here, Mistu Gray shares how she fell for Melissa Scott-Miller's RP RBA NEAC charming depictions of Islington, Roy Wright discusses a commission that brought him to the Isle of Wight and Anne-Marie Butlin explains the process of understanding her client's needs.

Mistu Gray first came across Melissa Scott-Miller’s RP RBA NEAC work at Mall Galleries and was drawn to “the intricate detail of ‘ordinary’ life” and the people in her paintings. “We never really know what’s going on in other people’s lives and I found that intriguing. I think that’s why her work touched me,” Mistu observes.

The work she was initially enamored by was already sold, so she commissioned Melissa to create a new painting. As Mistu lives in Glasgow, she didn’t commission a painting of her own garden, but Melissa’s garden in Islington. “Sadly it’s not our garden; we live in Glasgow. I would certainly love to have ours painted - if Melissa would be willing to visit Glasgow!” Mistu was excited by the prospect of having a work painted especially for her and putting her trust in an artist she admires: “I was more than happy for Melissa to paint what she liked and definitely trusted her judgment.”

Islington Gardens by Melissa Scott-Miller RP RBA NEAC

Roy Wright, a member of The Pastel Society, was commissioned to create a charcoal drawing of a tree in Clare Chalmer’s garden in the Isle of Wight."All our family love this oak tree," Clare explains, "we all swung from it during their childhood and our nieces continue to do so." The artwork now holds "pride of place" in Clare's entrance hall.

“The thing that was most enjoyable about this commission was being able to sit in that beautiful, peaceful garden in the sunshine for many hours, without interruption,” Roy recalls. "The human spirit can be refreshed constantly by exposure to nature,” he muses. Trees are a particular source of artistic enjoyment for Roy, who works predominantly in charcoal, because of “their complexity, the amazing structure of leaves and branches.” Roy concludes, “the more you look the more you see. Each tree is individual - its shape today is the story of its life."

Clare Chalmer's garden by Roy Wright PS

Shortly after she was commissioned, Anne-Marie Butlin visited Mandy Summer’s home. There, she observed the room in which Mandy intended to hang the painting and spent time talking, getting to know her likes and dislikes. “She had a fairly clear idea that she wanted the painting to be really striking and impactful in the room,” Anne-Marie recalls. It also became clear to Anne-Marie that the client loved colour, "particularly orange," she noted.

She then spent considerable time exploring the garden, taking photographs from multiple angles. Once back in her studio, Anne-Marie shortlisted the images and sent some options to the client to choose from. According to the artist, Mandy had a clear vision of what she wanted. They agreed to add a piece of sculptural wall into the composition from another part of the garden so that it would be more recognisably hers. The piece was completed after six weeks.

Mandy Summer's Garden by Anne-Marie Butlin

Interested in Commissioning a Painting of Your Own Garden?

Mall Galleries' Art Consultant Anna Bromwich is on hand to offer expert advice to help you find the perfect artist for you and your garden. For enquiries, contact commissions@mallgalleries.com

 

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Melissa Scott-Miller RP RBA NEAC

Estelle Lovatt visits the New English Art Club Annual Exhibition

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Artist, art critic and Mall Galleries' Art Expert in Residence, Estelle Lovatt FRSA, shares her thoughts on the New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2019.

For me, the summer art calendar in London is all about the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, the National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Award, and the New English Art Club (NEAC) at Mall Galleries.  Thus, it was my absolute pleasure to be Mall Galleries Art Expert in Residence, at the 2019 NEAC Annual Exhibition.

From its history, the NEAC was founded in London in 1885, as an alternative platform to the RA, exhibiting art by both members and artists from Britain and abroad, whose work has been selected from an annual open submission.

To the left and right of me, I see exceptionally imaginative works of art in different styles and diverse media; distinctive, strong, dynamic and unconstrained. “Composition Is King” and this comes through the skills of confident drawing, glorious colour theory, believable perspective, informative tone, texture with personality, and other aesthetically pleasing essentials, that must feature in the artist’s practice.

During my NEAC residency session, it was my great pleasure to engage in very interesting art conversations with the gallery-goers.  I felt enriched talking to visitors about all things art: from what the benefits might be for today’s artists using social media platforms to how they can technically capture as much gusto and oomph as possible in their artwork whatever the subject matter, be it a landscape, still life, portrait or playful pet. It was just wonderful to hear people chatting about the art to each other, exclaiming in front of their favourites, “That’s good, isn’t it!... I love this one!... Fantastic….I really like this style of painting….I could definitely live with this one….”

I had a lovely day.  Time well spent. Seeing art of such a high standard always makes me feel totally absorbed; it’s like oxygen for my eyes. Thank you NEAC exhibiting artists.


The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition is available to browse and buy online.

 

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In the Bookshop: New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2019

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As the New English Art Club exhibit in Mall Galleries, the bookshop has a range of related books, cards and gifts. 

We have a number of titles by member artists on our shelves, alongside one of our bestselling monographs: 'London - Paintings' by Peter Brown.

Peter Brown PNEAC is an all-weather painter of street scenes and city landscapes, who you'll regularly find brush-in-hand painting the streets of London. This beautiful monograph features almost 200 illustrated oil paintings and entertaining anecdotes from Pete 'The Street' himself.

A new release this year, we are delighted to stock 'The Enlightened Spaniel', illustrated by Toby Ward NEAC. Toby's accomplished draughtsmanship adorns the covers and chapter pages of this charming story of a Springer spaniel interested in the teachings of the Buddha.

We also have a beautiful array of greetings cards of members' works. Our limited edition range features Michael Whittlesea's 'Oil Paints', Tom Coates' 'Garden Path at Home', and Robert Cunnew's 'Seaford Head No. 2'. There is also a selection of card packs available, with a watercolour sunset of deep yellows and oranges by Richard Pikesley PPNEAC, and a warming fireside print by Richard Bawden NEAC.

To coincide with the New English's Annual Lecture, the shop has a variety of Bawden titles, including 'Bawden, Ravilious and the artists of the Great Barfield'. This book tells the story of Great Bardfield and its artists, showing how the village and neighbouring landscape nurtured a distinctive style of art, design and illustration from the 1930s to the 1970s and beyond. The writer will be giving a lecture on the subject in the gallery on 19 June for those interested in learning more.

Do pop in for a visit to the exhibition before it closes on the 22 June.


  • London Paintings by Peter Brown £30 
  • The Enlightened Spaniel by Gary Heads, illustrations by Toby Ward, £7.99
  • Michael Whittlesea's 'Oil Paints' card, £2.95
  • Tom Coates' 'Garden Path at Home' card, £3.25
  • Robert Cunnew's 'Seaford Head No. 2' card, £2.95
  • Richard Pikesley card pack, £3 for 6 cards
  • Richard Bawden card pack, £3 for 6 cards
  • The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition Catalogue, £6

View the New English Art Club 2019 exhibition online 



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