Two extracts from an essay commissioned to accompany the exhibition ‘Sarah Purvey: Boundaries’, at Twenty Twenty Gallery, Ludlow, 12 March – 16 April 2022.
Sarah Purvey works both in clay and on paper, an inter-related body of work in which drawing is the unifying factor. Throughout, the process is instinctive and organic. In clay there are vessels and deeply encrusted relief pieces, the latter roughly circular or square. The vessels are not functional but are highly distinctive sculptural objects, their surfaces earthy and tactile. They are made from one of two types of clay, both containing grog, which provides additional body and emphasises materiality. One is red, and becomes black during firing; the other, named crank, is paler, and retains its rather fleshy tone after leaving the kiln. Each vessel begins with a round or oval base, to which long coils of clay are pressed into place, structure built up in short bursts of intense activity. The artist strives to work meditatively and at speed, listening, feeling, responding, finding herself ‘lost in the making’, each pinch of clay equivalent to a single heartbeat. As she progresses, words and conversations surface from an internal dialogue, as though from the intermittent babble of a crossed telephone line, often prompting her to pause in order to note them down. One is struck by the idea that these fragments of language might effectively become written into the work, as inflections within the overall design. For one senses – and this becomes apparent in conversation with the artist – that there is a private language, of thought and meaning, underlying the work in its entirety.
Purvey has described drawing as a physically and emotionally charged act, a statement one might extend to the whole of her practice. The artist’s drawings are not studies for three-dimensional pieces but works in their own right, made in mixed media on paper of various weights and textures. Multi-layered, their starting point is in dilute black gouache, applied directly from the bottle and worked over with a small roller to establish an initial broken texture. The drawings employ the whites, blacks, and greys of the works in clay, along with a wider palette of yellows, ranging from pale ochre to deep egg yolk. Occasionally another colour appears, such as an incursion of vermillion or of scribbled orange. Many are spatially complex, with partially submerged pockets and delicate traceries of darkness and light. The abstract motifs deployed echo those of the ceramics, but are more expansively gestural, many of the sheets covered edge-to-edge, so that they appear as though fragments of a larger, potentially endless script or score. The dense blackness of certain drawings is comparable to those made in tarry paint-stick by the American Richard Serra, whilst their loping calligraphy, scribbled in horizontal lines like so much automatic writing, has something in common with that of another American, the painter Cy Twombly, at his most abstract.
Photograph: ‘Gatekeeper I’ and ‘Gatekeeper II’, hand built stoneware and slip, by Sarah Purvey. Photograph courtesy of the artist and Twenty Twenty Gallery.
Text © Ian Massey 2022
A short text commissioned for the exhibition ‘John Blackburn + Margaret Lovell: An Unbroken Duality’, at Artis Gallery, Parnell, Auckland, 8-24 February 2022.
Art is often a barometer of its time, and the fraught conditions of recent years have informed the content and mood of the work of many artists, including that of the two veteran British abstractionists shown in this exhibition. In her adopted country of New Zealand, sculptor Margaret Lovell reacted to global uncertainties with what she came to realise was a subconscious need to simplify, to pare down her forms in a meditative process in which clarity and strength were constant watchwords. In contrast, during sustained periods of lockdown in both Auckland and at his English home, John Blackburn, always a highly physical painter, felt impelled to work with even greater rawness and immediacy. On the face of it then, divergent energies appear to be operating here, though in fact a closer examination reveals that these artists have much in common. Above all else is a mutual preoccupation with form, of which, over the course of their long careers, they have each continued to evolve an individual vocabulary that is in both instances rooted largely in 20th century post-war modernism. Lovell’s finely calibrated forms often evoke the natural world, or those of classical antiquity. Their colours are those intrinsic to the types of metal and stone the sculptor uses, or come from textured patination in phthalo blue, viridian, or mottled jade. Like Lovell, Blackburn is cognisant of the power of understatement, and ever alert to subtle nuances in relationships of shape, tone, and line. His mark-making combines the instinctual and the deliberative. White remains central to the palette of his recent work, as do greys and blacks, along with recurring reds, browns, and pinks. Notably, several of his latest paintings include dense greens redolent of vegetation (one wonders if they crept in from his garden in Kent, the boundaries of which have been those of his domain during lockdown).
In both Lovell and Blackburn there are shared allusions, sometimes metaphorical, to landscape, nature, and the human or animal body. Such inferences stem not solely from form and colour, but from the haptic: the sensory pleasures of materiality and touch. And it is this commitment to the physicality of the object that also unites these artists, as they each continue to strive forth in their ambition. Their many decades of production attest to the power of art and its enduring importance, a factor that will remain whatever our circumstances might be.
© Ian Massey, February 2022.
Photograph courtesy Artis Gallery.
For many months, due largely to technical issues, it has not been possible to update this website. The problem resulted from changes made by the domain provider (I’ve now taken my business elsewhere). For a time the website disappeared altogether, and it was only after much detective work that the person who designed the site for me was able to sort everything out.
I am now editing and adding to the site – and posting here on the Diary page for the first time this year. Over the coming weeks I will add more content. For now, here is a photograph of Stephen Gilbert’s – House Model ‘Neovision’ – (1955), which features in the show ‘Rhythm and Geometry: Constructivist art in Britain since 1951’, at The Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia. My review of the show is in the December issue of ‘The World of Interiors’ magazine.
• Photograph by Andy Crouch, courtesy of The Sainsbury Centre, UEA.
• Ffiona Lewis – The Green Tapestry
The essay commissioned for the catalogue that accompanies Ffiona Lewis’s new show at The Redfern Gallery, London, is now published here on this website, along with a selection of images of the artist’s work.
The show dates are 8th December 2020 until 29th January 2021; and the gallery is now open to visitors by prior appointment. Further information can be found at https://www.redfern-gallery.com/
• Sam Lock
In November I visited the artist Sam Lock at his Sussex studio – it proved a highly interesting and enjoyable visit.
I have now completed an essay on Lock’s work, which will be included in a new book on the artist, due for publication in March 2021 by his London gallery, Cadogan Contemporary.
You can find information about the artist on the gallery website: https://www.cadogancontemporary.com/artist/sam-lock/
I would also alert you to the artist’s own website: https://www.samlock.com/
Photograph: Sam Lock’s studio, November 2020.
A few updates, in my first diary post since March:
• Peter Seal
The short text commissioned for inclusion in a new publication on the artist is now uploaded to this website. Presenting fifteen recent paintings by Seal, it is published by Anthony Hepworth Fine Art, by whom the artist is now exclusively represented.
• Patrick Procktor
There continues to be a great deal of interest in Procktor, and indeed in my monograph biography on the artist, ten years after its publication and launch at The Redfern Gallery, London, which continues to exclusively represent the artist’s estate.
Currently there is a show of Procktor’s work at Loeve & Co, Paris, which continues until 31 October. To coincide with the opening of this show Le Monde published an article about the artist by Roxana Azimi (see image). Run over six pages, the article was based in part on telephone interviews conducted with Celia Birtwell, Peter Schlesinger, Redfern Gallery director Richard Selby, and myself. It was illustrated with examples of Procktor’s work, and with photographs by Kasmin (seen here), Homer Sykes, and Snowdon.
On 28 September, Jerry Saltz, art critic of New York Magazine, posted about Procktor on Instagram to his 448K followers, a post which introduced the artist to many people previously unaware of his work.
• Postponed group show at Manchester Art Gallery
I have for some months now been working on a substantial curatorial project for Manchester Art Gallery. The show was initially set to open in February 2021, but has now been postponed due to the impact of the pandemic. We now hope to open the show in November 2021. Updates will follow.
My first diary post in a long time – and here, in the midst of corona virus lockdown, there is little to report of my work in the art world.
As the excellent Laura Cumming wrote in The Observer on 29th March:
‘The show is on, but not open. The masterpiece hangs unseen. The museum is as silent as the isolation in which the artist tries to work, uncertain of any future as the virus rages without vaccine. Art now waits upon science.’
And so we must wait for what the future brings, both in the world at large and that of art.
For now I’m posting on this website the review I wrote recently of Andrew Lambirth’s The Life of Bryan – written for The Art Newspaper, who will publish it in due course. As you will see, I found the book fascinating, and recommend it highly.
Much of this year will be spent completing my book on the sculptor John Milne and his circle, and making some progress with a curatorial project, the fruits of which will hopefully be seen next year. If you’re reading this, thanks for visiting my site, and hope you are able to stay safe!
• Brendan Stuart Burns
New to the website – an extract from my essay on the painter Brendan Stuart Burns, published in the catalogue that accompanies Edging West, the artist’s exhibition at Osborne Samuel, London. The show opens on 28th November and continues until 20th December.
• Review of new book on Bryan Robertson
I have recently written a review of The Life of Bryan, Andrew Lambirth’s new book about gallery director, curator and writer Bryan Robertson, famous for his transformation of London’s Whitechapel Gallery in the 1950s and 60s. My review will feature in a forthcoming edition of The Art Newspaper. The book is to be published by Unicorn Press at the end of this month.
• St Ives September Festival
I am involved in two events at this year’s festival.
The first is my talk Escape Routes, on Thursday 26th September. Venue: St Ives Arts Club. Time: 1.00pm.
The second event takes place on the following day, Friday 27th, when I will be ‘in conversation’ with the artist Alice Mumford. The theme is Composite Shadows, and relates to the artist’s show of that name at Belgrave St Ives.
More information and booking details can be found on the festival website:
Alice Mumford’s exhibition can be seen online: http://www.belgravestives.co.uk/
• Felice Hodges
The artist’s show Inner Sanctum opens on 2nd October at Cricket Fine Art, London (with a private view on 1st October). The short text I have written for the accompanying catalogue is now published here on this website, along with a selection of images of work from the show.
More information can be found on both the gallery site and on that of the artist:
• Brendan Stuart Burns
The Cardiff based painter is to have a show at his London gallery Osborne Samuel
in November, for which I have been commissioned to write the catalogue essay.
Information about the artist can be found on his website: http://www.brendanstuartburns.co.uk/
• Image: Felice Hodges Periwinkle Blue (Still Life), mixed media on paper. © The artist.
• I have recently posted two short texts, new to the website. Both contain elements of autobiography.
• The first was written about my late friend the artist Elizabeth Finn, who died in April this year. It was published by Art UK, for whom in recent years I have contributed short articles on a number of artists: Trevor Bell, John Blackburn, Max Chapman & Oswell Blakeston, Jon Groom, Alistair Park, and Patrick Procktor. All are accessible via my Art UK author page:
• The second text, just posted here, was first published some years ago by Varoom magazine, for which I was at one time a member of its editorial board and regular contributor. The article is about Treasure comic, which was important to me as a child. I’ve always liked the article, so much so that I decided to publish it here on my website.
• Ffiona Lewis
Earlier this week I visited Ffiona Lewis at her studio in Suffolk, where we discussed her new work. The artist is to have a solo show at The Redfern Gallery, London, this November, for which I am to write the essay for the accompanying catalogue. An update will follow later this year.
For more on the artist visit:
• Felice Hodges
I have been invited to write a short text for the catalogue of the painter Felice Hodges’ forthcoming show at Cricket Fine Art, London. It is set to open on 1st October.
More information on the artist can be found on the gallery website, and on the artist’s own site:
• John McLean
The artist John McLean, who I got to know in the 1990s, died at the age of 80 on 12th June. He was a marvellous painter and a lovely, generous man. My text for the catalogue of his 2001 show at Flowers East, London, can be found on this website.
Amongst the obituaries written about John, the following two are excellent:
• Photograph: Wall still life at Ffiona Lewis’ studio, 26th June 2019. Photograph by Ian Massey.
• Visit to the painter Mike Silva
It was a great pleasure to visit the artist Mike Silva at his London studio recently. Mike’s work will be included in the large group show that I am co-curating, set to open at a major UK gallery early in 2021 (further information to follow later this year).
Mike Silva’s work is included in the collections of both The British Council and the Government Art Collection – images and information are accessible on the Art UK site: https://artuk.org/discover/artists/silva-mike-b-1970
• Peter Joyce London exhibition
Peter Joyce, whose work I wrote about for his 2017 show with Jenna Burlingham Fine Art, has a new show Digging Deep opening later this month. The show is again mounted by Jenna Burlingham, and will open on 20th May at Gallery 8, 8 Duke Street St. James’s, London. The renowned critic and poet Sue Hubbard has written the catalogue essay for this new show. More information is available on the artist’s website: http://www.peterjoyce.org.uk/
• Image Two paintings by Mike Silva, photographed at the artist’s studio, 9th May 2019.
• Curatorial project: significant group exhibition to open in 2021
Recently I received confirmation of a large group exhibition, which I am to co-curate. The show will take place at a major public gallery in the UK, and is set to open early in 2021. It will centre on a substantial group of works by Patrick Procktor. Initial planning meetings for this ambitious show will take place later this month – updates to follow.
• St Ives September Festival 2019 – two events
I have again been invited to give a talk at this year’s St Ives September Festival. This year I am also to take part in an ‘in conversation’ event with the artist Alice Mumford, who will have a show of her new paintings at Belgrave St Ives in September. Full information on both events will follow later this year.
• Artis Gallery, New Zealand
The gallery have recently updated their website, which now has a section on publications. My monograph on gallery artist John Blackburn is now available to purchase directly from them: https://artisgallery.co.nz/artist/john-blac/
• Image: Patrick Prockor, 1968
• John Blackburn monograph publication
My monograph on the abstract painter John Blackburn was launched during a show of the artist’s recent work at his London gallery, Osborne Samuel in September 2018.
Here is information about the monograph, taken from its back cover:
This the first ever monograph on the work of the British artist John Blackburn (b.1932). In a major essay, Ian Massey traces the stylistic and technical development of the artist’s work from the ‘Encaustic’ paintings of the early 1960s through to the present day. He considers Blackburn’s wide-ranging output, of work produced both in England and in New Zealand (where the artist has for decades spent a part of each year).
The author draws on new research, including conversations with the artist in his studio, and on previously unpublished archival material, including a large body of correspondence sent to Blackburn by his early champion and collector Jim Ede, the founder of Kettle’s Yard.
Massey considers the artist’s work within an international context; one that encompasses St Ives modernism, art informel and arte povera; also taking into account key influences such as Bacon, Fautrier and Tàpies. In doing so he describes the artist’s often intensely physical methods and incorporation of found materials, their usage informed by a humanist philosophy that stems from Blackburn’s early experiences, and from what he describes as ‘the brutality of being alive’.
This substantial publication firmly establishes Blackburn’s significance, and positions him within the history of postwar abstract painting. It includes additional texts by writer and critic Andrew Lambirth, art historian and former director of the Auckland City Art Gallery Christopher Johnstone, and the artist’s long-time friend and collector Furse Swann.
• The book is published by Sansom & Co:
Upcoming in 2019:
• My recently published monograph on the artist John Blackburn (pictured here with a painting by Patrick Heron) will have a launch in February at Blackburn’s New Zealand gallery, Artis. The launch will coincide with a show of the artist’s paintings. For more information visit the gallery website: http://artisgallery.co.nz/
This year will see news of my involvement in future projects relating to the following artists:
• Ffiona Lewis
• Sargy Mann
• Patrick Procktor
• David Tindle.
Updates on all projects and events will follow.
• Photograph of John Blackburn taken at the Patrick Heron exhibition at Turner Contemporary, Margate, 4th January 2019. The painting is Heron’s ‘Violet in Dull Green: July 1959’. Photograph by Ian Massey.
• Patrick Procktor painting to be auctioned in London, 14th November 2018.
A 1966 painting by Procktor, which for many years formed part of a private collection, is to be auctioned next month at Bonhams, New Bond Street, London, in a sale of Modern British and Irish Art. At the request of the auction house I have written the following entry for the catalogue:
First exhibited in Patrick Procktor’s third one-man show, at The Redfern Gallery, London in May 1967, Nicholas and Keith depicts two of his artist friends: Nicholas Ferguson, who had studied alongside him at the Slade; and Keith Milow, a one-time student of Procktor’s at Camberwell School of Art. The besuited Ferguson stands gazing out at us over a vulnerably naked Milow, who appears to strain his head to look up at him from the bed on which he reclines. The relationship between them appears Pinteresque in its ambiguity, a factor heightened by the indeterminate setting of mostly undifferentiated blues. The painting’s composition is though in fact an invention, each figure based on a separate drawn study, whilst the subjects’ real-life friendship was merely casual and amicable. But what Procktor does very deliberately here, in this double portrait of gay men with its open display of male nudity, is explore a theme of transgressive or ambivalent sexuality. It was to be found elsewhere in the Redfern show: in pictures of The Rolling Stones, cocksure in drag, and of gangs of leather boys hanging out in vast rooms. In imagining the edgy frisson first generated by these works, one must consider the social context of the period, that of the eve of the Sexual Offences Act, which partly decriminalised homosexual acts. In the same month as his exhibition, Procktor made a drawing of Joe Orton, naked but for his socks, subsequently reproduced in the programme of the gay playwright’s work at the Royal Court Theatre. The drawing, now in the National Portrait Gallery, soon acquired a particular notoriety.
In terms of technique, the 1967 show marked an important transitional point for Procktor, as he moved further towards the lightness of touch for which he is renowned. It is evident in the understated painterly application of Nicholas and Keith, with its areas of finely brushed delineation, its allowance of the weave of the underlying canvas to produce subtle textural effect in Ferguson’s softly painted clothing and on Milow’s rumpled sheet. One notes also the manner in which the artist characteristically edits and pares down, for instance leaving Ferguson’s hands unpainted, so that they appear as though gloved by the white of the canvas. The painting is both of and from a particular moment; at the cusp of social liberation, and a pivotal time in Procktor’s artistic development.
Photograph courtesy of Bonhams. The Estate of Patrick Procktor is represented by The Redfern Gallery, London.
• John Blackburn monograph publication and launch
My monograph on the abstract painter John Blackburn will be launched
during a show of the artist’s recent work at his London gallery, Osborne Samuel.
The private view is 11th September; the show then continues until 28th September.
Here is information about the monograph, taken from its back cover:
This the first ever monograph on the work of the British artist John
Blackburn (b.1932). In a major essay, Ian Massey traces the stylistic and
technical development of the artist’s work from the ‘Encaustic’ paintings
of the early 1960s through to the present day. He considers Blackburn’s
wide-ranging output, of work produced both in England and in New
Zealand (where the artist has for decades spent a part of each year).
The author draws on new research, including conversations with the
artist in his studio, and on previously unpublished archival material,
including a large body of correspondence sent to Blackburn by his
early champion and collector Jim Ede, the founder of Kettle’s Yard.
Massey considers the artist’s work within an international context;
one that encompasses St Ives modernism, art informel and arte povera;
also taking into account key influences such as Bacon, Fautrier and
Tàpies. In doing so he describes the artist’s often intensely physical
methods and incorporation of found materials, their usage informed by
a humanist philosophy that stems from Blackburn’s early experiences,
and from what he describes as ‘the brutality of being alive’.
This substantial publication firmly establishes Blackburn’s significance,
and positions him within the history of postwar abstract painting.
It includes additional texts by writer and critic Andrew Lambirth, art
historian and former director of the Auckland City Art Gallery Christopher
Johnstone, and the artist’s long-time friend and collector Furse Swann.
• The book is published by Sansom & Co: http://sansomandcompany.co.uk/product/john-blackburn/
• For details of John Blackburn’s exhibition go to: http://www.osbornesamuel.com/
• Ffiona Lewis
New to the website: two extracts from my essay commissioned for the publication accompanying Ffiona Lewis’s exhibition Summer Field, at Snape Maltings, Suffolk.
The exhibition opens 1st August 2018, in two venues: the Concert Hall Gallery, where it continues until 31st August; and Dovecot Studio, until 24th August. The Concert Hall Gallery display comprises new oil paintings and a series of drawings and paintings on paper. In the Dovecot Studio meanwhile are three large oil on canvas diptyches, made specifically for the space. The photograph here shows the artist at work on one of these ambitious works in her studio.
Copies of the publication, designed by Graham Rees Design, are available from Snape Maltings, and from The Redfern Gallery, London.
• Ffiona Lewis – I recently visited the artist at her Suffolk studio to look at and discuss her new work. It includes three ambitious diptyches in oil on canvas, which will form part of the artist’s show at Snape Maltings in August. Along with these canvases there will be groups of smaller paintings and of works on paper. The show, entitled Summer Field, will be accompanied by a publication for which I am to write an essay.
Further information can be found here: https://snapemaltings.co.uk/whats-on/exhibition-ffiona-lewis-summer-field/
I am also to write an essay for Ffiona’s forthcoming show at The Redfern Gallery, London, dates to be confirmed. An update will follow.
• Patrick Procktor for Elephant magazine online – I was recently commissioned to write a short piece on Procktor’s watercolour portraits for online publication by Elephant magazine. The text is now posted on this website, and can also be read on the magazine’s website, where further images can also be found.
• Image: pastels in Ffiona Lewis’s studio, Suffolk, June 2018.
• Patrick Procktor London show
A show of work by Patrick Procktor and the contemporary artist Neil Haas will open at The Approach, London, later this month. Dates are 24th May to 17th June 2018.
Further details will follow on the gallery website: https://theapproach.co.uk
• John Blackburn monograph
The monograph John Blackburn: The Human and the Abstract is now at the production stage. Along with a substantial essay written by myself, it will also include contributions by Christopher Johnstone, Andrew Lambirth and Furse Swann. The book will be published by Sansom & Company, and launched with an exhibition of Blackburn’s work at Osborne Samuel, London, in September.
The first update of British Summer Time:
• The Turnpike Gallery, Leigh have recently confirmed that I am to curate a substantial exhibition at the venue in 2020. The show will relate to aspects of my research on St Ives. Dates are yet to be finalised. An update will follow nearer the time. The next show at The Turnpike, Wild Honey, is of work by the Manchester based artist Mary Griffiths. It opens 14th April:
• Ffiona Lewis: I am to work on two publications, each connected to an exhibition by the painter. These are to take place in Aldeburgh and London, and both will open later this year. More information will follow in due course. You can find out more about the artist here;
• Linder: I strongly recommend the artist’s show ‘The House of Fame’, just opened at Nottingham Contemporary. ‘Convened’ by Linder, the show includes her own work alongside that of many others, both historical and contemporary. There are also objects and artefacts in the show, including many on loan from Chatsworth, where Linder has recently been the first-ever artist in residence. I have yet to visit the installations of her work at Chatsworth, though am told by those that have they are fascinating.
• Image: Eidothea 2017. One of Linder’s new collage works on show at Chatsworth. © The artist.
• John Blackburn
I am currently working on a major essay for the monograph ‘John Blackburn: The Human and the Abstract’, to be published by Sansom & Co in the autumn. As part of my research for the book I recently made a visit to the archive at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge to look at material relating to Blackburn. Whilst there I was able to see a substantial group of paintings by the artist which form part of the Kettle’s Yard collection. Shown on the wall in the photograph here is ‘Lead Relief’, a Blackburn piece from the 1960s, displayed in the house at Kettle’s Yard. Following a major redevelopment programme, Kettle’s Yard will reopen to the public next month. For more information visit: http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/
• Peter Seal
It was great to see a group of recent paintings by Peter Seal at the London Art Fair earlier this month. Seal is now represented by Anthony Hepworth, of Brownsword Hepworth Fine Art, London: http://www.brownswordhepworth.co.uk/ More on Peter Seal can be found here on my website.
• Forthcoming projects
This year my focus is predominantly on writing for substantial future publications.
Along with this, I have recently met with curatorial teams at two public galleries, and discussed with them my potential curatorial involvement in exhibitions to be programmed in 2020. Both shows relate strongly to aspects of my research. So far the shows are at the discussion/ideas stage, with final decisions yet to be made. Updates will follow.
Photograph: Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, 23 January 2018.
John Blackburn – forthcoming monograph and exhibition
• A substantial monograph on the British artist John Blackburn (b.1932) will be published by Sansom & Co in autumn 2018. It will be the first ever monograph on this significant and fascinating painter. I am currently working on a major essay for the monograph, which will also include written contributions by Christopher Johnstone, Andrew Lambirth and Furse Swann. The book will cover the whole of Blackburn’s career, from the 1950s to the present day. It will be launched with an exhibition of the artist’s work at his London gallery, Osborne Samuel.
• John Blackburn will have his second show at The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh in January 2018. Dates are 10th – 29th January, with a private view on Tuesday 9th January. The work for the show was selected by the artist and myself.
Further information and images will be posted on the gallery website: http://www.openeyegallery.co.uk/
Illustrated: John Blackburn Encaustic, 1961, oil and house paint on canvas, burnt. Private collection, New Zealand. © The artist.
Jon Groom for Art UK
• My text on the abstract paintings of Jon Groom is now available to read online:
• Jon Groom is currently showing work at Galerie Nanna Preussners in Munich.
• Artist’s website: http://www.jon-groom.com/
• Photograph of Jon Groom at work in his studio, 2017, courtesy of the artist.
Kris Knight: As Patrick Procktor’s biographer, I am always interested to know of artists who appreciate his work. I am in correspondence with the Canadian painter Kris Knight, who is an admirer of Procktor. Just recently he kindly sent a jpeg of a painting made earlier this year, and wrote: “I have been looking at Procktor’s work a lot this year – it’s a shame that not many Canadians know of him. I actually did a paperwork this year as an homage to his painting Gervase. It’s called ‘Held Up (After Patrick Procktor)’ oil on prepared cotton paper, 16×12” 2017.” The work is illustrated here, courtesy and © of the artist.You can see more of Kris’s work on his website: http://www.krisknight.com
There is also a highly interesting recent interview article about the artist in Canadian Arts magazine, online here:
It would be wonderful to see a show of Kris Knight’s paintings in the UK.
Keith Vaughan: There is currently a marvellous show of Vaughan’s photographs from the 1930s at Austin Desmond, London. On Pagham Beach: Photographs and Collages from 1930s continues until 8 December 2017. http://www.austindesmond.com/
John Blackburn: Funding has been secured for a major monograph on the abstract painter John Blackburn, for which I am to write the main essay. The book will be published in 2018. Further information to follow.
• Queering St Ives – talk for The Friends of the Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea
Wednesday October 18th 2017 at 6.30pm
From the press release:
Dr. Ian Massey will discuss his research on the hitherto unexplored queer history of St Ives. Central to his talk is the sculptor John Milne (1931-1978), who lived in St Ives from 1952, working initially as an assistant to Barbara Hepworth before setting up his own studio. Milne’s house ‘Trewyn’ became a meeting place for British and international artists, actors and writers. Within his talk Ian will read extracts from privately held letters and journals by Milne and members of his circle, including the artists Francis Bacon and Keith Vaughan.
Booking essential: 01792 516900
Alternatively, tickets can be booked online: www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/201869
Artist Talk: Linder at Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh, Friday 22 September
I will be ‘in conversation’ with artist Linder Sterling and rug tufter Kristi Vana at Dovecot Studios this coming Friday. We will discuss the collaboration between Linder and Dovecot which resulted in the production of a spectacular rug – Diagrams of Love: Marriage of Eyes – that was included in British Art Show 8, and that also featured in the ballet Children of the Mantic Stain, a collaboration between Linder, choreographer Kenneth Tindall, and dancers from Northern Ballet.
• Full details of the event can be found here:
• Booking is via Eventbrite:
• More information on the collaboration between Linder and Dovecot Studios can be found here:
• Image: Linder’s original design for Diagrams of Love: Marriage of Eyes. Photograph courtesy of Linder Sterling © The artist.
• David Tindle ‘in conversation’ – film now online
The film of the David Tindle ‘in conversation’ event at Huddersfield Art Gallery on 11th March 2017 is now online and can be viewed on this website:
Image: Detail from David Tindle’s Baltais Dzidrais (White Apple), tempera on canvas, 1979. © The Artist, courtesy of The Redfern Gallery, London.
News on the painter Alice Mumford
• The artist’s show ‘Strategic Colour’ opens at Belgrave St Ives on 9th September, and continues until 2nd October. The catalogue will include a specially commissioned essay written by myself. Full details of the show will be published on the gallery website: http://www.belgravestives.co.uk
• Alice Mumford and I will discuss her work ‘in conversation’ at the St Ives Arts Club, on Thursday 14th September. The event is part of the St Ives September Festival. Booking details are available here: http://www.crbo.co.uk/eventDetail.php?evGrp=195&evId=14947
Full details of all St Ives September Festival events can be found here: http://www.stivesseptemberfestival.co.uk/
Image: Alice Mumford, Bright Lights and White Table Cloth, oil on board. © Alice Mumford
This painting will be included in the artist’s show at Belgrave St Ives in September.
• John McLean
I was delighted to be invited to the premiere of a new documentary film about the painter John McLean in London recently. The film, ‘Which Way Up with John McLean’, was made by Proudfoot – you can watch a trailer here: https://vimeo.com/214647908
More on Proudfoot on their website: http://proudfoot.tv/
• Image: John McLean in his London studio, a still from the film ‘Which Way Up with John McLean’.
In 2012 I was approached to write about Patrick Procktor for Art UK (then known as The Public Catalogue Foundation), and have since then written a series of short pieces about a number of British artists for them.
Art UK have now produced an ‘author page’ for each of their contributors. Mine is on the following link: https://artuk.org/discover/story-authors/ian-massey
Here are links to each of the pieces I have written for Art UK so far:
Patrick Procktor: https://www.artuk.org/discover/stories/artist-in-focus-patrick-procktor
Max Chapman and Oswell Blakeston: https://artuk.org/discover/stories/max-chapman-and-oswell-blakeston-the-life-of-an-artistic-couple
• Illustrated: Alistair Park ‘Flags and Banners’, oil on canvas, 1964. © The artist’s estate. Collection of High Life Highland Exhibitions Unit.
• Peter Joyce – I will be ‘in conversation’ with the artist Peter Joyce in London on Thursday 4th May. We will discuss the development of the artist’s work over the course of his thirty-year career. Themes will include the roles of landscape and memory in his painting, along with aspects of his studio practice and the key influences that have informed the work. The event will take place within the context of Marks of Passage, the artist’s exhibition with Jenna Burlingham Fine Art at Gallery 8. There will be an opportunity for guests to ask questions after the discussion.
Venue: Gallery 8, 8 Duke Street St James’s, London , SW1Y 6BN
Admission is free, but prior booking essential. Please email email@example.com if you would like to attend.
• Richard Nott – I have recently posted an extract from my essay on Richard Nott’s work to this website, along with a slideshow of a selection of paintings from his current show at Anima-Mundi, St Ives. The show Ecdysis, continues until 21st May 2017. http://www.anima-mundi.co.uk/exhibitions.htm
• Image: Peter Joyce, Vendée Winter, acrylic on canvas, 2017. Photographed in the artist’s studio in France, this is one of over forty new works included in the exhibition Marks of Passage.
• Queering St Ives: the illustrated talk I gave at The Whitworth, Manchester on 2nd February is now available online, though solely as an audio recording: https://soundcloud.com/whitworthart
Many thanks to Matthew Retallick, Poppy Bowers and the Whitworth’s technical team.
• Peter Joyce: I have posted a short extract from my essay Marks of Passage, commissioned by Jenna Burlingham Fine Art for the catalogue of the exhibition of recent paintings by Peter Joyce. The show, Peter Joyce: Marks of Passage, opens in London early May: full details are included in the post on this site, along with links to the artist’s website and that of Jenna Burlingham Fine Art.
• Image: John Milne, Credo, 1974, polished bronze on slate base. This is amongst works by Milne referred to in my talk Queering St Ives.
Photograph of Credo by kind courtesy of Belgrave St Ives. http://www.belgravestives.co.uk/
• Patrick Procktor: Pictured here is a detail from Patrick Procktor’s ‘Three Figures from Memory II’, oil and collage on canvas, 1964. This painting, along with another from the same year ‘The Black Set’, is currently on show at The Redfern Gallery in London. Both works were included in the important exhibition The New Generation at The Whitechapel Gallery, London, curated by Bryan Robertson in 1964.
• David Tindle: the ‘David Tindle in conversation’ event between the artist and myself at Huddersfield Art Gallery on Saturday 11th March was well attended and received. The event was filmed and footage is expected to be published online in due course. An update will follow. The David Tindle retrospective closed on 18th March.
• Richard Nott: I have recently been invited to write about the work of artist Richard Nott, for his forthcoming show ‘Ecdysis’ at Anima Mundi in St Ives. The show it set to open 15th April and continue to 21st May. Further information and images will be found on the gallery website:
Here also is the link to Richard Nott’s website: http://richardnott.co.uk/
• News on David Tindle RA: I will be ‘in conversation’ with the artist at Huddersfield Art Gallery on Saturday 11th March at 2pm. The event is free of charge, but it is necessary to book a ticket online:
The retrospective of David Tindle’s work at Huddersfield has now been extended, and will continue until 18th March.
• Exhibition news on several artists whose work I have written about in recent years:
John Blackburn has a show of both recent paintings and works from the 1960s at his gallery in Parnell, Auckland, opening on 7th March, details here:
The artist’s work is also on display as part of a group show in Cambridge until 24th March:
Brian Rice is showing paintings and prints at Belgrave St Ives, 6th-27th March:
The gallery also has a group of recent paintings by Alice Mumford:
Image: David Tindle, ‘Shop near Via Fillungo’, gouache and coloured pencils on paper, 1998.
© David Tindle RA. Image courtesy of The Redfern Gallery, London.
• In Conversation: Before we were men: David Gwinnutt and guests at the National Portrait Gallery
I am to take part in an ‘in conversation’ event at the National Portrait Gallery, London on the evening of 23rd March. The event coincides with photographer David Gwinnutt’s display of portrait photographs from the NPG collection; photographs which document figures from the art and club scenes of 1980s London. Also taking part are the distinguished filmmaker John Maybury, and the renowned writer and cultural commentator Paul Gorman is to host the event.
Booking is online here: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/late-shift-1/in-conversation-23032017
Information about David Gwinnutt’s display of photographs can be found here:
• Patrick Procktor Works on Paper: The catalogue for the current show of Procktor’s work at The Redfern Gallery, London is now online. It contains my essay on the artist. The show is set to continue until 2nd March.
• Forthcoming talk at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea: I have been invited by the Friends of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery to give a talk at the gallery later this year. An update will follow in due course.
• Photograph of Patrick Procktor and Jill Bennett (1984) © David Gwinnutt, courtesy of the photographer. Collection: National Portrait Gallery, London.
• Patrick Procktor: A show of works on paper by Patrick Procktor opens on Thursday 2 February at The Redfern Gallery, London. The selected works trace the evolution of the artist’s technique and visual language over the course of five decades. The accompanying catalogue includes an essay written by myself. Shown here is a 1973 watercolour to be included in the show.
Update 28 January: The Procktor show has been postponed slightly, and will now open on 8th February.
• Fraser Taylor: The monograph Rose Wylie and Fraser Taylor “Collisions” is about to go to press. The book is to be published by Steidl in June, when there will be an accompanying exhibition of work by the two artists. I have recently received the pdf of the book, which has been curated by Alison Harley and designed with great verve by Theseus Chan. It includes my essay ‘Bodies of Work: notes on aspects of Fraser Taylor’s practice’. An update will follow later in the year.
Image: Patrick Procktor RA, ‘Regent’s Park’, 1973. Courtesy The Redfern Gallery, London. © The Artist’s Estate/The Redfern Gallery.
• I have been invited to give a talk at The Whitworth, Manchester on Thursday 2nd February.
The talk is entitled Queering St Ives and will focus on my current research on the sculptor John Milne and his circle. Within the talk I will refer to artists who visited St Ives in the 1950s and 1960s, amongst them Francis Bacon, Patrick Procktor and Keith Vaughan.
Admission is free, but it is necessary to book in advance. At the time of posting, the event is fully booked, but more spaces might be allocated soon: an update will follow.
UPDATE 10 January: Due to high demand the Whitworth will now host my talk in a larger space, and have made more tickets available.
UPDATE 12 January: All 200 tickets are now booked for the talk, and the event is sold out.
Full details of the talk can be found here:
• News on David Tindle: Art UK have published a piece on the artist by Rachel Cooke, accessible online here:
The David Tindle retrospective continues at Huddersfield Art Gallery until 4th February 2017.
UPDATE 12 January: The David Tindle retrospective is now extended and will continue until 4th March.
• Photograph: John Milne in his studio at Trewyn, St Ives, c.1971. Courtesy of The St Ives Archive.
• I have today uploaded to the website a brief essay on the Patrick Procktor painting illustrated here – Gervase VII (1968) – which sold for a record auction price at Christie’s, London, last week. The essay was commissioned from me by the vendor, for inclusion as the auction catalogue entry.
• The abstract painter Peter Seal, with whom I worked on his highly regarded show at Bankley Gallery, Manchester, in 2014, has just relaunched his website, having recently mounted a superb ‘at home’ show of his paintings, collages and sculptures. Do please visit the artist's website:http://www.peterseal.org/
• The David Tindle retrospective at Huddersfield Art Gallery continues to receive great feedback from visitors. It is listed in the Exhibition Listings pages of the January issue of The World of Interiors magazine, which also carries an illustration of the artist’s 1954 oil painting Broken Egg Shell. A review in The Jackdaw is imminent.
David Tindle RA: A Retrospective – at Huddersfield Art Gallery
12th November 2016 – 4th February 2017
The retrospective of David Tindle’s work I have co-curated with Richard Selby, Director of The Redfern Gallery, has now opened at Huddersfield Art Gallery.
The exhibition spans six decades of the artist’s career, and includes loans from public and private collections.
An illustrated catalogue, which includes my essay on the artist, is available from the gallery.
I have today posted here some information about the exhibition, and a slideshow which contains a sample of the paintings included in the exhibition.
The show is to be reviewed by The Jackdaw and The Observer newspaper.
UPDATE: Rachel Cooke’s 5-star review for The Observer, 20th November 2016:
Image: David Tindle, Miss Myth, 2006, egg tempera on board. © The artist/The Redfern Gallery, London.
• My short article ‘Max Chapman and Oswell Blakeston: the life of an artistic couple’ is now published online by Art UK:
Illustrated here: Max Chapman’s painting Chinese (1963), collection of Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries. This painting was included in Chapman’s 1964 show at The Molton Gallery, London. The catalogue included the following text by the artist:
‘In a sense these are by intention ambiguous pictures, their final image being the sum of a number of questing images.
If I were asked to justify their deliberate equivocation, it would not be along current zeitgeist intellectual lines. It is simply a matter of my preference for an open verdict, a feeling for the multiplicity of phenomenal aspects.
“Truth at one stroke”, the unequivocal pictorial statement, has the advantage of strong immediate impact. But it is possible that pictures which reveal their exploratory nature have other dimensions. To this end I have retained the pentimenti, as signposts along the journey that has been made.’
• I have recently completed a substantial essay on the artist David Tindle, for inclusion in the catalogue of his forthcoming show at Huddersfield Art Gallery. I have also been invited to co-curate the show, which will be installed later this month. It opens on 12th November. Further updates to follow.
I recently visited the artist David Tindle at his studio in Italy, where I spent a couple of days talking with him and looking at his work and archive. In the early 1950s Tindle befriended the artist John Minton, and through him met Keith Vaughan, John Craxton and Lucien Freud. Now in his eighties and still painting, he is in many ways a last remaining link with a particular circle of artists that also included Francis Bacon. Tindle’s career has been fascinating, and is little documented thus far. I will be writing an essay about his work for a publication to coincide with his show at Huddersfield Art Gallery, set to open 12th November and continue into 2017. Updates will follow.
Photograph: David Tindle in his studio, 20 September 2016
• The exhibition John Blackburn: Material Nature opens at Osborne Samuel Gallery, London, on 8th September, and continues to 1st October. I have posted an extract from my catalogue essay on this website, along with a slideshow of paintings from the show: http://www.ianmasseyart.co.uk/john-blackburn-material-nature/
There is also a link to the virtual catalogue, which illustrates all of the paintings in the show and contains the whole of my essay: http://read.uberflip.com/i/715572-john-blackburn-material-nature
• Advance notice: A show of new paintings by Peter Joyce is to open in central London at the beginning of May 2017. The catalogue will include Marks of Passage my essay on the artist’s work. An update will follow nearer the time.
Illustrated here: Peter Joyce’s River Passage acrylic on joined paper, 2016. You can see more of the artist’s work on his website: http://www.peterjoyce.org.uk/
• John Blackburn: forthcoming show at Osborne Samuel, London
The exhibition John Blackburn: Material Nature is set to open at Osborne Samuel on 8th September and continue until 1st October. The exhibition catalogue (cover design shown here) includes ‘Material Nature’, my essay on the artist from which the show also takes its title. The exhibition is of both recent work and works from the 1960s, many of them never before exhibited. More images and text will be posted here in due course.
Information on the show will also be posted on the gallery website: http://www.osbornesamuel.com/
• St Ives Festival talk: ‘The Lives of Artists: Art and Biography’
For the third consecutive year I am to give a talk at the St Ives Festival. The talk will consider the ways in which biography and autobiography inform the way we read an artist’s work, taking into account issues of personal identity, gender, class and sexuality in the formation of an artistic persona and its legacy. The focus will be on British artists, amongst them Keith Vaughan, Barbara Hepworth and David Hockney.
Date: Monday 12th September at 3.30pm
Venue: Borlase Smart Room, Porthmeor Studios & Cellars, Back Road West, St Ives, Cornwall
Tickets are bookable online here: http://www.crbo.co.uk/eventDetail.php?evGrp=195&evId=12909
Full information on the 2016 Festival: http://www.stivesseptemberfestival.co.uk/
• A retrospective show of work by the artist David Tindle is to open at Huddersfield Art Gallery in November. Though long resident in Italy, Tindle was born and brought up in Huddersfield. I have been commissioned to write an essay for a publication marking the exhibition, and will visit the artist this summer in order to undertake research. Updates will follow.
• Fraser Taylor and Rose Wylie have recently worked in collaboration, producing new work to be shown in an exhibition in Glasgow next year. An ambitious publication documenting the collaboration between the two artists will be published to coincide with the show. The book will include several texts, including a new one by myself on Fraser Taylor. Again, updates will follow.
• Image: ‘John’ by David Tindle, 1973, oil on canvas. Collection: The Hepworth, Wakefield. This is amongst paintings pencilled for inclusion in the artist’s Huddersfield show this November.
• I recently visited the artist Peter Joyce in the La Vendée region of France where he lives and works. The visit provided an invaluable opportunity, not only to look at and discuss the artist’s work in the context of his studio, but also in experiencing the quietly dramatic local landscape, formed as it is from land reclaimed from the sea. Rich in wildlife, and with expansive vistas of land, water and sky, the landscape is the major source of inspiration for Peter Joyce’s work. My essay on his work will be included in the catalogue of his next London show, to be presented by Jenna Burlingham Fine Art next year.
• Two current London exhibitions of note:
A beautiful show of abstract paintings (plus one sculpture) by John McLean, just opened at Maddox Arts, Brooks Mews, Mayfair. The show continues until 30 July.
• Vibration of Space at Waddington Custot, Cork Street, Mayfair. The show consists of paintings by four artists: Patrick Heron, Nicolas de Staël, Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages. Strongly recommended. The show continues until 9 July. There is a beautifully produced catalogue. http://www.waddingtoncustot.com/
• Photograph: Peter Joyce and Ian Massey discussing a painting in progress in the artist’s studio, May 2016. Photograph by Jo Long.
• I recently visited mima in Middlesbrough, where I was able to visit the gallery store in order to view the painting by Max Chapman illustrated here. It is one of several paintings I will write about in my piece on Chapman for Art UK, to be published later this year.
Whilst at mima I saw their excellent show of paintings by Basil Beattie, which continues to 12 June. http://www.visitmima.com/
• Last week I accompanied Gordon Samuel and Barby Chhohan of Osborne Samuel on a visit to John Blackburn at his studio in Canterbury, where we selected work for the artist’s forthcoming show at the gallery. A substantial group of canvases and works on paper made in 1969 will form part of the show, along with more recent paintings, including a large triptych and diptych. I am to write about the work for the exhibition catalogue. An update will follow in September.
• The renowned collector Ronnie Duncan is mounting a show of paintings by John Blackburn at his gallery in Yorkshire, opening later this month and continuing until 19 June. Visits are by appointment only. If you would like more information please email me.
• Photograph: Max Chapman ‘Wings’, 1968, acrylic on canvas. Collection and courtesy of: Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art – mima
• I have recently returned from a research trip to St Ives, where I gathered additional archival material for my current project on the sculptor John Milne, and spoke with several people who knew Milne and his circle. My main focus this year is on the completion of my book on Milne. Updates will follow in due course.
• Whilst in St Ives I was invited to give a talk at this year’s St Ives Festival. The talk will be on Monday 12th September: update to follow.
• Osborne Samuel have invited me to write the catalogue essay for their show of paintings by John Blackburn, set to open at their London gallery on 8th September. I will post the text on this site later in the year.
• I am to write a piece on the artist Max Chapman (1911-99) for Art UK, for publication online this summer. An update will follow. http://artuk.org/
• Just announced is Queer British Art opening at Tate Britain in April 2017. The show marks the fiftieth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
See the feature on The Guardian website for more information: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/apr/19/queer-british-art-show-leads-tate-2017-programme
Photograph: Porthmeor Beach, St Ives (with flag and its shadow), April 2016. © Ian Massey
• John Blackburn: Selected Works – at The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh
The exhibition of John Blackburn’s paintings opened at The Open Eye Gallery on Saturday.
The paintings were selected by myself, and beautifully installed by the gallery team. The private view was very busy, and response to the show immensely positive, with a number of works sold and reserved.
The show continues until 20th April. For further information please visit the gallery website: http://www.openeyegallery.co.uk/
• The photograph here shows John Blackburn at The Open Eye Gallery with a selection of works from his Hostage and Double Hostage series, painted in the 1970’s. Photograph © Ian Massey
• Darling Patrick, my article about Patrick Procktor, is published in the first issue of Luncheon, a beautiful new magazine co-edited by Frances von Hofmannstahl and Thomas Persson. I have posted two short extracts from the article online here. The full text can be found in the magazine, which also carries illustrations of Procktor’s work, along with documentary photographs of the artist by David Montgomery and Homer Sykes.
The photograph here shows a detail from the opening double-page spread of my article, along with a section of the cover of Luncheon magazine. The cover photograph is by Sølve Sundsbø.
For more information about the magazine, visit: http://luncheonmagazine.com/
• I have recently been invited to write about the work of Peter Joyce for a catalogue that will accompany an exhibition of paintings by the artist opening in London next year. Updates will follow.
• Yesterday I visited the painter John Blackburn at his studio in Canterbury, in order to select work for his forthcoming show at The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh. The gallery kindly invited me to form the selection of work for the show, which will open on Saturday 2nd April.
John Blackburn will have two other shows in the UK this year; updates to follow.
Website update: Pure Romance
• I have added to the website a slideshow of photographs showing part of the installation of the show Pure Romance at The Redfern Gallery (closes 3rd March).
• Image: Paintings in John Blackburn’s studio, Canterbury, 1st March 2016. Photograph © Ian Massey
• The art and antiques specialist Luke Honey has recently written an insightful article on Patrick Procktor for the Barneby’s blog. The article can be viewed here:
• Website update: I have added a new post to the Curation section of the site, with information about the show Pure Romance, at The Redfern Gallery, London. The post also includes a slideshow of a selection of works from the show:
As previously announced, the show has been extended until 3rd March 2016.
• Image: Keith Vaughan, Three Figures – ‘Iowa Bather’, 1959, gouache and pencil on paper. This work is one of several works by Vaughan included in Pure Romance at The Redfern Gallery.
• Pure Romance, the group show I have curated for The Redfern Gallery in London has now been extended until 3rd March.
There are two online reviews of the show by Louisa Buck, for The Telegraph and The Art Newspaper:
There is also a review of the show by Dr Alex Belsey on his blog: https://artintheendtimes.wordpress.com/
• The exhibition Patrick Procktor: The Last Romantic at TheGallery AUB, Arts University Bournemouth, has also been extended, and will now close on 3 March.
• Pictured: Patrick Procktor, Rain Paint, 1970, oil on canvas. © The Artist’s Estate, courtesy of The Redfern Gallery.
This is one of a group of works by the artist included in Pure Romance at The Redfern Gallery. http://www.redfern-gallery.com
• The exhibition Pure Romance opened last Tuesday at The Redfern Gallery, London. The opening event was very well attended, and amongst those present were artists whose work is included in the show: Kaye Donachie, Linder, and Alessandro Raho. Other guests included Michael Bracewell, Charles Darwent, Frances von Hofmannsthal, Christopher Gibbs, Nicky Haslam, Marco Livingstone, Johnny Marr, Robin Muir, Terence Pepper and David Shilling. The photographer David Gwinnutt, and artists Daisy Cook, Naomi Frears, Vincent Hawkins, Paul Housley, Paul Kindersley, Ffiona Lewis and Justin Mortimer were also in attendance; as were Professor Emma Hunt and Violet McClean from Arts University Bournemouth. It was a great evening!
• I am to give a talk on Patrick Procktor at Arts University Bournemouth this coming Thursday, 11th February. The event is free, although booking is necessary. Booking information here: http://aub.ac.uk/event/curators-talk-dr-ian-massey/
• The Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh are to mount a show of paintings by John Blackburn in April, for which I am to select the work. Further information will follow.
Photograph: posters outside The Redfern Gallery, 20 Cork Street, London.
• The group exhibition Pure Romance is set to open at The Redfern Gallery, Cork Street, London, on 2 February. There is a catalogue for the show, just published and available from the gallery. Enquiries for copies should be made to Maya Laud – firstname.lastname@example.org
• Patrick Procktor: The Last Romantic opened at Arts University Bournemouth last Thursday evening, 14 January. Feedback from visitors to the show has been immensely positive. I have posted a slideshow of images, along with extracts from the essay written for the accompanying publication here. The publication is available from AUB. Enquiries should be made to email@example.com
• Felix Gonzalez-Torres This Place at The MAC, Belfast
My review of this show, written for the online journal of contemporary art http://thisistomorrow.info/is now published.
It is also included, along with a slideshow of installation photographs from the show, in the Essays and Reviews section of this website.
• Patrick Procktor Illustrated here is an ink drawing by the artist, one of a series of illustrations made for Paul Theroux’s book Sailing Through China (published by Michael Russell, 1983). The drawing will be amongst many works on paper by the artist in Patrick Procktor: The Last Romantic, at TheGallery, Arts University Bournemouth. The show opens on the evening of 14 January 2016.
• Pure Romance The magazine World of Interiors is to carry a feature on Pure Romance, the group show which commences at The Redfern Gallery, London, on 2 February 2016. Written by Robin Muir, the feature will be included in the February issue of World of Interiors, due for publication in early January.
Drawing by Patrick Procktor, 1983, ink on paper. © The Redfern Gallery, London. Photograph courtesy TheGallery, Arts University Bournemouth.
The list of artists to be included in Pure Romance, the group exhibition I am curating for The Redfern Gallery, London, is now finalised. The show will consist of paintings, works on paper and photographs, ranging in date from 1925 to 2015. Dates for the show are 2nd-27th February 2016. A catalogue is currently in preparation. Work by the following sixteen artists will appear in the show:
Marc Camille Chaimowicz
There is a link to the press release here: http://www.ianmasseyart.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/PUREROMANCE-7.pdf
Do please write should you require any further information.
Image: Kaye Donachie, Anchored by day, drawn in at night, 2010, oil on canvas – one of two paintings by the artist to be included in Pure Romance.
© Kaye Donachie. Courtesy of the artist and Maureen Paley, London.
• The catalogue for the Patrick Procktor show at Arts University Bournemouth is now at the design stage. The painting illustrated here from the Arts Council collection is amongst a number of important works from the 1960s to be included in the show.
I have recently written a piece on Procktor for the first issue of Luncheon, a new magazine due to launch next March. Update to follow.
• I am to review the exhibition of work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres currently on show in Belfast for the online journal thisistomorrow. Felix Gonzalez-Torres: This Place is at The MAC, Belfast until 24 January 2016.
More details here: https://themaclive.com/shows/felix-gonzalez-torres-this-place
• Following on from the fully-booked ‘in conversation’ event with Linder at Leeds Art Gallery last month, this coming Friday 20th November sees the premiere at the same venue of Children of the Mantic Stain, the ballet on which the artist has collaborated with award-winning choreographer Kenneth Tindall and dancers from Northern Ballet. There are two performances, both on the same evening.
Booking details here: http://britishartshow8.com/events/children-mantic-stain-1650
• Image: Patrick Procktor, ‘Three Figures in a Landscape’ 1962, oil on canvas. Arts Council Collection. © The Artist’s Estate/Redfern Gallery, London.
• I will be ‘in conversation’ with the artist Linder Sterling at Leeds Art Gallery on Tuesday 27 October. Linder is amongst the 42 artists selected for British Art Show 8, recently opened at Leeds Art Gallery. The ‘in conversation’ event commences at 6pm. The event is free, but tickets should be booked in advance. Details are on this link: http://britishartshow8.com/events/tuesday-talk-linder-1619
• Work continues on the group show ‘Pure Romance’, opening at The Redfern Gallery, London in February 2016. I have recently had confirmation of the loan of two paintings by Derek Jarman for the show. Updates will follow.
Image: Detail from Linder’s British Art Show exhibit Diagrams of Love Marriage of Eyes, 2015
© Linder Sterling; Dovecot Studios Ltd, 2015. Courtesy the artist.
• Update on the exhibition Patrick Procktor: The Last Romantic. With additional gallery space available, the show I am curating for Arts University Bournemouth is now to be expanded. I have recently had confirmation of loans of important works by the artist from the collections of The Arts Council and Imperial War Museum. There will also be substantial loans from private collections and from the artist’s estate. Many of the works in the show have not been publicly exhibited for many years.
• Two excerpts from my recently published essay on Alice Mumford are now on this website, along with a slideshow of photographs of the artist’s paintings from her recent Belgrave St Ives exhibition.
Image: Patrick Procktor: RFM Pahalman Gurung, Belize, 1983. Oil on canvas © The artist’s estate/Redfern Gallery, London.
This is one of five portraits painted in Belize which are to be included in Patrick Procktor: The Last Romantic, The Gallery, Arts University Bournemouth, 14 January to 25 February 2016.
September events – St Ives Festival
• Alice Mumford in conversation
I will be in conversation with the painter Alice Mumford at The Belgrave Gallery, St Ives, on Monday 14th September at 6pm. The event coincides with the artist’s exhibition at the gallery, and with the publication of a new book on her work, “Colour from Coast to Coast”. The book includes my essay on the artist, ‘Passing Events of Light’. Admission is free.
More information can be found on the gallery website: http://www.belgravestives.co.uk/
• Unexplored Histories: John Milne and Trewyn House
On Tuesday 15th September I will give a talk on my research on the St Ives sculptor John Milne (1931-1978). The talk considers Milne’s life and work within the context of his period, focussing also on the gay and bohemian subcultures of St Ives during the 1950’s and 60’s.
Venue: Borlase Smart Room, Porthmeor Studios, Back Road West. Admission costs £5.50 – the talk commences at 3.30pm.
• All information on these and other events can be found on the St Ives Festival website and online calendar of events:
Image: Alice Mumford, The Blue Sail, oil on board, 2013 © The artist
• Exhibitions update: Patrick Procktor: The Last Romantic at Arts University Bournemouth; and Pure Romance at The Redfern Gallery, London.
The Patrick Procktor show I am curating for Arts University Bournemouth now features on the university’s website. The show and associated events are open to the public – all information can be found on the AUB website:
14th January 2016: There is to be a panel discussion on Patrick Procktor, chaired by Professor Simon Olding, on the evening of the private view. The panel will consist of the artists Dougal McKenzie and Alessandro Raho, Redfern Gallery director Richard Selby, and myself.
Details here: http://aub.ac.uk/event/panel-discussion-age-procktor-2/
11th February 2016: I will be giving a curator’s talk at the university.
Details here: http://aub.ac.uk/event/curators-talk-dr-ian-massey/
• Arts University Bournemouth have also posted information about ‘Pure Romance’, the group show I am curating at the Redfern Gallery, London:
Full information about this show will be posted here later in the year.
Image: Patrick Procktor photographed in 1968. © The Redfern Gallery, London.
• Alistair Park (1930-1984)
My article on the artist, written for the Public Catalogue Foundation is now online:
When researching Alistair Park I had an email correspondence with his son Stephen, who was generous in sharing information and memories of his father with me. Here I am posting an excerpt from an email Stephen Park sent to me in May this year, which gives an additional insight into his father’s relationship to art:
“I was dragged around a lot of galleries with my father as a child. He remained passionate about the entire collective endeavour of painting through history, excluding almost nothing as far as I can remember. I particularly remember his involvement with Goya, Rembrandt, early Dubuffet, and all of Picasso (though he singled out some early ones that I found ugly), Cezanne, Van Gogh etc. He also delighted in Magritte and Hopper. When I was old enough to talk with him about art he was always contemporary in his conversation. We had books about Jasper Johns, Gilbert and George and Joseph Beuys – lots of Joseph Beuys – and Duchamp also became important to him. But regarding the earlier painters I listed, it was rather as if they needed no discussion, he was just enraptured. I remain very grateful for his attitude to the arts in general; that the Beethoven and the Captain Beefheart records were next to each other without any contradiction.
In the early eighties, not very long before he died, we saw the Philip Guston exhibition together at the Whitechapel and we both enjoyed the feeling of being thrown off kilter and re-excited about what painting could be and do.”
• Recently I visited the Connaught Brown gallery in London. Amongst work in their current summer show are two lovely paintings by the Italian painter Afro Basaldella (1912-1976, and known as Afro). This October Connaught Brown will mount an exhibition of the artist’s work, which I look forward to very much. Illustrated here is one of the two works currently on show at the gallery, Senza Titolo (1965), mixed media on wood. © Foundation Archive Afro/Connaught Brown, London.
• Last year, amongst recent acquisitions displayed at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, I was very much taken with a painting by Alistair Park, his Female Nude (1959). The Public Catalogue Foundation will now publish my short article on the artist online later this month (update to follow). Illustrated here is another of Park’s paintings, Blue Little Man (1962).
Exhibitions of note visited recently:
• Linder’s show at Dependance, Brussels. The artist has collaborated with fashion house Maison Margiela on this exhibition, which is titled An Absence, A Presence, A Mood, A Mantle. The show continues until 11th July. Details can be found on the gallery website: http://www.dependance.be/
• Whilst in Brussels I also visited The Jewish Museum, which has a wonderful exhibition of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson, continuing until 24th August:
• Just opened at The Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, is Real Painting, a group show co-curated by Deb Covell and Jo McGonigal. Amongst the artists shown are Simon Callery, Angela de la Cruz and Finbar Ward. Details here: http://www.castlefieldgallery.co.uk/event/real-painting/
• The artist’s show Shadowed Valley is currently at the Bonhoga Gallery, Shetland, and continues until 19th July. Details here: http://www.shetlandarts.org/shadowed-valley/
• Fraser will also show at The House for an Art Lover in Glasgow next month:
You can now follow me on Instagram: https://instagram.com/ianmasseyart
Image: Alistair Park, Blue Little Man, oil on canvas, 1962. Collection: City of Edinburgh Council
• Planning continues for the two shows I am curating in 2016.
• Dates are now confirmed for the Patrick Procktor show at Arts University Bournemouth (14 January – 25 February), and the group show at The Redfern Gallery, London (2 February – 27 February).
• The Arts University Bournemouth show will include key loans from public and private collections. Along with important works on canvas, there will be a strong emphasis on drawing in the show. It will also include documentary photographs; amongst them a group from 1969 by Homer Sykes, showing Patrick Procktor and friends including Ossie Clark, Gervase Griffiths and David Hockney.
• Artists now confirmed for the Redfern Gallery show include Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Kaye Donachie, Silke Otto Knapp, and Alessandro Raho. The full list will be published later this year.
• I am delighted that the Cecil Beaton Archive at Sotheby’s have agreed to loan a group of photographs by Cecil Beaton for the Redfern Gallery show, including the portrait of Rex Whistler shown here.
Photograph: Rex Whistler, photographed at Cap Ferrat, 1927. © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s. With thanks to Joanna Ling.
• News of gallery shows of work by Fraser Taylor and Keith Vaughan:
• Fraser’s show Orchid/Dirge, curated by Shannon Stratton, is at Threewalls, Chicago, until 23 May 2015 (slideshow of installation photographs shown here).
For more information visit: http://three-walls.org/exhibition/fraser-taylor-orchiddirge/
Fraser Taylor will be showing in Glasgow in July. Updates will follow.
• Anthony Hepworth Fine Art will be showing important works by Keith Vaughan and Prunella Clough from The Hargreaves and Ball Trust, as the gallery’s Bath Festival exhibition. Exhibition dates: 9-23 May 2015.
For more information visit: http://anthonyhepworth.com/html/Exhibitions.html
Images: Photographs from Fraser Taylor’s show Orchid/Dirge, Threewalls, Chicago. Photographs courtesy of Fraser Taylor © the artist.
• I have added a new section to the website – Public Events – in which films and records of public talks and similar events will be posted.
The first of these is a film made by Alban Roinard of my talk on Sandra Blow at The Exchange, Penzance, in September 2014.
More films will be posted as they become available.
Photograph: A section of the exhibition Sandra Blow RA: Colour Within, at The Exchange, Penzance, 2014. Photograph courtesy of Blair Todd/Newlyn Art Gallery.
• I have recently been in St Ives, undertaking research for a new book.
I am keen to hear from anyone who has information about the artist Michael Broido (1927-2013), who was in St Ives during the 1950s and 60s. Please email me if you have work or any information on the artist.
Broido was a member of the Penwith Society and associated with many St Ives artists, including Patrick Heron, Bryan Wynter and Alan Lowndes. There is some information on him on the following link:
• Whilst in St Ives I was invited to give a talk at this year’s St Ives Festival. The talk will take place mid-September, and will focus on my current research. Further details will follow.
Photograph: View from the artist John Emmanuel’s studio overlooking Porthmeor Beach. © Ian Massey
• Update on Patrick Procktor exhibitions:
Along with the show of Procktor’s work I am to curate for The Arts University, Bournemouth in January 2016, it is now confirmed that I will also curate a show at The Redfern Gallery, London.
Whilst the focus of the Bournemouth exhibition will be on groups of works from key stages of Procktor’s career, the London show will combine a selection of paintings by Procktor alongside groups of work by contemporary figurative artists. The show is currently in the planning stages, but I am delighted to be able to announce that Alessandro Raho is to be amongst the artists taking part. Further details will follow later this year.
Image: Alessandro Raho’s 2014 oil on canvas portrait of Bryan Ferry. Courtesy of the artist and Alison Jacques Gallery, London.
© Alessandro Raho
• I will be hosting an “in conversation” with the artists Brian Rice and Richard Rome at Studio 3 Gallery, University of Kent, Canterbury, on the evening of 26th February.
The show of work by the two artists: ‘Palindrome: The Sixties Art of Brian Rice and Richard Rome‘ continues until 10th April, and is one of three exhibitions under the banner ‘My Generation: A Festival of British Art in the 1960s‘.
More information here:
Photograph: Installation shot showing sculpture by Richard Rome and paintings by Brian Rice.
Courtesy of Dr. Ben Thomas, University of Kent.
Patrick Procktor: I am to curate a show of the artist’s work for Arts University, Bournemouth. It will open in mid-January 2016, and continue for six weeks.
The works exhibited will be drawn from both public and private collections and from the holdings of the artist’s Estate.
I am keen to hear from collectors who might be prepared to loan work for the Bournemouth exhibition. In particular I am seeking paintings, drawings and watercolours.
Please email me if you have work or require any further information. All information received will be treated in the strictest confidence: firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be a publication to accompany the Arts University show.
The Redfern Gallery in London will mount a Procktor show to coincide with the one at Bournemouth.
Further information on both shows will follow later this year.
Image: Patrick Procktor It’s For You (1965) oil on canvas
© The Artist’s Estate/Redfern Gallery, London.
My text on the abstract painter Trevor Bell has now been published online by The Public Catalogue Foundation, as part of their “Artist in Focus” series.
It can be found on this link: http://www.thepcf.org.uk/artists/116/filter_reference/2014/offset/0/reference/36/
The painting Rocker with a Stop (1989) illustrated here is one of the paintings considered in the text.
Do look also at Trevor Bell’s website: www.trevorbellartist.com
I have been invited to host an “in conversation” between the artist Linder and choreographer Kenneth Tindall, in which we will discuss their collaboration on the ballet The Ultimate Form.
The event is at The Hepworth, Wakefield, on the evening of Wednesday 28th January.
A film of the performance will be premiered at the gallery on the same evening.
Further details can be found on the gallery website: http://www.hepworthwakefield.org/whatson/theultimateform/
Image: Film still from The Ultimate Form, courtesy of Linder Sterling.
© The Artist
• The highly-rated abstract painter John McLean has a show opening at Cross Street Gallery, London, next Wednesday, 12 November, continuing until 27 December. More on this link:
• I have today posted on this website my 2001 essay on the artist, written to accompany his show that year at Flowers East, London. It was the first of my writings about painting to be published.
Image: John McLean, “Knowe”, 2011, acrylic on canvas, © The artist; courtesy Cross Street Gallery, London
• This week I travelled to Northampton Art Gallery, where I had an appointment to view Trevor Bell’s superb White and Near Blacks (1961) currently held in storage. The Contemporary Art Society presented the work to the gallery in 1965. It is one of the paintings I will write about in my forthcoming text on the artist for the Public Catalogue Foundation.
• The show of abstract painting I was due to curate for Huddersfield Art Gallery (to open September 2015) has unfortunately been cancelled. Planned as part of a series of exhibitions in collaboration with the University of Huddersfield, a funding bid for the programme was unsuccessful. I hope to be able to work on a show of abstract painting elsewhere at some point in the future.
Image: Detail from Trevor Bell’s White and Near Blacks, oil on canvas, 196 x 166cm (1961) © The Artist
The painting can be seen in full on this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/white-and-near-blacks-49587
• Working alongside the artist Clair Graubner, I have been involved in curating and installing the second annual Bankley Gallery Open Call exhibition in Manchester. The show opened last night and continues until late October (weekend opening only).
The selection panel for the show were:
Chris Bloor, Director of And Model, Leeds;
Kate Jesson, Curator at Manchester City Art Gallery;
Kwong Lee, Director of Castlefield Gallery, Manchester;
Peter Seal, artist and overall winner of the Open Call show in 2013.
The submission was open to UK artists in all media, and of the ninety-nine artists who entered, twenty were chosen. The panel selected Holly Rowan Hesson as overall winner, for her work Spark, illustrated here. Holly will have a one-person show at Bankley Gallery in 2015.
More details can be found on the gallery site: http://www.bankley.org.uk/gallery-events
• I am to write on the abstract painter Trevor Bell for the Public Catalogue Foundation. Update to follow.
• Current research continues towards a book which will centre on St Ives, and include material on the sculptor John Milne, and the painter Michael Broido. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who has work and/or information on these artists.
Image: Holly Rowan Hesson, Spark, acetate and glass (2014)
• This Friday, 26th September at 6pm, I will be in conversation with artist Linder about my current research on St Ives artists, including the sculptor John Milne.
Venue: The Penwith Gallery, St Ives.
Details on this link:
Earlier on Friday I am to give my lunchtime talk on the painter Sandra Blow, as part of the St Ives Festival: http://www.stivesseptemberfestival.co.uk
• I have recently been commissioned to write an essay for a monograph publication on the painter Alice Mumford. The book is due for publication in 2015. Updates will follow.
Image: John Milne, c.1954
The picture has recently been acquired by the art dealer Rollo Campbell, who writes on his website that it “marks a significant moment in Procktor’s output as it is probably one of the first examples of his work in watercolour and demonstrates his immediate fluency in the medium.”
I am currently in the early stages of negotiation to curate a Procktor exhibition in 2016. The show may tour. Updates will follow.
Image © The Estate of Patrick Procktor
I am to give two talks on Sandra Blow in September.
The first, A Celebration of the Life and Work of Sandra Blow, is at The Exchange, Penzance, on 5th September.
Following on from a talk about the artist’s paintings in the gallery, I will then host an ‘in conversation’ with a group of people who knew the artist.
Booking details are on this link:
The second talk, Sandra Blow: Material Nature, is part of this year’s St Ives Festival, and will take place on 26th September: details are on the poster illustrated here.
• My talk on the artist Keith Vaughan is at Brighton Art Gallery next Sunday, 3rd August. Entitled Keith Vaughan: The Spontaneous Image, it will consider the technical and stylistic development of the work, in particular the relationship between Vaughan’s oil paintings and his gouaches. More details of the talk are on the gallery website:
• Corridor 8 have published an online interview with Peter Seal:
• The event A Celebration of the Life and Work of Sandra Blow is now confirmed for Friday 5th September, starting at 7pm. I am to give a gallery talk on the artist’s work at The Exchange, Newlyn, and then host an ‘in conversation’ with a panel of guests. Full details are on the Newlyn Art Gallery website: http://newlynartgallery.co.uk/sandra-blow/
Image: Keith Vaughan: Dark Seated Figure, gouache (1973)
© The Keith Vaughan Estate, courtesy of Anthony Hepworth Fine Art.
Notes on Peter Seal’s paintings
Though he exhibits infrequently, Peter Seal has over the years built a reputation for his quietly powerful abstract paintings, notable for their chromatic subtlety and beautifully-crafted surfaces. Typically, a canvas might be composed of one or two squares or rectangles, within which are then set one or more subsidiary geometric shapes. Such grid-like structures might suggest sources in the urban environment, but the artist is keen to assert that this is not his intention, and that although there may be subliminal references to the world of appearances, there are no explicit external reference points. The paintings, he says, “don’t have an answer – they are not crossword puzzles.” Their eloquence comes from paint and form alone.
Seal works on a number of paintings at once, different sizes ensuring variety of pace and focus. Each can take six-to-eight weeks to complete, though much of that time might not be in the physical making, but in a process of assimilation, a kind of “settling time”. They are built up slowly in layers of oil paint, each allowed to dry before the next is applied. A grey, painted over vermillion, becomes warmer; a white softer when painted over yellow. This gradual accretion results often in a lapidary intensity of colour. Edges where colours abutt or intersect are crucial. Some are knife-sharp, whereas others are more diffuse, allowing the subtle vibration of a seam of cobalt, violet or alizarin, or of a fizzy penumbra where magenta and orange merge. Spatial harmony is achieved through tonal modulation and a fine-tuning of the scale of each component and its inter-relationships.
In planning a painting, structure is secondary to Seal’s primary interest in colour. He might start quite simply, by painting a single hue, or from the idea of two that he feels could work together. His palette derives often from what he sees in nature, from a visual experience that compels him to seek some equivalent in paint. Though resident in Manchester since the early Eighties, Seal was born and grew up in Perthshire, and it was there that the formation of his artistic sensibility began. He particularly likes what he describes as Scottish colours, citing the intermingling of hue in woven tweed fabric, and that of hills covered in heather, where two or more colours coexist, merging from a distance to read as one. There are similar effects in certain paintings, where two distinct colours can be seen to cohabit within the weave and nub of the canvas. As a young man Seal would go fishing with his brother-in-law on the River Ness, and he recalls how struck he was by the light and colour of the water, both in its shallows and its depths. Its darkness he compares to “the impenetratable deep darkness of the jungle” in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a novel in which light and its absence both drive the narrative and serve as metaphors for the human condition. Conrad’s opening scene is set in the mouth of the Thames estuary, ‘a luminous space’ in which ‘sea and sky were welded together without a joint’; a description somehow apposite when considering Seal’s work. Notwithstanding his avowal of its status as “physical objects rather than boxes of illusory space”, in talking about his work he refers quite often to inspirations in literature, poetry and music, and frequently names his paintings from song titles or those of poems. Essential to the quality of the work is its presence, one that goes beyond materiality, for in certain canvases one intuits a metaphysical connotation. The artist alludes to this when discussing a tripartite painting in which a large square of brick-red predominates, “overlapping; obliterating; covering: to me there would be a sense that that red was covering something.”
The artist’s journey to abstraction was a gradual one, and in recounting it he refers to a number of key points en route. Amongst them was a show of the American abstract painter Ellsworth Kelly at The Hayward Gallery in London in 1981. The sources of Kelly’s rigourously-minimal canvases are in the real world – he might for instance alight on the curve of a bridge, or the skewed rectangle of a barn roof – then pare it down to its formal essence, as a shaped canvas painted in a single uninflected colour. Whilst not at that time imagining himself working in an abstract idiom, there was a strength and clarity in Kelly that Seal responded to. He mentions also the interplay between internal and external spaces in Matisse’s The Piano Lesson (1916), and how he began to divide his own canvases into two discrete areas, with figurative elements in each; his son Jack in one section, a pool of water in the other for example. Later, in 1992 he showed with fellow-Scot Craigie Aitchison (1926-2009) at the Castlefield Gallery in Manchester. Though figurative, Aitchison’s paintings are notable for their simplicity and superb colour. He remembers a conversation in which Aitchison told him how other painters would sometimes ask, ‘Why have you got so little in your painting?’, and how he would respond by asking them in turn, ‘Why have you got so much in your painting?’, an anecdote that reassured Seal’s sense of purpose. He mentions also a show of David Sweet’s abstracts at the Cornerhouse as another factor in his eventual liberation from representation.
For the past two years or so Seal has been making small collages from pieces of paper painted with organic shapes in black ink, which he then cuts up and rearranges in new configurations. This more spontaneous parallel activity he compares to the sculptor Anthony Caro’s welded assemblages of scrap metal shapes, and there is something sculptural about these works on paper, in their crisply-cut half moons and sinuous brush strokes. The formations in these collages have infiltrated several recent paintings, in which the artist has experimented with clusters or pairs of curvilinear shapes set in geometric structures. These show the potential for a new direction and an extension of his formal language.
Now in his fifties, Seal continues to engage fully in the process of painting, working in an established tradition of abstraction that combines classical structure and a use of colour that is essentially romantic. His work has substance and integrity; its quality is indisputable.
© Ian Massey 2014
Quotes by the artist are from a conversation with the author, May 2014.
Written to accompany Peter Seal: Paintings and Collages, Bankley Gallery, Manchester, July 2014.
Exhibition curated by Ian Massey with the assistance of the artist and Jamie Collins.
All paintings © Peter Seal – http://www.peterseal.org/index.html
Many thanks to Sarah Franklin for permission to reproduce her photographs.
Thanks also to Clair Graubner and Lucy Harvey.
The exhibition of abstract paintings by Peter Seal is now open in Manchester – Saturdays and Sundays, 11.00am to 4.00pm – other times by appointment. The show ends on Sunday 27th July.
Working with Peter on the show was a real pleasure, and feedback from visitors has been immensely positive. My essay, written to accompany the show, will be posted soon, along with images.
More information here:
Photograph taken during the installation of the exhibition © Jamie Collins.
Thanks to Lucy Harvey and Jamie Collins for their sterling support.
Update to the website: my essay on the painter Sandra Blow, commissioned by the artist’s Estate is now posted here.
I am to give a gallery talk on Sandra Blow at The Exchange, Newlyn in September. This will be followed by an ‘in conversation’ with friends of the artist. The date of this event is yet to be confirmed: details will be posted in due course. Further details of the exhibition can be found here: http://newlynartgallery.co.uk/exhibitions/future-exhibitions/
Image: Sandra Blow’s studio, St Ives. Photograph © Ian Massey; courtesy of the artist’s Estate.
• Forthcoming in 2015: I am to curate an exhibition of abstract painting at Huddersfield Art Gallery. The show is due to open in September 2015 (exact dates to be confirmed).
The exhibition will survey particular approaches to abstraction from the late 1950s up until the present day. Amongst the selection of artists will be Sandra Blow. More information will follow.
• Later this year: I am to write a piece for the Public Catalogue Foundation on the artist Alistair Park. Park’s paintings can be seen on the excellent BBC Your Paintings website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/alistair-park
Image: Sandra Blow Untitled (Oil Drawing) 1959 © The Estate of Sandra Blow
For more images and information see: http://sandrablow.com/
• Patrick Procktor’s Three Figures from Memory II (1964) is to be auctioned at Christie’s in London on 26th June. This significant early painting, which has been in a private collection since the 1970s, was included in the important New Generation show at the Whitechapel Gallery, London in 1964. It is also reproduced in the seminal book Private View (1965), by Bryan Robertson and John Russell (with photographs by Snowdon).
The painting is amongst a number of works by Procktor which I will consider in my presentation at The Place of Painting symposium at The MAC, Belfast on 21st June.
Further details of Three Figures from Memory II are available on Christie’s website: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Paintings/patrick-procktor-ra-three-figures-from-memory-5802442-details.aspx?intObjectID=5802442
• I have been invited by The Sandra Blow Estate to write a short text for a catalogue of the artist’s paintings. The publication is connected with a major show of Sandra Blow’s work at The Exchange, Newlyn. The exhibition opens on 26th July and continues until 4th October.
Image: Patrick Procktor Three Figures from Memory II, oil and collage on canvas, 1964.
© The Artist’s Estate/The Redfern Gallery, London.
Photograph courtesy of Christie’s, London. Thanks to Will Porter at Christie’s for his kind assistance.
• It was my great pleasure to accompany the artist John Blackburn on a visit to Prospect Cottage at Dungeness on Saturday. John is a long-time admirer of Derek Jarman’s work, so for him it was something of a pilgrimage. It is now twenty years since Derek Jarman’s death. See the Jarman 2014 website for details of events taking place this year: http://www.jarman2014.orgMany thanks to HB for kindly facilitating our visit.
• The Place of Painting – a Painting Symposium: this has now gone live on The MAC’s website, with booking details here: http://themaclive.com/whats-on/the-place-of-painting-a-painting-symposium
• Following on from a recent research visit to St Ives, I have now been invited to give a talk on the artist Sandra Blow as part of this year’s St Ives Festival. The talk will take place in St Ives on Friday 26th September – more details to follow. I am a great admirer of Sandra Blow’s paintings, and relish this opportunity to talk about her work. The talk will coincide with a major show of the artist’s work in Newlyn: again, details will be posted here in due course.
Photograph: John Blackburn at Prospect Cottage, 10th May 2014. © Ian Massey 2014
• Peter Seal is to have a show of his impressive abstract paintings in Manchester in July. Peter has invited me to curate and write for this show, a project which I look forward to greatly. More details will follow. For more information on the artist, visit his website: http://www.peterseal.net/index.html
• The Place of Painting – I have been invited to take part in The Place of Painting, a symposium to be hosted by The MAC, Belfast, on Saturday 21st June.The aim of the symposium is to address the diversity of approaches within contemporary painting practice today. Fellow speakers are artists Susan Connolly, Kevin Henderson, Dougal McKenzie, Victoria Morton, Alison Pilkington and Linder Sterling. The symposium coincides with forthcoming exhibitions at The MAC of work by Richard Gorman and Susan Connolly. Further information will be posted in due course.
Image: Peter Seal, Slab, oil on canvas © The artist
Fraser Taylor: seen here with with the artist Rosi Nyamakanga at his Glasgow studio, 11th April 2014. The painting shown here is amongst works to be included in Fraser’s show at the McLellan Galleries, Glasgow in November, as part of the annual exhibition of The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts.
Patrick Procktor: I recently visited the beautifully installed exhibition of works by the artist at the Galerie de France in Paris. This was the first time Procktor’s work had been shown in Paris since 1991. Although the show has now ended the work can still be seen online: http://www.galeriedefrance.com/exposition/5691/PATRICK_PROCKTOR_-_From_LOndon_to_VEnice__with_LO-VE/
Jean Charles Blais: whilst in Paris it was my great pleasure to meet the artist Jean Charles Blais, whose work I have admired for many years. Examples of his work can be found here: http://youcanchangethislater.wordpress.com/
Keith Vaughan: my talk on the artist – Keith Vaughan: The Spontaneous Image – is now confirmed to take place at Brighton Museum on Sunday 3rd August, commencing at 2.30pm. Booking details can be found here (please scroll down): https://www.maximweb.co.uk/brighton/Events.aspx
Photograph © Ian Massey/ painting © Fraser Taylor
After Life: On Patrick Procktor’s Long Live the Great Leap Forward
My new article on Patrick Procktor has just been published on the website Courbet’s Tent. The site was set up by the painter and lecturer Dougal Mackenzie, with the following remit:
“Courbet’s Tent is about the locations and contexts of painting practice.
Looking at both the formal and conceptual aspects of the discipline, the premise of Courbet’s Tent is that paintings always have a double life: they may hold worlds within them, but at the same time may exist in places that change their perceived content.
This duality in painting, how its reception can be altered by location, is the key area of investigation in Courbet’s Tent.”
An extract from the article on Procktor can be found on this website, with the full text available at:http://courbetstent.wordpress.com/
Image: Patrick Procktor Long Live the Great Leap Forward, acrylic on canvas, 1967.
Courtesy The Redfern Gallery
Some points of interest:
• John Blackburn: the artist’s exhibition In Absentia is at Artis Gallery, Parnell, Auckland until 16th March. http://artisgallery.co.nz
• Fraser Taylor: Art in Scotland have produced a new film in which the artist talks about drawing and his studio practice.
• Patrick Procktor: a show of watercolours opens on 6th March at Galerie de France, Paris, and continues until 12th April.
• Brian Rice: following its critical and commercial success, the artist’s show at The Redfern Gallery, London, has now been extended until 8th March. Andrew Lambirth’s review for The Spectator can be found here:
A show of Brian Rice prints, Fifty Years of Printmaking, opens at The Belgrave Gallery, St Ives, on 10th March.
• Keith Vaughan: I have been invited to give a public lecture on the artist at Brighton Art Gallery this summer. More information will be posted when the date is confirmed. The gallery are to mount a display of gouaches and drawings by Vaughan.
New material posted to the website:
• A short extract from my essay on the artist Brian Rice, from the catalogue for his current show at The Redfern Gallery.
The show has been extended until 1st March. Further information can be found on the gallery website: http://www.redfern-gallery.com/exhibitions.asp
• There is now a slideshow of images accompanying the post on Fraser Taylor’s recent Glasgow show Figure/Ground. The slideshow consists of photographs of the gallery installation, along with some photographs of work in Fraser’s studio. http://www.ianmasseyart.co.uk/fraser-taylor-the-space-between/
• Since launching this website last July, it has been viewed by hundreds of visitors from all over the UK and abroad. Do please get in touch if you have any feedback on the site and its contents.
Image courtesy of Brian Rice © The Artist
• I have been invited by Tate St Ives to host an 'in conversation' between the artist Linder and Kenneth Tindall, choreographer of the Northern Ballet. The conversation will take place after a performance of the ballet The Ultimate Form, in St Ives on Saturday 8th February. Full details here:
• A short film has been made about Fraser Taylor’s recent show Figure/Ground, in which the artist talks about his work: http://vimeo.com/85437087
• Brian Rice’s exhibition opens on Wednesday 5th February at The Redfern Gallery, Cork Street, London, and continues until 22nd February. Signs of Life, my essay on the artist's work of the Sixties, is included in the show's catalogue, which also has a foreword by Derek Boshier. More details on the gallery website: http://www.redfern-gallery.com
Image: © Linder Sterling 2013
New material posted to the website:
• Art, Biography and Sexuality; extracts from a critical essay on Patrick Procktor and Keith Vaughan.
• The Space Between; a short essay on Fraser Taylor for his forthcoming show in Glasgow.
Gareth Harris has been in touch with a brief update on the Procktor murals from Langan’s Brasserie (the murals are currently in storage, having been removed from the restaurant). He has written the following update for The Art Newspaper:
“More news on Patrick Procktor’s striking views of Venice painted across the walls of the upstairs room at Langan’s Brasserie off Piccadilly in London. The newly restored murals were unveiled late 2012 but we heard earlier this year that the sweeping panorama of La Serenissima is to be sold at Christie’s, a move which enflamed the late UK artist’s devotees including the London-based artist Alessandro Raho. The Art Newspaper understands that the murals may initially be offered privately to institutions and collectors (the auction house apparently hopes that the work can remain complete). Watch this space.”
Essay on the Sixties work of Brian Rice
I have recently completed an essay for the catalogue of a show of Sixties paintings and prints by the abstract artist Brian Rice. The exhibition will take place at The Redfern Gallery, London, in February (more details to follow).
The work falls into two categories; painterly abstractions dated 1960/61, and works in a more economic, formal vocabulary from 1962 onwards. Though not widely known, Rice’s paintings and prints of the Sixties constitute a highly impressive body of work, and the show promises to be very strong.
The Redfern Gallery will show a selection of the work on their stand at The London Art Fair, 15-19 January.
See also Brian Rice’s website: http://www.brianrice.info/
Photograph: Brian Rice in Somerset, 1960
© Brian Rice/Courtesy of the artist
It was my pleasure to attend the opening of Under the Greenwood: Picturing British Trees – Present at the St. Barbe Museum in Lymington on Thursday evening. It’s a superb exhibition, and I recommend it highly.
The show includes 33 contemporary artists, each represented by a single work. The selection includes paintings, prints, drawings and watercolours.
It was especially good on Thursday to meet the show’s curators Steve Marshall and Tim Craven, and a number of the artists, including Michelle Dovey, Fiona McIntyre, Paul Winstanley, and Ffiona Lewis. Other artists in the show include George Shaw, Mick Moon, Lesley Slight, Hannah Maybank, Paul Morrison, and Clare Woods.
My essay Nature Describing Nature, which considers representations of trees in the work of contemporary artists (including many of those in the show) is included in the book/catalogue which accompanies the exhibition.
The show continues until 23 November.
More details can be found on the museum’s website:
My short text on John Blackburn’s paintings in the collection of Kettle’s Yard has just been published on the Public Catalogue Foundation website. The text considers the nineteen paintings from the 1960s collected by Jim Ede for his own collection, and can be read on the following link:
The artist’s new exhibition is at Osborne Samuel, London, 4th-28th September 2013.
John Blackburn will be in conversation with Julia Hedgecoe at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge on 11th November.
John Blackburn, Untitled (Grey/White/Blacks) 2005
Mixed media on canvas mounted on board © John Blackburn
News: Patrick Procktor mural at Langan’s Brasserie, London
Earlier this year, Alessandro Raho alerted me to the news that the management of Langan’s Brasserie in London has decided to remove and sell Patrick Procktor’s renowned Venice mural, currently housed in the upstairs dining room of the restaurant. Painted in situ, the mural is one of Procktor’s most important works. The management has other plans for the space and the sale is to be handled by Christie's auction house.
Alessandro Raho is amongst a number of artists who have expressed their concern about the future of the mural. It would be a great shame if it were broken up and sold as separate artworks. Brian Sewell, a friend of both Langan and Procktor, has suggested that the Tate might purchase the work.
Gareth Harris of The Art Newspaper has reported on the story in the July/August issue. His report reads:
Thirty-five years ago, Patrick Procktor painted the walls of the upstairs room at Langan's Brasserie in London with views of Venice. But just before his death in 1988, the entrepreneur Peter Langan varnished over part of the Italian murals in a drunken rage. The newly restored murals were unveiled last year but now we hear that the sweeping view of La Serenissimia is to be sold at Christie's, a move which has enflamed the London-based artist Alessandro Raho. “I heard that the murals had been restored a while ago, and so was looking forward to seeing them. I was taken upstairs by an enthusiastic member of staff and while looking in the room was told that it was a shame they were selling the pictures off,” he says. “It's a special piece of London art history and for it to be carved up like this seems such a shame.” A spokesman for Langan's confirmed that the sale is indeed set to go ahead.
Picture: © The Art Newspaper
Forthcoming lecture – Keith Vaughan and the Neo-Romantics.
Abbot Hall Gallery, Kendal.
Sunday 11th August, 2013 at 4.00pm.
The lecture coincides with the gallery’s exhibition of work by Graham Sutherland, an important early influence on Vaughan. Ian will describe the nature of Sutherland’s influence within a wider analysis of Vaughan’s work and its development.
Details can be found on this link:
Keith Vaughan, Landscape with Figure: Morelos, oil on canvas, 1959
© The Estate of Keith Vaughan, courtesy of Anthony Hepworth Fine Art