Yesterday was the opening of a new exhibition, Beneath The Surface, at the Gallery at St Georges House in Bolton. Earlier this year they had five artists showing landscapes in Harmony of the Land, followed by Vantage Point which featured Gerry Halpin’s aerial landscapes.
So Emma decided it was time for a few portraits. Now, regular readers will know that I’m not usually a fan of portraits, particularly those in the National Portrait Gallery, as the subject is often more important than the artist. I’m just not into current celebrity culture, and I’ll stretch that to include historical figures too. However, this exhibition is very much about the artists with the subjects almost irrelevant.
I know Zoe Keenan from my Bolton College course. She had three delightful pencil drawings in the show, based on well known oil paintings, or “pencil replications [which] deconstruct famous portraits … mimicking the sculpted look of paintings without using the medium of paint.” While her work was the most conventional, of the four artists, I liked Zoe’s the best.
‘Lucien Freud’s Mother by Lucien Freud’ by Zoe Keenan
‘Rembrandt’s Mother by Rembrandt’ by Zoe Keenan
Karen King’s portraits, mostly based on photographs of women ‘labelled’ mad, wayward or just plain bad, were far more brutal. ‘Through a series of studies of the human head, she conveys psychological states, emotions buried beneath the surface, and the fragility of the human condition.’
‘Neither Alcoholic Nor Whore’ by Karen King
‘Miss Stelazine‘ by Karen King
The name of Francis Bacon was mentioned during discussions of Karen’s work as was the quote ‘Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’.
Zoe (left) enjoying a drink with Karen
Susan Plover’s work dealt with ‘the conflicted roles of post-war female identity’. Her current work ‘crosses boundaries erected around collage, drawing, painting and sculpture to create new hybrid “Combines” with a female voice at its heart. Susan deliberately employs the discarded and overlooked, re-working them with fresh tension.’
Susan Plover (left) discusses her work with visitors
‘Once Upon A Time’, by Susan Plover
A visitor studies Susan Plover’s assemblages
The only artist I had problems with was Steven Walker, and this was largely due to his artistic statement: “The message conveyed in the artist’s work can be obvious, sometimes not so. “I have something to say, even if you don’t want to listen.”” I’m sorry but this sounds like presumptious arrogance to me. If a viewer is unable to understand what I am trying to say with a piece, then the fault is mine for not saying it well enough. It is not the viewer’s problem for ‘not listening’.
Emma Kelly, the curator of the exhibition, looking at Steven’s work with the artist