Tuesday, 12 June 2012

'Imagine': Connections with contemporary artists

Once again the happy connections that are constantly weaving themselves around me struck this evening. I'd done a favour for one of my lawyers and I was merrily bouncing back to the office with an armful of books when the most amazing image in a local art gallery window stopped me in my tracks. Being easily distracted by an open door, sounds of a party and free champagne, I wandered in and jotted down a few thoughts.

Two artists stood out amongst the eight exhibited at the Langham Gallery, Lambs Conduit Street, London. Lee Madgwick's 'An ocean far and free' took a little time to assimilate. Initially it is a red buoy/alarm bell being tossed about in the sea, surrounded by unusual autumn colour waves with a rain laden sky above. Simple, bleak and empty. However look more closely at the textures in the rolling landscape and the buoy becomes a piece of industrial equipment abandoned in a bracken and heather covered moorland. A dual, shifting effect of lonely scapes. 

The experiment of uncanny is continued in 'Play in the Glade', with it's picturesque title sitting uneasily with the overgrown child's abandoned roundabout and the forbidding silver birch woods receding into the dark background. There is no play; no sunny glade. Philip Vann's essay in the exhibition note says that he doesn't like '[his] paintings to be too dark, [he] likes a certain element of mischievous humour'.  However his skill at manipulating atmosphere can even give the humble dandelion clock a malevolent aspect.

Lee Madgwick 'The Noble Oak'
Clare's Buttercup Field
The connection that drew me close to this artist were his trees and woodland landscapes. Whilst out in Epping a few weeks ago I took a picture of an oak in a buttercup field and on seeing his 'The Noble Oak' I was immediately taken back to that quiet ramble. He explains, 'he likes the idea of human presence in a painting though you don't need actually to see a person or figure - as long as you know they are not far away'. I was the only person in my landscape, the only other signs of human presence being the distant houses and telegraph poles. Our current spell of grey, dismal weather gives his paintings a further empathic quality and the 'moody ominous clouds' feel very familiar. 

My St Paul's
Michael Kidd's 'Then and Now'
The other artist was the reason for my initial distraction. Michael Kidd's hyper-real acrylics  immediately reminded me of London wanderings in the sunshine. 'Then and now' demonstrates the architectural melding of the recent development of One New Change and St Paul's cathedral. The refracted reflections splintering from the complex to ordinary. Seen in the flesh this large painting demonstrates his skill and detail in the architecture.  

Further Kidd paintings show his preoccupation with patterns, simple shapes and repetition. All have a quiet magic but 'Whitstable Breakers' is a stunning semi pointillist piece. Relief from earth and sky colours is provided by the red topped posts at the shore line. The perspective caused by the sky getting darker as it recedes makes the picture incredibly realistic and almost leap off the wall. Though the sea is oddly unrealistic in horizontal stripes in blues and greys - connections to my turquoise slices poem -  it connects with the sweeping wooden groynes and pebbly textured beach.

I have a postcard of a Kidd garden and chateau on my noticeboard at work from another Langham's exhibition so it was good to refresh, reflect and reassure myself that I still love his work. There were other artists in this exhibition but none of the paintings arrested me as much as these. Feel free to go along and see them. 'Imagine': RONA Group of Artists continues until 23rd June 2012 at the Langham Gallery.

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