Garden Enigmas by Sue Atkinson
Entering the gallery one was immediately arrested by the sheer power of the large black and white images on show - at once reminiscent of exotic images of tropical rain forests, or sub-aqua photographs of the ocean bed, or even stills from a Sci-fi movie. It was the central image of a skeletal poppy seed-head which betrayed their provenance, the subject of these often aggressive images being no more than simple flower seed heads, many collected from Sue's own garden.
The images were at once both threatening and extremely beautiful in their rhythmic form and tone, with the exquisite silvery quality of the highlights dissolving into blackness. A sheer aesthetic beauty elevated this work far above a mere botanical study and demonstrated the realisation of the great creative potential of photography.
In all fifteen images were on show at the exhibition, all black and white except for one large colour photograph occupying the side wall of the gallery, whose delicate rhythmic colours floating in a white ground contrasted with the intensity, richness and deep tonality of the rest of the show.
Two ceramic sculptures by Diana Roles complimented the photographs. Having the same genesis, the sculptures being inspired by the same specimens which feature in some of the images, their presence rounded off what was, for me, a visually stimulating and intellectually thought provoking exhibition.
Small Paintings by Gary Waters
Small paintings by Gary Waters demonstrated that the gallery could accomodate more works than we had originally anticipated. Some of Gary’s larger and more complex narrative works will be on show at a later date but this selection provided an excellent introduction to the artist’s style and subject matter. The works ranged from freely-painted sketches, to more deliberately designed and finished pieces, with a few less characteristic gems included in the form of two “box” works.
Gary’s work is largely narrative - drawing on a combination of elements from his everyday life in South West France and incorporating numerous references from other painters who have inspired him, including Bathus, Goya and Velasquez. He paints consistently - even enduring sub-zero temperatures during the short, sharp winters at his studio/home in south west France. But he is not a purist about his work and is happy to allow original concepts to evolve from one thing to another - a woman with a camera becomes a bather, snippets of rejected works become assimilated with other found objects into “boxes” of narrative history whose true relevance is tantalizingly kept hidden.
His philosophy is more Shakespearean, with chance and fate playing important roles. “Life is a game in which we are all players - a huge juggling act in which we constantly struggle to balance one thing against another, whilst striving to maintain the outward appearance we desire.” These ideas are strongly evident in paintings such as “Domestic Arrangements” and “Guidance”, whereas other works - “City Lights”, for example - are almost cameos of scenes from others' games, their simple, uncluttered treatment giving them a slightly ethereal, dreamlike transcience. Particularly powerful is the very simple painting of the artist's wife which he has called “Magician's Assistant”.
We are left with questions - and wanting to see more of his larger paintings....
ArcArt launch show - Allen Barker and Mike Roles Nov 2004
A prime consideration in the launch show was the way in which the two very different artists' work should complement that of each other. As stated in our gallery objectives it is intended that the work shown at ArcArt maintains a sense of aesthetic integrity both in its concept and execution. Also that the work reflects a particular interest, especially in psychological and existential issues. While it is difficult - especially in the current climate - to define "aesthetic integrity" this small show takes it to an extreme by showing such entirely different work which both radiates integrity and plays with the notions of psychological and existential in an energetic and uncompromising way.
Allen Barker's new series of paintings, "Corrugation, 2004" were complemented by a powerful, larger, colour ground painting of 1972 and a series of figurative works on paper. The purely visual stimuli of Barker’s captivating panel of paintings onto corrugated card draw the viewer in to a series of individual stories each sparking off a different emotion through the interplay of colours across the very slightly three-dimensional surface. Mike Roles' three new works from the series "Collisions with Time" - sardonically entitled "Welcome to the third millennium" - have enormous human presence, "almost spooky", is a term popularly applied, the decaying shell-like forms of his male figures challenging us with the hopelessness of what he sees we, the human race, are becoming.
Not obvious partners to show yet Barker's paintings and Roles' sculptures have no conflict. In a purely visual sense the vibrance of colour and strong visual play which are the main concerns of Barker's work present a complete contrast to the physical presence of Roles' sombre monochromatic figures. Each artist's work allowed adequate emotional/intellectual space for that of the other even though they are so different whilst sharing great maturity lacking in so much contemporary work.
The launch show received a great response. We were delighted with the turnout to our preview - especially given the inclement weather and inevitable tube delays - and we have had numerous by appointment visitors with promises of plenty of exciting spin-offs including reviews.