Friday, 16 December 2016

Three rooms at The Lightbox, Woking.

We came back from hospital and in the afternoon took a trip to 'The Lightbox' in Woking - which I'd put off a few months ago. Actually I couldn't park and had a conniption with Woking and went home.

We checked out three exhibitions, starting with this installation by Chloe Wing, a young contemporary artist.

The work consisted of a series of panels made out of complex paper cuts in a circle in the middle of the room, lit by a single bulb casting enigmatic shadows.

Very effective and mysterious, the piece forced you to try to make out the words hidden in the designs.

The main exhibition, "The Camden Town Group; Art for the Edwardian Era" is something I'd wanted to see for a while. The group pioneered a form of 'social realism', the painting of real, 'ordinary' people in real places. At the same time they tried to import the style of French Impressionism.

I was both disappointed and interested; partly because the curator had clearly had difficulty attracting the star pieces of the movement. So while there were sketches and studies for 'Ennui' by Walter Sickert, we were missing the actual piece which was so revolutionary for its time.

Neither did we get any of 'The Camden Town Murders' - again by Sickert. But these are all in National collections and unlikely to make it to Woking.

We did get some good stuff, this is 'Leeds Canal by Charles Ginner all grit and realism;

While the influence of the French Impressionists is clear in 'The Balcony, Mornington Crescent' by Spencer Frederick Gore;

There was a piece by Pisarro's son - the family had come here as refugees after The Paris Commune was drowned in blood.

Here's 'The Weekend' by Walter Sickert; 

A picture heavy with unstated hidden meanings, clear to a late Victorian audience.

This was the star of the show for me - a sparse and economic portrait of Spencer Gore by Harold Gilman;

I hadn't meant to go to the Cartoon exhibition - a wide ranging collection from William Hogarth prints to medieval religious paintings, from the comics of the 1950's and 60's to the graphic novels; 'V' and Judge Dredd.

It didn't work for me at all - just because something is a cartoon isn't enough to make a connection.

So I just loved Grayson Perry who had one of his large engravings of the human emotions and feelings in map form; funny and interesting at the same time. But it doesn't make a cartoon like 'The Beano'.

And here a fine art pot;

Which is about as subversive as you can get; appropriating the images of one time and challenging them.

But what that had to do with 'The Eagle' and 'Dan Dare' - simple trivia leaves me wondering. The Eagle was an attempt to create a purely British and more educational, more moral comic as an alternative to the raw excitement of American comics.

It just doesn't work.

I really liked this panel from a 1960's Graphic documentary about The Beatles by Arthur Ranson.

What exactly does that have to do with anything else in the collection?

But don't listen to me, check it out for yourself; The Camden Group are there until 22nd January 2017, the Cartoons are there until 31st December, Chloe Wing is on until 29th January.

The exhibitions are either free or require a £5 pass which lasts for a year.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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