Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Neo Romanticism on Valentines day.

On Valentines day we went out - to The Lightbox at Woking.

I must admit my body did not co-operate at all and I was in a lot of pain throughout, which meant that I was probably more impatient with the art than I normally am.

Hmmm, maybe that's not a bad thing. 

It didn't help that all the roads were blocked in town - Woking is in the process of demolishing buildings .....and building bigger, newer ones to replace them.

Or that a 'sinkhole' had opened up on one of the main roads, as a result I had a long and painful detour.

We saw two exhibitions (entry through the £5 annual pass) the first was; John Minton and the Romantic tradition.

I wasn't so impressed until I realised that it included all the artists who'd influenced Minton and I started to get into more into it.

This is 'Bristol Docks' by John Northcote Nash, brother of the celebrated Paul Nash; 

This was a collection of artists who, while they were influenced to an extent by Modernism and Abstraction, had chosen a particularly English form of Romantic Realism.

I enjoyed Keith Vaughan's series of male figures;

But as I was walking through I was suddenly struck by an overwhelming feeling of familiarity amongst all the varied linocuts and lithographs.

All the artists exhibited were active from the 1920's to the 1970's but are most famous for their work in the 1940's and 50's. The likes of Graham Sutherland chose realism and wanted to democratise their work too - to bring it to as wide an audience as they could. It was natural that this would be through prints.

I was struck by a vivid print of The Tower of London and here is Edward Bawden's Brighton Pavillion - so familiar I'm sure I've seen it before.

It could almost have been on a tea towel or a placemat;

And I'm sure I have seen it - as a child of the 1960's I remember prints on the walls of schools, libraries, my university; all with a clear 1950's 'style' to them.

And none more so than John Piper's 'The Ship';

I'm fairly sure that this was in the dining room of my University's hall of residence, until one day it just 'disappeared'.


Either way, this realist art so popular in the 1950's is part of my DNA - even though I'm not so sure I actually like it.

While Modernism and Abstract Expressionism and all the other movements were happening, there was a safe and responsible part of British art that had retreated from world wars and atom bombs and new social movements into something comfortable and non threatening that could be accepted on the wall of an institution; like a Doctor's waiting room.

I was always a bit more daring than that.

Anyway, the Minton exhibition is only on until the 9th March, so if you want to have a look for yourself so that you can satisfy yourself that I've been talking rubbish, there isn't a lot of time left.

We then went on to have a look at 'Henry Moore; Sculpting from nature' - I'll let you have a look at that tomorrow.

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