Easel 14 - Winter 2006

Selection

Editorial

Our Society is doing all right. Malcolm Tait reports that we are growing apace and I am excited because it means that there are more of you to write articles for The Easel. Let me have your contributions, especially those that are controversial.

What is art? I heard a chap on the radio say that it’s a boring question. Isn’t it the question that all of us ask every time we start a new work? Or do we ask the more difficult question, “Will this be a work of art or something else?” Get the argument going.

I want photographs of your work for the Members’ Gallery. If you have never previously contributed, don’t be shy - you may find yours on the front cover and win the coveted £20 voucher to use at Art For All.

There is some stirring stuff in these pages again; much to challenge us to create something beautiful, something to stir our passions, something that says, ‘without this I am incomplete’ - ‘without this the world is incomplete’. Be bold!

Membership and Subscriptions

The number of members of the Society has almost recovered to the level of five years ago, which has reflected the increasing diversity of the Society’s activities, such as the Wednesday art group organised by Peter Dinsmore, and the variation in our venues for exhibitions, particularly this year.

To maintain a prosperous and stable Society, the membership needs to be about 180 or more, which we have now achieved.

The Committee has been reviewing the Society’s finances, and as a result, the individual subscription for 2007 will be £15. The joint membership will remain at £20. This reflects the increased postal charges this year and the rise in fees for many of our speakers/demonstrators for the monthly meetings at the Verral Hall in Bromley.

The attendance at these meetings remains fairly constant and it is hoped that next year more members will be interested to come. The programme for these meetings will be published shortly.

Malcolm Tait

From Your Chairman

I hope that you all had a wonderful summer and that you managed to get outdoors to paint landscapes or, at least, to have collected new subjects from near and far that will inspire you to paint during the longer evenings to come. If you did venture out in the exceptional heat of July, you will have found, as I did, that watercolour dried too quickly for finished work to be completed successfully out of doors.

Unfortunately, I was away at the time of the “Big Draw” and related exhibition and had to miss the event at St. John’s Church. I understand that a happy time was had by those who could make it. Those of us who go along to the Wednesday Workshops at Ripley have a happy time every week! Why not join us? We plan to have another Christmas lunch there on 13th December this year - more details of that elsewhere in this issue.

I hope that you have enjoyed the Friday evening demonstrations and lectures. If you have any suggestions for future speakers I would be glad to add others to my list although the slots for 2007 have been arranged already.

Pat Tucker, September 2006

An Impression from when the Sea Decided to Paint

A few weeks ago, whilst walking along the sea front in Corsica on a calm and sunny day, iPod in my ears playing my favourite classical music, the sea decided to give me an impromptu exhibition of her artistic talent. Palette, colour tubes and brushes in hand she demonstrated her impression of the world.
What an artist she was! How she presented colour! I should have tried to capture the moment with a photo or a painting, but she was too quick for me and anyway it would not have given me the same pleasure of this wonderful moment of expressionism. What a show!
Joseph Grimaldi

Is it Art?

It has been observed (and even voiced) that artists no longer need to learn how to use the traditional skills of drawing, painting and sculpting. An unmade bed or even a till receipt can be bought at fantastic prices as long as they are presented as art. What persuades someone to buy a pile of elephant poo? What persuades a prestigous arts council to pay someone to produce a sculpture in salt and watch it dissolve as the tide rises?

The photo. shows the anonymous hand of the artist resting beside a finished work, which lived for a short time before it was disassembled to be reassembled at another location. The question was raised as the work was being created, “Is this art?” It is a shirt, washed but not ironed, partially buttoned in a very risqué manner, and suspended by its collar as if from the strong fist of an officer of the law.

At its next outing, will it be transformed? Perhaps it will lose its integrity by the previous use of an iron or by using different buttons... Will the artist hang it so that it modestly hides its initial full- frontal display or be completely buttoned up?

Is it art? Your opinions are invited for the next issue of The Easel. You may find an answer to the question “What is Art?” by refering to my work ‘Wasted Opportunity’ shown on the back cover of this issue!

Allan Davies

George Frederick Watts RA 1817 - 1904

G F WattsA few weeks ago we were in Guildford and decided to visit the nearby Watts Gallery in Down Road, Compton. The recent TV series “Restoration” featured the gallery as one of the buildings in need of funds to pay for much needed restoration and this had triggered my memory of its exist-ence. It had been designed by Christopher Turner in keeping with the local vernacular - very much an “Arts and Crafts” building it was sited in the grounds of Watts’ country house. We found that its inclusion in the TV series had been fully justified - it was a rainy day and almost every room had at least one bucket to catch the drips from the leaking roof. The building did need funding.

Most of the paintings were low in tone and in need of cleaning and restoration themselves. However there were a few exceptions: the large group of the Ionides family by Watts was in excellent condition as were a number of other portraits by him, by his wife, Mary and other Victorian artists including, John Singer Sergeant, Lord Leighton, and Burne Jones. His lofty sculpture studio was at a lower level and was dominated by two large plaster casts - one of a towering Lord Tennyson and the other an equestrian statue for a bronze in Hyde Park.

G. F. Watts was famous in his day as a painter and sculptor and gained the nick-name of “England’s Michelangelo”. His aim was to re-invent British painting in the grand manner He believed that art should be accessible to all, not just the rich; he gave many of his paintings to public galleries and helped to found the Tate Gallery in 1897.

Watts’ second wife, Mary was also an artist and ceramist. She designed a small chapel for the Compton Village Cemetery. It is an extraordinary building and worth a visit in its own right. It is circular on plan, to reflect the “Circle of Eternity” with the “Cross of Faith” running through it. Its underlying style is Italian Romanesque but it is rich with Celtic and Art Nouveau decoration both inside and out. Mary had set up her pottery in the village with the help and advice of William de Morgan. Local villagers were invited to decorate the chapel. Each member of her class had a separate task and 74 villagers of Compton took part in modelling and fixing the terra cotta tiles.

The interior is rich and jewel-like. The exterior with its rose red crisp brickwork sits well in the immaculately kept graveyard. It is the interior which has to be seen. Mary’s huge coloured angels in painted gesso emerge from a background of scrolls and swirling strapwork. Watts paid for it but died before it was completed although he did paint “The All Pervading” for the altar just before he died. It is a testament to Mary’s skill and persistence and we found it most impressive.

Illustration: George Frederic Watts, as depicted in a biography available from Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg is the Internet's oldest producer of FREE electronic books (eBooks or eTexts).

But this was not all that the formidable Mary achieved; she set up professional arts committees in Surrey and in Scotland training apprentices to produce terra cotta memorials and garden ornaments in her blend of Celtic and Art Nouveau forms. She designed a carpet to be sold by Liberty’s, which was chosen as an exhibit in Ireland’s pavilion at the 1924 World’s Fair. She was a designer of bindings for the Guild of Book Binders. Her Compton potters produced the miniature flower pots for Queen Mary’s famous dolls house.
It could be said that she has equalled, if not outshone her husband’s reputation.

 

Pat Tucker

 

Mary Seton (Fraser Tytler) Watts (1849 - 1938) was one of the women sculptors who exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Her small terra cotta figurines were painted with water-colour and waxed. Ed.

Folk v Elite v Mass Art

Folk Art grew from below. It was a spontaneous, autochthonous expression of the people, shaped by themselves, pretty much without the benefit of High Culture, to suit their own needs.

Mass Culture is imposed from above. It is fabricated by technicians hired by businessmen; its audiences are passive consumers, their participation limited to the choice between buying and not buying.

Folk Art was the people's own institution, their private little garden walled off from the great formal park of their masters' High Culture. But Mass Culture breaks down the wall, integrating the masses into a debased form of High Culture and thus becoming an instrument of political domination.

 

Dwight MacDonald (1906-1982) U.S. journalist, critic.

The Royal Society of Marine Artists

Celebrating the Sea 1946 - 2006

If you missed the show in October, you missed a treat. There was something
to excite everybody. When Iris and I arrived at 2.15 pm for the official opening,
there were already red dots on some of the paintings. However, there was far
too much to accommodate in my tiny mind in one short visit. Exhilarating!

Earlier in the year, we had learned that one of the members, Lorraine Abraham,
was a classmate from our Grammar School days. A letter and a response and,
after half a century, we met again.

 

Allan Davies

Interview - Caroline Palier

website: www.carolinepalier.com

Ed: How long have you been involved with BAS?

C: Since July this year.

Ed: What first inspired you to paint?

C: When I was 12 and started Art tuition. I loved Miro and Kandisky; their style fascinated me, as it was different. For me, Abstract is what is found in the experience of what the picture provides and that demands prolonged contemplation. Their work inspires me to this date and that is why I paint my own version of Abstract.

Ed: What has been the most satisfying of your artistic achievements?

C: My satisfaction is when people recognise my work as a part of themselves and connect with the emotions coming out of the painting; their souls have been touched.

Ed: Outside of the Art world what is your favourite pastime?

C: Alternative and complementary medicine, reading spiritual and medical books, travelling and discovering other cultures, learning and teaching.

Ed: What is your favourite place and why?

C: Sedona in Arizona. It’s a magical and spiritual place surrounded by nature with beautiful landscapes of mountains, little forests and rivers going through - a very peaceful place.

Ed: Do you think Art is relevant to the majority of people today or is it an elitist minority interest?

C: I think that nowadays everybody can buy Art at affordable prices. The Affordable Art Fair is a good way to meet artists and their original work and get Art for under £3,000.

Ed: From the books you have read and the exhibitions you may have visited - what would you recommend to others?

C: I would say to express who you are and do what resonates with you instead of trying to copy Art. Be creative in your own right! Be aware of what is happening in the Art world.

Ed: How would you encourage someone who has recently found pleasure in doing Art?

C: Join a Society to mix with liked-minded people and share information -:try different types of medium and decide which one is better for your style or liking and simply enjoy what you are creating.

Television as an Art Form

I know that none of us really spend much time watching TV, since we are all busy with our projects, but are video clips yet another obscure way of producing art? Instead of providing space for more familiar works, the Tate Modern has darkened rooms in which visitors can watch pointless images and listen to discordant sounds that cycle around in endless loops. Surely television has not replaced painting and sculpting? If it is the case, then perhaps we should now start to view television news in a similar light?

Given the gimmickry that now permeates such programmes, we may be doomed to watch ever increasing shed loads of rubbish. Is there some kind of clone army, beavering away behind the scenes and manufacturing these flashing kaleidoscopes of colour and contradictory texts? Strobe effects are often so irritating that one reels with their impact. Constantly changing background images, reminiscent of OP art, often result in vertigo. Similar information is repeated as if we had the attention spans of orang otangs. Whatever has happened to real news? Some newsreaders have became famous through ballroom dancing, falling off horses and ice dancing, others now read out e-mails on mindless trivia.

Multi-screens look like those used for watching share prices. Streams of texts travel across the bottom, while huge overhead flashing banners proclaim "breaking news"- as if to reveal something other than just the news. Male and female duos alternate in speaking sequential sentences and commentators walk endlessly nowhere while talking. I make no excuse for talking about television news in an art magazine, since the news should form part of our cultural lives and I see a link with the video clips in art galleries. Surely there must be some media people out there who are just as frustrated as the rest of us and yearn for something real?

In the meantime, I am thankful that my TV has increased my motivation to paint. It now remains switched off!

(Name and address supplied)

Art for when there's Nothing on TV

The previous article prompted this sample from an article by Andrea Petersen of The Wall Street Journal. Read the rest on-line at post-gazette.com
‘Those sleek flat screens popping up on people's walls may just look like fancy televisions. A new generation of artists and gallery owners wants you to think of them as something else: an empty picture frame.’
Mark Napier; www.bitforms.com produces internet-based pieces – often abstract - in which owners can direct and change what is seen on the screen. "Waiting Room" is being sold in 50 "shares," priced at $1,000 apiece. Jim Campbell; jimcampbell.tv; www.hosfeltgallery.com produces elaborate installations which play with memory and the experience of time. Brightly-colored pieces using LED displays. One of two editions of the piece "Motion and Rest GBP 6" recently sold for $40,000.

Open Exhibition October 2006 at St John's Church

Sold: Twenty ceramics and five paintings (Yes, five!) Ceramics rule O.K.?

The exhibition was sparsely attended, in part due to a weekend retreat by over one
hundred parishioners. There is no disguising the fact that St. John’s is a splendid
arena for showing art but a very poor sales location.

In future where do we go for our annual open exhibition? The only proven local
sites are the Bromley Library (we get two weeks per year for club exhibitions) and
our traditional site at St. George’s, Beckenham (where they now ask for a rental
which would only mean a large financial loss for B.A.S,).

Exhibitions at Denbies Wine Estate at Dorking have good sales records. Archie
Niven of the Croydon Society has just booked a slot for 2013 (a seven year waiting
list!).

A plea for help: Does anyone know of a venue which would be available for a week
with good transport and parking access and, most importantly, well attended by Jo
Public (well-off art lovers)? The rent would have to be under £400 per week or we
lose money.

We could book venues outside Bromley but the logistics of moving and stewarding
such an exhibition are difficult. We have looked at many of the obvious halls,
churches and libraries, etc. in Bromley but nowhere looks very promising.

There are options as I see it. We can accept the fact that an open exhibition will lose
money or we could run a series of small-scale open exhibitions at lesser sites
(e.g. houses) or we could abandon open exhibitions, which would be unthinkable for
a proud, talented art society. We are too! However, I am rather pessimistic at the
time of writing. So ideas, help and suggestions A.S.A.P.

Peter Dinsmore (Exhibition Secretary)

The Big Draw

Those who participated enjoyed themselves immensely, but there were very few
who turned up to draw and paint on the huge sheets of paper supplied by The
Kent Messenger Group. The girls who used paint supplied by Great Art enjoyed the
rare thrill of cleaning the loo after they had cleaned their brushes! Blue was the
prime colour! One of our members worked up a cartoon in acrylic for a work to be
completed in oil later.

However, The Big Draw drew very few! There were many reasons, I’m sure: the
weather didn’t help; it was the day when many secondary schools were open to
prospective pupils for next September. The closing date for registration for The
Big Draw 2006 was in mid- August and only one other Bromley event was
registered by that date. By the end of September a large number of events had
been registered all over the borough. Many were held before the main day.

Materials and prizes provided by the SAA will be used at our December meeting.

Allan Davies

Just a Brief Note on Copyright.

The talk (6 October) focussed on some of the features of the UK Copyright Act that could apply to works of art and artists.

The author (e.g. the artist) is the first owner of the copyright, unless he or she was employed to create the work. The copyright can exist separately from the work (e.g. a painting), so it can pass from the artist to another person or company. This can be done by an assignment. Copyright is often employed when making and selling commercial items depicting the work.

Certain categories of work are specified in the Act and this has invoked some controversy over certain types of modern art that are not immediately recognisable as graphic works, or sculptures. This has nothing to do with the judgement of the artistic quality, since the Act does not require this, apart from works of artistic craftsmanship (such as a well-crafted piece of furniture). However, artistic works should be
"original".

The author (artist) needs to be identified, since copyright stems from its creator. Identity can be established by including the author's name on a work, but it is also usual to include the copyright symbol © and the date. To enforce Copyright, legal action would need to be taken, but this can be very expensive. Copyright should not be infringed by (acknowledged) non-commercial research, nor by private study,but this will not extend to excuse commercial activities. It can be question of "fair use" or "fair dealing", but this needs to be considered carefully to ensure that the activity concerned does not exceed certain limits. These can vary with the nature of the user and the action involved. For example, some special conditions apply to teachers, librarians and those with impaired vision. Museums and art galleries often ask visitors to sign a form of acknowledgement before allowing photography or sketching. With very old works, the copyright may have expired. The current term is 70 years from the death of the author, but different periods can also apply, for example, to unpublished works, or to special cases, like "Peter Pan", or to Crown Copyright.

The Act covers "Moral Rights" that enable the artist (a) to be identified; or (b) not to have a work falsely attributed; or (c) not to have the work subjected to derogatory treatment. It also now includes the "Artist's Resale Rights" that provide a small percentage of the value of a work when it is resold. This could deal with a situation where an artist may receive only a small initial payment for a work which later increases steeply in value, but there is a minimum threshold before this right becomes active.

Besides copyright, there are also the Registered Design and Design Copyright Acts. These apply to industrial deigns, as such, but can also relate to the industrial application of an artistic work. These design rights could be infringed by copying something in the industrial field in order to create something in the field of art.

The talk was not intended to provide a comprehensive guide to Copyright, but I hope it was informative and it has encouraged you to look carefully at how copyright could affect your own activities. Bookshops having legal sections or specialising in law are worth visiting and the UK Patent Office has an interesting web site. As Copyright is a special branch of law, you may require advice to deal with any particular problem.

 

Brian Ingram © 7.10.06

Summer Madness!

No! This not a recipe for going mad in the summer, but the title of a new exhibition venture at the Mall Gallery, the home of the Federation of British Artists. I am sure that you are all aware of the annual exhibitions held at the Mall Gallery by the various societies such as NEAC, The Pastel Society, Royal Society of Marine Artists, etc. However, this year they put on an exhibition at which any member of the nine attached societies could enter works to be sold at affordable prices the proceeds to go towards the FBA's charitable work.
Over 500 works were on display. with prices going from £50 up to £2000 with the majority being priced under £500. Good prices for works by some of the UK’s best artists, such as Tom Coates, Nick Tinam, David Sawyer, Moira Huntley and many other well known names.
I would guess that some of the works were from earlier in their careers, or sketches for larger works, but the standard nonetheless was very high. One of the things which I found very interesting, was seeing works in other media or styles than the one that the artist normally worked in. For instance, landscapes by Geoff Hunt, famous for his maritime paintings, life watercolours from Trevor Chamberlain and portrait painter David Graham’s landscapes.
I found a series of 10 life drawings by Julie Jackson (NEAC ) really exciting and at £95 each real bargains.
Overall, I found it one of the most interesting exhibitions I have been to this year, and, if it were repeated next year, I would recommend that you do not miss it. But go early. I went on the first day morning, and, as you are allowed to take purchases away with you, there were all ready many gaps and paintings were selling fast.
Did I buy anything? No, I was under strict instructions not to!
Bernard Victor

Nothing to Declare

I can’t recall writing about nothing before but on a recent visit to the Shirn Gallery in Frankfurt, I saw an exhibition entitled “Nichts” (”nothing” in German). In all fairness, it did exactly what it said on the tin. Even in the catalogue there was no pretence that there would be anything to see - the catalogue being a blank piece of paper bearing a few words of explanation viz. “Stillness, emptiness, silence - the pause, the gap, the omission is increasingly important in today’s society of images... Post minimalists and Neoconceptualists are now transforming the experience of emptiness in poetic installations...”.

Oh yeah?

My friend and I were handed headsets to help us to appreciate the eagerly awaited masterpieces. We entered a large room entirely painted white with nothing on the walls bar little labels bearing a number and the name of the “artist”. When we pressed the relevant key on the handset we were treated to an explanation of the blank wall before us. We heard, “a snowflake fell on my white canvas and it melted...” or, and this was my special favourite, “Put sock on right foot. Put sock on left foot. Take off left sock and turn inside out. Put on right foot...” and so on, ad nauseam.

It seemed “artists” were invited from all over the world to contribute “nothing”.The real no-brainer was the statement that “many of the works are on loan from museums and renowned private collections in Europe and the U.S.” The transportation costs must have been immense and the insurance risk could easily have sent Lloyd’s of London into total meltdown.

In my opinion the most memorable “nothing” was the customary blank space in front of which a ghetto blaster emitted very rude noises which, for me, summed up the show. They were blowing raspberries at the punters who had laid out good Euros to see nothing. The words “The Emperor’s New Clothes” kept coming to mind. The only comfort I could draw from the experience was the fact that, having just had my hall painted white, I am now the proud owner of several masterpieces! Or maybe I’m missing something? I’d like fellow BAS members to enlighten me.

 

Jill Reardon

Exhibition Rules

I was viewing pictures at a recent BAS exhibition, when I came across a painting that looked rather familiar. Upon checking, I found that the painting was a copy of a painting in a “how to paint” book. This incident prompted me to ponder the rules that should be applied to exhibiting and should be a condition of entry.

The following suggestions are purely a personal choice, which I put forward for consideration.

  1. All work should be the artist’s own and original. Copies of other artists’ paintings are not acceptable, with or without attribution.
  2. Prints of original work should be clearly identified as such and limited to a stated number.
  3. All work should be for sale.
  4. Minimum price for exhibited works to be £50. ( £20 for browser items)
  5. All work to be framed.( Except works for browser rack)
  6. Work should not have been previously exhibited at a BAS show within the last two years. There may be exceptions but they can be publicised with entry forms.

Members may have other suggestions but I don’t think we should over-regulate and certainly there should be no control over subject or medium, nor any censorship.

A recent lecture given to BAS was on the subject of copyright and the speaker highlighted the principal points of the legislation. Copying another person’s work may well breach the Copyright Act but, that aside, our exhibition visitors and customers (if we are lucky enough to sell work) expect to see original works and not copies of the work of another.

We artists also hold the copyright of our work. It is not necessary to take any positive steps, such as registration, to benefit from copyright legislation but the speaker did suggest that work is marked with the international copyright symbol © and signed and dated.

John Taphouse

It's Messy Time!

Come and join the fun!

Mini Makers is a new art class for children aged 18 months to 4 years at the Methodist Church Hall, Prince Imperial Road, Chislehurst.

Classes are held on Thursday and Friday mornings and Friday afternoons and cost £5 per session - and your first session is free.

For more information or to book, please contact: Morven on 0795 6810541 or Marie on 07761 219708 or visit our website at www.minimakers.co.uk

Op Art

There is a reference to Op Art in this issue and, as this may be unknown to some of our members, an explanation from The Tate seems appropriate:

A major development in the 1960s of painting that created optical effects for the spectator. These effects ranged from the subtle to the disturbing and disorienting. Op painting used a framework of purely geometric forms as the basis for its effects and also drew on colour theory and the physiology and psychology of perception. Leading figures were Bridget Riley, Jesus Raphael Soto, and Victor Vasarely. Vasarely was one of the originators of Op art. Soto's work often involves mobile elements and points up the close connection between Kinetic and Op art.

If you have access to the internet, my old friend Prof. Dr. Charles Zuill’s work is worth a visit at homepage.mac.com/emmapeel/Zuill/sr.html. where you can also find his essays. Give time to reading Surface Reality.

 

Ed.