Galleries - June 2010

The Jacobson show comprises a series of very recent works, of the artist’s outrenoir (ultrablack) paint- ings, a series he began in 1979, their surfaces of impastoed, shaped and sculpted black oil paint, often applied with a palette knife, reflectinglight in myriad ways and evokinglimitless possi- bilities. Peinture 244 x 181 cm, 2 Avril 2010 , has textures that shim- mer and flicker under light, seem- ingto change colour accordingto the visual weather in the gallery, its matt and gloss ridges reflecting yellows, ochres, blues. Soulages’ status as a postwar giant of abstr- action has lately also ensured record auction prices – in more ways than one, longevity has its rewards. 'Nothingis ever effectually vic- torious in England till it brings money', Benjamin Haydon decla- red, apropos his attempt to set up an art school in 1817, adding 'However expressive of a comm- ercial habit this may be, it is no bad test of merit.' Whether he would have fared better had there been alternatives to the Royal Academy is doubtful, but the number of societies and brother- hoods that have been set up by artists suggests a persistent need Turning90 this December, Pierre Soulages is lauded as one of the seminal figures of postwar abstr- action and 100 of his works spanninghis entire career were recently on show at Paris’ Pomp- idou Centre where it had, report edly, some 500,000 visitors. (He’s even been allowed to have one of his canvases on temporary dis- play in the Louvre.) The show at Bernard Jacobson which opens on 24 June is the first of new work to be held in London since 1972. Soulages emerged as an artistic force in late 1940s Paris, his re- ductive cast of mind suited to the newly emerging pictorial language of abstraction that had taken both Paris and New York by storm. Both he and his artist-colleagues in Paris – includingHartungand Riopelle – were at the time some- what obscured by the publicity generated in New York by the sort of high-octane cultural chauvinism evident in the writings of art critics such as the American Clement Greenberg, who famously cham- pioned the work of Jackson Pollock. Soulages' vision and art have stood the test of time though, and to this day he is making paintings of great vitality and, within deliberately circumscribed means, of the purest aestheticism. to alleviate the lonely furrow syndrome. The New English Art Club, founded in 1886, soon became, accordingto the cata- logue for Messum's current show, 'a sort of graduation process for Slade students of Harold Gilman's and Spencer Gore's generation'. The opportunities societies afford for exhibitingwork is part of their appeal. There's just time to catch the Painter-Printmakers' annual exhibition at Bankside Gallery , while The Mall Galleries remains popular with organisations as diverse as The Architecture Club, the Pastel Society and the Royal Society of Marine Artists. One of our more glamorous sodalities, the Chelsea Arts Club , is holding its 100th anniversary show this month, with proceeds going to the Royal Marsden hospital. Such acts of altruism may reflect a growing sense that dependence on state aid is no longer ad- visable, in the art or any other world. Chris Insoll, of the New Gallery , Portscatho, has set up The Trewinnard Sketchbook Club to support the Royal Cornwall Museum , whose fundingis due to be slashed in 2011. Meetingonce a month, the fee of £20 per person will go to the RCM (tel. 01872 272205 to book). At the other end of the scale, there's Kings Place , the magnificent brainchild of a Northumbrian entrepreneur which includes two major galleries, one at present showingthe work of Stephen Chambers. The complex flourishes with no recourse to public funding. Progrediamur! PIERRE SOULAGES C live Joinson H IGH SOCIETIES S arah Drury P ierre Soulages ‘Peinture’, 244 x 181cm, 2 Avril 2010, acrylic on canvas at Bernard Jacobson Gallery