Galleries - June 2011

to remind readers of the excellent tribute at James Hyman until 18 June. ‘Beyond the Human Clay’ seeks to show, amongother thi- ngs, that the high seriousness of the art Kitaj was proposingis by no means a dead letter in an art world now at times seemingly dominated by irony and surface glitter. BRYAN KNEALE It was only when watching his brother-in-law welding that scul- ptor Bryan Kneale, now showing at Beaux Arts London , decided to try working with metal himself. Kneale had been an artist for many years prior to this, having enrolled in the RA Schools in 1948, in the 1950s establishing a reputation as a painter, working somewhat in the gritty realist style of the Kitchen Sink artists. Yet today it is for his striking, idiosyncratic sculptures that Kne- ale is celebrated, both in the UK and internationally. Though a little less well-known, he now occupies a place in the art world almost on a par with the likes of Anthony Caro and Eduardo Paolozzi. And rightly so. This showcasing of Kneale’s recent sculptures, in con- junction with his virtuoso drawings of skeletons inspired by Stubb’s anatomical sketches at the Royal Academy , include works like Crucible , an egg-shaped piece made from bronze which, as Kne- ale himself says, ‘explores the thin-ness of the material, the way it cracks almost like an egg-shell’. There are a host of other rem- arkable works here, ‘organic’ scul- ptures made in hand-finished stainless steel, bronze, copper and tin, soaring free-form ‘line drawings in space’. Clive Joinson NERYS JOHNSON In the last two or three years of her life, Nerys Johnson (1942-2001) – confined to her house in Durham with severe arthritis – painted an extensive series of small goua- ches scrutinising the language of flowers with mystical intensity and intensely focused feeling for nua- nced, abstracted form and colour. An exhibition of her (mostly) late works is at the Martin Tinney Gallery , Cardiff (9 to 25 June); a selection is being displayed too at the National Museum of Wales , Cardiff (6 June to 11 September). Two paintings of rose hips with autumn leaves (at the NM) de- monstrate her late mastery of scin- tillating colour and gracefully in- tricate, interweaving shapes agai- nst an ominously black back- ground. Studies (at MTG) such as tradescantia on deep cobalt , statice and red tulip , indigo ground and hollyhock with blue and green leaf on aubergine , evoke her deep joy in exploring, at turns, delicate and forceful floral ‘personalities’ juxtaposed, with startling conciseness, alongside each other against dazzlingly dark backdrops. Johnson’s great sup- porter, Julian Spalding, noted her ‘tiny last portraits, in beaming colour, of single flowers – a tulip or an iris or just a single blade of grass, will, in time, come to be the most treasured’. Philip Vann BRIDGET McCRUM For someone who trained as a painter in the 50s and as a stone carver in 1980 (marriage interve- ned), Bridget McCrum has wasted no time making up any ground she may have lost. The sculp- tures, paintings and major com- missions that have poured out ever since are a remarkable test- ament to a determined and highly original sculptural presence. Well travelled, she picked up an ecle- ctic enthusiasm for ancient and non-European cultures to add to her love for moderns such as Brancusi, Moore and William Tucker. She succeeded in welding them into a pure and muscular formal language in which the bird forms (a central theme of her work) also have something un- mistakably and poetically reminis- cent of the simple grace and power of the knives and arrow- heads she once studied in mus- eums – Merlin , The Quarrier or Windrider . ( Messum’s , May 25 to Jun 11.) Images fromLeft toRight: A nneRedpath (1895- 1965) ‘TheOrangeChair’,c.1944atTheFleming -WyfoldArtFoundation.ErnstLudwig Kirchner, ‘DerStrandvonFehmarn (Thebeachon Fehmarn),c.1912-13atTheobaldJennings. AngusFairhurst,‘Untitled I’&’Untitled II’,c.1990at JamesHyman. Nerys Johnson,‘BirdofParadise V’,1999atMartinTinney. BryanKneale, ‘Crucible’,2005atBeauxArts,London.Bridget McCrum, ‘Merlin’atMessum’s TRIPLEVISION