Galleries - September 2011

Richard Corbett Twenty or so small but intense landscape images by the painter and printmaker Richard Corbett are showing at New Leaf in Monmouth until the end of the month. The smallest measures no more than 4 x 6 inches (excluding its frame), the largest, called Still Pool , is about 20 inches square. The old-fashioned subject matter – sun-saturated trees in full leaf, thickly wooded hills under scudding clouds, sparkling seas at dusk, eachone brought to life by the artist’s sensitivity to the way light moves – is no turn-off, even if you feel that scenes as perfect as these are the result of a selective vision that ignores all ugly intrusions. Psychologically speaking, trees (which feature in a lot of these pictures) are good for you and we need more of them. Government statistics show that about 12% of the UK is covered by woodland, which is well below the EU average (37% in 2000). A nostalgia for the wild wood haunts a lot of us whether we are living in a densely populated city or in the sticks. Trees give us security. Richard Corbett’s latest figurative paintings play to a need for contemplation and their smallness becomes entirely irrelevant. Caroline Juler come Graham Crowley’s central preoccupation. But, as this large show of recent works ( Atkinson, Millfield) elucidates, these are paintings which exist simul- taneously as a window on the changing environment of rural County Cork – in particular its creeping suburbanisation – and as objects in themselves, exer- cises in the effect of expansive colour fields, variations of surface texture and contrasts of geo- metric forms. One colour domin- ates each canvas, spread over sky, field and even the exteriors of farm buildings. Black strokes provide outline and the figurative detail of hedgerow and trees, and occasional outcrops of other bright chroma, on the odd wall, chimney or telegraph pole, pun- ctuate and clash with the main colour. Crowley’s ‘Drift’ series disorientates us further by repre- senting this landscape as ref- lected in an estuary or river. Here, the quadrilaterals and triangles of roof, gable and wall are upside- down and intercede with ellipses of sunlight, clusters of clouds, the stocky but sleek forms of rowing boats and semi-circular white lines, swiftly brushed to evoke water ripples. The series has the graphic impact of Crowley’s neo- cubist, dystopian still lifes and cityscapes of the 1970s and ’80s, with which he came to promin- ence, but also some of the pic- turesque qualities of the British landscape tradition, as water, sky, house and boat merge as one in the viewer’s eyes. Sam Phillips John Craxton John Craxton, who died in 2009 at the age of 87, has long been curiously neglected in modern British art consciousness. That lack will be repaired by his current retrospective show at Tate Britain and the revelatory new book, John Craxton by Ian Col- lins, (Lund Humphries, £35). His early art – including ominous war- time drawings of meditative poets and shepherds amid menacingly animate woods and foliage – is relatively well known but the works that followed his ecsta- tically liberating move to Greece in 1946 have, undeservingly, achi- eved less prominence. In the monumental Pastoral for P.W. (1948), dedicated to his progress- ive art benefactor Peter Watson, wartime angst is jettisoned as a young piping goatherd is an enchanting pantheistic presence within an intricately abstracted Greek landscape of gnawing, frolicking and startled goats. In such works, Craxton absorbed inspiring notes from Picasso, Chagall and Miró into his own vision, his unique Arcadian in- scape. In later paintings, a Euro- pean modernist influence is en- riched by a complementary gro- wing appreciation of archaic icons and Byzantine mosaics. The resulting paintings of dan- cing, feasting and resting Greek sailors – as well as vibrantly tes- sellated landscapes, seascapes and treescapes – are marvellous achievements. Philip Vann Images fromLeft: J annHaworth, ‘LindnerDoll’,1964, mixedmedia,97cmhighatWhitfordFineArt. NickBodimeade,‘Vantage’,oiloncanvasat PorthminsterGallery. captionscontinuedoverleaf TRIPLEVISION 11. GALLERIES SEPTEMBER 11