Galleries - April 2012

A Human Edge ThoughPrunella Cloughis often retrospectively celebrated along- side Neo-Romantics suchas Keith Vaughan and John Craxton, she first gained notability during the post-war period for her earthy de- pictions of the everyday – garden sheds, cabbage patches or Tha- mes-side industry. And, as the ear- lier pieces in Austin/Desmond's (Map 24) handsome survey show dedicated to her work, 'A Human Edge' reveal, Clough’s earlier works are sombre and earnest in their romanticism, unlike her ma- ture pictures which offer a dis- tinctly eerie sense of the unknown. Elements of industrialisation often haunt her later works though with many of the backgrounds scat- An Earthly Paradise Withsome of his greatest paintings, eg The Resurrection, Cookham still hanging high on a back staircase of the Tate right up to the late 70s, Stan- ley Spencer was unfashionable to a degree still hard to comprehend just 30 years on, when he is almost routinely included in the pantheon of great 20thC. Englishfigurative painters – Bacon, Freud et al. That never stopped him being loved and admired though by the small and dedicated band of admirers who, in April 1962, opened the Stanley Spencer Gallery (Map 18) in the Wesleyan Chapel in Cookham that he once worshipped in. It is, as anyone who knows it, a magical experience to be able to walk out of this gallery straight into the Thames-side village he always regarded, wherever he happened to be, as his earthly paradise and at the core of his painting for over half a century. Now, some 50 years on, and with Her- itage Lottery Funding in 2006/7, the beautifully modernised gallery is cel- ebrating the occasion with a quite splendid exhibition, rich with loans from the Tate and elsewhere. Key among the 50 or so works are a series of self- portraits that encompass his career, The St Francis and the Birds 1935 that caused his resignation from the RA, and one of my quiet favourites, the early Mending Cowls, Cookham 1915. Just go and marvel at the spiritual tenacity and profundity of vision of this great figure of 20th C. British art. NU 12. GALLERIES APRIL 12 tions are still very much rooted in the landscape but their ‘unfin- ished’ sense is more confronta- tional and open to questioning, what and where are the edges of our landscape? Nicola McCartney A Harrow Education No, this is not about the posh place on the hill but an educa- tional establishment world-famous in quite other and no less signifi- cant ways, the Harrow Studio Pot- tery Course which, over the last 50 years, has trained practically every British ceramicist you've ever heard of – Edmund de Waal, Ali- son Britton, Janice Tschalenko, Jane Hamlyn – some 820 in all. The half-century celebration at Contemporary Applied Arts Gallery (Map 24) manages to in- clude some 50 of them – in what amounts to a museum quality show. Now under the aegis of the University of Westminster, the fa- mously innovative approach the course always fostered is still very much in evidence with videos and site-specific installations by recent and current students taking their place alongside more straight- forwardly studio-based ceramic techniques. P runella Clough ‘Untitled’, 1975 at Austin/Desmond. Stanley Spencer‘ Mending Cowls’ at The Stanley Spencer Gallery PREV IEWS tered with hatched fencing and re- peated linear patterns. Towards the end of her career, Clough’s palette grew more di- verse, increasingly employing mauves and harsher reds. The paintings she produced in the 90s, such as Untitled , intrigued me the most. Here, nature intrudes on ur- banisation, not the other way rou- nd. Muted, weathered backgr- ounds overwhelm the foreground but are imposed upon by singular emblems of bold flora, fauna, or even a rainbow. The latter is so thickly painted and authoritative, and often in a bottom corner that it might even be considered Clough’s signature. These incr- easingly abstract, reductive depic-