Galleries - September 2012

Michèle Griffiths In her latest exhibition at the Stour Gallery (map 7) Michèle Griffiths shows herself to be a painter with a steadily developing abstract language of some range and richness. When she first started showing, a decade or so back, the work took as its starting point seascape subjects that derived from sailing holidays in the Greek Islands – meditative pieces, intense in colour, that had Whistler’s Nocturnes as a powerful influence. Then, two or three years back, she embarked on her ‘Wall Fragments’ series, based on studies of the white- washed walls of Greek houses, radically different pieces with their heavily scratched and scored surfaces of delicately tinted Plaster of Paris that took on the quality of secular icons. To these she has now added a third group, works that move away completely from the world of appearances and start trying to give expression to purely abstract visual sensation. A Little Swaying for example, seems to merge into a world of pure light and subtle movement – and unmistakable spiritual calm. Philip Ciolina Philip Ciolina’s aptly autumnal exhibition of rose studies, ‘In the Stillness of Time’ ( Thackeray 11 to 21 September, map 20) is in- spired by TS Eliot’s poem Burnt Norton and documents the flower unearthed a wonderful and often genuinely unnerving exhibition – from paintings and prints, photography and video to furniture and even millinery (sic) – all linked by their characteristically thought- provoking juxtapositions of reality and the irrational. For a show of so-called 'local' artists this is a highly focussed and dynamic display of substantial value. Full marks to Jo Welsh and the Forum also – every town should have one – artist, not professional curator led, too . . . A Pure Autumn You may remember that, back in March, our occasional Coda col- umn featured an artistic initiative by the Pure Arts Group in Battle, East Sussex. To recap, this foundation was started three years ago by former fine art photographer Lesley Samms and a small group of like-minded artists and gallerists to run two annual art fairs (autumn and spring) with the prime aim of helping younger and aspiring artists to get shown and receive professional mentoring. Well, the Pure Autumn Art Fair (14 to 22 September, map 15) is now launching, the one at which 60 or so artists, selected by open submission, are exhibiting before the mentoring process begins over the autumn/winter period. I really like the practical common sense of this venture – it’s well worth your time taking a look . . . from bud to bare and petal-less, reminding us of the seasons and cycle of life. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Ciolina has always worked on a small scale, creating an intimacy between subject and viewer and this helps contribute to the sense of isolation and melancholy present in works such as Autumn Rose , conveying nature’s fragility and decay. Using mixed media and transparent layers of paper, reminiscent of petals themselves, his light touch is just about discernible, as if not wishing to interfere with time’s inevitable toll but merely to document it. Vases and window sills, hints of man’s hand of death for nature, ominously loom in pale muted shadows while also serving to remind us of the joy flora and fauna provides and how we celebrate it. This complex dichotomy of life and death is exemplified in the juxta- positions between titles such as Room at Dusk and Night Rose with the more sprightly Morning Light and Into the First World. ‘In the Stillness of Time’ is a visual poetics of mortality. Nicola McCartney From left: C raigie Aitchison RA ‘Red Dog’ tapestry at Rabley Drawing Centre. M ichèle Griffiths ‘A Little Swaying’ at Stour Gallery. P hilip Ciolina ‘Night Rose’ at Thackeray Gallery. Hayley Gammon ‘Glass Sculpture’ at Pure Autumn Art Fair 11. GALLERIES SEPTEMBER 12