Galleries - May 2013

12. GALLERIES MAY 13 Maurice Cockrill There is very much a sense of a return to roots with this show of Maurice Cockrill’s latest paintings at Ffin y Parc gallery, the works beinginspired by the landscape of the nearby Conwy Valley that he has known since his youth (and where he now has a studio). For though born in the North East all the formative influences of his early career were shaped by the North West, its landscape and the art schools he attended at Wrexham and Liverpool. It is interestingtoo in that the work seems to mark yet another distinct shift in direction for an artist who has never been afraid of abrupt changes of style, often much to the chagrin of his dealers. Hence the increasingly abstract style that has marked the last decade or so seems to have been partially put aside in paintings that both reference the Paul Nash-ish landscapes that made his reputation in the 80s while also radically movingit on. Thus, in paintings like Water from the Rock, for example, he achieves what I believe could prove the start of a wonderful late flowering(he is now in his 70s), a synthesis of abstract and landscape forms that is spare, expressive and intensely moving. A group of Cockrill’s work can also be seen this month in London, where he is now represented by Belgravia Gallery . NU Shanti Panchal The figures in London-based, Indian-born painter Shanti Panchal’s fresco-like watercolours appear enigmatically estranged from one another yet also inseparably intimate. In Paintings of Exile and Home ( Piano Nobile from 15 May), his subjects include pillow- talking lovers, dignified though poignantly vulnerable ‘hoodies’ in a London square, and Panchal’s three sons blissfully absorbed as one plays the guitar. The spaciously abstracted settings – rendered in both austere colours and a rich palette of ochres, purplish browns, vivid reds – partly recall the earthy hues of the artist’s Gujarati village background but also Francis Bacon’s stark backdrops. In the ambiguously titled The Last Order , a handsome young chef stands relaxedly above a round table at which a lovely young woman sits. Panchal evokes the brilliancy of his chef’s whites by scraping away layers of burnt siena, grey and blue until the white of the paper is scintillatingly revealed. Through Panchal’s radically innovative way of painting, whereby layer upon watercolour layer is applied to hand-made paper, then scraped back with hard oil-paint brushes and modulated with blotting paper, an emotional and painterly depth of amazing subtle vibrancy is achieved. Philip Vann Shani Rhys James With their fierce, dense brushmarks, rich colour and unmistakable symbolism, it would be easy simply to pigeonhole Welsh painter Shani Rhys James’ paintings in a broad tradition of 20th C. expressive art. But there has always been something else going on in her work which takes it in a rather different direction and the extraordinary paintings in her two new shows at King’s Place (London) and Martin Tinney (Cardiff) seem like a very good moment to try to work out just what it is. Entitled ‘The Rivalry of Flowers’, the paintings in the London show seem to be aiming at taking on issues beyond the merely personal and subjective. These obsessive interiors, with their crazy patterning of flowers – on wallpaper, vases, furniture et al – swamping the female figures (herself) hint at some discontent with the materiality of the world in general that is more societal than simply personal. And always her consideration for the abstract surface of the canvas holds the complex display of emotions in subtle pictorial check – form and content in tense balance. Showing alongside Dutch-born London resident Marcelle Hanselaar’s viscerally feminist, intensely European figure paintings at King’s Place, they make for intense and profoundly thought-provoking viewing. NU TRIPLEVISION