Galleries - July 2014

Hartill has, up until now, never had a proper retrospective exhibition. Now Bankside Gallery are, appropriately enough for an institution housing the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE), putting things right with an in-depth insight that ranges from early career to the present day. It includes several out-of-print and rare figurative works as well as examples of her most recent experimentations with embedding collages in encaustic wax which explore the possibilities of combining the translucency of watercolour with her many printmaking skills. This latest venture is, in itself, very typical of a career which has, from the moment she came back to England from New Zealand in the late 60s to study at the Central, always been full of experimental twists and turns. She became involved in theatre design here and in the USA through the 70s via the 80s, when, in a search of more artistic independence, she first turned to printmaking; she has, in recent years, been moving to mixed media collage painting and painting proper. Nor is it simply a question of techniques and materials – the last decade has seen her head towards increasingly abstract imagery, drawn largely from nature and the landscape – the dynamics of plant growth, land structures, even the erosion to be found in rugged mountain landscapes. Mono printing is a recent passion Sense of Identity When it was founded, in 1857, as the Society of Female Artists, many of the 149 women participating hid their identities for fear of social recrimination. 157 years and two name changes later (Lady then Women), there is no need for any of that, thank goodness, but the very fact that the Society of Women Artists continues to thrive and their annual exhibition attracts such a broad range of striking work would seem to suggest that some of the old prejudices still lurk, that the reasons for such a society’s continued existence are still valid even in our apparently equal society. And their 153rd show (one or two were missed out in wartime), at the Mall Galleries to 5July, makes it clear the Society is currently in an extremely interesting place with – thanks to an enlightened policy of offering reduced price submission fees to young artists – plenty of excitingly youthful and experimental work on show. Such as, for example, this year’s Premium Brands Award for a Young Artist which went to Shelli Graham’s striking painting Yuwavaj – The Transmutant King. Printmaker’s Journey Remarkably, for an artist who has had such a lengthy and prolific career as theatre designer, printmaker and painter, Brenda 8 GALLERIES JULY 2014 ANTENNAE Generation Game With the Scottish Referendum coming up suspicious minds might think that there is a hidden political agenda to this nationwide artistic blitz on the electorate of Scotland – but then everything just now is part of the independence debate. Generation is the all-encompassing logo for a multi-venue extravaganza of multi-medium exhibitions spread over 60 locations and involving around 100 artists organised to coincide with the Commonwealth Games about to take place in Glasgow, that great centre for sporting and artistic achievement. Although the artists from its renowned School of Art predominate, the exhibited work and events will take place from Thurso to Dumfries, involving celebrated figures like Steven Campbell, Alison Watt, Callum Innes, Douglas Gordon, Christine Borland, David Shrigley and other Turner Prize winners and nominees. The last quarter century has undoubtedly been an extremely successful period in Scottish art and hopefully it will continue – in or out of the Union. Just a hubristic warning however: back in the 80s we had another big self-congratulatory event, The Vigorous Imagination, vaunting Scottish neo-figurative painting which unfortunately proved not to be its moment of triumph but its swan song . . . Visit: Bill Hare