Galleries - May 2015

John Hopwood John Hopwood, who died earlier this year, is an artist who constantly seemed to be in the process of transforming his art. His latest (and last) exhibition at Belgrave St Ives , withits central idea of, as he himself put it, “presenting a room of personages”, makes for a very different show from his previous exhibition at the then New Millennium some seven years ago. Then, the landscape was his theme, conceptualising (and thereby radicalising) a traditional Cornishtheme, by squeezing them through the filter of the pixel-like blocks of colour in the ‘mosaic’ functions of computer programmes like PaintShop Pro or Photoshop. It sounds dry but the reality was often surprisingly freshand romantic. In the Belgrave St Ives show however, something very different is going on. Hopwood had returned to his earliest themes from the 1970s, when he first made his name as a figurative painter specialising in contemporary portraiture. However while mostly representational in character, the conceptual instinct is still very apparent here. All the figures, which he saw as artistically “autobiographical” and “having a specific meaning in direct relation to myself”, take as a cue, artist figures – Watteau, Christo and Penone among others – and arrive at something touching. Benedict Rubbra Benedict Rubbra’s artistic career started conventionally enoughin the late 50s, with three years at the Slade followed by ten years teaching in art schools. The story really starts when he went solo, building his own studio/gallery in the Chilterns, and earning a living as a very distinguished portrait painter. This coincided with creating the kind of abstract work that really interested him – a searchfor a harmonious relationship between form, colour and light. By 2001 this became all consuming: he gave up portraiture and went to live in Devon to pursue these ideas without distraction. There he gained the enthusiastic support of Deborah Wood of the Art Room Topsham , the organiser of this major show at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. This is not strictly a retrospective as the focus is on his abstract work. Nothing dry or programmatic here though. In a highly personal process, he makes 3-D structures based on ideas drawn from the landscape and Italian Renaissance architecture, and then paints the play of light over them, the method providing the matrix for a richly inclusive and personal language. Peter Joyce Artists’ lives – or the interesting ones at least – often involve radical decisions to follow a line of enquiry that initially seems puzzling and risky. Suchwas the case when Peter Joyce, in 2005, decided to up and leave a Dorset landscape he had painted for some two decades, to live and work in the Marais Breton Vendeen in Western France – a strangely awkward landscape of polders and marshes criss-crossed by canals and ditches. Apart from the gleaming sea- light they share, this area of France is utterly different to the intensely tucked and folded downlands and compressed valleys of Dorset. This represents an immense challenge to the well-established habits of his visual language. He might have visited this area of France, but making it your working home is something else. But, as this exhibition, entitled appropriately ‘Moving South’, organised by Jenna Burlingham at Gallery 8 , makes clear, here is an artist who has unmistakably found a landscape that he can both shape and be shaped by. Essentially abstract in character but filled withintense light and luminous colour; this is a landscape that, as he puts it, “rewards perseverance on the aesthetic level, very much like painting.” 14 GALLERIES MAY 2015 from left: J ohn Hopwood ‘Hip Hop Boy’ at Belgrave St Ives. Peter Joyce ‘After the Lock Gate’ at Gallery 8/Jenna Burlingham. Benedict Rubbra ‘Landscape with Opening Seed Pod’ at RAMM T RIPTYCH