Galleries - September 2015

John Murray who, until 2004, occupied number 50. Byron, Goethe, Jane Austen, Darwin and Conan Doyle were just some of the great names it published, and the archive of their often voluminous correspondence with the firm is now one of the treasured possessions of the National Library of Scotland. Hugh Buchanan, himself a mad keen bibliophile, has made somethingof a reputation for himself over the last decade for his paintings of libraries and archives and his passion communicates itself in wonderfully romantic fashion. His technically superb paintings of tattered maps, worn passports, wax seals and elegant handwriting(amongother things) convey a rich and often melancholy pathos. Naomi Alexander UnderlyingNaomi Alexander’s exhibition at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead, called ‘Domesticity – An Exhibition of Interiors’, is a poignant feeling of loss. Her colourful expressive paintings of kitchens, bathrooms, livingrooms – from mud houses in Aswan, peasant houses in Lithuania or even the magnificent Chatsworth – mourn the absence of lost ones whilst celebratingthe comforts of domesticity. The attics of Chatsworth, now used as storage spaces for old master paintings and ancient furniture, SEPTEMBER 2015 GALLERIES 11 can we not learn now more tolerance towards each other? Ken Howard said “drawingis one of Naomi Alexander’s great strengths”, and the show also presents wonderful drawings with stronglines of deep feelingthat remind one of Kathe Kollwitz (for example ‘My family in our Ancestral Home’), or sketches of almost classical Oriental economy (such as ‘Mrs Sugarman at her front door, Gateshead’). The etchings too are very fine. I was very struck by the comparison between a photograph she had taken of her own kitchen, and her etchingof the same interior, which contains so much movement and vitality (‘My kitchen, London’). The artist imbues warmth and emotion into the print beyond the scope of the photograph. She likes to quote Bonnard: “Lots of little lies for the sake of one bigtruth”! RC Contributors: Rosemary Clunie, Emily Medd, Nicholas Usherwood amidst water drips and unused sinks, once housed companies of busy maidservants. The former Jewish inhabitants of those peasant cottages in Lithuania were rounded up and murdered during the Holocaust. The stoves, sinks, tables, and kitchen utensils so eloquently portrayed remind us of those who once used them. They are a testament to the ephemerality of human beings compared even to humble domestic items. These paintings of reassuring domestic settings, mostly uninhabited, seem to also ask: can we offer sanctuary or protect against the chaos of historical cataclysms, or even the ravages of time? And yet the universality of the domestic experience is also so vividly portrayed in Alexander’s paintings, etchings and drawings – a blue Egyptian bedroom, a Chatsworth bathroom stuffed with unwanted furniture, a Gateshead rabbi’s library. Perhaps Alexander’s interiors also reflect that when we realise what unites all of us, these common humble living spaces we cherish, where we can relax, where we can let down our guard, from left: H ugh Buchanan ‘Don Juan’ at John Martin Gallery. Carl Plackman ‘Rise and Fall’ and ‘Decoy’ both at Pangolin London Naomi Alexander ‘Kitchen, Gateshead’, at Shipley Art Gallery A nna Gillespie ‘L’Enfant’ at Beaux Arts London