Galleries - July 2016

Sometimes an artistic style can get just too far ahead of the prevailing aesthetic of its time and place. So it was with Peter Lowe and the Systems Group that emerged in the late 60s who, despite a reasonable degree of support from ‘official’ art channels for a period in the early 70s, never really clicked with British dealers or collectors, their austere degree of mathematical-seeming abstraction just too much for an audience never entirely comfortable with abstract art of any kind in the first place. Not so in Europe, fortunately for Lowe or the Group, whose work has been widely revered there, shown, collected and understood, very much as part of the ongoing Constructionist aesthetic that emerged out of Bauhaus principles in the post-war period, Max Bill et al. Now it would seem, this neglected avant garde is coming home at last, with a show of Lowe’s work over the last half century (his first in 11 years) at Waterhouse & Dodd , and a planned spotlight exhibition of Systems art at Tate Britain . Looking at Lowe’s work now it is really hard to see just what the problem could ever have been, the sheer purity and richness of invention in both the reliefs, 2D and 3D pieces, such that there is really not a single piece here that won’t cause the greatest visual pleasure and intellectual satisfaction. Nicholas Usherwood Austin/Desmond Fine Art have always had a keen eye for the less well trodden aspects of 20th century British Art and Design, and their current summer survey show is no exception, ranging as it does from Michael Cardew ceramics to Karl Weschke landscapes. There are, of course, many expected names here as well – Ben Nicholson, Ivon Hitchens, William Scott, Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton and Tracey Emin among them – but when the eye is as keen as theirs usually is, it’s always a really good example. My eye meanwhile has a tendency to veer from the mainstream towards eccentrics and members of the ‘awkward squad’ and there is plenty of that here as well. For example, a superb group of Prunella Clough paintings and prints including one of the toughest and most mysterious examples of her immediate post-war paintings (‘Untitled’ c.1946) with its uncomfortable figure buried in a seemingly underground chamber beneath a sombre landscape. Or, by way of contrast, the still undervalued Richard Eurich, with one of his late, pearly, luminescent Solent seascapes, apparently casual yet filled with the phenomenological mysteries of the thing ‘seen’ (‘Wind Surfer Seascape’ 1984). Or even the wonderfully eccentric, surrealist inspired composition by Humphrey Spender ‘Arterial Man’ (1940). Enough already! NU There can’t be many works of art, from an installation to Michelangelo’s St Peter’s, that haven’t started with a pencil stroke on a piece of paper. The medium of a drawn line is also broad and varied, from a silver point to a piece of coarse charcoal, and all affected by the structure of the paper it is made on. A ‘finished drawing’ is as much a work of art as a painting or any other construction and it shouldn’t be scorned for being on paper. Such artworks are an affordable way to start a collection by often highly sought after artists. Piers Feetham aims “to support drawing” with regular summer shows under the title ‘Drawn to the Line’, giving artists the opportunity to show drawings which are finished works rather than sketches or preparatory. July’s show is no exception – from Victoria Achache to Laetitia Yhap, Elisabeth Vellacott to Paul Rumsey and more. It’s also apposite that the Royal Drawing School starts its summer programme from July 4 – an opportunity for anyone with a known or unknown skill to benefit from tuition by specialists and discover, improve, master or review techniques. Paul Hooper R OUND-UP from left W illiam Scott ‘Cornish Harbour’ 1951 lithograph Austin/Desmond Fine Art Peter Lowe ‘Construction based on seven’ 1969 perspex Waterhouse & Dodd Caroline McAdam Clark ‘Consigning her to the Sea’ charcoals Piers Feetham Gallery Coming home 12 GALLERIES JULY 2016 Different paths Lining up