Galleries - November 2016

Witha major touring show opening at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art and another – part of which makes up this month’s show at Crane Kalman – having just closed at Abbot Hall in Kendal, Winifred Nicholson's reputation is currently enjoying a huge resurgence of interest. Entitled 'Winifred in Cumberland', it explores her lifelong connection withthe county in which she was born, in 1893, and to which, despite various artistic peregrinations in Europe, notably the avant-garde Paris of the 1930s (where she had a flat for some years) and friendships with Mondrian et al, she always seemed emotionally bound to return. Her main base over muchof her life was a remote farmhouse on Hadrian's Wall, Bankshead, where she lived with Ben Nicholson for some years and which, in the late 20s, became a sort of salon for young experimental artists, Christopher (Kit) Wood notable among them. “My paintings talk in colour” she once observed, and colour was to remain at the heart of her practice throughout her life, and though she painted a large number of quiet, intense Cumbrian landscape subjects, it is always really in painting flowers that her true gifts and originality as a colourist can be seen at their height. In this she was herself something of a late flowering bloom, her long standing interest in optical prisms rekindled by conversations with the physicist Professor Glen Schaefer in 1975, leading her, already in her 80s, to produce the most daringly luminous paintings of her career. “I found out what the flowers know, how to divide the colours as prisms do...and in doing so giving the luminosity and brilliance of pure colour.” The Crane Kalman exhibition forms part of the gallery’s 60th birthday celebrations. NU Thinking about Naomi Frears' latest group of paintings at Beaux Arts I kept remembering Frank O'Hara's wonderfully accurate poem on the often bizarrely indirect, crab-like nature of the creative process, 'Why I am not a Painter,' in which, over a series of studio visits to his friend Michael Goldberg, a painting that starts off depicting sardines, then transforms simply into letters, finally goes on show in a gallery entitled 'Sardines'. Her paintings, with their often eccentric juxtapositions of imagery and title, create whole narratives, not necessarily our own, of evocative emotional ambiguity, full of melancholy and a sense of separateness, or apartness, from the world. A figure derived from a sketch in a book of a youthful Walt Whitman, surmounted by a halo consisting of an upside down outline motif of a rocky landscape and entitled ‘British Summer Time’, is just one such example. Frears herself has observed of this highly distinctive quality in her work that it is as though she finds herself telling the story in other people's lives. However you choose to characterise her work though, it makes Frears yet another welcome voice in that increasingly diverse community of St Ives and Cornwall based artists, her first London solo show, hopefully the first of many. NU With more galleries choosing web ‘premises’ over bricks and mortar, a ‘change of exhibition’ online heralds a new virtual hanging. Representing idiosyncratic painters and historically promoters of naive art (Kit Williams, Beryl Cook and more), Portal Painters is one such gallery who works online and at major art fairs. This month’s exhibition includes new work by Lizzie Riches (painting Persephone who was condemned to the Underworld after eating pomegranate seeds) as well as Steve Easby, Peter Layzell and Heather Nevay. PH R OUND-UP 12 GALLERIES NOVEMBER 2016 from left L izzie Riches ‘Persephone’ Portal Painters Winifred Nicholson ‘South Parlour’ Crane Kalman Naomi Frears ‘Garçon!’ Beaux Arts L ooking north Looking within Looking online