Galleries - October 2018

Working over some nine decades, Paul Feiler's painting career was, by any measure, an astoundingly long and productive one – he was working in his studio daily right up to the moment of his death, aged 95, in 2013. Perhaps more significantly, it was marked by a continual development of style and subject matter as his superb centenary show at Redfern Gallery makes very clear. There is indeed a certain irony here as it was with the Redfern that Feiler had a series of extremely successful shows in the mid 1950s before a pronounced shift to a more radical abstraction led to a distinctly unsuccessful exhibition in 1959 and immediate termination of his contract! Feiler was not to be deterred, even though it meant increasing critical and commercial neglect over the next 30 years before his work returned to favour with a show back at the Redfern in 1993 and at Tate St Ives in 1995. Looking back over his career now it is often hard to see quite what the problem was as the evolution of his work from a rich, painterly abstract expressionism – he was famously photographed having tea with Mark Rothko in St Ives in 1958 – to the lyrical geometric abstraction of the 70s and on, was never less than steady and considered. My instinct is that these difficulties had their origin in the quietly unmistakable intellectual and spiritual austerity of his German upbringing – he came to Britain aged 15 in 1933 before going to the Slade in 1936 – and not a few critics have pointed out a certain emotional affinity in his paintings with the work of the great German 19th century Romantic, Caspar David Friedrich. Compared to his St Ives’ compatriots and friends Lanyon, Heron and Winter in particular, it seems to have set him apart at a crucial moment. No longer it would seem, for Feiler can now readily be seen as very much of that distinguished company. There was a time when decorative arts and antique fairs, and fine art fairs, tended to keep to themselves – nothing remotely resembling fine art in the former, strictly painting, sculpture, watercolours and drawings and nothing else, other than possibly for display purposes, in the latter. Things have been changing over the last 10 to15 years though, quietly at first but now more radically – The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia is an example of the shift, with a good 40 percent of exhibitors now coming from the fine art side while, from the other direction, it has been increasingly noticeable at fairs, like the British Art Fair for example, that many galleries are going beyond the regulation table and chair for clients on their stands, with period furniture and decorative arts being introduced to subtly enhance the historical credentials of the artworks on display. This may have something to do with the rise and rise of the glamorous lifestyle magazines where all the elements of fine and decorative art are brought together in an intensely seductive form. All this by way of preamble to the news that that doyen among Modern British and Contemporary dealers, Bath-based Anthony Hepworth, is showing at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea Park this month – serious stuff too, among them an Edward Burra pencil and watercolour drawing, an abstract canvas (2018) by Peter Seal and a 1970s screenprint by Julia Gibson. The paths continue to converge. This October sees the installation of one of the late Chris Gollon's final paintings, his St Ethelflaeda diptych at Romsey Abbey. On the face of it, this is a fine gesture of all too rare contemporary ecclesiastical patronage, with the painting of one of the miracles wrought by this 10th century Abbess of Romsey (and to whom the building is dedicated) – when she entered the pitch dark Abbey and found herself able to read the Bible by the holy light emanating from her fingers – beautifully sighted on a transept wall close to the Abbess' door. But Gollon's intensely expressive R OUND-UP 10 GALLERIES OCTOBER 2018 1 00 marked Art functions Saintly storm