Galleries - September 2018

Beinga model and muse for Picasso had its ups and downs to say the least, so when the artist first spied the blonde ponytailed Sylvette David from his studio window in Vallauris in 1953, it could have changed her life and not necessarily altogether in happy ways. In the event, shielded by youthful innocence and the company of her boyfriend (who also spent time in Picasso's studio makingsome of the sheet metal shapes used for Picasso's highly innovative sculptures of her), Sylvette's brief sojourn as his artistic muse in 1954 seems to have passed in a state of charmed creativity as is evident from the 40 or so paintings and sculptures Picasso made of her. For Picasso, with her hair up in a super-contemporary blonde ponytail (Brigitte Bardot apparently copied her) Sylvette seemed to embody a link between classical heroines such as Antigone, and the feel of modern times, with works that were quite remarkably free of any sexual angst. Sylvette, later changing her name to Lydia, didn't take up art herself until 25 years or so later back in England, but with parents who both painted themselves, she proved a quite naturally gifted and individual artist in a broadly contemporary vein – figures, flowers and still-lifes subjects predominating– though the feeling in her paintings, watercolours and ceramics is often closer perhaps to Chagall than Picasso himself. You can judge for yourself in a splendid large retrospective exhibition of her work, organised by Adrian Hill Fine Art at the Mall Galleries next month, where the gleaming light and colour of her work provides a marvellous coda to this summer of Mediterranean brilliance. In her extraordinary 1997 book, 'Meeting the Universe Halfway', the American particle physicist and philosopher Karen Barad sought to develop the full creative implications of the quantum theories first conceived nearly 100 years ago by the great Danish scientist Niels Bohr. At its heart is the idea that we are all, whether artists, poets, scientists or philosophers, part of the universe we seek to describe – “Humans are neither cause nor pure effect but part of the world in its open- ended becoming. . . we know because we are of the world.” Artists have often intuited much of this and are thus in a powerful position to help suggest the imagery for how this quantum world might be imagined, as an intriguing group exhibition, curated by the painter Alexander Hinks at The Cello Factory entitled 'Defining Structure' would seem to confirm. Bringing together some 21 established and emerging artists with skills ranging from painting and sculpture to installation and virtual reality, it seeks to explore our ever more complex environment and search out the structures that both underlay and link it. Creativity in its broadest sense, as Barad emphasises, is a process of intra-action and thus by definition, an ontological matter, ie a question of being in the world, that has an ethical dimension also. All the artists here would seem to be distinguished not simply by vigour of their visual imaginations, but by the integrity of their approach. William Blake zeroed in on it when he talked about seeing the world in a grain of sand. Growing up post-war, one of my fondest Christmas memories was unwrapping a shiny flat tin, the lid decorated with a view of the Lake District and, laid out inside, an enticing array of 12 or 20 'virgin' coloured pencils. They were Derwent Lakeland pencils of course, state of the art, and well above my childish scribblings. Not so the work to be found in the latest Derwent Art Prize exhibition at the Mall Galleries where some 67 pieces selected from 3300 entries from all over the world, France to Hong Kong, Serbia to South Korea, by a professional panel headed up by Gill Saunders, senior curator at the V & A, display a remarkable degree of artistic virtuosity. Everything from gestural R OUND-UP 10 GALLERIES SEPTEMBER 2018 A musing Picasso Universally one Drawn together