Galleries - January/February 2019

JANUARY/FEBRUARY2019 GALLERIES 33 even a resistance to it as voiced in the intense experience of looking at and giving expression to an 'analogue' experience of nature – are just some of this year's more readily identifiable themes. And if that still sounds a bit dry, the wit, exuberance and passion the works themselves exemplify is very far from that, a situation reinforced by the extraordinary United Nations of the artists' backgrounds, from Chile and Brazil, China and Uzbekistan, Ghana to New Zealand (among others) not to mention the multicultural backgrounds of many of those from the UK, the richness of the cultural and imaginative experiences embedded in the works becoming completely exhilarating. At a moment when the country is going through something of an identity crisis, I feel that here, at least, doors and borders to the wider world are not being closed and we are much the richer for it. Meanwhile at a more pragmatic level there is the moral, and hopefully financial support that such a show provides to artists just setting out on their careers – one of them at least will receive a remarkable £18,000 award, viz the Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award, which involves, among other things, a nine month residency at Derby School of Art as well as exhibitions at the Mall Galleries and Derby Museum and Art Gallery. And, if last year's show is anything to go by, a fair number will find a gallery to show in or, at the very least, a sale or two to send them on their way. Nicholas Usherwood Although only living there three brief years between 1956-8 while her husband David Lewis studied architecture, Yorkshire played a pivotal part in the development of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham's art. A teaching job at the School of Art under the dynamic and pioneering Harry Thubron, and contact with the influential contemporary artists who came to live and work in the School at this time under the auspices of the Gregory Fellowship, opened her art up in a more expressive and painterly direction than she had so far developed in Cornwall. A fiercer colour palette of reds, blacks and yellows emerged, very different to the luminous earthy colours of St Ives, while the rugged landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales proved perfect material for an artist always drawn to the wild and elemental, glacier climbing in Switzerland. Now two exhibitions in Yorkshire, supported by the Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust, explore the connection 'on the spot' with the splendid retrospective loan exhibition 'Sea, Rock, Earth and Ice’, highlighting her travels in Switzerland, Tuscany, Sicily and Lanzarote, that showed at the Jerwood Gallery last June, now going to the Graves Gallery in Sheffield, while a similarly themed display of drawings and paintings linked to Yorkshire is showing some 58 miles north, in Andrew Stewart's ever enterprising contemporary space 108 Fine Art in Harrogate. With the Turner Prize won this year by an artist using a mobile phone and the shortlist populated entirely by video and digital technologies, you might think painting was in one of those periodic phases of rejection and decline that critics always seem so quick to identify. But you'd be wrong – the separate universe they seem to inhabit remains largely uninhibited by the facts 'on the ground' so to speak. As the team of selectors of this year's Federation of British Artists Futures (the seventh in the series and the biggest to date) at the Mall Galleries found, to their joy and delight, quite excellent and highly original figurative painting and sculpture is happening in art schools all over the place, from Aberdeen to Falmouth, Norwich to Carmarthen, Brighton to Newcastle. As Chair of the exhibition's final selection committee I must of course declare an interest but the chief problem we faced this year was how on earth to make the final selection of 41 artists (and 80 works) from the 250 or more that our panel of artists and curators had sent in, the only sadness in the whole process seeing certain works one had taken a personal liking to not making the final cut. What is interesting, as ever, is how the extraordinary flexibility of painting as a medium to adapt to and take on current concerns and preoccupations – nature and the built environment, identities personal and digital, memes and the aesthetics of digital drawing, CODA from left: E mma Fineman ‘Your Lips Taste Like Cherry Chapstick’ Mall Galleries Wilhelmina Barns- Graham ‘Dialogue Between Wind & Sea No 2’ 108 Fine Art F uture forward Yorkshire trail