Galleries - January/February 2019

For an artist who has been christened 'the godfather of British Conceptual Art' sculptor Carl Plackman remains a distinctly shadowy figure within the cannon of recent British art history. He is often better known through the people he taught (at Goldsmiths) and influenced – Damien Hurst, Alison Wilding, Tony Carter – or befriended, rather than the work itself, and the significant retrospectives are still largely notable for their rarity. His comparatively early death in 2004 aged 61, may have somethingto do with this, as perhaps did his somewhat reticent personality (very evident in my first encounter with him as a curator when his room at the RA's revelatory British Sculpture Show in 1972 was one of the stand outs of the event). The work too was always elusive (and allusive) and for dealers and curators who tend to like nice, recognisable stylistic tropes in an artist's work, Plackman's intensely uneasy, evocative, ever shifting assemblages of heterogeneous material didn't seem to play well. Sculptors themselves, for the most part, got him though, and it is this aspect which provides the basis of Pangolin London's revelatory tribute to him 'Carl Plackman and his Circle' in which some 20 hugely distinguished artists and friends reveal just how widely his thinking and practice made itself felt in their work. And, as the gallery observes of his example 'At a time when the arts are slowly being written out of the national curriculum', the remarkable roll call of artists in this show highlights the lasting legacy and respect one committed figure can have on generations of artists. Artist Judi Green and her partner Brian took over the well established but quite traditionally oriented Tregony Gallery in Cornwall some four years ago and turned it into what good contemporary gallerists with a bit of venture and commitment in their bones could hope to achieve in the promotion of 'proper painting'. Maybe not so hard to do in St Ives with its huge, Tate St Ives primed audience but much harder work in a smaller holiday town. With younger painters like Mark Dunford, Kay Vinson and Sarah Spackman, trained at such places as the RCA, Slade, Camberwell and the Royal Drawing School, they have evolved a 'house style' of contemporary figuration that stretches from Uglow/Coldstream 'structured' observation to the more fluidly expressive and abstracted. Whatever it has been, it has really worked and they are still very much Cornwall based, but now another adventurous move is afoot with a January exhibition tie up with the London After Nyne Gallery. Entitled 'Assemble’ it brings a complete cross-section of the Tregony's roster of artists along with a series of artists' talks over two weekends and all nicely timed to coincide with the London Art Fair. In a comparatively quietish month exhibition wise, they're showing London how to do it. For some painters only a certain landscape will really meet their emotional and expressive needs – for Constable, the Stour Valley in Suffolk, for Cezanne, Aix-en- Provence and Mont St Victoire and for Modernist Georgia O'Keefe it was Northern New Mexico around Taos. Just what these are is the stuff of art history of course, but it is not every art historian by any means who chooses to do it by packing up their paints and canvases and following in the footsteps of the artist they are studying. This is exactly what Lydia Bauman did in 2017 when, having visited Tate Modern's big O'Keefe show, she decided to try and find out for herself just what it was that had made New Mexico a place of quite such particular importance. The answers that came back were, to some degree ambivalent; on the one hand a whole body of paintings that convey, with a fierce intensity, not only the clear-cut, geometric contours of the wilderness landscape she confronted, the glaring light and the almost hallucinatory R OUND-UP 6 GALLERIES JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019 C lose circle London bound Art following