The third solo exhibition by Ralph Freeman at the New Millennium Gallery St Ives has recently opened to great acclaim. At first sight, there has been a major shift in the work. In his previous work Ralph worked with a restricted colour palette and made extensive use of documents from his family history. From these he has moved onto a much expanded palette and produced an inspiring body of work that seems to be full of hope and light. Although the work appears very different with only a hint of the past collages, in actual fact Ralph still seems to be following his own personal process - allowing himself total creative freedom, trying not to be pigeon holed or categorised and very much following his own inclinations.
The present body of work started with a visit to Pompeii and another to Herculaneum. "I have always been drawn to Italian art and culture, to Renaissance and Roman art. It has such a rich palette, rusts, reds, oxides and ochres," says Ralph. Form is still very important. For this series Ralph says he is thinking "form, colour and light. I'm trying to make something really simple that has a oneness about it. At the same time it should surprise me and if I'm not surprising myself something's very wrong". Certainly Ralph is modest enough to acknowledge that the forms in his paintings can be very simple or very profound. He does not see himself as necessarily either an abstract or a figurative painter. Instead he says that his painting is about "honesty within my own limitations. If it is sustaining me, then I will carry on doing it. The blue paintings (of his previous show) didn't sustain me anymore so I stopped. Enjoyment is important in Art"
Music, as many people will know, is a very important part of Ralph's creative life. As well as being a painter he is also a very fine jazz pianist performing regularly at the St Ives Jazz Club which he founded. Although he seems to keep the two worlds quite separate, he definitely needs both to sustain him. It is clear that each art form satisfies a different aspect of Ralph's personality. Music is a collective activity and painting is very isolated and insular. Ralph believes music requires more emphasis on technique. "With music, technique goes hand-in-hand with your ability to express more complex and developed ideas." Ralph says that whilst with painting you need technique to mix colour, to draw, to observe, he feels that something extra is required. "It is to do with your unconscious; you have to keep fit with painting, keep doing it everyday; painting is a complete body exercise, you are exercising your creative being".
Ralph believes that art doesn't come from nature; it comes from other art. "What artists have done before you and what artists are going to do after you is of great importance. Everything you have seen and which has inspired you, the way artists use colours, the power of the line of Max Beckmann, the simplicity of Leger and Piero. That inspires you to work more than anything. You emulate what they did; how did they see that?"
This wonderful body of new work is on display at the New Millennium Gallery, Street-an-Pol, St Ives until 14th October.
Further information available from David Falconer 01736 793121