Eileen Hogan

We were sent a link to Eileen Hogan’s lecture about her exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art on 8 May, the day that it was delivered and the exhibition opened, but have only just got round to watching it. We found it unexpectedly moving watching it in absentia – the story of her artistic life, brought up in Tooting and taught by nuns, then rescued by going to Camberwell and being taught, amongst others, by Robert Medley, then at the Royal Academy Schools and the Royal College of Art by Carel Weight, and winning a scholarship to the British School of Athens. Through all her time as a teacher and painter, she has stuck to a belief in the benefits of close observation, getting to know a subject, often gardens, and painting it with extreme sensitivity to light and movement and the seasons – the spray of water in Chelsea Physic Garden or winter in Chiswick – drawing it first, recording it in her sketchbook and then painting more formally in her studio. Of course, this is the traditional activity of the painter, but, as she describes it, now more radical, because increasingly unusual, against the tide of so much of contemporary art practice, still, as she demonstrates so effectively, beautifully valid.

I strongly recommend watching it:-

https://britishart.yale.edu/multimedia-video/26/8209

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Hepworth/Nicholson

A beautiful, choice, focussed exhibition at Hazlitt Holland Hibbert of the artistic, as well as personal, relationship between Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson at 7, The Mall Studios, after they had met on holiday in September 1931, beginning with Nicholson’s 1932 (crowned head – the queen):-

Alongside Hepworth’s Two Heads (1932):-

1933 (girl at mirror):-

Through to the more abstract Two Forms (1935):-

Some really beautiful work from the mid-30s, including small work and drawings.

1934 (act drop curtain for Beethoven’s 7th. symphony ballet):-

1934 (painted relief):-

A family album:-

And a catalogue of their joint exhibition at Alex. Reid & Lefevre:-

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Female Priests

I called in on Jim Grover’s exhibition, Here Am I, in the gallery of the Oxo Tower which documents the ordination of female priests in the Southwark Diocese. I hadn’t realised how many women have now been ordained. There are 2,200 stipendiary female priests in the Church of England, 28% of the total, including 18 bishops (female bishops were only allowed in 2012), which means that much of the work of the church – community work, service in prisons – is in the hands of women, which Jim, who previously did an exhibition on the Windrush generation, shows with characteristic documentary thoroughness and thoughtfulness.

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Alison Watt

The other exhibition I saw yesterday was Alison Watt’s new exhibition A Shadow on the Blind at Parafin. It was an odd coincidence that I had been talking over lunch about the symbolism of the two dolphins as the logotype of Thames and Hudson and there in the exhibition was a picture of a pile of books with the old dolphins on top:-

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Enrique Martínez Celaya

I had the pleasure of interviewing Enrique Martínez Celaya last night, the artist whose exhibition The Mariner’s Meadow opened at Blain|Southern last night. He has had an unusually interesting history: born in Cuba, migrating to Madrid where he immersed himself in knowledge of the collection of the Prado, educated at high school in Puerto Rico, and then winning a scholarship to Cornell as a scientist. He still is willing to talk about his practice as an artist with an unusual sense of it as a calling, with references to Wittgenstein and Yeats more than popular culture. I admired the quality of seriousness and thoughtfulness in his discussion of paintings with wide symbolic resonance, hovering between realism and emblem:-

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The morality of arts funding

I was one of the contributors last night to a discussion – called a think-in – held at the new media company, Tortoise, on the morality of arts funding and, specifically, the issues surrounding the nearly universal decision on the part of museums and galleries to turn down any offer of funding from the Sacklers, owing to the involvement of their family company, Purdue Pharma, in the development and aggressive marketing of OxyContin, an opioid drug which is highly addictive if taken over long periods of time.

Most of the discussion was not so much about issues surrounding the Sacklers, but more generally as to what sources can be regarded as legitimate if we are moving into a different climate of opinion in which there is public opposition to arts funding coming from any company or any individual who has in any way been associated with unethical behaviour: tobacco, arms trading, fossil fuels and, now, companies whose owners are thought to hold unacceptable political views.

The morality of this is easy to understand, but will pose grave problems for arts institutions which, as a result of government policy, have become increasingly dependent on the philanthropy of private donors, who are not necessarily going to remain generous if their morality, motives and family history are going to be subjected to fierce public scrutiny.

One person in the audience said that conservation charities were happy to accept money from what he described as ‘penitent butchers’. But I’m not sure that Pierpont Morgan or Henry E. Huntington were especially penitent when they created great institutions of public benefit.

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