Less is More & Small is Big

One could be forgiven for thinking that the tiny studio on Tuckton Road Christchurch might not have enough exhibition space to be taken seriously, but that would be a mistake.  True, there is not a lot of space and if you wanted to swing a cat around this would not be your first choice of location. As a studio-cum-gallery however all the available wall space is occupied with landscapes, portraits of movie stars and animal portraits, the products of many, many hours of dedicated and focused work.

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Portraits with a story Attached

Generally I keep Friday’s open for local issues, appointments and opportunities to meet with interesting and creative people. This was one of my goals for 2011; to spend more time doing the things I love the most. Fridays have become my reading, writing, painting and meeting day and my diary pages are reflecting that, so far, I am on track.

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Exhibitions and Opportunities for friendship

There are few things, for me, that are as engaging as talking to creative people about their passion for art or crafts and so it was, with much excitement and anticipation, that I headed towards Lee, a small village in Hampshire. http://ow.ly/5y0AV . I had been invited to attend by Janet Langford an extremely gifted lady whose miniatures defy belief in their detail. Janet is the wife of Alan Langford a respected member of the society of equestrian artists. Janet is a lady who is accustomed to “life in miniature” having been a biological researcher for thirteen years. I had met the couple at a similar exhibition in an equally unobtrusive location near Lyndhurst, Hampshire some months before.

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Lunch with R.D.(Bob) McKenzie

I first met Bob and his wife Fay way back in 1981 in South Africa when I was apprenticed to an electrical engineer. At the time the McKenzie’s owned the farm Gray Rocks near Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. Bob was at the time heavily involved in cattle breeding programs, dairy and various other farming operations. My company had been employed to ensure that the farms electrical installations complied with the regulations required for connection to the national grid. Now, nearly 28 years on, standing in Bob’s studio in “The Barn” it seemed like that history was a world away, in another dimension.

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Mixing it with Herman

I first met Herman about two years back at a gathering totally unrelated to art. As conversations go though,  we were soon chatting about  what it was that we loved doing when we weren’t at gatherings devoted to our mutual passion for faith and fellowship. Herman mentioned that he had done a “bit” of work on a variety of artistic fronts which included painting, sculpture and paint making.

We parted with the resolve to maintain contact and to “visit” at some stage.  I could fill a book with the number of similar parting commitments which to this day remain unrealised but somehow I knew we would see each other again. Many months later I contacted Herman, there had been many changes in his life but his mobile number was still healthy. He mentioned that he was taking on a contract in the Wimborne area, he being an aeronautical engineer/designer; we arranged to meet, have breakfast and catch-up.

No sooner had the bacon, sausage and egg landed in front of me and the Salmon and salad breakfast option (odd breakfast combination) landed at his place setting; the conversation began. It didn’t stop all the way through the rest of the day whether on the streets of Bournemouth between gallery visits or while driving to the next destination on our Saturday “on the town”. I believe we spoke non-stop untill I deposited Herman back at his lodgings late that afternoon. We had covered topics ranging from paint making and application all the way through to the works of great artists, dead and alive. We parted again with the firm committment to “do this again sometime”.

Herman was due to start a contract in Germany so I knew he would be off the radar for a few months. It was great to find him still in the UK when I called his mobile on the off-chance earlier this week. Not only was he in the UK, he was also due to attend a function at the University of Southampton on Friday afternoon. In about five minutes we had a firm committment to meet at my home and spend some time in my little studio where Herman would pass on some of the vast knowledge and experience he has about paint making.

Nothing could have prepared me for the event and by the time he had unpacked two massive carrier bags of kit and materials my studio looked like  the production line at Windsor Newton. I learned, in about two hours, a few of the techniques required to mix and produce the highest quality oil based paints. This included the fascinating art of filling genuine paint tubes with the prepared medium. We had a great time and more than a few laughs especially while making the blue paint which has the character of a gang of escaping convicts, it goes everywhere all at once and leaves a trace of blue on everything. I suspect that my next door neighbour, who lives behind a six-foot fence and is separated from my studio by at least twenty-five yards, will wake this morning to find blue pigment on him and his family.

I learned much last night, including the fact that I no longer required the use of any toxic thinners or similar solutions. These have now been replaced by Olive  and Walnut oils, a total revelation and another step forward in my evolution as an artist. I guess the really short story is this, we had a ton of fun; once again talking about and sharing a passion for art, creativity and all the associated elements of the world of colour and the tactile nature and fulfilment of pursuing the adventure.

We enjoyed a tasty supper at our local Nando’s where the conversation reached dizzy heights and the ideas came thick and fast. After my third bottomless Coke, which I desperately needed  to cool my mouth from the chilli sauce and hot conversation, we parted once again.  As we shook hands we committed to “do this again soon”, and we will.

“I am persuaded that the dream world is more real than the conscious  world”.

Herman Jansen van Vuuren Website

Original or not?

Is a piece of art an original because no one else has thought of the technique, subject or composition or is it simply original because, by definition, you have done it with your own hand and it’s “….not a print”.

When I refer to the idea of “original”, what I really mean is, is the work the product of an inspired moment and has that moment or idea become an extension of you, your technique and style; this is regardless of how many times it has been reproduced.

Let take Jack Vettriano’s work and in particular, The Singing Butler . As much as I would love to have the original, I am really happy with a reproduction hanging over my bed. This has nothing to do with the £££ value but has everything to do with the sentiment and the personal meaning it represents for me.

I guess that is why one person is prepared to pay £2k, £10k or £30k for a picture. Only once in my time of hanging fine art for people have I head someone say, “I don’t care what someone offers me for this painting…. it’s not for sale!”. Now that’s the type of people I would really like to paint for, the ones who buy for the emotional content and context rather than the investment.  Let me insert an exception here, this is only if my value as an artist does not depend on the sale.  It is another question if you are painting as for a career and your commercial value depends on your style.

Today I spent some time looking at a new collection of pieces which Whitewall Galleries have released in preparation for spring. Now, you know me, I just love anything creative and enjoy examining fine art “up close and personal”. So today when I visited the gallery I had a shed load of fun looking at pieces I had never seen before….or had I?

The paintings in the collection are, for the most part,  all new and the styles are the same but the pieces did represent some  new adventures in the lives of the artists, this is true in Philip Gray’s case anyway. Philip has a way of capturing “emotion” and his paintings stir the sences.  His recent trip to Mt Everest clearly made some deep impressions on him. Philip’s latest collection is clearly painted from the heart. By this I mean that the style of the painter was obvious but so were deeper themes of his journey.

Philip Gray has an original and predictable style, it is collectable, investable but most of all he paints this way because it is the style that gives the greatest expression to his personal experience and for that reason I would suggest that he is an original, regardless of whether you buy a print or and original.

Philip will be exhibiting on Friday night at Whitewall in Bournemouth. The title of the exhibition is….  Altitude, based on original impressions of his trip to Everest……see you there!