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Posts tagged ‘Dulwich Picture Gallery’

My début at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

2014 has been a great year for me artistically. In May, I held my most commercially successful exhibition to date, with plenty of exciting commissions and opportunities flowing straight out of it. In July I exhibited with a new generation of freshly graduated art students at London Bridge’s Art Academy, and in September I exhibited my prints in a sensational show of printmaking talent amongst the works of the East London Printmakers at the Embassy Tea Gallery in London Bridge. But as far as 2014 goes, I have certainly left the best until last. For this October, one of my paintings will hang in an art gallery so prestigious, and so imbued with history, that it feels like a dream to see my work up on its walls.

I am of course talking about the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Britain’s oldest public art gallery, and home to some of the UK’s most illustrious artists and art collections, amongst them undisputed masters such as Gainborough, Watteau, Canaletto, Veronese and Reynolds. And for the next two and a half weeks, starting with a lavish opening gala last night, my very own artwork will be hanging amongst other works in a new Open Submission show a mere few metres from these incredible masterpieces of art history – a complete honour.

The painting selected for show was my simple landscape of Praiano, a glistening little town on the mountainous Amalfi Coast. Painted in gouache on paper in the immediate aftermath of my Amalfi Coast trip, the painting is one of currently 11 paintings comprising my “interpretations” collection, and is perhaps the most meditative and tranquil of them all. All framed up in a fancy oak frame, it looks splendid, and I have never been prouder of my artwork than last night, when I saw my little painting hung on these walls where only months before David Hockney’s world-class printworks had been admired by crowds of thousands.

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And of course my painting is not alone. Hanging amongst some 170 others, it is but one in a collection of wonderful works submitted by the Friends of the Dulwich Picture Gallery and chosen for exhibition by a panel of illustrious judges. So  don’t just go along to see my Praiano – make your way to Dulwich to see galleries full of creative gems – both those of new budding artists, and of art history’s greats.

The Dulwich Picture Gallery Friend’s Open Exhibition runs until 12 October 2014.

London’s homage to print: Part 2 – David Hockney Printmaker

Last week I told you all about the first of two high profile celebrations to printmaking currently being held in London. The first, Renaissance Impressions at the Royal Academy charts the development of woodcut to create all of the depth and powerful contrast of chiaroscuro in the 1500s. The second unveils a whole new side to celebrated contemporary artist, David Hockney, best known for his colourful Los Angeles Swimming Pools and large scale multi-piece canvases of the Yorkshire countryside, but here shown to be as skillful a printmaker as he is a painter, or, in my opinion, more so.

In presenting this brilliant little exhibition, Dulwich Picture Gallery shows Hockney as a subtler artist; without the distractions of his trademark bold colours, this is Hockney the skilled draftsman; without the almost theatre-scenery sized canvases, here we see Hockney as a man of detail, capturing intimate scenes with a personal aspect, and delivering sometimes simple still lives but with all of the energy of those familiar swimming pool scenes.

David Hockney, Lithographic Water Made Of Lines And Crayon (Pool II-B) 1978-80 © David Hockney / Tyler Graphics Ltd

David Hockney, Lithographic Water Made Of Lines And Crayon (Pool II-B) 1978-80
© David Hockney / Tyler Graphics Ltd

David Hockney, Self Portrait, 1954 © David Hockney

David Hockney, Self Portrait, 1954
© David Hockney

David Hockney, Two Boys Aged 23 or 24 from Illustrations For Fourteen Poems from C.P. Cavafy, 1966-67

David Hockney, Two Boys Aged 23 or 24 from Illustrations For Fourteen Poems from C.P. Cavafy, 1966-67

It is abundantly clear, from the first room of the chronologically hung exhibition, right through to the last, that printmaking has been an important and consistent accompaniment to Hockney’s creative process throughout his career. From his first etchings, amusingly poking fun at his fine art degree (I like the etching which was created using his actual fine art diploma, The Diploma (1962)) and taking a new spin on Hogarth’s The Rake’s Progress, pictorially describing Hockney’s own move to, and development in the US, right through to his recent and renowned use of the iPad as a new digital tool for creating print works, Hockney embraced print and all of the possibilities it provided for artistic expression. His main printmaking stints appear to have been in etching (which lends beautifully to the simple linear illustrations for Cavafy’s Fourteen Poems) and lithography (his print version of his famous swimming pool series being a particularly good example), although Hockney also extended into less traditional print methods – his use of a coloured photocopier to gradually build up a complex image was, for example, particularly effective.

But asides from Hockney’s excellent handling of the medium of print, the images themselves make this show a clear sell-out success. In his Cavafy series, Hockney’s prints exude a wonderful, but always polite intimacy which seems to be characteristic of his somewhat reserved but slightly cheeky persona. With their common place objects and models staring straight out from the print, these images appear to welcome the audience into the works. As viewers, we don’t feel like voyeurs, but more like welcome participants; friends joining in on the happy-go-lucky lifestyle Hockney portrays. In his later Mexico works; Hockney gives us a vivid, energetic lithography whose varying angles and stilted perspective appear to pulsate and dance to the rhythm of that hot Latin country, and remind me a little of the stunningly colourful Grand Canyon works he painted in the late 90s.

David Hockney, Views of Hotel Well III, 1984-85 © David Hockney / Tyler Graphics Ltd., Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

David Hockney, Views of Hotel Well III, 1984-85
© David Hockney / Tyler Graphics Ltd., Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt

David Hockney, Rain on the Studio Window, From My Yorkshire Deluxe Edition, 2009

David Hockney, Rain on the Studio Window, From My Yorkshire Deluxe Edition, 2009

David Hockney, Artist and Model, 1973-74 © David Hockney

David Hockney, Artist and Model, 1973-74
© David Hockney

David Hockney, Lillies, 1971 © David Hockney

David Hockney, Lillies, 1971
© David Hockney

I also found that some of the best works were the simple ones – a vase of cala lilies, with an accurate and precise cross-hatched background contrasting with the purity of the white flower; a superb iPad image of raindrops running down a window which exudes the cosiness of looking out at rainfall while benefitting from the dryness and comfort of home; and portraits of friends, simply posed, looking straight out at the viewer, prompting interaction, welcoming us in.

It is, therefore, a show with something for everyone, but with an overriding central devotion to the versatile, unique art of printmaking.

Springtime debuts in Dulwich

Waking up on Saturday to the sun streaming into my room and what looked like the faint glimmer of blue sky seen through a crack in my blinds was an odd sensation. Not having to rush up to turn the heater on before swiftly re-burying myself back into the warmth of my duvet was another. For this kind of good weather just doesn’t happen here in the UK, where winter appears to have reigned for so long that most of us had given up any hope of ever having a summer, the assumption being that the White Witch of Narnia was obviously back in power again. Indeed after the coldest March for over 40 years, and an equally chilled start to April, the final debut of Spring this weekend, right at the end of April, was not an event that could be allowed to pass unmarked.

Better late than never I say, and how better to celebrate this sunny saturday than by behaving as a tourist in my own city? Yes, it was to the London suburb of Dulwich, in the south east of the city, and more specifically to the village thereof that we headed to mark the arrival of Spring, a village which, despite some 10 years as fully fledged resident of London, I have never visited. The reason for this? Generally speaking the fact that there is no tube there – but as we found out today, the village is well connected by both bus and train. We took the no. 37 from Clapham Common, which got us to Dulwich, via Brixton and Herne Hill in around 20 minutes.

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Dulwich Village is, as my photos will demonstrate, a secluded and rather affluent little enclave, full of picket fences, young families of well-oiled business men and plenty of “ladies that lunch”, yummy mummies and the like. Best of all, what with all the wealth and the family living, together with the rather large expenses houses and spacious gardens, the area of Dulwich is particularly green, full of blossoming trees and robust lawns as well as large open spaces such as Dulwich Park which has its very own boating lake, tennis courts and well-manicured gardens. All very civilised. And of course perfect surroundings for a day which felt ripe with the first inklings of Spring.

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The main purpose of our visit was to visit the Dulwich Picture Gallery, a gallery which is so well-established (and is in fact the oldest public gallery in the UK, opening in 1811 at the bequest of Sir Francis Bourgeois RA) that again I wonder why on earth I haven’t visited before. The gallery, which boasts in its permanent collection a singularly impressive selection of notable artists from Velazquez and Gainsborough, to Rembrandt and Canaletto, is quite small but perfectly formed. This first visit to the gallery had been moreover prompted by a temporary exhibition, Murillo & Justino de Neve: The Art of Friendship,  which, as the name suggests, explores the work of a master of the Spanish golden age, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618-1682), and in particular the particularly prolific body of work he created under the patronage of collector Justino de Neve.


De Neve was a man with some not insignificant sway in 17th century Seville, the city of Murillo’s birth, and managed to secure for Murillo a number of high profile commissions, including works for Seville Cathedral like The Baptism of Christ whose exhibition in this show marks the first time the painting has been removed from Seville Cathedral since it was put there in the 1600s. There are various others of those commissioned religious set pieces in the show which has been curated to represent something of a gloomy baroque atmosphere, with darkened walls, and a central “nave” to the exhibition, lined with large lunette canvases and culminating with the star of the show, the Inmaculada Concepcion de los Venerables, a stupendously ephemeral, light infused portrait of the immaculate conception, boasting all of the trademarks for which Morillo became famous, such as the vaporescent light, idealised figures and soft melting forms. The painting, exhibited for the first time back in the sumptuously carved frame for which it was originally intended, is an incredibly well executed work, with its cascade of angels fading gradually into the distance, and its radiant golden light off-set against the blue of Mary’s robes. Yes, it’s a little saccharine for some tastes, but when seen in the right light, it’s an undeniably impressive almost awe-inspiring piece. Sadly, correct lighting was not something that this gallery did particularly well, with so many of the darker paintings being almost eclipsed by reflective light with the result that one could only see the painting by standing at a very specific and distant angle – it’s luckily the gallery was not busier or I fear everyone would have been vying for the same spot.

Murillo, Inmaculada Concepcion de los Venerables (1678)

Murillo, Inmaculada Concepcion de los Venerables (1678)

Murillo, The Baptism of Christ (1967-8)

Murillo, The Baptism of Christ (1967-8)

After a stroll around the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s fine accompanying gardens, complete with a winding path suitable for a contemplative perambulation, and various sculptures to tempt the eye, we headed back into Dulwich Village, where the bustling restaurant Rocca seemed a batter choice than the chain fodder of Pizza Express and Cafe Rouge across the way. As the name suggests, the restaurant presents italian fair, but its menu is depressingly anglicised. Pasta with peas and cream, spaghetti bolognese and tagliatelli carbonara – it doesn’t get much more cliché – and the pizzas, which came in a range of ingredient combination, also lacked the innovation (and the requisite crispy thin base) that comes to be expected of modern Italian cuisine. Nonetheless, we started the meal with a delicious octopus carpaccio (pictured) which was well seasoned and marinaded in chilli and oil, while a lemon and orange tart for dessert, in a rich buttery pastry went down particularly well.


We ended our day by strolling around Dulwich Park, another of the vast green areas of which London so can proudly boast to be one of the greenest cities in Europe. Here the sense of familial civility reached its height, with young families and loved-up couples enjoying the warmth and serenity of a first day of Spring, bobbing around in the peddle-boats of the boating lake as they did so; a scene of such unabashed idealism that I  thought for one moment that I could see the golden glow of Murillo’s paintings emanating into the ephemeral space above.

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Murillo & Justino de Neve: The Art of Friendship is on at the Dulwich Picture Gallery until 19 May.

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