The Female of the Species with Deborah Lanyon


In the 1980’s Deborah Lanyon graduated from art college just as abstract painting was being ridiculed by the art world.  She had a respectable pedigree, having studied under the likes of Frank Bowling and Ken Kiff, growing up on the bohemian Kings Road in the 70’s and living amongst communities of artists – her grandmother had even been drawn by Augustus John.  Yet, despite the scepticism towards what had gone before, her paintings sold well.

In reality, and despite the cynicism of the art world, abstract painting never really went away.  Today a new generation of artists is continuing to pursue abstract painting in even more experimental ways.  It is perhaps because we want to avoid being affronted by disturbing, offensive or intrusive content.  In the technology era, the colour of paint is an antidote to the colour of pixels, and so it grounds us in a more textural reality.  The lack of content in the abstract, except for the materials themselves, allows us a freedom to interpret – a luxury that we are increasingly denied in our media-fed world.  An unstable economy is made stable by pigments of the earth that we can touch.

Historically, the act of painting big paintings was a male expression of genius, whilst women’s artistic creativity was tempered to the pursuit of leisure.  ‘Why are there no great women artists?’, asked art historian Linda Nochlin in her seminal essay of 1971.  Though the tide is finally beginning to turn, we still seem to be asking this question and continue to fight for women to be taken seriously.  Male selection by our institutions and by our taste makers continues to muffle the female voice.

Yet, like other women artists breaking through, the seemingly ‘male’ traits of dedication, devotion to practice and physical endurance are strong in Lanyon’s practice.  Whilst working on the edge of both intellect and vision, Lanyon permits the paint to develop its own identity within her paintings and her large, vibrant and energetic works on canvas are painted on the floor and wall, for which she uses her whole body.

“Painting for me is very physical and I endeavour to exploit it fully.” 

Lanyon joined St Martins when the punk movement was in full force – in fact Johnny Rotten had been a student there. The general attitude was anarchic and rules were to be broken.  Women in the colleges were expected to express feminist angst, using more experimental media such as photography or performance, but certainly not paint. St Martins took a non-pastural approach towards Lanyon, pointing out that because her father had died suddenly when she was 15, she should be well able to cope emotionally with the difficulties of going to art school.

Clearly she had not suffered enough, nor had she much to say in the eyes of the institution, and at the end of her foundation year she was not accepted to continue there. “Perhaps they were right,”she says, “however it did not prevent me from toughening up and reapplying to Byam Shaw a year later”, where the painting department was a lot more experimental and progressive, run by artists like Ken Kiff and Frank Bowling. In defiance, Lanyon adopted the ‘masculine’ attributes of single-mindedness, concentration, tenaciousness and absorption in materials for their own sake.  To be so lucky and to be introduced to colour in such a monumental way, set Lanyon to pursue life as a painter of abstraction.

Through the 1990’s, Deborah Lanyon’s work was shown across London, at the art fairs which were coming into fashion, and in various London galleries including Bruton street, Albemarle and New Bond Street, and by Geoffrey Bertram in Cork Street who also takes care of the Whilemina Barns Graham foundation Trust.  Now, coming back again with a new body of work, Lanyon is showing at the Foundry Gallery in Chelsea, drawing upon four decades in pursuance of abstraction, to give us a feminine version of the enquiry.

‘Inner Landscape’ with Deborah Lanyon

November 19 – 24th, 2019

39 Old Church Street, Chelsea London SW3 5BS


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New Exhibition in the City of London will highlight Displacement and Loss in our Transient Urban Communities


The magnificent church of St Stephen Walbrook in the City of London played host to Exiles, a body of work by London-based Italian photographer Matilde Damele (17 – 24 September 2019).

Taken on the streets of London with her Leica camera, Damele’s black and white photographs evoke and pay homage to great Masters of Photography such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus and Saul Leiter. For this exhibition, the artist enlarged and transferred a number of her images onto the challenging surface of the black plastic bin bag.  The uneven surface of these art works emphasises the individuality as well as the ephemerality of each of our lives.  She displayed these as sculptural art works within the circular space of the church, filled with yesterday’s news and discarded packaging, to express how many consider their lives to be cheap, valueless and disposable. Her work is filled with an expressive force that explores our sense of not belonging; a humanity that is emotionally homeless and exiled from its surroundings; feelings of estrangement from reality.

These feelings are particularly poignant for both the Artist and the Church. Damele has experienced what it feels like to be rejected from a community where she had previously built a life for herself.  An unexpected and abrupt change severely interrupted her life and ambitions, causing a permanent sense of loss and displacement.  Now she fears the same might happen again with the imminentthreat of Brexit.  It is thus particularly apposite that the space for this exhibition is not only a beautiful building dedicated to spiritual contemplation and hope, but also where the Samaritans, a charity dedicated to helping those in distress, was founded.

After the Great Fire of 1666, the re-building of St Stephen Walbrook in 1672 allowed the architect Sir Christopher Wren to experiment with a dome, the first to be built in England and the precursor for St Paul’s dome.  It was Wren’s own parish church and had been a Christian place of worship since 700 AD (so named because Walbrook is the source of water which brought life to the area). In 1953, determined to offer a dedicated service to those suffering with emotional distress, the then rector Reverend Chad Varah started to offer a non-judgemental, safe and confidential listening service from the Crypt, which was the originof the Samaritans (the original telephone that he used is still on display).

St Stephen Walbrook regularly holds art exhibitions and has permanent features made by two notable British artists: a large stone altar carved by Henry Moore, surrounded by colourful kneelers designed by Patrick Heron.

The exhibition was on show during the Open City weekend (21-22 September 2019). Open House London is the world’s largest architecture festival, giving free public access to 800+ buildings, walks, talks and tours over one weekend in September each year.  St Stephen Walbrook was open and took part in the weekend.

Matilde Damele is an Italian photographer from Bologna, exiled from living and working in New York as a photo-journalist. Following her upheaval and unexpected move to London, she sees her uncertainties and fears mirrored in the faces of many of her neighbouring immigrant communities.

New Exhibition in the City of London will highlight Displacement and Loss in our Transient Urban Communities2019-11-03T17:09:49+00:00

Creative Fury

November 2016
20 Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1
Curated by Joanna Bryant in collaboration with Julian Page

Group Show Creative Fury offers an alternative showing of works by William Kentridge (b. 1955, Johannesburg) in the context of the Hungarian Cold War artist György Kovásznai (1934-1983) and four mid-career contemporary artists: Marcelle Hanselaar, Yvonne Crossley, Kate McCrickard and Cally Shadbolt. Selected works and films are shown alongside printmaking, drawing and painting. Creative Fury brings an opportunity for more insight into the work of William Kentridge, at a time when the Whitechapel Art Gallery is staging a major show of his work in London, yet places his work in context with both an artist from the past and artists working in the present.

In conjunction with Marian Goodman Gallery, we present 10 short films from William Kentridge’s ongoing Drawings for Projection. This series of animated films made between 1989 and 2011, is one of the most important bodies of work created by a South African artist, spanning South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. In that setting, the artist tells the life of protagonist Soho Eckstein, a property developer in Johannesburg, and his romantic, insecure alter ego Felix Teitelbaum, “whose anxiety flooded half the house.”

Kentridge begins each of these films with a single drawing that he alters, adds to, and subtracts from, bit-by-bit, photographing each change and working without a script or storyboard. His narratives and imagery–at once melancholy, graceful, and open-ended–emerge through this unusual, labor-intensive working process. In the end, he is left with one short film and a very small stack of drawings, one for each scene in the film, but the process of transformation is at once evident and dynamic. An early drawing and some of his most iconic prints, including The General, Sleeper (Black) and Casspirs Full of Love, all contemporaneous with the films, will also be on show around the gallery, alongside more recent works.

“The first animated films I made were done on the basis of trying to get away from a program in which I could see my life heading out ahead of me (thirteen more solo exhibitions of charcoal drawings!). So I decided I had to do something that couldn’t possibly fit into that context, that wasn’t going to be in a gallery—something for my own interest and pleasure.” —William Kentridge

Kovásznai was primarily a painter, who practiced the art of painting on both canvas and the cinema screen and he is often seen as a free-spirited, universal artist whose work cannot be classified into any known artistic school of thought. His unique oeuvre consists of paintings and drawings, as well as experimental animation films in which he attempted to “animate” the art of painting – an entirely different approach from mainstream animation. Politically, Kovásznai was attached to Marxism, yet had an ongoing conflict with the ruling regime. The film “Memory of the Summer of ’74” has been included in the Animation Film Programme of the 2016 Art Basel Miami fair and is also shown in this exhibition. Paintings from his short film “Ca Ira: The song of the French revolution’, are on display, with Marat, Saint-Just and their companions depicted as increasingly threatening figures, looming on the horizon of the 20th century.

In referring to Kovásznai’s work, Kentridge said: “… what felt very familiar was kind of the impetus and the essentialness and the emergency of making. That it felt like an emergency. That work has to be made non-stop. …Whether it is in charcoal, or thick oil paint, whether it is a view of Johannesburg or Budapest, that seems secondary to the pressure for making, and the excess of making… seeing his work, my immediate thought was ‘I want to be back in the studio making something’. There was kind of a collegial fury of creation which is the main thing that I got from him.”

The four contemporary artists selected to show alongside Kentridge and Kovásznai have similar creative concerns, yet are developing work along their own individual paths of interest. In curating the chosen works within the gallery space, new insight is revealed into the process and drive behind the fury of creation.

Yvonne Crossley’s work relates to the human figure as a way of looking at the relationship between ‘the individual’ and ‘the rest’, both as something to celebrate and as a source of anxiety. Her work involves drawing, constructing, painting and print, consistently bringing together a range of human images and forms to examine concepts of individuality within social groupings in the 21st century. Solo exhibitions include; The Ikon Gallery (Birmingham), The Laing Gallery (Newcastle upon Tyne), Battersea Arts Centre (London) and Stanley Picker gallery (London), She has also exhibited widely in group and open exhibitions throughout the UK. In the past few years she has been invited to join a number of selection panels including; the Jerwood Drawing Prize, Hugh Casson Drawing Prize (RA Summer Exhibition), RE: Drawing – Oriel Davies Gallery, Drawn RWA Bristol and The Derwent Art Prize.

Painter and printmaker Marcelle Hanselaar explores how we reconcile our animal instincts to the expectations and conventions of civilised living. Her penetrative imagery acknowledges the darkness within us. Solitary figures, contained and introspective, are less portraits, more personifications of private emotions or states of mind, whilst group ensembles – seemingly processionals or rituals – act as allegories or perhaps cautionary tales of lust, abandon, greed and power. Hanselaar is a Dutch artist living and working in London. Her etchings are held in many prestigious public and private collections, including the V&A, the British Museum and the Ashmoleum, and she has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally.

The Barflies gathered in Kate McCrickard’s prints and paintings are all observed from café bars of Belleville, near her home in Paris. She draws people fugitively in quick line sketches that are then worked up in the studio in print and in paint. Subjects are sometimes looking inwards propped up against the counter and sometimes looking outwards from the café at the world outside. She draws what passes before the eye and sketches on the sly, looking for forms without event, structure rather than narrative, but the types are familiar and function as cosmopolitan messengers. “I like the sense of movement that pentimenti and underpainting bring to a work. I prefer to paint on scraped-off rejected canvases that provide unexpected tertiary-colour grounds. The pristine white canvas is too sterile for me – I need something to work against. And I like the “honesty” of leaving the struggle of the working process visible. McCrickard is a British artist and writer based in Paris, France. She graduated from Edinburgh with a double first MA in Fine Art. Her work is in major collections, including The Royal Scottish Academy and The British Museum. Her practice includes paintings on canvas and cardboard, drawings, etchings and monotypes. Recent exhibitions include solo shows in New York (2013 & 2015) and London (2014 & 2016) along with appearances in over 10 art fairs in the last few years in New York, London, Paris, Capetown & Johannesburg. McCrickard ran David Krut Projects in New York for several years, working with artists including William Kentridge, on whom she wrote a monograph for Tate in 2012. She is a regular contributor to Art in Print.

Cally Shadbolt’s filmmaking started with the premise that drawing with the use of very limited resources, could generate a higher degree of creativity. Her tools are limited to a pencil, a mobile phone and one sheet of paper. The films operate as animated sketches, or visible thought. They can be seen as providing a place in which an object can revolve, repeat or change. It is a space into which she can project herself and work with an imagined material in 3 dimensions without needing to make a physical product. “There is no narrative. The action never gets to the good bit. Instead the objects remain mesmerically static in time.” After the event, the history of the drawing remains visible on the paper and, sometimes, evidence of the last take of the animation. Cally Shadbolt has had solo shows in the Project Space at Milton Keynes Gallery in 2012 and 13, has been shortlisted for the 2015 Jerwood Drawing Prize and has taken part in group shows in India and Italy.


Creative Fury2019-03-27T15:48:23+00:00


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