Sunday, 25 October 2015

The painter that Britain forgot

The Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne is one of my favourite places to visit when I'm back down south. It's a lovely space with great coffee and wonderful gift shop (containing these cushions of dreams). The Ravilious Room is really special and contains some of Eric Ravilious's most famous works, all featuring scenes of the beautiful Sussex Downs.

But the reason for going along this time was to see the Towner's latest exhibition: 'William Gear: The Painter that Britain forgot'. William Gear was an abstract painter working in the 1940s and 50s who produced some radical and highly controversial pieces. Autumn Landscape is perhaps his most well known paintings, deemed an extravagant waste of money when it won a £500 prize and was exhibited at the 1951 Festival of Britain. Although at the time this radical anti-establishment style of painting brought Gear fame and recognition, his work, both as an artist and as a pioneering curator at the Towner, seems to have been largely forgotten.

It was so inspiring to see and learn about these paintings, and to discover them anew. It seem such a shame that these incredibly dynamic works of arts have been hidden from view and have largely escaped the pages of art books. They form part of Britain's art canon and were an important part of that wave of artistic creativity that boomed in the 1950s.

William Gear's paintings are bursting with colour. I particularly like the two pieces below with their pale greens and lilac clashing and contrasting with the stark black patterns. Everything about his work seems vibrant and alive. I feel very lucky to have had a little glimpse into his world and learn a bit more about the history of the Towner and a forgotten artist whose paintings are now once again centre stage.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

There's something about Audrey

Audrey Hepburn. Two words that conjure up more than simply one person. A ballerina, movie star, model, mother and Unicef ambassador - Audrey played more parts than seems possible to fit into one lifetime. Which is perhaps why the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition 'Portraits of an Icon' is titled so perfectly. Audrey Hepburn is iconic in that she can't be categorised. She lives on in films, in posters on the walls of student digs, on mugs and fridge magnets. She is everything and anything - a dream figure who everyone wants to be.

Audrey has been so often written about and discussed that she has become her own sort of cliché. The words gamine and elfish have been bandied about so often that they now seem slightly stale, especially when set against the actual photos. Looking at the many faces of Audrey in the NPG, was like discovering her afresh. The display maps out her life through photographs, from childhood days in Belgium, through ballet school and into her more famous and iconic years of the 1950s and 60s. Often set against the most plain of backdrops, Audrey is captured by photographers such as Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Norman Parkinson and Irving Penn to show off her personality and grace rather than fashionable outfits. 

What I loved most about the exhibition was seeing Audrey photographed in more candid and spontaneous moments, in photos I had never seen before. Seeing her on set surrounded by cameras and chatting with cast members was fascinating and really showed a passion and enthusiasm for her work. Photos of holidays, days out with her children and even a shopping trip with her pet deer Pippin show give a small idea of her energetic - and somewhat eccentric - personality. Towards the end of the exhibition there is a collection of photographs showing her at work as a Unicef ambassador, a role she carried out for much of the 80s and 90s. It was lovely to see that there was so much more to Audrey Hepburn than we are often led to believe, and that there was a very real and genuine person behind the iconic beehive and cigarette holder now frozen in time.

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of An Icon is on until 18th October.

I'm now off to watch Breakfast At Tiffany's!