Cathie Pilkington is using Mokulito lithography techniques to get a particular surface quality that reminded me of Cecil Collins. She is also a sculptor and I could see why she was using this technique as it allows an artist very subtle control over the development of surface textural marks in space. Her work was of particular relevance to me as I had been looking for a replacement for traditional lithographic stones or zinc plates, and this technique also allows me to use my etching press, as you don't have to use a dedicated litho press to take impressions from the plywood plates.
Shani Rhys James is a Welsh artist that if you are working figuratively and expressively you ought to be aware of, she is probably one of the most underrated artists of her generation. I don't have an image of the print she had in the exhibition, so I'll leave you with one of her charcoal drawings.
Jennifer McRae is a useful artist to look at if you are thinking about portraiture. She appears to find a way into the psychology of her sitters that doesn't sit 'outside' of the situation. She inhabits the world of the people she engages with, or at least seems to mesh her own subjectivity into theirs. This is perhaps what I took from this exhibition as something to learn from. There is as aspect of being male and of my generation, which is about coldness and distance. Not all men of course, if you compare Cecil Collins with Euan Uglow you get two artists with diametrically opposing world views. Even at my age, I'm still trying to clarify the relationship between my own world view and how I make images, but that's OK I only have myself to answer to on that score.
Thinking of the male gaze, a key proponent of the art of measurement was being exhibited in one of the upstairs galleries. The exhibition ‘William Coldstream: Measuring Reality’ brought together a small but very representative body of his paintings, as well as a few drawings. His style of teaching life drawing was still very influential when I was at college, and I well remember having to use the horizontal and vertical point fixing process to develop grids of finding across the surface of my life drawings. Looked at again I see his work as being too focused on the method. I found his little red and sometimes not red painted dots and dashes, and then around them, very tame, bits of ‘filled-in’ painting, irritating. It felt as if he could never really take on board the implications of what he was trying to do. If it was all in the measurement, then why bother to fill in the figure behind the grid of finding? I thought the work looked very mannered; the process itself becoming a style. This understanding of his work feeling somewhat paradoxical, as it is directly in opposition to what I remember being taught at the time, and this was that by using a grid of looking one would be able to avoid stylisation and be able to focus on the observation of reality. I found this work so dull and almost bureaucratic in comparison to the images I had just seen in the Female Gaze exhibition. All observational drawings contain a high degree of subjectivity, we select out from the world what we are interested in and Coldstream was no different. However he was in a position of power and his vision and associated teaching processes had a tremendous influence on others. Looking at the work of Euan Uglow and Myles Murphy, you can see Coldstream’s grids stalking them like trigonometric ghosts.
Euan Uglow is seen as the quintessential post Coldstream artist. However of all Uglow's drawings it is perhaps small sketches like the one above that I warm to. The grid of finding is still there and the subject is 'caged' already in the rectangles of composition. However the 'sketch' still has an informality that comes from 'fast' looking, it is still being arrived at and in its arrival a certain fragility and tentativeness is captured in the very line quality of a pencil drifting quickly across the paper surface. Look at the three horizontal lines that touch the left side of the door or window frame that partly frames the model. Each line is a wavered uncertainty and yet as they gather to the left of the vertical they establish a particular space. In their uncertainty they become certain. It's that hesitant uncertain/certainty that I tend to warm to in a drawing. It suggests to me that the artist is lost and is yet still looking. A state we all need to be in if we are to find something new.
There was also a very interesting John Minton exhibition on and an associated exhibition,