Sunday, January 06, 2019

Arty start to 2019 and other January tidings

The arty start to the new year begins at Bath's Holburne Museum (specialism: knowledgeable & chatty volunteers) which has several temporary temptations enhancing its Georgian splendour this month: That marvellous study of '60s iconography and human nature Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy has been shoehorned into the long gallery with the silverware, where it succeeds in looking utterly stunning, glimmering beyond the teapots as you enter. Ossie Clark influenced so many of us in those ruffled chiffonny days of spliffs and parties, and David Hockney's disarming simplicity of style has mirror-like clarity. Simply staring was one of those epiphany moments, spilling over with nostalgia, and our small group of visitors, strangers on entry, began confiding in hushed voices, awed like pilgrims in Chartres when the sunlight shines through the stained glass rose windows. More treats upstairs too, with an on-loan exhibition of Gainsborough's portraits of his theatrical chums - Mrs Siddons of course, Thomas Linley, John Henderson, and others who trod the boards of Drury Lane and the Haymarket - and also the boards of Bath's own Theatre Royal, which acquired its licence through the influence of Gainsborough's friend, the architect John Palmer. No photography is allowed in this gallery but this National Portrait Gallery image of the painting of David Garrick, 18th century equivalent of Hugh Grant, shows how much more fluent Gainsborough's portraiture becomes with friends, when there was no need to give enhanced evidence of status, wealth, or lapdogs.
Bath in winter sunshine, with Wedgwood blue sky and gilded buildings, is an artwork in itself of course so with visuals very much the theme of the day, my next drop-in was the Victoria Art Gallery by Pulteney Bridge. The current visiting exhibition is On Paper: from the Arts Council Collection. The connecting notion of this small collection is that all use paper 'as a material in its own right rather than just a surface to be painted or drawn upon.' Collage seems an obvious process, and there are some examples (including a reconstruction of Wittgenstein's thought processes by Eduardo Paolozzi) as well as other more esoteric interpretations of the theme. I quite like this portrait of Sid Vicious in paper, board and glitter by Jim Lambie - the extra glow is reflected room lighting - not sure whether or not it's enhanced...

A fascinating & provocative new exhibition opened on the first Friday of the new year at Frome's Black Swan Arts: Eleanor Bartlett's paintings on the theme of Matter - challenging in that the artist (here pictured) demands 'does art have to mean anything?' and fascinating in that this seems contradicted by her premise - that 'matter describes form and form resolves matter in a continuing and unstable exchange...  the chosen vehicle of realisation, literally the stuff of imagination...'  The Words at the Black Swan workshop on Monday led by poet Louise Green found much to engage with in these impressive black blocks created by tar and wax.
Other than visual imagery, the first week of the new year has been a time for favourite local walks, well wrapped up and within striking distance of a warm inn: here's Stourhead lake early on a frosty morning.

And now as the new year limbers up for its second week, normal service is resuming in the creative corridors of Frome. Our Nevertheless Fringe Theatre Frome Festival co-production with Frome Actors Network ~ provisionally entitled The Sex and Death Quartet ~ is back in rehearsal, and Roots Sessions at the Grain Bar have restarted (hurrah!) with the fabulous Raggedy Men, on absolute peak form with our favourite punk classics and outrageously riffing up some new ones.

Final footnote for the first post of 2019: a look back at the week before christmas when Hunting Raven Books sold FIFTY-FOUR copies of Frome Unzipped - fingers crossed book-tokens may keep the roll going a bit longer... Our popular independent bookshop was on ITV West News on Wednesday too, with its manager the lovely Tina Gaisford-Waller rightly extolling her books, her staff, their customer-care, their customers, and our town.

No comments: