A Conversation Between Painting and Poetry
Sandra Beccarelli, Miranda Boulton, Alison Critchlow, Una d’Aragona
17 January – 22 February 2020
The exhibition is open on weekdays from 9am – 7pm
An Exhibition Private View will be held on 17 January 2020 from 6 – 8pm
Artist Talks will take place on 22 February 2020 from 2 – 4pm in Room SG1, Alison Richard Building.
This exhibition proposes resonance across art forms and sets up a dialogue between painters, poets, viewers and readers. The paintings on show are inspired by separate enquiries into poetry, they talk to each other, like the flow of words on a page they investigate thoughts and ideas, concepts which are on the edge of conscious thought … all those things that are tricky to voice, hard to define and which words cannot easily express. The language of paint is employed to discuss and interpret the work of poets.
The visual conversation these painters set up is an open one; it can be entered into on many levels. Echoes and rhythms from across the centuries sit side by side. A repeating beat keeps time while time, flow and movement keeps us travelling from then to now and back again, from the natural world to the internal landscape, conduits of feeling and dialogue occur. The narratives of ancient mythology with squabbling Gods, wars, love and grief play out with contemporary voices, mingling with the meters of modern text.
It is based on the premise that poetry and painting meet at the edges of territories and share a hinterland area of similarity. The poet uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language and the painter a visual language to evoke, allude and reveal meanings and suggestions. The position of viewer or reader brings their own interpretations and understanding of the work. It is as though we understand more fully, perhaps in all our senses, when a thing is alluded to and a little bit hidden.
Sandra Beccarelli is a London based abstract painter. She studied at Wimbledon School of Art, Foundation (1987-88), Bristol Polytechnic Fine Art B.A (1988-91) and Accademia Belle Arte, Ravenna (1990). Since gaining her Postgraduate Diploma in Painting from City and Guilds of London Art School in 2010, Sandra’s work has been shown in The Immaculate Dream, Collyer Bristow, 2019, White Noise at The Crypt, St Pancras, 2017, Mapping the Human Brain, The Old Biscuit Factory, Bermondsey, 2018, Three 100, No Format Gallery, Deptford, 2017, and Playing with Rules, The Broad Gallery, Angel, 2015. She has shown at the first contemporary art show, From Surface to Structure at Jean Luc Baroni in Mason’s Yard, St James’ and The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, ING Discerning Eye and The Griffin Art Prize. Sandra was Artist in Residence at Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham, December 2015 – April 2016, with a solo show Beyond the Surface of Seeing in the Stables Gallery at the same time. In March 2019 she had her first solo show, Restless States at One Paved Court, Richmond, SW London.
Miranda Boulton studied Art History at Sheffield Hallam University, graduating in 1994. In 2015 she completed three years postgraduate study with Turps Banana Art School, London. Her work has been exhibited in Double Time, Arthouse1, London, curated by Jane Boyer, 2019, Off Line On Line, Studio 1.1, London, 2015, at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 and 2019, Creekside Open, 2019, Cambridge Summer Open, ARB, 2019, Re-purpose/Reverse, Studio 1.1 Gallery, London, 2019, Painting Now, Studio One Gallery, 2017, Storyboard, Angus-Hughes, London, co-curated, 2017, Salon Art Prize, 2011, Artworks Open in 2010 and 2011. She had solo exhibitions at the New Hall Art Collection, Cambridge University, 2012, and at Madame Lillies Gallery, London, 2011.
Alison Critchlow is a contemporary British painter based in north Cumbria. She trained at Falmouth School of Art (1989-92) and recently completed 3 years postgraduate study with Turps Art School. Alison has exhibited widely in Britain including ING Discerning Eye, NOA, Open Eye Gallery, Manchester Art Show, Tullie House, Bianco Nero, Gracefield Arts Centre, Fairfield Mill, Brantwood. She has paintings in several private collections including Royal Bank of Scotland, Ernst and Young and Edinburgh Hospitals Trust. Over the last two years she has been painting in Dove Cottage garden and from the Wordsworth Trust Collection in Grasmere exploring Wordsworth’s creative process and concepts.
Una d’Aragona obtained a BA Hons in Fine Art at Falmouth University in 2009 and studied for a MFA at Bathspa University. She has exhibited widely and has been a selected artist in numerous open competitions such as National Open Art Competition, Zeitgeist Art Projects, Wells Contemporary Art and Bath Art Prize. She was the Regional prizewinner for the Amiri Prize in 2010 for NOAC. She is currently Chair of the Newlyn Society of Artists in Cornwall.
An Active State of Being: Between the Painterly and the Poetic
An essay by Anna Souter
Beating Time. The phrase suggests a percussive rhythm, a quietly insistent beat that keeps a group of musicians together. It hints at an underlying shared foundation for a form of creativity that is otherwise heterogenous and multiplicitous. It contains whispers of being on the same page. It also includes a sense of overcoming time; of challenging temporal boundaries and bringing the past and present into a bricolage that is sometimes uneasy, sometimes symbiotic.
This exhibition brings together work by four visual artists whose practices are in places highly divergent, and in other places closely aligned. Commonalities run through their creative processes and outputs, suggesting a fundamental synthesis like a drum beat or – perhaps more aptly – like the poetic meter that acts as a linguistic holder for the expression of wildly different ideas. Beating Time is an anthology of approaches to poetry through painting.
Landscape appears as a repeated motif or even guiding principle of many of these paintings, from the contours of real locations to the internal geography of the mind and the topography made on the canvas by the written word. Alison Critchlow presents a series of paintings made at Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s Cumbrian home. The works, which occupy a space between abstraction and figuration, draw on the imagery of Wordsworth’s garden. Many of them were painted en plein air, reacting to the light, weather and seasons in real time. Critchlow made several of these paintings at twilight or even at night; in her documentation she vividly recalls the process of working on a cold night, mixing grains of snow with her paint and allowing the precipitation to make its own marks on her canvas. Just as the landscapes around Wordsworth’s home seeped into his thinking and his language, Critchlow’s paintings physically and metaphorically incorporate elements of the same places into their surfaces.
The paintings also explore the poet’s manuscripts, paying particular attention to the gaps between words on the page. For several works, Critchlow began by copying Wordsworth’s calligraphic marks. These notational devices were then subsumed into the painting, palimpsest-like; as in the original manuscripts, these marks add to the paintings’ meanings without being easily distinguishable from the overall composition and message.
Physical landscapes also appear in Miranda Boulton’s series of monoprints, created in collaboration with poet Kaddy Benyon for a project exploring the painter Winifred Nicholson and her friendship with the poet Kathleen Raine. Primarily produced during an off-grid residency on the Scottish island of Eigg, mountainous scenery is combined with text and an image of a vase of flowers to create a recurring motif that alludes to both the significance of Eigg as a creative catalyst and to the influence of Nicholson, who repeatedly painted flower arrangements.
To make the monoprints, Boulton took lines of Benyon’s and Raine’s poetry and wrote them out on her paper, before drawing over the top of the words. Working from memory, Boulton created a series of hybrid images in which word and landscape, past and present, natural and artificial are combined and layered. There is a notion of palimpsest at play again here, a state of hidden figuration where text and images rise to the surface before floating away. The resulting sketch-like images, produced with the speed that the medium of monoprint requires, distil a complex set of emotions and allusions into a series of poetic, psychically charged moments. The monoprints are accompanied by a group of oil paintings, completed just before and after Boulton’s residency in Eigg. These works echo the techniques of the monoprints, using overpainting, abstract gestures and pencilled poetry quotations to create layers of imagery and meaning. Evocations of transparency – windows, glass jars – bring to mind painting’s ability to offer a view across time, place and creative medium.
Sandra Beccarelli’s work is similarly produced in the context of an ongoing working relationship with a living writer. Beccarelli’s close collaboration with poet Agnieszka Studzinska is a lively, open-ended dialogue, in which each shares intimate aspects of their craft with the other. Beccarelli, for instance, shares images from her sketchbooks or from the backs of her canvases, while Studzinska sends snapshots from her notebooks, which include poems and notes which have been annotated, edited or crossed out entirely.
In their continuing conversation, the fractured surfaces of Beccarelli’s paintings might inspire Studzinska to create fragmented narratives, while calligraphic gestures from Studzinska’s poems are referenced in Beccarelli’s composite canvases. Both Beccarelli and Studzinska are preoccupied with the capacity of their medium to express meaning, as well as with notions of change and transformation, and this is played out in both the content of their work and in the continual transference of ideas and motifs between painter and poet.
Transformation and the materiality of paint are also queried in Una d’Aragona’s practice, whose paintings rework motifs and narratives from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The artist applies her experience as a psychotherapist to her reading of Ovid’s psychologically charged poetry, updating the concerns of the ancients to reflect contemporary issues that affect the modern psyche, such as anxiety over gender relations, the environment and politics. D’Aragona utilises the psychoanalytical technique of ‘free association’ in both visual and textual language to play with multiple meanings. For example, Rubens’ painting The Abduction of Europa is reinterpreted as a meditation on our ‘abducted’ relationship with Europe and our treatment of animals. The Rubens original is itself a reworking of a version of the myth by Titian, which portrays the rape of Europa by Zeus in the guise of a white bull. Just as Rubens contemporises the classical myth by referencing the establishment of Europe as a trading region, d’Aragona similarly updates the tale with symbols of meat-eating, the Americanization of culture, and intensive farming.
For d’Aragona, the creation of the work is led by the process of painting itself, where mistakes, chance and improvisation become essential to the piece’s agency and meaning. Applied in gestural brushstrokes and evoking a range of art historical references from Old Masters to the Surrealists, the material qualities of the paint allow figures to emerge from abstraction, enacting narratives that are never quite resolved.
In Beating Time, painting, image-making and poetry are presented as active states of being. Nothing is ever static, as ideas and motifs are exchanged in a continually evolving open conversation. As a collection of works by four artists with highly varied practices, the exhibition offers new ways of experiencing and living with poetry. Spiralling in different directions, the works pulse to a poetic meter that beats across time, metamorphosing between text and image, past and present, fiction and reality.