Possibilities and Boundaries – A Review of Nicholas Lees, ‘Penumbra’ and Jeff Powell, ‘Edge’ by Wendy Rhodes

EXHIBITION REVIEW by Wendy Rhodes

Rabley Contemporary is hosting a serene and tranquil show of drawing and ceramics by Nicholas Lees and Jeff Powell. The first few minutes spent with the finely crafted works provides the visitor with impressions of shifting light and ephemeral glimpses of forms, redolent of fleeting recollections. Take a little more time and each piece reveals itself as a complex engagement with materials exploiting the possibilities and boundaries of the hand-made. Lees has produced a series of porcelain vessels which defy concepts of solidity and outward form. The edges of his pieces are both precisely carved and uncertain, and the visitor’s perception of form is dependent on their viewpoint. Powell presents a large series of works which only reveal themselves as drawings on closer inspection. His use of layered pastel and crayon, paradoxically applied with meticulous attention to geometry also defies their material identity. Common to both artists is the exploration of the possibilities of materials; pushing the boundaries of clay and pastel. Whilst exerting control over inconsistencies inherent in their chosen technique, both Lees and Powell also celebrate unpredictable nuances. For Powell it can be the fragmentary nature pastel and for Lees this may be fluctuations of shape due to kiln temperatures.

Nicholas Lees, Lightbox and Vessels 18.01, 2018, 8 Parian Porcelain Vessels in Lightbox

Lees creates un-glazed porcelain vessels which delight in creating optical effects. The surface of each form is made indistinct, constructed of an apparent stack of disks hovering closely one above the other somehow joined in a central column. His pieces are, in fact, formed from one piece of clay – to achieve this Lees employs a process of throwing a very thick walled pot which he turns on a lathe once the clay has partially dried; spinning and carving the form. As the viewer moves around the exhibition Lees’ sculptures introduce a playful exchange between light and solidity; one of the most intriguing aspects is that his ceramic objects cast shadows with soft edges. Lees himself is excited and intrigued by the mutability of his forms and viewing his sculpture requires a playful interaction with the light in the gallery. By watching the movement of light on the forms, or by standing in the way of the light, new structures within the existing shape emerge.

Jeff Powell ‘Treen’, 2018 Pastel on paper 42.5 x 50.8 cm

Jeff Powell Cot Edge, 2017 Pastel on paper 35.2 x 42.8 cm

Jeff Powell’s drawings are exquisitely composed arrangements of texture, form and the space they inhabit on the picture plane. Geometrically perfect forms with the crispest of edges cohabit with textural surfaces and loose drawing. The use of soft pastels brings humanity to the work; occasionally an edge softens ever so slightly, breathing life into the space. Powell explains this combination of mark making as an attempt to balance chaos and simplicity – order and dissonance. His pieces are made from many layers of drawing inspired by sketches of places along the tin coast of Penwith, Cornwall. His intriguing array of linear marks created by crayons, stencils and tracing creates solidity, fragility and nuance, exploring line as texture and as edge – dividing and containing. Picture spaces which could have become flat are activated by introducing lines alive with the speed of sketching, and smaller insertions of constrained disorder hint at life’s energy. His drawings include interpretations of rocks, abstractions of strata and carefully observed suggestions of place. Finished works, however, are no longer place bound; each drawing exists as a carefully choreographed balance of visual elements, an abstraction from specifics, seeking perfect harmony.

At first glance these two artists provide a suitable complement to each other through similarities of form and earthy colour palettes, but the link runs much deeper and is founded upon material processes, an iteration of concept which produces endless variations. In Lees’ vessels the repeated technique of sliced edges is realised through ovoid forms, columns and classical vases are suggested in taller pieces. Each shape brings a new conundrum, asking the viewer to decide whether they see internal or external form. Or perhaps it is the ephemeral shadow which hovers half way between these two assertions that provides the truth of his work. The drawings which Lees presents provide clues to starting points in the organisation of repeated shape disturbed by fluid interruptions. The solid mark diffused by elemental interaction. Powell similarly exploits forms in repetition, borrowing from one picture plane to another and trying them for size within each composition. This is a privilege of this exhibition. We, the viewer enter into the creative process; sharing in the decisions of the artist, testing shape and form, elemental colour and scale. The more familiar we become with these works the more we begin to decide preferences for which compositional arrangement is the most successful, evocative or reminiscent of our own associations with place, time and light. A special quality of this show, despite the outward pretence of precise execution is the small imperfections which mark all the works as hand-made. By looking very closely the visitor will observe that both have embarked upon a search for an elusive balance – precision brought to life by small imperfections; permitting a little chaos in their control. Such delicate disturbances in regularity breathe life into this exhibition and bring the viewer in to meet the maker.

EXHIBITION

Nicholas Lees RCA
Penumbra Exhibition at RABLEY GALLERY
19 May – 22 June 2018

RABLEY GALLERY
Jeff Powell ‘Edge’
19 May – 22 June
Nicholas Lees ‘Penumbra’
Open Thurs, Fri, Sat 10-4 and by appointment

More information http://www.rableydrawingcentre.com/rabley-drawing-gallery-exhibitions.htm

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Katherine Jones – Special Edition for Young Collectors at LOPF

Our wonderful exhibition ‘Katherine Jones – The Precious Hours’ may have ended but if you didn’t make it then we will be showing Katherine’s work at this year’s London Original Print Fair at The Royal Academy of Arts. There will also be an exclusive launch of a limited edition etching by Katherine – ‘The Freedom of Clouds’ especially for The Young Collectors evening on Thursday 3rd May (Rabley Stand 24) when Katherine will be there to meet and discuss her work.

Katherine Jones ‘The Freedom of Clouds’ 2018
Etching and Block Print
Paper 19 x 24cm Block 9.6 x 14.6cm
Edition of 15

 

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Emma Stibbon – New Prints for The London Original Print Fair

We are delighted to announce the exclusive launch three new print publication by artist Emma Stibbon RA at the London Original Print Fair 2018.

EMMA STIBBON RA
Dead Horse Point, 2018, Intaglio, 38 x 96 cm, Edition of 35

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Katherine Jones ‘The Precious Hours’ – Prints and New Works on Paper

The Precious Hours 2017, Collagraph and block print on paper, 92 x 71 cm, Edition of 25

The Precious Hours is an exhibition of new prints and works on paper by Katherine Jones, Rabley’s artist-in-residence 2016-17 and runs from 17 March – 28 April 2018 at Rabley Gallery, Wiltshire.

During her residency Katherine Jones travelled down to Rabley Home Farm from her home in London on a monthly basis. Katherine was able to witness the seasonal changes on the farm as well as more formal changes such as the sale of the dairy herd, which marked a fundamental shift for the farm. She has not attempted to document these changes straightforwardly, rather, the relative space and minimalism of the cultivated landscape in contrast to the squeeze of the urban environment; the differences in scale; the bittersweet nature of farming and our larger changing environment have been the catalyst to the new work.

Katherine Jones sitting drawing at the Rabley Drawing Centre pond.

Katherine Jones at the Rabley Drawing Centre pond.

During this residency, Katherine Jones has shared The Precious Hours to be inspired, be concerned and be knowing of this place. Her new watercolours and prints meander through conundrums, alighting upon symbols and references. Their intent is not aestheticism, but question. The physicality of these fragile pieces of paper is both beautiful and profound.’   Meryl Ainslie 2018

Here is a selection of works on show at ‘The Precious Hours’ for the full catalogue please visit the website: click here

 


Special Event: Artist Gallery and Studio Introduction – Saturday 21st April

Artists Katherine Jones and Fred Galley will discuss their residencies at Rabley Drawing Centre, walking you through the studio and into the gallery to see their exhibitions – Katherine Jones, ‘The Precious Hours’, New prints and works on paper & Fred Gatley, ‘Rabley Series’ Ceramics. This is a free event but places are limited and booking essential. view and book event

 


The Precious Hours

The title ‘The Precious Hours’ is meant to be read in both a domestic and global context. All time is precious and, as the warming of our planet speeds and visibly affects our environment, the passing of time is ever more apparent.

The work in this exhibition is mostly the result of a year’s residency at Rabley Drawing Centre and Rabley Farm. I visited the farm roughly once a month, made drawings, collected objects and made prints that have been developed both in the Rabley Print studio and back in my London studio.

The show brings together a lexicon of motifs to describe the place and the thoughts evoked during the residency – containers, farm buildings, fields, rocks, birds, clouds and the man-made Rabley pond. During the year, depictions of scale and space have given way to a focus on the passing of time – both in a domestic and global sense – and the visible effects of environmental change making the speed of its passing ever more apparent.

The paintings, sketchbooks and mono-prints are part of the formation or gathering of these individual ideas. The editioned prints, however, are the result of a slower percolation – a consolidation of disparate threads into something more concluded.

The large-scale prints bring together drawings of the farm and surrounding area, the windbreaks between large open fields, mixed clusters of deciduous and evergreen trees and structures loosely derived from the farm’s buildings. These include the farmhouse – large and open, and a serene ‘hide’ from which to observe the birdlife, in particular the red kites and swathes of jackdaws.

A dominant theme has been the sky – so much wider in open Wiltshire countryside than in the city. The warmer average temperatures of recent years are thought to be behind an increase in the occurrence of towering white cumulonimbus clouds. Being more reflective than the grey blanket-like stratus, they form a feedback loop that increases rather than slows the warming of the atmosphere.

This sense of an acceleration of cumulative imbalances in our environment prompted a shift towards more tension in the images – bucolic scenes and skyscapes described in jarring contrasts of line and tone in a colour palette dominated by light flesh-tones and pitch black. Dramatic, distorted, drooping or pouring in a flow-form towards the ground, they describe the accumulation and acceleration of a momentous surge. The resulting aesthetic is something resembling melting ice-cream – sweet, ethereal colours dripped into the brown earth.

I am indebted to Meryl and Andrew Ainslie for giving me the opportunity to work at Rabley and for being such generous and accommodating hosts. Being at Rabley has shifted my perspective and been a catalyst to a new body of work, much of which is still in progress.

Katherine Jones
2018

 


 

About the artist

Katherine Jones is a fine art printmaker and painter. She combines traditional forms of intaglio and relief print (etching, collagraph and block-print) to produce her distinctive images. Fragile floras are covered with protective environments – each luminous and held in the surface of print and watercolour. Jones’ images play with the balance of botanical history and the metaphors of a fragile world.

Jones studied printmaking at Cambridge School of Art and Camberwell College of Art. She has been widely exhibited and received numerous awards and residences. Awards – 2014; London Original Print Fair Prize; Printmaking Today Prize; 2015 Artist in residence, Winchester School of Art; Eton College, UK. Public Collections – Victoria and Albert Museum prints and drawings collection, London National Art library, UK; The House of Lords, UK; Yale University Library, USA.

 


‘Katherine Jones – The Precious Hours’ Publication

Rabley Gallery have published a book to accompany the exhibition. We have copies for sale in the gallery for £18 (special price) or you can view and purchase the book online here: Book Preview


The exhibition runs until April 28th 2018

http://www.rableydrawingcentre.com

Fred Gatley ‘The Rabley Series’ – Ceramics in Response to the Landscape.

Fred Gatley, ‘The Rabley Series’ Porcelain bowl with cast bronze base (Rabley inclusions)

For over thirty years Fred Gatley has been carefully incorporating found materials within his pieces, many of these introduced into the clay bodies themselves. Sands, silts, muds, brick fragments, stones and rusting iron have all been used, combined with drift woods and even waste copper scraps, all of these bringing to the work their own story and location.

In ‘The Rabley Series’ Fred has responded to the landscape and environment of Rabley Home Farm, a working arable farm set in the ancient Wiltshire downs. The landscape throws up echoes of its history including fragments from the Neolithic, Iron and Roman ages together with the everyday chips of a contemporary working farm.

All the ceramics made for this exhibition contain varying amounts of material collected from the farm over the past year or so. The various flecks and inclusions visible in the ceramic body include, stones, sand, rust, mud and brick fragments. The metal bases are fabricated from copper reclaimed from the fine copper windings taken from within a large decommissioned electrical pump-motor donated by Andrew Ainslie. The bronze/copper bases were themselves cast into wooden moulds fashioned from wood salvaged from the Rabley estate. The tiny silver feet also came from Rabley in the form of scrap silver donated by Meryl Ainslie at the outset of the project.

Each piece is made, to achieve a delicate balance of form, scale, structure and texture; producing work that has an understated visual richness set against a feeling of quiet simplicity.

Nothing lasts
Nothing is finished
And nothing is perfect

Quote from ‘Wabi Sabi Simple’ by Richard F Powell. ‘Wabi sabi’ is an ancient Japanese aesthetic that values the imperfect, the handmade and the simple.

Fred Gatley, born in Warrington in 1956, works from his studio in Greenwich, London. Fred studied Ceramics at Bristol Polytechnic graduating in 1978, after this he moved to London where he began work in the Sir John Cass Department of Art. From 1980 to 2017 he worked within the ‘Cass’ teaching on their undergraduate and post-graduate 3D courses including Art, Architecture, Product, Jewellery and 3D Design. In 1998 Fred completed an MA by Project ‘Researching the Grinding and Polishing of High-Fired Ceramics’ at London Guildhall University and was awarded an MPhil at London Metropolitan University in 2006.

Fred Gatley’s ‘The Rabley Series’ is showing at Rabley Gallery from 17 March – 28 April 2018 alongside Katherine Jones’ ‘The Precious Hours’ prints and works on paper produced during her residency at Rabley.

www.rableydrawingcentre.com

 

Amy-Jane Blackhall – Everyone is a Moon

AJB exh card 150dpi

Everyone Is A Moon is an exhibition of new work by artist and printmaker Amy-Jane Blackhall that takes the form of an immersive sculptural installation.

Blackhall’s work emerges from her fascination with the concept of interconnectedness, through the physical and spiritual act of making, particularly the repetitive nature of print.

Underlying structures are central to her imagery; derived from sacred places, she frequently references archetypal symbols, Oriental art and Eastern ideologies. Recurring themes in her work reflect on how the universality has a strong aesthetic appeal transcending space and time, language and culture.

A large lunar abacus takes centre stage. A familiar childhood object used for counting now holds hand blown glass moons positioned to mark the lunar phases of 2017. Casting it’s own shadow and reflection in the mirror moon it exists beyond it’s framework; as the audience orbit the space they can’t help but interact and engage.

Accompanied by a series of prints made from solar plates there is an emphasis on the comfort in the cadence and repetition of ongoing cycles that both anchor and elude us.

Neil Bousfield & Nik Pollard – Coast

NB exh card 150dpi

Coast explores two artists response to the changing British Coastline and surrounding wetlands.

Neil Bousfield’s Home and Place and Walcott woodcut series reflect on notions of temporality, loss, and fragility. The prints begin to map and record the impact of the process of coastal erosion, storms, sea surges and rising sea levels on Walcott as a place. The delicate marks and pallet used act to unravel a narrative that explores a changing landscape and community.

Nik Pollards Wallasea drawings explore the relationship between landscape and nature. In 2015/16 Pollard was invited by the RSPB to help record the Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project though drawing and painting on site. The RSPB reserve in Essex is an ambitious project in which ancient wetland landscape is being recreated using, amongst other things, 4.5 million tonnes of spoil from the London Crossrail. It is part of a plan to combat flooding, the effects of climate change and to replace lost natural habitat. Saltmarsh, mudflats, lagoons and pasture are being established through major earthworks – the biggest conservation and engineering project of its type in Europe.

The energetic drawings are the result of two visits made to the site and reflect Pollards fascination for the contrast between the site under construction and its development as flora and fauna beginning to take hold.