Monday, 23 January 2012

At the London Art Fair

Even in the cold of January, the London Art Fair at the Business and Design Centre in Islington has lost none of its vibrancy, and remains a fresh, up-beat annual event and a great start to the year.

It’s a slightly awkward space, with a split-level main hall, and further stands housed upstairs, but once you understand the space, it’s a nice venue to explore and get lost in the art.

As soon as I went in, I was met by an excitingly large Henri Gaudier Brzeska relief of two wrestlers.

Henri Gaudier Brzeska Wrestlers 1914

However, this version was cast in the 1960s (Gaudier Brzeska having died in the first world war at 23) so it's arguable how much it is an 'original' - however it's yours for £85,000!  It was just one of many high-price tag (or even POA ) works for sale at the fair - obviously there's the market out there for them.

Also on the same stand was a gorgeous Peter Lanyon, with more of his work, including a blue glass sculpture, at Offer Waterman and Co.  Lanyon was a Cornish artist, whose edgily visceral landscape work was always very much about experiencing a place, and has a very tangible excitement about it.  He was a glider pilot although he suffered from vertigo (ultimately he was killed in a flying accident), and he liked to incorporate this seen-from-the-air viewpoint combined with an element of off-balance tension into his work.

Peter Lanyon Blue Glass Airscape 1960( glass, ceramic, plaster & paint on cork)

Another Cornish-based artist (though originally from Scotland) was Margaret Mellis, whose drfitwood construction was on the Cyril Gerber stand.  Her studio must have been a complete fire-hazard, as it was piled high with stacks of found wood which she collected from the Cornwall beaches.

There were plenty of other big names of 20th century art to get your teeth into Elizabeth Frink (especially the large Fighting Cocks bronze), Joe Tilson's Wooden Relief 1960 at Austin/Desmond Fine Art, the Boyle Family's Fire Series with Melted Records with Richard Saltoun (they used to do the groovy visual effects at early Pink Floyd concerts), even Charles Rennie Mackintosh's delicate watercolour Alder Catkins, Walberswick of 1914 (Mackintosh was arrested as a suspected German spy while he was at Walberswick because of his thick Scottish accent and constant sending of letters to foreign places) Yours for £28,500!  Ewan Mundy also had a lovely William Gillies ink drawing of Anstruther for £4250 - yum.

I must mention Jo Taylor's work with Lena Boyle Fine Art Although I'm no expert on horses, I do love her large-scale equine collages, with their gorgeously expressive lines.

 Jo Taylor Desert Horse II (mixed media on paper, 31 x 27 in)

I must also draw attention to a (distant) member of the family firm, Adam Bridgland, with his very distinctive graphic work with TAG Fine Art.  His Darling Our Holiday Will Solve All Our Problems looked eerily of-the-moment.

 Adam Bridgland Darling This Holiday Will Solve All OUr Problems 2006 (Enamel Plaque 100cm x 100cm)

It's always strange when you see your own work at a gallery or an art fair.  In this case, my work was with Duncan Miller on a stand at the back of the main hall, which meant that you could see it from quite far away down one of the main corridors.  It's like seeing your work afresh, in its Sunday best.  It was great to view it in such a location getting a lot of positive attention at the fair, and also in such estemmed company as Joan Eardley and the Scottish Colourists.

I hope that those of you who attended the fair, and especially those of you who were able to make use of the complimentary tickets, will have had an equally interesting and fruitful time.  

If you were there, it would be great to have your feedback!


  1. Since you asked, some thoughts from me on the London Art Fair.

    I’ve been to the Business Design Centre before, an echoing place, part Sunday market for small businesses, part exhibition centre. But I thought the Art Fair worked, the layout and the temporary walls enabled me to forget the open space, and it seemed I was in an art gallery. A very busy art gallery.

    There was some interesting art on show, but precious few proper paintings, by which I mean pictures where you can see and almost smell the paint. More on this later.

    In a prime location, just inside the door was a display by husband and wife team, Rob and Nick Carter. Their bright and highly colourful exhibit included a range of paint pigment photos. The pictures were created by throwing a handful of paint pigment in the air, against a blue sky with fluffy white clouds, and photographing the paint being blown by the breeze. It really does look a lot better than my description might make you think.

    Peter Brook had a dozen paintings of country life. His paintings are almost like photos, but they had a calmness about them which was welcoming. David Royle – I’m not sure why I liked his Rorschach paintings, but they were quirky and colourful. Chris Wood’s glass and light sculpture was intriguing.

    There was a lot that I didn’t enjoy, Shani Rhys James – this ghastly painting I did not like at all. And almost £8000! Andy Stewart – like a fight in a paint factory. Gareth Parry – oil on canvas, but no colour to speak of? Damien Hirst - £6000 for an inkjet butterfly? No thanks.

    The Duncan Miller stand was at the back of the hall, at the end of one of the long corridors; this location meant that Judith’s large painting Distant Rain over Ireland was visible from some way off as I approached, and it looked magnificent. A bright day looking out to sea with rain showers looming in the distance, the painting was high on the wall and well lit. The colours shone, the sea sparkled. This was the centrepiece for the display of a number of Judith’s warm, bright and feel-good paintings. My own favourite was the smaller painting with purple Rosebay Willowherb (can’t remember the name!), which sat in the middle of the wall. The flowers were so appealing I wanted to pick them. An absolutely lovely painting, it had balance, and depth and colour, and it made me smile just to look at it. There was a good number of people at the stand and a lot of them commented to me on how bright Judith’s paintings were compared to others at the Fair. It was so pleasing to finish my visit to the Fair at a stand with real paintings on it. Paint you could see. Paintings where you can feel the effort involved, see the brushstrokes. I’m looking forward to Judith’s exhibition next month.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments!

      Glad you enjoyed the fair.