Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Catalogues are here!

The catalogues for my London solo show "The Call of the Sea" have arrived - opening the boxes is always a very exciting moment!

Here's a peek inside, and you can also have a look at the whole show on the website.  Just click on the link HERE. 

There's my Chalk Figure near Weymouth painting on the left.  It looks really good reproduced in the catalogue I think.

Looks like a few have gone already!

The exhibition runs from 13th February until 11th March, at Duncan Miller Fine Arts, 6 Bury Street, London SW1Y 6AB, with a preview on Wednesday 12th February from 5.30-8pm.  

If you'd like a catalogue, please email me.  

Monday, 27 January 2014

Sea Sculpture

I've at last finished my sea sculpture at art school.

It hasn't turned out anything liike I expected it to at the start, but it was all a process of experimentation, and trying different things, seeing how they looked, and seeing if they worked for the piece.

I had in my mind that the theme was 'the sea'.  I then started by casting a boat-shaped block of herculite, with wire rods embedded into it.  

I then shaped these rods into the two main curcular wave shapes.  Then I put chicken wire over the rods as an armiture.  

Onto this, I wrapped plaster bandage, and coats of herculite to build up the forms, letting it be quite organic in shape.

On the outside of the wave shape, I experimented with various different finishes, throwing pretty much everything I had at the surface and literally seeing what stuck.  I had acrylic paints in yellow ochre, moss green, blue and brown, inks in black, sepia and  a greeny yellow, and a dark teak wax.  I also applied a copper finish and put chemicals on it to turn the surface green.

Inside the crevices of the piece, I put a sticky size with silver leaf on top, which I varnished.

On the inner edge of the wave (or frond of kelp, as it was starting to look more like) I cut thin sheets of copper, bent them to fit, and held them in place with a lip of herculite.

I then cut back the plaster, put an edge of copper acrylic paint on the plaster between the dark outer edge and plain white plaster surface (to look like the effect that you get on large shells such as abalones).  Then it was a layer of shellac over the whole caboodle to bring out the depth of colour.

I'm pretty pleased with how it's turned out, as at one point it looked like something very unpleasant and long-dead that had washed up on the shore, and I thought it was beyond hope.  

However, it's all a case of trying out a whole range of things, seeing what works best with the piece and getting rid of what doesn't - either by covering it up, cutting back the plaster, or getting stuck in with the sandpaper.  The key is not to be precious!  Experiment, and let the object speak to you.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Big Melt - How Steel Made Us Hard

Back in the 80s, I used to go and watch strange late-night showings of obscure arty music films, which were often quite trippy, meandering, non-narrative tests of endurance with various weird random images connected by pieces of repetitive, trippy music.  I remember finally being pushed to the limit and having to walk out of a showing of Pink Floyd's Echoes, which had a man surfing a very big wave in slow motion for 23 minutes.

Now, here's a non-narrative film with a musical soundtrack for you, about steel making in Sheffield.  Doesn't sound particularly watchable?  Well, settle down with a pint of Easy Rider for 70 minutes of trippy, strangely compelling archive images of Sheffield's industrial heritage, with a mesmeric soundtrack by Sheffield's own Jarvis Cocker, recorded live at the Crucible.

See a short clip HERE.

BBC/BFI National Archive

Now, I go to Sheffield quite a bit.  I like Sheffield.  It's plain and gritty, it's a city which used to make stuff but doesn't really make stuff any more, and has had the stuffing knocked out of it, but is now beginning to turn itself around and start to be creative again. It's just on the cusp of regeneration.  There's a feeling that you can do things in Sheffield, if only you knuckle down and start doing them and making things again.  Maybe that's why I like Sheffield - because I like the whole challenge and process of knuckling down and making things.  That's exciting.  It feels real.

BBC/BFI National Archive

This film has raided the BFI National Archive, and has taken quirky animated public information films (remember them...?), black and white film of grimy workers flicking two fingers at the camera, plucky tiny-waisted Edwardian girls making bombs, grimy kitchen-sink footage of people in pubs and clubs and dance-halls during their time away from the factories, and blazing technicolour film of the raw brutal process of steel-making in all its fiery intensity.
BBC/BFI National Archive

It sounds like the dullest thing on the planet, but it has a strange compelling intensity. 

The drama of the theatrically huge, mechanised steel-making process produces both extraordinary and ordinary objects, from bombs and bridges to cutlery and bolts, which go out across the whole world. In the relentless making of these objects, there's the sense of being at the heart of something bigger than yourselves. 

Away from the factories, there's a tangible sense of ennui and sadness, and of the weariness and plainness of the individual lives of the workers, the human element in the process. It's as if the huge, mechanised steel process also eats up those people's lives.  However, it's a process which simultaneously gives those lives a rhythm and a purpose, and the people, too, are made to be both ordinary and extraordinary through it.

 BBC/BFI National Archive

As I said, it's a non-narrative film, and it's a human necessity to try and make sense of events by creating a story out of seemingly unconnected pieces of information.  But by only having the music to accompany the images, and not a prescriptive narrated voice-over,  you can make up your own story.  It allows the film to become more powerful by being more universal.

By the end, all the disparate fragments of found film become pictorially smelted, to become something greater than the sum of its parts, a huge piece of filmic steel.  It's like a Yorkshire Koyaanisqatsi.

You can read more about the programme HERE.  You can view the programme on BBC i-Player HERE.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Solo Show Online!

If you'd like to have a sneak preview of my 'The Call of the Sea' solo show at Duncan Miller Fine Arts, just click HERE  to see the paintings in the show.

Rosebay Willowherb at North Berwick (Oil on linen, 32 x 32)

The show opens on Thursday 13th February, and if you'd like a catalogue, drop me a line at judith@jibridgland.com.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


Let joy be unconfined - my boiler has at last been fixed!!  

The ice in the studio is finally melting.  

The paintings may actually start drying now.  

It's like Narnia coming out of winter.

In the meantime, here's a look at one of my Eastbourne Pier watercolours.  It's acrylic and pastel on top of one of a screenprint, done in red.  I like that it has a bit of a retro 1950s vibe about it with the colourway.

Summer Clouds, Eastbourne Pier (Mixed Media)

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Paintings at the Fair

Here's some of my paintings which are currently on Stand 51 at the London Art Fair.

Watch out for them if you're there!  They're there until Sunday.

Full Moon over the Embankment (Oil on linen, 12 x 12)

Distant Yacht and Montbretia, Rinagree (Oil on linen, 32 x 32)

                                                             Distant Cuillins from the Beach, Skye (Oil on linen, 26 x 32)

Friday, 17 January 2014

London Art Fair

Here's a few photos from the very busy London Art Fair.

This is a view down on to the main hall, showing the stands on the middle section and the upstairs mezzanine level.


Here's the exhibition from the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery, with sculpture by Barbara Hepworth and exhibits from Modern British artists.  (You can read more about the Hepworth Gallery in my blog about my visit there last year HERE.)

The centrepiece of the exhibition is Barbara Hepworth's rosewood sculpture Kneeling Figure from 1932, seen below here.

The exhibition features a selection of exceptional works drawn from the gallery's collection including pieces by Henry Moore, as seen above in the background.  Also included is an example of Hepworth's stunning Hospital Drawings (below) - you can read more about them in my blog HERE.

As you can see, the fair is well worth a visit, and continues until Sunday.  More information here!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Freezing in a Garret

Now that it's the depths of a Scottish winter, the heating has gone kaput in my studio.  No wonder the paintings aren't drying.  My hands are like blocks of ice.

I may have to resort to this to keep warm...

Norwegian state TV shows a continuous 12 hour programme of a burning log fire

Monday, 13 January 2014

London Art Fair

The first big fair of 2014 starts on Wednesday - yes, we're only just in to January, and already the art year is up and running!

The London Art Fair is housed in the Business and Design Centre in Islington in north London (nearest tube station Angel).  This is the view over the fair from the coffee shop on the upper mezzanine level.  It shows you that there's plenty to explore on the 3 levels.

I've got paintings on Stand 51, Duncan Miller Fine Arts.  Its right at the end of the left hand corridor in the main hall on the middle level, so you get a great view of the paintings as you walk down.

The fair runs from 15th-19th January, and this year features an exhibition of Barbara Hepworth and Modern British sculpture from the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery.  There's usually plenty of great quality contemporary work as well as the Scottish Colourists, St Ives school, Bloomsbury Group and Modern British.

Here's some of my work on the stand from a previous fair, being viewed by a lady with exceptionally good taste.

Really looking forward to it!  And if you do go along, why not drop me a line and tell me what you thought of the fair?

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Apples, Pears and Paint

Just watched Apples, Pears and Paint: How to Make A Still Life Painting on BBC i-Player. Exciting, thought-provoking, intelligent, it was richly life-affirming stuff.  For once, this was a programme about fine art that started at the beginning of the story, told the story intelligently without gimmicks, and finished at the end.  That's my sort of a programme.

It started out with Caravaggio's Basket of Fruit, the first modern depiction of still life since the Romans, which is in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.

Painted in 1599, this is the punk rock of painting.  Frescoes in Pompeii showed still lifes, but the genre died out until Caravaggio came along.  You see, still life painting, by just choosing to depict  humble, everyday objects as the subject of an entire painting, was considered not just lowly, but ungodly.  Painting should promote religion, or depict saints or kings or great historic events or be morally uplifting.  It should not be used to depict graven images of mere fruit and vegetables.
Here, Caravaggio defies convention and lavishes huge amounts of human energy, talent and time on that mere fruit.  It was the only time he painted a picture just of still life, but what a painting.  The detail, the reality of it, is astonishing.  The  texture of the wicker basket which just juts out over the edge of the table, the bloom on the skin of the grapes, the worm hole in the apples, the withering leaves of the vine, they are all tangible.  It's a triumph of looking, of celebrating the overlooked, the disposable, fragile and perishable, and a triumph of making it eternal. 

But within the humble objects, there is a feeling of uncertainty, of unease, of decay.  The basket is slightly off-centre, the vine leaves (usually a symbol of Christ) stretch out of the frame on the right like withered hands trying to grasp something just out of reach.  And there is that strange, empty void of pale negative space above the fruit.  It's like a held breath, in paint. 

A decade later, Caravaggio would paint The Raising of Lazarus with a huge dark void above the frieze-like band of figures.  Here, the darkness is the terrifying, oppressive unknown of death itself.  

Darkness isn't just darkness in Caravaggio, just as light isn't just light.  It's about what it is to be human.  And that's also what his still life is about.  It about the brilliance and beauty of life, and also about its fragility and the passing of time.

The programme guided you through still life from Pompeii to last week, with everything in between including Dutch still life

Willem Kalf, still Life with Drinking Horn of St Sebastian's Archers Guild (Oil, 1653) 

the optical realism of Chardin (who never left Paris),

Chardin, Skate (Oil, 1728)

the twitchy multiple realism of Cezanne (who shocked that same Paris with an apple)

Cezanne, Still Life with seven Apples (Oil, 1878)
Picasso, whose fractured cubist still life reflected the fractures of society in 1914

Picasso, Still Life with Compote and Glass (1914)

to still lifes done within the last couple of years, of the last meals requested by death row prisoners.

Mat Collishaw, Last Meal on Death Row: Gary Gilmore (2012)

One of the stand-out moments for me was the visit to Cezanne's studio. There, in the corner, was the plaster cupid.  It was like spotting an old friend whom you hadn't seen for years and didn't know was still alive.  It was that surprising.  The actual plaster cupid of his Still Life with Plaster Cupid!  It was like seeing a piece of the True Cross, only this really was the real thing.

Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Poaster Cupid (Oil, 1895)

And there, too, was the very table he painted, and the ginger jar...

Cezanne, still Life with Ginger Jar and Eggplants (Oil, 1984)

Even the bottle with Cezanne's finger prints still on it was still there (rather shockingly handled by the curator with bare hands).  I'd never thought before  "Where are the objects that Paul Cezanne painted? What happened to them - did they get thrown away, or are they still around?"  And here they were.  Who'd have thought?  I don't know why it was so surprising, but it was.

So still life isn't just about fruit.  Just as landscape isn't just about hills and trees.  

It's about a whole lot more - it's about seeing, and looking, and being still in the centre of life, of appreciating and celebrating the humble and the ordinary, and about what it is to be human.  As I said at the beginning, life affirming stuff.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Italy Unpacked

I'm looking forward to watching Italy Unpacked  tonight at 9pm on BBC2 as a bit of a Friday-night treat.

It's got pasta and Andrew Graham Dixon - and that's a powerful combination.


First stop is the Genoa, once a great maritime republic, whose former glory is reflected it its opulent Baroque palaces with their imposing facades, glamorous decor and splendid paintings by artists such as van Dyck and Bernardo Strozzi. In contrast to these grand statements of wealth, Giorgio Locatelli whips up the simple dish that the city is famous for - pesto alla genovese.  (That's pay-sto, by the way, not peh-sto.  So I'm told.  )

Although I've been to Italy quite a bit, and by various modes of transport, I've only ever been to Genoa once.  That was when the ship I was on docked on the way back from Australia -  which is a rather quaintly Phileas-Fogg way of travelling.

Meanwhile, back on the art history, I've still to watch Apples, Pears and Paint: How to Make a Still Life Painting, which is a look at the history of still life painting, featuring a range of delights from the earliest existing Xenia mural paintings found at Pompeii to the cubist masterpieces of Picasso, via Caravaggio, Chardin and Cezanne.  

And it's got Andrew Graham Dixon in it.

Let's just hope the poor man manages to string a sentence together better in the still life programme than he did on his woeful appearance over on University Challenge's alumni special over Christmas. 

AGD may be an undisputed art history god on Caravaggio, but throw him a few questions on general knowledge or, indeed, art history, and the poor man grinds squeakily to an embarassing halt.  

If you saw it, then no doubt you, too, were face-palming away and screaming "Botticelli, Andrew, Botticelli!!!!" at the television...

Christ Church Oxford - they lost.  (BBC)

Monday, 6 January 2014

New Year Photographs

Despite the biblically bad weather over New Year, I still managed to get out and about to take photographs.  There are still some nice autumn colours around Loch Lomond and the Arrochar Alps.

I took a trip round towards Inveraray, where the water was pouring in spate down the hills.  Here's a view at one of my favourite sites, Hell's Glen, which is the B839 and runs from the Rest and be Thankful over to Loch Fyne.

As I do quite a few paintings of the area, I'm often asked why the name 'Hell's Glen'?  

(The slope on the far left of the photo above is the right hand slope of the mountain in the painting below.)

Pink and Yellow Flowers, Hell's Glen (Oil, 10 x 10)

According to Wikipedia - so it must be true - it's a glen which runs between the mountains Cruach nam Mult and Stob an Eas.  The name is from Gaelic Glen Iarainn, which apparently means the Iron Glen, but sounds like the nearby Glen Ifhrinn, which means the Glen of Hell.

Which doesn't really explain anything at all...

However, you can see exactly what it's like from a viewpoint which is strangely familiar to me - bouncing around in a mini, in this little video HERE. 

(I should add, it's not my mini, it's someone else's, but mine's just as teeth-jangling and much noisier.)