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Graves Gallery, Sheffield – June 2022

This was an overdue visit to the Graves Gallery in Sheffield which had been closed due to COVID and other refurbishments. As well as the permanent collection there was a thoughtfully curated selection of women artists who had or have links to Sheffield. As I experience with most regional galleries, the Graves was quiet, spacious and virtually empty which gave me a rare treat of ample time to stop, engage, reflect and fully absorb the work. The contrast with a major exhibition in London was striking, where we are shuffled along with scarcely enough time to read the labels and certainly no time to see beyond the basic colours and forms. But in the Graves, I spent a uniquely long time taking in a huge Bridget Riley piece and was totally absorbed in the shifting colours, depths and forms that appeared. So this is my shout-out to regional galleries, yes the work may not have such high celebrity status but I would argue that a calm environment rides higher than a big name when it comes to changing your view of the world through art. Saying that Grayson Perry’s Comfort Blanket took pride of place in the gallery.

David Bomberg’s interpretation of the northern Spanish mountains caught my attention for its bold use of colour which gave a sense of grandeur and severity to the scarred landscape. A couple of portraits also stood out, by Eric Gill and William Rothenstein. Gill’s dry point made me want to try this technique again as I do like the strong mark-making that etching allows. The chalk drawing by Rothenstein was simply fantastic, with such emotion pouring out of the paper. The watercolours by Muirhead Bone were equally impressive, reminding me again that I need to take my watercolours with me as they allow simple depth to be added to Plein air work. Dan Holdsworth’s digital to analogue work caught my attention as I’ve experimented with the morphing of data and have a project on the go, but I didn’t think this work did the process justice. He has created far more impressive work. John Hoyland’s abstract landscape had real interest and I appreciated the comment that he thought that painting had the greatest ability to convey emotion and meaning. Finally, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s suspended figure reminded me of Bill Viola’s

David Bomberg’s interpretation of the northern Spanish mountains caught my attention for its bold use of colour which gave a sense of grandeur and severity to the scarred landscape. A couple of portraits also stood out, by Eric Gill and William Rothenstein. Gill’s dry point made me want to try this technique again as I do like the strong mark-making that etching allows. The chalk drawing by Rothenstein was simply fantastic, with such emotion pouring out of the paper. The watercolours by Muirhead Bone were equally impressive, reminding me again that I need to take my watercolours with me as they allow simple depth to be added to Plein air work. Dan Holdsworth’s digital to analogue work caught my attention as I’ve experimented with the morphing of data and have a project on the go, but I didn’t think this work did the process justice. He has created far more impressive work. John Hoyland’s abstract landscape had real interest and I appreciated the comment that he thought that painting had the greatest ability to convey emotion and meaning. Towards the end we had Sam Taylor-Johnson’s suspended figure, which reminded me of Bill Viola’s Ascension, and it was a powerful statement about recovery from cancer – scars showing but a hidden face created a counterplay of acceptance and denial. Really nice overall.

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