Some days later I went to the latest exhibition at The Gallery at St Georges House, Harmony of the Land - 5 Horwich artists dealing with landscape in various ways. It's not a gallery I feel comfortable with, I admit. It isn't really the right sort of space to appreciate art. Having said that, I quite liked most of the pics (though I never got a look at the floral ones on the wall - they were behind a sofa and the sofa was occupied) and again I went away with one favourite. I'm not going to name the artist, in case I name the wrong one, but it was one of the men - executed in graphite, I think, and by chance it again dealt with light breaking through and illuminating part of some hilly scenery, though entirely different in feel to the painting from Bolton Art Circle.
The third of the shows was at neoartists' neo:gallery22, and was for me far and away the best of the three. Now I have to allow that it had a head start being print (I just like print), and that the gallery itself is a great space - plain white walls, well lit and masses of room. Other than that, though, early signs were not necessarily so promising.
The exhibition was Dark Shadows, the artist Ross Loveday and the prints on show drypoint and carborundum. I've seen his work before - one print in an exhibition at neo last year, and plenty more pop up from time to time while mooching around websites. And I quite liked it but thought a lot of it might all be a bit unformed and samey. Dark and unformed and samey. Well on the one hand, yes I suppose it sort of is, and on the other hand no it definitely isn't. Every print is broadly abstract-landscape, every print is drypoint and carborundum with pretty similar mark-making and nearly every print is dark landscape shades - dark blue, dark brown, dark grey. But they still managed to look and feel very different, and I absolutely loved some of them to bits. I'm at a drypoint and carborundum point myself, as part of the Complete Printmaker course I'm doing, and struggling mightily to make it do anything I want, or even to work out if there's anything I want it to do. But I came away totally enthused and ready to have another go - until such a point as it all dissolves once more into a sea of wishy-washiness and dissatisfaction. Hey, maybe it won't.
The pictures below (taken from the leaflet at the show) demonstrate something I already knew but is always worth remembering - that the resemblance of photos to the actual works of art is rather like the resemblance of the queen on a stamp to her standing in front of you (on tv, obv). There is very little resemblance at all. Drypoint and carborundum prints have texture and depth, and that just doesn't come through in flat reproductions. One of my favourite less-landscapey prints was Aureole, (on the right below, second image down) but I wouldn't give it a second or even a first glance in this reproduction.
And then a of moan sorts. Many of these prints use the same plates. I've no problem with that at all - a lot of work goes into plates, and it would be a shame not to make the most of them. But in some cases it feels just a little bit like a way of doing another edition of the same thing. Even in the pics above you can see that Washing of the Waters and Coastlines are eerily similar. At the show, Against the Tide I-IV were also from that plate (though they made a stunning set). There were other examples of this, too. I felt there were just too many echoes.
Finally a slightly grudging thankyou (it's only grudging because I wish I'd got there on my own). I've been trying to work out the bones of an artist's statement recently. It became a little more immediate when I had some prints selected for a show including work from Hot Bed Press at the Lime Gallery, Settle, and they wanted some blurb. I managed something quite happily, but I spent a fruitless half hour or more in the middle, trying to find the words to say that increasingly I was endeavouring to pin down what gives somewhere a particular sense of place. The descriptions of what I was trying to convey became longer and more convoluted, changed any number of times, became shorter and shorter and finally disappeared altogether because they wouldn't say what they were meant to. But Mr Loveday had no trouble at all. "I want to convey", he says, "an atmosphere - the essence of the place - and to capture the mood and light of a particular moment".
I might not be getting there with the essence thing yet, but that, I think, is what I wanted to say.