This latest visit offered up Roger Mayne's photograph exhibition, which I wandered round and quite enjoyed and to which, I suppose, I didn't really give very much attention. Nothing personal.
That was the main exhibition. In the small room was an exhibition of paintings by Katie Sims. Apparently she's quite the up and coming star. Her pieces derive from - or apparently, according to some sources, subvert - original art from earlier centuries. So I looked up subvert, because I found I was uncomfortable with the 'knowingness' of that word. It's very active, isn't it, surely a deliberate act to denigrate the original works. Chambers dictionary says that to subvert is 'to overthrow, overturn, ruin (eg principles, a political system, etc); to pervert or corrupt (a person)', which made me feel that my uneasiness was warranted. Why exactly would you choose to describe her work that way? How does it add anything to her work?
Be that as it may, I suppose it's only words and maybe other people would feel it's quite reasonable. Sims paints her own version of these works in a style that feels quite Turner-esque (is that an irony of sorts?), with a more limited palette than the originals and frequently with the introduction of 'modern' geometrical elements which sit awkwardly (in a good way) with the rest of the painting. Much of her work I really liked, if sometimes quite reluctantly. The reluctance came very simply down to an uncertainty as to whether it was more than just attractive - once there is a claim of subversion, surely some kind of underlying motive should become evident. Still, I don't think it is Sims herself who makes this claim, and whatever, I certainly like the choice of colour ranges, I admit freely that I mostly prefer her paintings to the historical equivalents and I like the idea of taking an original artistic piece and doing something different with it, deriving work from it, responding to it. Anyway, here is a selection of the pairings - it would have been great to have the work hung in pairs, each Sims piece with its ancient sibling - both might have gained from the juxtaposition - but maybe that wasn't feasible for the gallery.
There were plenty more, and I liked the exhibition enough to go twice (well, I was passing...). The final picture here, Fleeting Romano, was my favourite - it had a vision- or dream-like quality to it, and a feeling of more depth. Entirely coincidentally (and its pairing wasn't made obvious at the exhibition; I've discovered it since - perhaps those that were cited were in Bath's collection?) it's the original work that I like least. Perhaps one thing about Sims subverting those earlier works is that I have actually made the effort to search them out, and I surely wouldn't have otherwise.