Working as Curator

I have rejoined the employed temporarily as I have taken up the post of acting Curator at West Ox Arts Gallery in Bampton, Oxfordshire.  It is only one day a week in theory and I am responsible for hanging and organising exhibitions, producing the publicity and a few other bits and pieces.  It’s actually quite fun and should only be until the summer as I am providing maternity cover for the existing Curator but it has really brought home the issues that maternity benefits throw up for a small business.  The Gallery only employs 2 people and to lose one for up to year but not be able to fill the post makes life really difficult.  Don’t mistake me; I have children and I used the advantages that maternity laws offered but it does seem to me that it might be more sensible to have slightly different rules for large and small companies.  Apparently we are a) not allowed to ask the curator whether or not she wants to come back until she is ready to tell us (within a certain time frame which is I think a year) and b) any decision she makes in the meantime she can revoke so, even if she says today that she does not want to come back, she can change her mind and the job must be available.  Can this really be correct?  Because if it is it seems incredibly patronising – a woman six months after she has had her baby is still not sufficiently in her right mind to make a decision as to whether or not she wishes to go back to work!  Really?!  Ok – just a small rant and now it is over…

…meantime my lovely new Polymetaal etching press is still sitting waiting for me in my studio…

Exhibitions coming up

It feels a lot like autumn already with the nights starting to draw in.  I have noticed quite a few really interesting exhibitions coming up so thought I would share them: close to home (for me anyway) there is ‘Bacon and Moore’ at the Ashmoleum, Oxford which looks to be fascinating.  I have been doing quite a bit of stonecarving over the summer so am looking at sculpture with whole different eyes!  That one runs from 12 Sept to 19 Jan.  Then at the Royal Academy from 26 October is an exhibition of Daumier’s work; his washy monochrome atmospheric paintings are a joy!  And the V&A are running a ‘Masterpieces of Chinese Painting’ also from October 26 which I imagine will be drawing on pictures from the vaults and should be really interesting.

Then I must not leave out (as I am now a Trustee and have been involved in the organisation) our very own West Ox Arts in Bampton is putting on an exhibition of costumes from Downton Abbey throughout September.  Bampton Gallery has lost grants this year because of the local council cuts so are trying to raise some funds with this exhibition which is a paid entry.  Bampton is the outside film location for Downton Abbey and Carnival Films have lent us the costumes as a thankyou for putting up with them.  Hopefully it will be a huge success and put some money in the coffers so we can continue supporting the arts locally.

Anybody gets to any of these exhibitions before me, I would love to know what you think!  In the meantime, I am off to Andalucía in early September for a pastels holiday.  I haven’t ever done one of these before and am really looking forward to it.  To be able to just paint all day with no chores hanging over you feels like a real indulgence.  Can’t wait!

Artsweek coming up fast: private view 10 May at Longcot

We are all gearing up – well, panicking really – for Artsweek which we hang next Tuesday, ready for Private View on Friday afternoon.  It is exciting to hang a new show always and a little bit daunting because until we have everyone’s work in the room, it is difficult to imagine how it will shape up.  This year Shelagh Baxter is showing with Emma and I, which should be fun.  So let’s hope the sun shines and we get lots of visitors.

One lovely thing that is going to happen is that the beautiful church in Longcot will be open and full of flowers, and a window is going to be decorated for each of the artists working in Longcot.  Shirley (flower arranging artist extraordinaire!) is organising this and I can’t wait to see the result.  How amazing!  I never thought I would see my name in flowers…what else? I am off to Harris Manchester College this evening to a Private View of a whole group of linocut artists – Laura Boswell, Ian Phillips to name just two.  Their work is quite beautiful and expands your view of the boundaries of linocut as a medium.  Anybody in the Oxford area – go and see their show because I can guarantee you will love it!  and that is before I have been!  Signing off now…things to do, pictures to frame, labels to type…

Happy New Printmaking Techniques!

Photo Polymer Gravure etching

Helen Pakeman Looking Out
Photo Polymer Gravure etching 260 x 180

2013 is going to be a good year – I can feel it in my bones. I have come and gone from the studio space in Witney – an experiment that didn’t work. It was too far to travel and I simply didn’t spend enough time there. Worth a try. So I have retrenched back to my artroom upstairs. Signed up for a couple of courses which is quite exciting. And just agreed to a couple of joint exhibitions; more of that later. I always find it helpful to have some kind of deadline ahead of me to keep me focussed and panicking!
I have booked further time at Rabley Print Workshop where I am learning Photo Polymer Gravure, yet another printmaking process: a kind of photographic etching – it gives amazingly detailed tonal values. I made a very simple etching plate last term which worked really well (illustrated above). This will form the background as if looking out through a window, then I will add a foreground, as yet undecided…still thinking it through. So this term I have leapt in with a much more tonally complicated photo of a wave breaking and am trying to convert that; ummm…not going so well…but early days. I have decided to do a workshop with Martin Grymmer who is the master of this printmaking technique. In the meantime I will learn as much as I can and prepare my list of questions.
I have also booked in with Christine Russell for some tuition in pastels – I have played about with them a little and love the effects so could just do with a bit of help from an expert. Christine is a member of the Royal Pastel Society, general winner of prestigious prizes and all round good egg (so I am told). Really looking forward to meeting and working with her.
So lots to look forward to and lots to learn, as always.
Today the weather is snowy and it suddenly occurs to me that the world outside is beautifully converted to black and white: make some pictures and print in white on black paper for snowy scenes. Just off to catch some pics before the light goes…once a printmaker…

Mondrian and Nicholson @CourtauldGall

Some personal thoughts on the pairing of Mondrian and Nicholson at the Courtauld Gallery: to start with, I had not realised that the two artists knew each other well and had for a time neighbouring studios in Hampstead.
Both artists were clearly influenced by cubism – how could they not be? – but they have arrived in completely different places. Mondrian’s work has the fire of evangelical zeal and a belief that art can still change the world (when did we lose that?). He has reduced and reduced to arrive at the purest of geometrical one dimensional shapes and lines. I get none of that zeal from Nicholson whose work is softer, and by no means flat. His feels more individual, it would sit more comfortably in a room where the light changes, and the shadows of the reliefs would alter accordingly. Mondrian, by comparison, is concerned with notions of the universal, with de Stijl and furniture such as Gerrit Rietveld’s most uncomfortable looking chair.
The work of Nicholson’s that I love most is his later drawings of the 1970’s with line drawings over oil washes of scribbly colour and it feels like a very natural progression. Mondrian died in 1944; would he have progressed on to something different from his grids I wonder?
It was a really thoughtful pairing so thankyou to the Courtauld. Definitely worth a visit.
PS If you do go – don’t forget to slip in to the Renaissance room on your right as you go towards the ticket desk. Such exquisite paintings and carvings!