Outside In: Store Street Gallery

Filed in Reviews by on September 21, 2011

Outside In

Store Street Gallery

19 September to 6 November 2011


Figurative painting may not be fashionable or trendy nowadays but there are still many talented artists who choose to work in this genre. Store Street Gallery is the venue for a very interesting group show, predominantly but not exclusively concerned with landscapes. The works on display at this smart gallery in a pleasantly leafy street tucked away from the bustle of Tottenham Court Road do not have pretensions to being at the cutting edge of the avant-garde and there is little here to shock the hardened contemporary art addict. Instead there is a gentler ride through relatively well-trodden paths and largely familiar vistas.
It is difficult for any artist to compete with the likes of Turner, Constable and Paul Nash, and frankly it is probably best not to try. There are few tricks or twists which have not been seen before and I for one do not believe that the introduction of elements of abstraction, for example, into contemporary figurative art is usually successful. Gimmickry does not work at all well in this field of art. An artist working in this area needs to have a great deal of technical skill and compositional judgement to bring something fresh, original and memorable to the genre.

As one would expect from a group show, this is achieved in differing degrees by the various artists represented. Two artists stood out particularly for me. The first is Marie Mills, whose studies of botanical subjects in their natural habitats combine an exquisite attention to detail with a spontaneity which is surprising given the verisimilitude demanded by the subject matter. Although I loved the work shown here, and the depth of inspiration she derives from the subject matter is obvious, I was left wondering (in a very positive way) about how she might tackle other subjects.

I also greatly admired Terry Watts’ landscapes, which transported me momentarily from the gallery space into the heart of the English countryside. They are unsentimental, perhaps even bleak; but that is what gives them their simplicity and power. Watts’ practice as a photographer is much in evidence in his work’s composition and subject matter.

This exhibition made a pleasant change from my recent diet of contemporary sculpture, installations, film and conceptual art. It is a reminder that there are many good artists working today in the more traditional media who are not trying to inflict upon us the shock and awe or the sardonic cleverness we have come to expect from contemporary art but who continue to show us the beauty, power and joy of nature.




John Kavanagh

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John Francis Kavanagh is the founder and editor of Artists Insight.

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