Mead Gallery: Imagining a University
I visited Warwick University’s Mead Gallery yesterday to see the exhibition, Imagining a University: Fifty Years of The University of Warwick Art Collection, which closes on Sat 20th June.
To quote the website:
The exhibition opens with the modernist utopia of the early University where the great colourfield paintings were hung like flags for the new, egalitarian age. It looks at how prints were bought to respond to ideas of a community in the 1970s, humanising the campus. In the 1980s, both the University and the collection were rewired by a new phase of development that included the creation of the Mead Gallery, while at the millennium, commissions sought to redefine public art in the context of a university. In the twenty-first century, the University Art Collection has many roles: delivering teaching, learning and research; introducing thousands of children and their families to the University; providing work experience for students and opportunities for artists; developing a sense of place and identity for the campus; initiating and extending discussions with its many audiences.
It really is a wonderful snapshot of the last fifty years of art. I’m no art critic so I’ll just pick out a few of my favourites. The following pics were taken on my camera phone so are distorted, possibly blurry and with reflections of me, lights and everything else around me: the works themselves are glorious so do go and see the real thing.
The entrance to the exhibition shows three vice-chancellor portraits, of which, the Portrait of Dr Clark Brundin by Maggi Hambling (1993) was my favourite:
Next up were a set of abstracts playing with colour and shape, two of which were 1.3.66 by John Hoyland (1966) and Orange and Lemon with Whites: April 1965 by Patrick Heron (1965). I love the leftover pencil marks in Heron’s painting: the colours seeming to flow away from their originally intended shapes.
Next up, possibly my favourite of all the paintings in the show, The Marvellous House by Albert Herbert (1963).
and a highlight:
It really is the most wonderful abstract idea of a house and what it means to be a house. And this from an artist I’d not heard of before.
An artist I have seen before and admired was George Shaw. I love his ability to take ordinary urban scenes and render them with a heartfelt passion. This one was Scenes from the Passion: The Swing (2002-3). Apologies for the poor photograph; enamel medium does not photograph well.
I am currently doing a course at Attenborough Arts Centre (formerly Embrace Arts) in Leicester, with Peter Clayton, called The Sensual Garden and last week we were looking at abstracting lines and shapes from the garden. I was reminded of the course looking at Lost Heap by Clare Woods (2010) in which pools and their reflections in the landscape have been abstracted into this wonderful Oil and Enamel painting on Aluminium.
and a couple of highlights:
It wonderfully illustrates the themes of pattern and rhythm that Peter was trying to get us to demonstrate in our drawings on the course.
My second favourite painting was Larkstoke by Mary Riley (2005). The mark making and brush work on this muted work is quite superb: a beautiful evocation of place.
and highlights (can you tell I really liked it?):
The exhibition had a good selection of prints as well. There was a wall of 35 of them for which there was a handout listing the artist and title of each print but not the technique or date or anything else: the only part of the presentation of the show I was disappointed with.
The two I liked best were Boy with Goat by Julian Trevelyan and Pollarded Trees by Robert Tavener (the first above the second on the left of the last pic).
Other prints were within the rest of the show. One brilliant example of a heavily embossed etching was Composition by Garth Evans (1971).
And I also loved a set of twelve really well executed etchings from the portfolio Twelve Objects, Twelve Etchings by Rachel Whiteread.
This was a great exhibition. I only wish I’d been able to go and see it earlier so that I had time to go back and see it over again. If you haven’t seen it yet, do make the time to go before it ends next week.