“We congratulate Abbot Hall for curating another remarkable exhibition in Kendal” – Richard Dawson

Long-standing supporter of Lakeland Arts, Richard Dawson from Rathbones Kendal, talks about Abbot Hall Art Gallery’s new exhibition, its redevelopment and the importance of ‘giving back’ to the community.

Richard writes: “It’s fantastic to see the Fleming Collection’s masterworks by SJ Peploe, JD Fergusson, George Leslie Hunter and FCB Cadel displayed alongside Lakeland Arts’ own Colourist works for the first time.

“It’s wonderful to see the complementary pieces chosen by the curatorial team, showing how the Scottish Colourists’ innovations spread to influence other artists including Joan Eardley.

“We’d like to congratulate Abbot Hall for curating another remarkable exhibition in Kendal and we look forward to seeing the renovated Abbot Hall in two years’ time.”

Colour and Light presents works by the Scottish Colourists in Abbot Hall’s last major exhibition before it closes for redevelopment. The Scottish Colourists were a group of four painters whose post-Impressionist work had far-reaching influence on contemporary British art and culture.

The exhibition explores not only the ground-breaking artistic achievements of the Scottish Colourists, but for the first time addresses their influence on subsequent generations of Scottish artists and lasting impact on modern British art.

It is a fantastic collection of paintings to go on show before Abbot Hall closes for redevelopment in 2020.

Richard adds: “Rathbones’ Kendal office has continued its support for Lakeland Arts during its new Scottish Colourists exhibition.

“Lakeland Arts has been working on several exciting projects this year including Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories which opened in Spring. It’s also really exciting to hear plans for the upcoming £9.6m redevelopment of Abbot Hall which gets underway in 2020.

“These are all great examples of a forward-thinking organisation with long-term plans to benefit the local community, which has strong parallels with the way Rathbones looks to invest for its clients.

“We look for companies with sustainable investment practices that support and interact with the communities and societies they depend on to ensure their ongoing growth and prosperity.

“What strikes me about something like the Abbot Hall redevelopment, is that while some of the benefits will be immediately obvious—improved accessibility and exhibition spaces for example—the full benefits will manifest over decades.

“By enhancing this already well-respected art gallery we can expect to see even more fantastic exhibitions being brought to the region for future generations to enjoy.

“This investment helps to make Kendal a great place to live and work, which is vital for businesses to thrive. This means more students, talented professionals and entrepreneurs choosing to remain in our local area.

“At Rathbones, all of our clients are long-term investors, endowments and charitable trusts, and families looking to create wealth over many generations. We have long recognised that our investments must factor in the wider, long-term impact on society and the economy. Companies exist in a sustainable social contract with the community: it is the continued flourishing of society that provides the conditions in which wealth can consistently grow over generations.

“For Rathbones, this philosophy manifests on many levels. As a national company, Rathbone Investment Management has engaged for over ten years with the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), which is an international agreement on responsible and sustainable investment practices that contribute to the social good. We hold an A+ PRI rating for Strategy and Governance and have done now for three years. We believe in investing in firms that deliver benefits to the community in their pursuit of returns for their investors.

“Locally at Rathbones Kendal, we also aim to give back to our community where we can. We support local initiatives like Brathay Trust’s Aspiring Leaders Programme, Institute of Directors’ educational and networking events, and Lancashire’s Haffner Orchestra as well as these vibrant exhibitions at Abbot Hall.”

Colour and Light is open now and runs until 1 February 2020. 

 

“I have seen first hand the dramatic retreat of glaciers across the world”

Emma drawing Langdale Pikes 2Artist Emma Stibbon’s large monochrome drawings and cyanotype photographs reveal the effects of a warming climate in The Alps.

The Royal Academician reflects on the impact of climate change through powerful new work on display in Abbot Hall’s big summer show Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud.

Visitors can immerse themselves in Stibbon’s stunning drawings created as she followed in the footsteps of two of Britain’s most iconic artists. 

In an exclusive interview Emma talks about what inspired her to follow Ruskin and Turner to the mountains…

How does it feel to bring your amazing works to Abbot Hall Art Gallery?

I’m excited to be showing my work at Abbot Hall as it’s a beautiful venue with an amazing collection. It feels special to be part of this exhibition in Cumbria, where Ruskin spent such a large part of his life. I’ve always loved hiking and drawing in the Lake District and it’s great to have my work on show here.

What is it about Ruskin and Turner that so inspires you?

As an artist Turner is a trailblazer. His extraordinary depictions of grand mountain scenery inspired Ruskin and generations of artists that were to follow. Both Turner and Ruskin have an incredible scrutiny of nature and yet they also have a very personal vision of the world. I think it’s that combination of their observation of what’s ‘out there’ and their imagination that fascinates me.

Why were you so driven to go to The Alps to follow Ruskin and Turner?

I have always loved Turner and Ruskin’s depictions of the Alps. The watercolours and drawings made from their numerous Alpine trips define a new language for the sublime in landscape. In my own work I have seen first hand the dramatic retreat of glaciers across the world. We are living through a period of rapid change and I feel an urge to communicate this through my work. This comes from a realisation that many sites are changing beyond recognition within my lifetime. I made a visit in June 2018 (164 years after Ruskin) to see what remains of the glaciers around the Mont Blanc region.  Exposed at this mid summer period many of these views are now virtually unrecogniseable.

Your photographs show climate change first hand – what was your initial reaction when you reached the same locations as Ruskin/Turner?

Having visited the ‘Mer de Glace’ previously I knew that the glacier had retreated beyond recognition from Ruskin’s 1854 visit when he made his daguerreotype. In Ruskin’s daguerreotype of the Mer de Glace we see, quite literally, a sea of ice flowing past the observation hut at Montenvers. The Mer de Glace valley today presents a dark moraine covered floor, almost completely devoid of ice. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that the glacier has receded massively since my last visit ten years ago.

Do you think society is taking climate change seriously?

We are clearly not taking the action we need to in order to mitigate the dramatic increases in global warming – there is a growing gap between our understanding of climate change and our willingness to take action. 

Emma Stibbon_ Aiguilles, 1520 x 214cms, Indian ink, ground oyster shell on paper 2018 © Emma Stibbon courtesy of Alan Cristea Gallery

(Emma Stibbon_ Aiguilles, 1520 x 214cms, Indian ink, ground oyster shell on paper 2018 © Emma Stibbon courtesy of Alan Cristea Gallery)

What do you think should be done to halt climate change?

We need to consider our place in the world and our actions within it, and that we are responsible custodians for generations to come….that means taking action now! 

Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud is on at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria until 5 October 2019. The exhibition consists of more than 135 works and stretches across six rooms.

“Bringing internationally recognised artists like Grayson Perry to the county is hugely important for our arts scene”

grayson perry portrait, © katie hyams and living architecture
Grayson Perry portrait, © Katie Hyams and Living Architecture

Visitors to Abbot Hall Art Gallery have gone giddy for Grayson Perry’s tapestries.

Julie Cope’s Grand Tour: The Story of a Life by Grayson Perry opened in November and runs until Saturday 16 February.

Exhibition sponsor Rathbones Kendal has continued its longstanding support for Abbot Hall to help bring the exhibition to Cumbria.

Rathbones Director Richard Dawson reflects on the exhibition and on the importance of supporting the arts locally:

“Congratulations to Abbot Hall and Lakeland Arts on another brilliant display. We’ve been pleased to support world-class exhibitions at Abbot Hall since 2011 – bringing the work of internationally recognised artists like Grayson Perry to the county is hugely important for our arts and cultural scene and we are proud to invest in our community this way.

“We’re big admirers of Grayson Perry’s profound and touching works, especially his outstanding documentary series Rites of Passage on Channel 4. This is the first time the Julie Cope tapestries have been exhibited outside House for Essex and it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to see the work of this Turner-award-winning artist locally. I really enjoyed hearing the artist’s own recording of The Ballad of Julie Cope and viewing the tapestries.

“Abbot Hall makes a major contribution to Kendal’s dynamism and vibrancy with one of the best programmes of exhibitions outside London. We also recently had the chance to tour the exciting new Windermere Jetty with Gordon Watson and the team at Lakeland Arts, which is an outstanding addition to the organisation’s offering.

“It’s such an exciting time for Lakeland Arts who are also adding over 30 new staff, with many in post already – we’re looking forward to seeing everything they have in store this year and beyond.

“It’s so important to us in all our sponsorships and community partnerships to help nurture and retain the new generation of talent locally. Lakeland Arts’ educational programme and engagement with schools, colleges and the wider community provides invaluable well-rounded education for young people, ensuring that the local community is engaged with the artwork available on their doorstep.

“This year at Rathbones Kendal we’re also proud sponsors of the Institute of Directors’ programme of educational and networking events, and we have contributed to the Brathay Trust’s Aspiring Leaders programme and supported Lancashire’s Haffner Orchestra. 

“Our company has a long legacy of contributing to our community, especially in education and the arts. Rathbone Brothers sponsors the Rathbones Folio Prize every year to support literary talent, and locally we will support an event at Words by the Water on 15 March with John Simpson.

“Our investment managers across the country run ‘Your Money – Your Future’ Financial Awareness seminars for young people aged 16-25, to help promote financial literacy and empower them to make solid plans for the coming decade.

“I’d like to congratulate Lakeland Arts and Abbot Hall once more on bringing this outstanding exhibition to Kendal and we hope it continues to be a big success as it enters its final month.”

Julie Cope’s Grand Tour: The Story of a Life by Grayson Perry involves two giant tapestries on display at Abbot Hall. Crafts Council acquired the tapestries with Art Fund support (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation).

Julie Cope is a fictional character created by Perry.  She is an Essex everywoman whose story he has told through the two tapestries and extended ballad presented in this Crafts Council touring exhibition.

You can view the Grayson Perry tapestries at Abbot Hall until Saturday 16 February 2019.

Find out more about Rathbones Kendal.

 

 

“Once paintings leave the studio they take on their own life…” Alison Watt

Visitors to Abbot Hall Art Gallery have found spiritual and calming qualities in works by Alison Watt.  Her painting exhibition A Shadow on The Blind has wowed art critics and visitors alike.

With one month to go before the exhibition closes, Alison took time out to speak about the show, the relationship she has with her paintings, the importance of light and shadow and how there is never enough time…

We have had some beautiful autumn and winter days when the light streams in from outside into your exhibition. Is there ever an ideal time to see A Shadow on The Blind?

Natural light is always changing and it is beautiful to witness those changes. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to uncover the windows at Abbot Hall. Depending on the light, the physicality of the paintings becomes more evident, they almost seem to vibrate. My studio in Edinburgh is flooded with light and this has an affect on my paintings as they appear to take on their own life as I work on them. Depending on the light in the room, their character can change and I love that; the fact that they can’t be controlled. I am fascinated by light and by how it is determined by darkness. A painting lives out its life in the light but without light, there is no shadow and without shadow there is no form. Light is part of a painting’s very substance.

Your paintings have been on show at Abbot Hall since October. Does your relationship with the works change over time?

One’s relationship with a painting is constantly changing. When you create a body of work in the studio, the paintings will form relationships with each other. It’s a strange experience to be surrounded by the physical manifestations of your ideas. Once they leave the studio, they begin to take on their own life. A life that is quite separate from you. There is a sadness in that because part of you exists within the paintings, so you lose something of yourself when they go. I always feel bereft when my paintings leave the studio. But then the idea that someone, often someone you have never met, might engage with something you have made is an extraordinary thing. I am always amazed by that.

Have you had any interaction with visitors on gallery, what reactions have you had to the works?

I have visited Abbot Hall several times since my work was installed and each time I’ve been approached by visitors to the exhibition. The wonderful thing about painting is that every painting has a different meaning to the person who looks at it. I think we all have something within us – an urge to search for recognition within art and then follow that up with our own interpretation. It’s part of the human condition I think. I’ve had some fascinating conversations. Conversations which start off being about my paintings, but become conversations about us. I think we love looking at paintings because we love looking at ourselves.

Alison Watt in her studio
Alison Watt in her Studio. Courtesy of the artist and Parafin, London. Photo by John McKenzie.

One visitor wrote that the paintings have a ‘calming, spiritual quality’. Do you feel that way when you paint them?

Making a painting has both conscious and unconscious elements to it. You become lost in the process itself, with your conscious thinking surrounding that. You often make a painting in order to understand why you wanted to make it. I can look at a painting I made 30-years-ago and still wonder about it. Making (and looking at) a painting is like having a conversation. It’s something that passes back and forth. It doesn’t settle. My paintings come from inside. Part of me doesn’t want to describe that feeling, and part of me doesn’t know how to. I feel very strongly that painting is unique as a medium. It appeals directly to the senses, possessing an irresistible quality that can’t be replicated by any other means. And that is what gives it its power.

Do you get ever feel sad towards the end of a show. Or is it on to the next exhibition…

Yes I do feel sad because a body of work encapsulates a particular time. I had a retrospective a few years ago. I saw paintings that I hadn’t seen for decades and the experience was not dissimilar to listening to a piece of music you haven’t heard for a long time: you are taken back to a particular time and a particular place and you remember how you felt. Increasingly, as I get older, I feel there is never enough time- there’s always a sense of urgency about making work. I’m always pushing on to the next thing. I feel I am always seeking something that is just out of my reach. That is the driver, to make better work.

Alison Watt: A Shadow on the Blind is on at Abbot Hall Art Gallery until 2 February 2019.

alison-watt-abbot-hall-01

 

Rodin and Scotland: A Love Affair

Abbot Hall Art Gallery is currently showing one of Auguste Rodin’s best-known works – The Thinker is on show until 27 October. The iconic piece is on loan from the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. Pippa Stephenson, Curator of European Art, Glasgow Museums, explains how Scotland swooned for sculptures by the French artist:

Pippa

Auguste Rodin is a well-known and widely-appreciated artist, with exhibitions springing up worldwide, particularly in the wake of last year’s centenary since his death. However, it wasn’t always that way.

It took France, in particular, a surprisingly long time to appreciate the artist’s naturalistic and unorthodox approach to sculpture. The first public monument to the ‘Father of Modern Sculpture’ was not erected in France until 1904, indicative of the country’s reluctance to embrace his art.

Scotland, however, developed a somewhat earlier appreciation for Rodin. Examples of the artist’s work were shown at the 1888 Glasgow International Exhibition, a time when public opinion of Rodin’s reputation was still out to jury (by 1900, with the artist’s seminal exhibition in Paris, his worldwide reputation was firmly established).

In 1906, the artist received an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University. He gifted a bust, Saint George’ to Glasgow’s Hunterian Art Gallery in return, a token of his affection for the city. Recently, letters between Rodin and Francis Newbury, the visionary founder of the internationally-famous Glasgow School of Art, have been unearthed in the archives of the GSA. These few letters confirm that the pair were in dialogue around 1901, with Rodin asking Newbury to report on how his sculptures were being received in the Glasgow International exhibition of that year.

Recognising Rodin’s importance, Glasgow Museums bought two works from that exhibition, a plaster cast of ‘Saint John the Baptist’, and a cast of the ‘Burghers of Calais’.

It was the actions of William Burrell, however, which gave Glasgow its particularly special relationship with Rodin. Burrell was the owner of a successful shipping business, and took a keen interest in art, amassing an internationally-significant collection of over 9000 objects.

The collection opened to the public in 1983, and is currently undergoing extensive renovation, due to reopen in 2020. In the course of his lifetime, Burrell bought at least 14 bronzes by the artist, all of which are in the collection today. This gives Glasgow the second largest collection of Rodin’s in the UK (after the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the recipient of 17 sculptures gifted by Rodin himself in 1914), and one of the largest worldwide in a public collection.

Burrell’s first purchase, probably ‘Fleeting Love’, was made before 1901, which he lent to the aforementioned Glasgow International Exhibition. Photographs of Sir William’s Glasgow townhouse at 8 Great Western Terrace show Rodin bronzes on display alongside medieval tapestries and Northern European Renaissance paintings.

He bought these sculptures from local dealers including Alexander Reid, as well as directly through the Musee Rodin, Paris. He collected sculptures by Rodin up until 1937, including important pieces such as ‘The Thinker’, which is part of the British Museum spotlight tour, on display at Abbot Hall Art Gallery Kendal until 27 October.

More on the exhibition at http://www.abbothall.org.uk/rodin

Rodin and the intriguing logics of the fragment

by Barbara Vujanović

Abbot Hall is the first gallery in the country to host an amazing Spotlight Loan exploring how Auguste Rodin took inspiration from the fragments of ancient Greek and Roman statues. Barbara Vujanović, who conceived the loan, explains how it came about:  

Sometimes things in life (and work) fall into place so flawlessly and easily, like pieces of a well adjusted mosaic.

The story behind my involvement with the British Museum, and working on the exhibition Rodin: rethinking the fragment seems to be one of those examples.

In 2015, I had the pleasure to co-author the retrospective of Auguste Rodin in Zagreb. Working with my colleagues from the Musée Rodin, namely with Véronique Mattiussi, enabled me to expand my knowledge on one of the greatest modernisers of sculpture.

I am dealing with the art of the Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, an artist who was marked by Rodin’s art and his friendship, and I became more and more interested in their mutual passion for antique and classical art. In fact, this is the subject of my PhD research, so I was very happy to meet Ian Jenkins, Senior Curator at the British Museum and an expert on Ancient Greek sculpture, in 2015 in Zagreb, just a few months after seeing his marvellous exhibition at The British Museum, Defining beauty – the body in ancient Greek art.

At the time he was preparing the project of the exhibition Rodin and the art of ancient Greece, and our interests on antique and modern sculpture overlapped, Ian Jenkins kindly proposed me for the British Museum’s International Training Programme. The six weeks I have spent in London and in Manchester in 2016 were an incredible experience.

Working with Ian Jenkins and his colleague Celeste Farge, co-author of the aforementioned exhibition on Rodin and antique art, turned me towards a challenging subject of the antique fragmentary sculpture influence on modern artist, mostly on Auguste Rodin.

Therefore, when I was invited to conceive a Spotlight Loan exhibition, with the help of my dear mentors, Ian and Celeste, I was naturally driven to the question of fragments.

Not only was it one of the themes of the Rodin exhibition at The British Museum, but also the very nature of the Spotlight Loan programme, which is based on the selection of just a small number of objects, turned me toward the intriguing logics of the fragment.

How one part or an object invokes another one, how one fragment can change our perception of the whole? I was thrilled to make the selection for this exhibition, but what excites me even more, is the anticipation of other fragments, pieces of the mosaic which will be added at Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

Barbara Vujanović by Rodin's The Thinker
Barbara Vujanović by Rodin’s The Thinker

I am very keen to learn about Rodin’s influences on Elisabeth Frink’s art. I believe that we, the curators, can provide the best projects once we understand we are all part of this large mosaic of knowledge, passion for art, culture and history.

I am looking forward to seeing those other pieces of the mosaic in Kendal, and I am hoping they will lead us towards some new experiences and discoveries.

Barbara Vujanović, Senior Curator, The Ivan Meštrović Museums – Meštrović Atelier, Zagreb.

Auguste Rodin: rethinking the Fragment, is now open until 27 October. https://www.abbothall.org.uk/rodin

Elisabeth Frink Fragility and Power, runs until 29 September. https://www.abbothall.org.uk/elisabethfrink

Barbara Vujanović will visit Abbot Hall on 27 September and give a talk: Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker: revolutionising modern art. To book https://www.abbothall.org.uk/rodinandhisinfluences.

Image: Auguste Rodin, The Thinker, 1880-81, The Burrell Collection © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

Frink’s work: an unflinching expression of the human condition

By Jo Baring, Director of The Ingram Collection

Dame Elisabeth Frink is one of Britain’s best known artists of the twentieth century, producing over 400 sculptures during the course of her career.

Frink grew up in Suffolk during the Second World War, and famously witnessed bombers fighting in the skies above her, or returning to the base in flames. These images stayed with her, and in her work she explored the close and complex connection between heroism and failure.

One of her central pre-occupations was an investigation into what it means to be human. She asked herself fundamental questions concerning human behaviour.  She said that her concern was “not that mankind is any worse that it was; it is just that it is as bad as it was”.

Frink was drawn to the idea of the male as a flawed and vulnerable hero and, when depicting the human figure, she nearly always chose the male. Her work explored human strength, struggle, aggression, fragility and vulnerability.  She saw her work as an unflinching expression of the human condition. Her art was ambitious – it was not simply to look ‘nice or pretty’.

“Nearly all people have a private world. I escape into my studio and put my fantasies into solid form, into sculptural form. I have an ambition to be a good sculptor. I think one has to be ambitious. I want to be able to give the idea, the crystallisation, the satisfactory sculptural form without it being mere forms which look nice. I want it to have an impact on people who look at it without it being dramatic or melodramatic.”

Elisabeth Frink, Riace III sculpture
Elisabeth Frink, ‘Riace III’, 1986 in Abbot Hall Art Gallery. Courtesy of The Ingram Collection of Modern British Art.

One of the most powerful examples of this ambition is Riace III, lent by the Ingram Collection to Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power. Frink was fascinated by the discovery of some fifth-century BC Greek bronze sculptures in the sea off Calabria in Southern Italy in the 1970s and she later saw them on display in Florence. She wanted to make new versions of these sinister warriors, finding their ‘thuggishness’ inspiring: “Thuggishness is a bit of a pre-occupation with me. It all hinges on my humanitarian sentiments…making new versions seemed like a marvellous idea, one that I really wanted to tackle.”

Her modern versions of the Riace Warriors are potent & alert vessels of muscle and sinew. There is also a fundamental ambivalence to the figures – they are clearly about to bust into movement, but which direction? They are also neither obvious forces of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ – rather they are humans, with all the associated complexity of character and motive.

Because Frink worked resolutely in the figurative tradition and stuck to the qualities of bronze when other contemporary sculptors were investigating new materials, such as painted steel and aluminium, she has certainly been critically overlooked in the past.

But there has recently been a long-overdue reappraisal of her work, culminating in a number of recent exhibitions. Fragility and Power at Abbot Hall is an important and timely exploration of a celebrated creative output.

See Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal until 29 September 2018. More information at www.abbothall.org.uk/elisabethfrink