Month: July 2019

Age is Just a Number, at Zuleika Gallery

The current summer exhibition at Zuleika Gallery in Masons Yard ( features the work of four (co-incidentally all female) artists, of whom the oldest (Katherine Hyndman) is 91 and the youngest (Alyssa Dabbs) is 21.  Three out of four of the artists were present at the opening party when I took the opportunity to talk to them. Their work is very different in style but is of uniformly high quality: red dots began to appear as the evening went on.

Frances Aviva Blane produces work (top image) in the abstract expressionist tradition and its subjects tend to be based on the disintegration of paint and personality, causing one to question exactly what the marks may mean or more pertinently cause one to feel. She’s in distinguished mid career, won the Jerwood Prize for Drawing in 1999 and been widely exhibited in several countries including Germany and Belgium. In 2014 her work was shown alongside alongside exhibitions of Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois, at Deconstruct in Belgium.

Katherine Hyndman (central image) produces largely geometric work based on arithmetical proportions and sequences, distributing motifs, shapes and colours in harmonious arrays. She has exhibited widely and internationally. Although there is some superficial resemblance to the work of Bridget Riley I suspect her work is more concerned with achieving harmony and less with challenging the viewers’ perceptions.

Alysssa Dabbs, still in college but well advanced in her craft, produces abstract work on a large scale,with an impressive use of colour and mark making, the latter often achieved by unconventional methods such as working with her own brushes, blindfolded, and with her non dominant hand. Interestingly she quotes Adolph Gottleib as stating, in 1947 that ‘so-called abstraction is not abstraction at all. On the contrary, it is the realism of our time’. She continues “My paintings are a reflection on now, documenting the unconscious, capturing emotions and feelings through choice of colour and expressive mark making. I am continually inspired by the scale of other artists work such as Julie Mehretu and Cy Twombly.” All that said, I was impressed by the use of colour to not only evoke memory and sensation but also, no doubt unconsciously, to create space within the picture plane. For some reason it put me in mind of Ivon Hitchins now showing at Pallant House in Chichester.

The bottom image shows the ceramicist Nadine Bell standing in front of Alyssa’s “Goldfish Bowl” with one of her beautifully formed porcelain vessels. Incredibly light and tactile, their second firing after the biscuit stage often involves the addition of various organic materials and even copper wire to the kiln to produce effects that may best be described as “neither accidental nor controlled”. They are very keenly priced in the mid hundreds of pounds and just about within the indulgent present price bracket.

The exhibition runs until 9th August and is well worth a visit.





Each Month in my Garden: June

I have just realised that with the excitement (and smugness) at having completed the Hundred Day Project I forgot about my garden in June. Luckily I took photos as I realise the garden changes a lot each month at this time of year. The main bed looks positively empty compared with how it is now.

Briefly, the Gladiolus ‘Nanus Nymph’ (another triumph from de Jager Bulbs) were spectacular. The photo doesn’t do them justice at all, partly because it kept raining on them. Next year I shall order lots more and have a striking pink garden in June.


The Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ was planted years ago and I have spent ages trying to get rid of it as it’s a bit of a thug in my one sunny (and small) flowerbed. But the buds are beautiful and I love the way the brilliant flowers swoop above everything else. I think it’s earned its place for another year.

Matilda is taking her gardening duties very seriously; she has almost learnt that she can eat her grasses but nothing else. 

Sadly she hasn’t yet learnt that you shouldn’t stand on plants whilst eating them.






At the time I thought the garden was looking very full, only now, a month later, I realise that at this point it was actually very neat and controlled.


Making Week 1: Cross-over Aprons

I’ve worked out there are twenty-five weeks left of this year so the plan is that I’ll post twenty-five weeks of Making.

I’m writing the Hatchards Christmas Catalogue this week – 207 different ways of saying ‘This book is good, buy it’. The problem is that the books are good and I keep getting too engrossed; the idea is that I skim them to get the feel rather than read the whole thing from cover to cover but that doesn’t work in practice. The upshot is that I’m doing very little making at the moment but I have made a wonderful discovery: cross-over aprons.

I’m quite messy so I tend to wear pinnies for gardening, cooking, painting etc. My friend Louy has lovely ones with cross-over straps at the back rather than a halter neck but I’ve never been able to find nice ones and an internet search of the labels in hers came to nothing. Then, last week, I went to Parsons Green Summer Fair: merry-go-round, smattering of farm animals, home-made cakes galore and a linen stall, with perfect pinnies. I was all set to buy at least two but Sarah, the voice of reason, said ‘one’ and then if I really liked it I could buy, or make, more.

It’s perfect; no bows to come undone and it hangs beautifully. Rather than making or buying more I altered the ones I already have. A very long, very hot wash and they are even almost clean.  As a late-comer to smart phones I haven’t mastered selfies and I think selfies of one’s back view are impossible anyway, but you get the general idea.


The Hundred Day Project Day 100: Three Patchworks and Sixteen Boats

This may not seem a massive output for my fifty days of our joint project but what the project has achieved for me is a change of mindset. Before we did it I was always ‘just about’ to make boats, or finish quilts or draw or paint or sew but something else always got in the way. I have now unearthed my paints, tidied the fabric cabinet, given the sewing machine pride of place and moved ‘making’ up my list of priorities. I still intend to produce one hundred boats and, with this aim in mind, I am going to put up a Making post each week, probably on a Friday. I’d be the first to admit that the project has sometimes been a struggle but I’m so pleased to have done it and I don’t want to lose the discipline I’ve gained. 


The Hundred Day Project Day 99: Patchwork and Buses

Anyone who has lived in London knows that buses travel in packs (or whatever the collective noun for red buses is – perhaps an Entourage). It seems the same is true of patchworks (an Assembly of Patchworks?). Without intending to I finished three patchworks last week and am now quilting and backing them.

This is the part I normally hate: quilting the three layers (patchwork, wadding and backing) together. Having sat on the garden bench briefly yesterday and rediscovered how unforgivingly solid it is, I cannot finish this quickly enough. Padding for the inner of a quilt has never been more aptly named.


The Hundred Day Project Day 98: A Bit Better But Not Good Enough

It would have been nice to have gone out on a high point but no such luck. The shape of poor Cezanne’s skull has subtly morphed as if he had been subjected to some strange oriental binding operation as a baby. The charcoal marked  up changes have upset the balance of the picture and it looks frankly squashed. His ear is now roughly in the right place although a bit big and not very ear like, while his left eye isn’t the same colour as his right one and isn’t looking in quite the same direction as the other. It can all be mended but I’m out of time and this is my last post! 

So the question is, why persist with this when I can turn out much better landscapes and still lives? Stubbornness apart, I think the answer is that I need to be taught; there are many good and reasonably priced courses around and if I haven’t done some practise first then there won’t be a basis for any teaching.

Although many of the images I’ve posted have been unsatisfactory nonetheless completing my half of the project (Jane takes over for the last two posts tomorrow) has been a worthwhile project and a discipline in itself. From time to time, when the results justify it, I may still post further images in the Making section in the hopes I’ll be able to look back and see some progress in say a year’s time.