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Friday, 31 July 2015
By David Newport, Gallery Assistant

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the young gentlemen of means completed their education with a grand tour of Europe. The tour was a mixture of shopping spree, architectural inspiration and opportunity to sow a few wild oats. The proportion of each depended upon the gentleman concerned. Certainly, Byron was more interested in the women of Seville than its architecture. Although, to be fair, the route he took was somewhat restricted by the various wars taking place at the time.

However, the result of most grand tours is evident through the stately homes of Britain and don’t we love them. These homes are stage sets which enable us all to fantasise about a golden age which never really existed. What happens then when these grand tour artefacts are taken out of their homes and placed in a white cube?

The effect is startling. Without taking away from the magnificent workmanship, they now raise questions which we would not normally ask. Why make a silver pilgrim flask which is far too large to be functional? Why would a craftsman spend months creating a wonderful cabinet and then leave the back of it unfinished? With many of these objects the spell cast by their usual environments is stripped away and leaves us with the conceit and deceit of the Baroque.

The artist suggests that we start in Gallery 3; a gallery which provides a surreal view of Chatsworth’s architecture. The building appears to be swirling around us. The blue walls sport huge CAD illustrations of the famous house, but look closer. The building has been cropped and corrected. This is a 17th century building which has been given a 21st century makeover. A building with a curved façade styled to cover its faults is now a perfectly symmetrical vision: an architect’s dream.

In the middle of all this, is a make-believe room; a room for show not for comfort. The furniture is beautifully made, but its shortcomings become apparent when viewed from this angle.

Photo by Andy Keate

Moving from the dark to the light, the next gallery shows the wealth of the Chatsworth collection through a spectacular display of silverware housed in a faux Grecian temple with mirrors which multiply their images and provide a trompe l’oeil effect which visitors to Chatsworth will recognise. The balance of conceit and deceit is also reflected in the showcase of delftware tulip vases near the window. Their blue oriental decoration on a white ground appear as if they were Chinese porcelain, but they are actually tin-glazed pottery from Holland and their design, while enabling expensive cut flowers to be displayed, also limit their life because of the small amount of water they can hold.

Photo by Andy Keate

The next gallery surrenders the idea of the white cube through the construction of a drawing room in its space. This is the aristocrat’s inner sanctum. These are drawings, paintings and scientific objects of true interest; valued and not just for show. However, even here Pablo Bronstein plays with our senses by exhibiting a detailed and rather beautiful drawing of a set of swaged and tailed curtains which, if you look carefully, are hung on the outside of the window.

Photo by Andy Keate

And finally, Gallery 1 reminds us that even the most powerful, deceitful, and conceited will eventually turn to dust with its references to Ancient Rome’s temples and mausoleums. The theme is echoed by the twice-used Coronation Chairs decaying slowly in the centre of the room. But most of all, this gallery displays Bronstein’s incredibly detailed drawings of the Via Apia re-imagined as a Baroque masterpiece. A journey around these 17 illustrations is surely a most suitable finale to an exhibition that shows our familiar heritage in a different and sometimes unsettling light.

Photo by Hugo Glendinning


Posted by btimmins at 12:06    COMMENTS
Monday, 08 June 2015
By Simon Withers, Artist and Gallery Assistant


Pollock began to write the number five in the lower quadrant of the canvas. For whatever reason he abandoned this particular number and added what looks like a couple of inverted commas. He writes the number again, he tips in the year 1952, then signs the canvas…the signature appears to be written with a thick marker pen, the signature seems awkward…constricted.  


At what point was this particular painting monogramed…and with the autographing of the painting was Pollock signing off a ‘finished’ canvas or simply authenticating his efforts?


By 1952 Pollock had consciously tried to move away from his accustomed style, yet within this painting he appeared to be returning to more familiar territories, the poring of paint over the surface using tools such as glass basting syringes. Over the top of this black canvas he applies a tangled mesh of poured curves and lines, each score seeming to be marking or slashed at the black template beneath. Pollock returned further into his past. He picks up a brush, loads it with paint and commences to add a number of large slabs of colour on to the black painting - the miasma of his former painting vocabulary comes to bear upon this laboured canvas. 


Only a few years previous the porings had lyricism and the painter ‘bopped’ above the surface, he worked with calmness, sobriety and sensitivity. Now conceivably lacking confidence and self-assurance, Pollock may have realised that his energies were spent. Could he ever convince himself that he could draw and paint, or that he could ‘do black’ like Kline?


Pollock continues to set upon the canvas; ’I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image…because the painting has a life of it’s own’. The tension increases as he wrestles between the figure and the ground, between abstraction and representation, between content and technique. The canvas is on the floor; dense black paint is clumsily poured over the bulk of the yellow, white and red slabs. The poured line seem to interlink these blocks of colour. Are they being pulled out of the image by a hook-like form that protrudes out of the bottommost edge of the canvas? Or are these skeins being pulled into a whirlpool, a centrifuge towards the midpoint of the canvas? The qualities of these lines in contrast to the first painting are somewhat crude by comparison. It is possible this painting was reworked over a period of time. 


Pollock up righted the canvas, and taking hold of a thick brush, plunged it into a can of clotting black paint. It is possible that the paint he uses was old stock, even the dregs from the bottom of the can. Finally he cuts to a swathe of paint in the upper-middle of the painting. Loading up the brush once more Pollock daubs the center of canvas with a dark slick, the gesture is determined to signify the effort of the man and his current density. Is it by the hand of the same man?


The slick is beginning to drip; in his final gesture a delicate vermilion wound is positioned close to the center…all is is finished.






In 1961 the painting now known as 'Yellow Islands’ was then titled simply ‘Painting’. The provenance of the work is that Painting went directly from Pollock’s estate to the Tate, via Marlborough Fine Art, London. Marlborough had a show* of Pollock’s work (including “Yellow Islands”) in 1961, which is the year the Friends of the Tate purchased it.


*Jackson Pollock: Paintings, Drawings & Watercolors from the collection of Lee Krasner. June 1961


Simon Withers is an Artist and Gallery Assistant based in Nottingham. 



Posted by btimmins at 16:30    COMMENTS


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