“The Storm Cloud” & “50 Works by 50 British Women Artists 1900-1950”

York Art Gallery have an exhibition of Ruskin’s drawings of the Lake district , Switzerland and Venice compared with Turner’s paintings of the same places . There is also a small selection of some of Ruskin’s later daguerrotypes of Switzerland . Interestingly there are also some contemporary commissioned ink drawings and cyanotypes by Emma Stibbons RA of the same places in Switzerland showing the increasing effects of climate change .


Showing 2 ink drawings


Glacier des Bossons – cyanotype

Ruskin did some quite good drawings and water colours but it isn’t quite right to call him an artist alongside Turner (” two major artists…”) – he never described himself as one and apparently didn’t sell anything . He was a critic and what would now be called an Art theorist , that is he had firm opinions on what was or wasn’t any good and was quite happy to tell artists what they should be doing  . I think it is often forgotten that in his time gentlemen and ladies were taught drawing as they were taught handwriting – and a very good thing too ! Here are some watercolours from Ruskin & Turner to compare :

Ruskin ‘Near Interlaken’ 1870

JMW Turner Lake Constance 1842








Ruskin of course famously wrote ” The Stones of Venice” after “Modern Painters” and carried on the tradition of loving the decay etc . Of the buildings he only liked the Gothic by which he meant 14C & 15C – maybe he mentions later or earlier (St Mark’s !) in the book but the excellent hand drawn illustrations shown don’t feature any . Apparently although he visited twice with his wife he studiously avoided the opera , masked balls , firework displays etc. No wonder she left him .

Venice: Santa Maria della Salute, Night Scene with Rockets circa 1840 JMW Turner

Another Turner in this exhibition which I liked :

Evening – Fountains Abbey

You can’t see at this size but it contains 2 figures , a painter and a fisherman . Apparently they are both Turner himself , at work and at play .

All the Turners here are either watercolours or fairly early oil paintings when there were still visible buildings , people , mountains . I had been more familiar with the more abstract &/or ‘Impressionist’ paintings so I appreciated the different opportunity . This exhibition is on until the 23rd of June .

The 50 British Women Artists are showing until 27 July at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery of Leeds University . First here are most of my favourites :

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004) Studio Interior (Red Stool , Studio), 1945

Mary Adshead (1904-1995) Portrait of Marjorie Gertler 1931

Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) Tree Anatomy 1942

Phyllis Dodds (1899-1995) Prudence on Pegasus  1937-8










Amy Gladys Donovan (1898-1984) Self-portrait , 1926

Winifred Knights (1899-1947) Edge of Abruzzi; Boat with 3 people on a lake , 1924-30









Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) Amy , 1928


Edith Grace Wheatley (1888-1970) The China Cupboard , 1910









I should say that there were some sculptures , mixed media, drawings and quite a few prints using various techniques as well as paintings . There was very little information other than in the catalogue so I had to buy it . £10 is not an unreasonable price and it was full of biographical & historical information , extra illustrations , and very individual appreciations of each work – I only wish it had been a hardback when I could have more easily scanned pages ! 2 things I had not really considered before ; that women who had been to Art School in this era (however talented and acknowledged as such) could not teach in them so had to teach in primary or secondary schools instead and secondly that men’s surnames were a curse . Note that Winifred Nicholson was married to Ben Nicholson and Nancy Nicholson (also in this exhibition) was his sister . Barbara Hepworth also married him and is better known – was this because she had a different name ?

I am going to see both of these again – they are quite wonderful .

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Leonardo da Vinci & Renée So

More exhibition reports :

The Royal collection of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci are being toured round Great Britain – well some of them in some galleries . Apparently they were bought by Charles 1 – so he was also a good collector but a bad king (to paraphrase…) Unfortunately the dim lighting necessary to help preserve these does render them very difficult to see and if you want to read the lengthy explanations of what you are peering at it is even worse . I gave up quite soon with sore eyes . I recommend an illustrated book eg  The Folio Society’s new 3 volume edition of Leonardo’s notebooks https://www.foliosociety.com/uk/the-notebooks-of-leonardo-da-vinci.html 

Renée So is an Australian trained artist now based in London who currently has an exhibition (8 March – 2 June)at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds called ‘Bellarmines & Bootlegs’ .













The top 2 pieces are in unglazed clay . The bottom left piece is machine knitted & the one on the right is a tile panel .

The title of the exhibition (other than being alliterative) refers to a few of her sculptures and a knitted piece where the figure has a boot for a head . Bellarmines were a type of saltglazed stoneware jug or bottle with male faces or figures stamped at the neck which were commonly made in Europe in the 15th-18th centuries . There are a lot still around and even in use as they resist breakage more than earthenware and cannot wear out in a mere few hundred years or be corroded by what is put in them .

The exhibition write-ups all say that her work is influenced by them as well as by Assyrian portrait sculpture – with rather fanciful parallels to the Ishtar gate of Babylon . Of course they also say she is influenced by advertising & cartoons – without such mentions she would hardly be exhibited in such a prestigious and consciously contemporary gallery . Or so says this aging cynic .

I do like her work and would like to see earlier textiles of hers but I did wonder how a ceramic and textile exhibition made it into this gallery at all . And contrariwise I wondered if her work would or could ever be seen in the appropriate ‘craft’ spaces eg the Knitting & Stitching show or a Crafts Council exhibition . From what I could find out she certainly does the knitted pieces herself  – with a 1970s machine & by hand . I assume she does the clay pieces by hand as well since most are unglazed with a few apparently painted with metallics . Or since most of the unglazed ones are black she could have fired them on reduction with the metallic effect produced afterwards by liquid lustres at a low temperature in an oxidising fire . Certainly none are saltglazed which requires a high temperature kiln with a special chimney and permission to release chlorine gas into the atmosphere !  This is the sort of detail which interests potters and also means we would not see her work as overly influenced by those jugs . The bearded men turn up on every type of European ware of the time including blue & white Delftware or English slipware . Their use in magic is made much of but many clay vessels are broken in such rituals and so would not survive whereas these would not be used for that role (see above) .

I definitely recommend it and will be seeing it again .









Posted in ceramics, Figurative sculpture images, non-figurative scupture, other artists, Textiles | 10 Comments

Update on the not actually mythical studio .

I am told that every post should have an eyecatching illustration but here is actual information instead . On Saturday am my partner drove me to a potter’s studio 13 miles outside York where we live . She had emailed via Northern Potters that she was having to sell up due to ill health and had indicated some of the stuff available . I rang up and arranged to go and have a look . I then spent some time researching prices – both 1st and 2nd hand – online . I decided that I was not interested in her kilns which only fired to 1100 deg C and 1250 deg C – it is always advised to have a kiln that will go higher than your usual temperature – but that I was very interested in her slabroller and in any hand tools . In my experience you can never have too many – and it still rankled that I had lost one of my favourites at the Leeds College of Art class when throwing on the wheel .

In the event we couldn’t find it despite an address including postcode and a damn’ satnav ! And I didn’t bring her tel. No – how daft can you be ? Now Google think my password is insecure because I tried to retrieve the relevant email via my partner’s mobile . On the other hand it was pretty countryside and sunny .

In the event it has concentrated my mind on the minimum I need to get a studio operational again . I plan to buy a new kiln – a toploader like my last one but bigger . Toploaders are usually built in cylindrical form or sometimes with an oval cross-section . They are very thermally efficient partly because they only open at the top and partly because without corners they are less prone to cool spots . I also tend to make rounded rather than squared off shapes – even with slabs – so that makes them easier to pack . They are often recommended for ‘lady potters’ but then I am short ! I also looked at slabrollers .

This is a tabletop model . It is a bit like a mangle if you imagine only one roller and a base for it to roll on rather than 2 rollers . The clay is flattened for later cutting into tiles , draping on moulds , or partial drying before assembly like cardboard . I thought I would roll everything by hand with guide sticks but it is a bit of a killer if you have to do a lot of clay at once . I’ve asked my son if he could make one for less than the £640 being asked for the above . If not I will just have to do some weight training……. As to hand tools I do wish I had gone to the workshop on making your own while still at Harrogate College !

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2 exhibitions at York Art Gallery

On until 24 February 2019 is

For those unfamiliar with his work this is the unmistakeable Quentin Blake , illustrator extraordinaire . This was a small exhibition just of his various versions of  “The Big Friendly Giant” illustrations as done for various editions of the book . (He curated it himself) . I was interested to see that he uses , by preference , a black drawing pen which he describes as ‘scratchy’ ! A video explained how he has 2 tables , one for drawing and the other for colour . First he draws in pencil and then puts the drawing in a lightbox with a new sheet of paper on top for the ink work . He described this as not tracing but just knowing where things have to go .

On until 12 May 2019 is “Lucie Rie : ceramics and buttons” .

She is much better known for this kind of thing –

I have admired her work since I first saw b&w photographs of it and even more when I heard that she always used an electric kiln and painted on her glazes . I didn’t understand how that was ‘allowed’ within British studio pottery ! I gradually learnt various answers to that . Firstly she wasn’t British . An Austrian refugee , she had been trained in Vienna within a modernist aesthetic but was also always influenced by the Roman pottery her uncle , an archaeologist , unearthed and collected . This shows up in her skill with abrupt changes of direction and her fondness for sgraffito decoration . Surprisingly neither Bernard Leach nor William Staite Murray were able to see anything in her work . She must have been very strong to survive as a maker at all faced with her pots having ‘no humanity’ and being fired in a ‘dead’ kiln (ie electric) or being asked when she was ‘going to start making pots’ . I understand Leach , at least , came round later . However I find it difficult to see why – the development of her work is not in the direction he approved of .

The buttons were designed and made during wartime austerity to begin with and effectively within a small ‘factory’ run by Rie . All decorated  ‘inessential’ ceramic ware was prohibited from 1942 so this was a replacement earner – and much more lucrative . It continued until 1955 .



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The Knitting & Stitching Show (Harrogate UK)

I went to this the Saturday before last (24th November) . It is a huge selling and exhibiting event which is held in 4 places every year & Harrogate is always one of them . I actually last went to it more than 10 years ago so it has changed quite a bit . It used to be a wonderful place to get serious textile art supplies including combed fleece for spinning and felting , many kinds of dyes including hard-to-get effective natural dyes and raw materials generally . Now the leaning is towards kits , particularly those where you need to have nothing else whether appropriate tools or any creative input whatsoever .The textile equivalent of painting by numbers – for children . Given the name of the show it was surprising that most stalls seemed to expect people who could neither knit nor sew nor even choose wools or thread by themselves . There was even one stall where a woman passed by saying to her friend “I didn’t come here to buy clothes !” . I know what she meant . I was actually tempted by some 3rd world earrings but remembered in time what I was there for !

The second thing they always have had at K & S were wonderful textile art galleries . These were well worth it . As usual I was interested in some individual artists and the Quilter’s Guild and Royal School of Needlework displays . I found a lot of the Embroiderer’s Guild work disappointing this year . To my mind it was less embroidery and more let’s show how much we can make stitch look like ‘real’ art . When this is basically copying contemporary work on fashionably distressing subjects – dementia , anorexia nervosa – the result adds unoriginality to stuff most don’t enjoy seeing in the first place . The other subject which has been de rigueur this year is WW1 . The embroidered hearts were not too bad – I just happen to dislike the heart shape – but the memorials to soldiers in the form of partial uniforms , kitbags , medals , poppies etc. did not seem to be an evocation in the form of embroidery at all . What is so courageous about this ?

Rants over . Here are some images of things I really did love .

Libby Vale’s black on white machine embroidery

She was working on a project about women’s lives . She put out paper for us to contribute words which she will sort and may stitch as commentary on her pictorial embroidery – all , she hopes , to be incorporated in a crinoline which she will make for next year’s 4 exhibitions . She has a website and is on Instagram here . Instagram has more images – the website being a bit sparse generally as yet .

Quilter’s Guild

Firstly this is one of the copies of a 1718 silk quilt which is the oldest in the Guild’s collection and the oldest known dated quilt from England . They showed the original along with various inspired copies . I think this is the one trying to recapture what it looked like 300 years ago with bright colours on a white ground . (The original is now both faded and brownish) .

Next some of the prizewinning modern quilts which I really liked :

This is ‘Harvest Moon’ by Laima Whitty which took 1st prize in the modern category .

This is ‘and the sky danced’ by Jean McLean and took 1st prize in landscape .

This is Cachemire by Sandy Chandler which took the 1st prize in the traditional category .

They were also showing quilted type work from the Studio Art Quilt Association which has headquarters in the US although it describes itself as international and some of the work was certainly by Canadians . They describe ‘art quilts’ as necessarily involving layers of fabric and lines of stitching . Although most of the work shown was framed as pictures are I would regard all of them as textile works . They were showing works on the theme of ‘Concrete & Grassland’ . The original exhibition must have been huge since there were far more on the SAQA website here than we ever saw in Harrogate . Here is a quick flavour :

Electric cooling towers as seen from a train somewhere in the UK by Elizabeth Barton – hence the title “Electric Fields”.

‘Rift’ by Laura A  Jazkowski .

Yes I know I should have shown more images but the quilted ones especially take up a lot of space . Also I should do hyperlinks but they take ages and I often get them wrong . NB the SAQA website is best searched for using full words – otherwise you get endless links to a South African website about qualifications (!)


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Florence & Venice

Well I wanted to go to see the quattrocento masterpieces in the Uffizzi Gallery in Florence and many of my friends had been more than enthusiastic about Venice so we did a 2-centre holiday which was , of course , exhausting .


One of those places everyone should go to – like Paris , Istanbul ? Firstly if you know anything about art history or English literature a lot of what you see will be familiar – the tall buildings with classical proportions neatly plastered and painted in warm colours , the red tiles on the slightly sloping roofs above the many roof gardens/terraces and lifting your eyes further up , the Tuscan landscape so often seen in the background of Renaissance Annunciations & portraits . And yes it looks just as good in real life as in many an English watercolour or as described by Elizabeth Barret Browning . A surprise was that the obviously modern buildings also exhibited classical proportions and thus fitted in and managed to be pleasing to the eye – even concrete blocks of flats . In fact my son said he had not seen so many examples of the Golden Ratio all together before .

Secondly the Uffizzi is (as it boasts) one of the greatest Art Galleries in the world . Of course I went to see the obvious Botticellis ;

Primavera (Spring)

The Birth of Venus

Both of these are bigger than I imagined and luckily were hung high up so that you could see most of each despite being  several feet deep in people listening to tour guides while endlessly taking photos . Anyone would think that there no photographic images available anywhere ! Or silly non-information about these 2 very pagan icons if that is what you want . Most importantly they are so much better in real life than in a reproduction – they are indeed staggering to contemplate . Unfortunately the Uffizzi has no seating where the paintings are , so looking properly (ie for long enough at a time) is difficult . There were many other Botticellis ; my son particularly liked this fresco from a villa –


and I this with yet more pagan/classical references !

Pallas (Athene) & the Centaur

But there were also Fillipino Lippi , Giotto and Uccello’s wonderful battle scene which again was much bigger than I had imagined . Downstairs they had later stuff which was less to my taste – especially a whole room devoted to decapitations ! But also many portraits and Titian’s Venus – beautiful .

If there were no paintings the Uffizzi would be worth a visit for the marble statuary – including Roman originals and the long wide corridors largely housing them (the paintings are in rooms off to the side) . These corridors or galleries also looked a little familiar and then I realised that almost every “country house” I have ever visited in England was trying to imitate the painted ceilings , the inlaid marble floors and the processions of marble statuary…..but the original is just better – or maybe the climates clash too much !


I fear I was less entranced here because oddly it was again familiar . I have read so much in the way of romantic nostalgia for its faded glories and ‘raddled’ beauty and lately also about how it will sink beneath the Adriatic due to faulty engineering or (more likely) climate change , that the dilapidated state of so many buildings was no surprise . Indeed Venice is so obviously largely dependent on tourism that I suspect things are kept at just the right level to ensure romantic decadence but prevent complete disintegration . Me I don’t like decay , sorry .

The most glorious thing I saw in Venice was St Mark’s Basilica and this was unexpected . All the photographic images I had ever seen made it look like a more than usually OTT wedding cake . But , no . In real life it is sumptuous , magnificent and clearly a case of Venice showing off when at the height of its power – but not OTT . If you get the chance spend some time looking carefully at the façade before going inside . They have lovely scale models explaining its building and repair at different times . You can see these by way of stairs which are more reasonable than most English church towers’ – I never did get all the way up St Paul’s ! – and also let you up behind the horses on the façade . But not behind the lion which is St Mark the Evangelist’s symbol and so all over the place . The best reasons for going inside ? The gold mosaics on the walls and inside the domes and the floor which can only be described as marquetry in stone . Some of the sections were put together to produce a trompe l’oeil effect which was positively Escheresque !

And here is Jen-Li Shih’s beautiful stainless steel rhinoceros  which we found in a park near where we were staying . It is currently the Venice Biennale for architecture and a sculpture exhibition was part of it . My partner’s photographs :


Artist’s first page of his website



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July exhibition at The Healing Clinic , Merchantgate , York

2D pieces framed by HJP

These 2 collages and 2 drawings were the only new work shown in the end because I had great difficulty finding stuff I had already made , never mind getting new stuff done !

The exhibition was originally going to be for 2 weeks , then until the end of July – now it is going to be up until someone else books the space or I want to take it down .

Here is the usual stuff I exhibit – looking better than usual in this venue !


Posted in ceramics, Drawings, Plates, Textiles, Uncategorized, Vessels | 2 Comments