Hats, figures and enigmatic emblems; Pippa Young and others

At the opening of the exhibition Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones at the Victoria and Albert Museum, he is said to have commented;”Hats are a great antidote to what’s going on. It’s really their purpose to put a happy face on a sad world.”

Portrait of a Peasant with a Headdress
Portrait of a Peasant with a Headdress

 

The image or drawing which is shown below has some of the intensity of a realist drawing by, say Kathe Kollwitz. Her naturalism shares the integrity which we associate with Van Gogh. Indeed her second cycle of works concerned the German Peasant War which began in 1525. However, this is not by Kollwtz, who seems to have rarely depicted persons with headdress, but by Tamara de Lempicka.

lempicka The pellucid definition and monumental stocky quality might also have suggested this in her sketch of a Russian peasant. Headgear was a recurring interest for Lempicka.

La Mexicane by Tamara De Lempicka
La Mexicane by Tamara De Lempicka

In Pippa Young’s paintings, http://www.pippayoung.co.uk/Art/Welcome.html which she specifically states are not to be considered as portraits, the headwear seems to confer meaning. It renders significance and gives import. Blank spaces and highly modelled backgrounds add to this general effect. She states, “Often the figures are posed to echo art-historical characters: Mantegna’s Saint Sebastian, or one of Vermeer’s subjects. When context is removed the figures become something else, oddly familiar; occupying an empty pictorial space, free from imposed narrative; timeless and unadorned.”

One theme which appears in the headdress then is a kind of 15th Century Flemish cap which is detailed at http://research.fibergeek.com/category/garbclothing/page/15/

Self Restraint by Pippa Young
Self Restraint by Pippa Young

However, many of the male figures appear with antlers or horns and give the impression of dreams and mythology. There is a wide variety of different meanings which can be attached to such headdress or headgear. They may be symbols of earthy virility or alternatively give a suggestion of darker activities. These matters are discussed at http://spellsandmagic.com/Horns.html and further unusual images of horned masks are at http://www.pinterest.com/susantooker/antler-crowns-and-headdresses/ In some of Pippa Young’s paintings the texture of the headwear or clothing looks rather like thin polythene sheeting and seem, possibly, to suggest environmental concerns.

Tim Thumb
Tim Thumb
Pippa Young

The ornate quality also resembles the exuberance of Chinese ethnic dress as at http://traditions.cultural-china.com/en/15Traditions5963.html.

ghost of a departed Pippa Young
ghost of a departed
Pippa Young
Self Absorbed Pippa Young
Self Absorbed
Pippa Young

Returning to thoughts about horns must remind some of Falstaff in Act 5 of The Merry Wives of Windsor where he is dressed as Herne the Hunter and taunted and humiliated for his bad behaviour. As Shakespeare makes him say earlier in the play,” The Windsor Bell has struck twelve; the minute draws on. Now the hot-blooded gods assist me! Remember, Jove, thou wast a bull for thy Europa, Love set on thy horns- O powerful love that in some respects makes a beast a man, in some others a man a beast!

Pippa Young’s figurative work is finely drawn and the palette which she uses adds to the mysterious and evocative quality in her work. Her present collection can be viewed at the Cornwall Contemporary  Gallery at http://cornwallcontemporary.com/HumanNature.html

Her work is in some respects interesting to contrast with that of Cristina Iotti whose work can be seen at  http://www.cristinaiotti.it/2013-2012/

http://www.cristinaiotti.it/2013-2012/
http://www.cristinaiotti.it/2013-2012/
Covenant by Pippa Young
Covenant by
Pippa Young

The 2013 International Art Fair followed by Nancy Pickard and Simon Turner at the Cornwall Contemporary

Having just returned from the International Art Fair http://www.20-21intartfair.com/ in Kensington Gore, where I was particularly taken, indeed entranced by the Artists of Russia  stand, it was great to see the quality exhibition of Nancy Pickard’s work together with that of Simon Turner at the Cornwall Contemporary here in Penzance. The Art Fair in London was great fun where I not only saw for the first time work of the German Expressionist, Käthe Kollwitz (July 8, 1867 – April 22, 1945) but also discovered the lovely paintings of  Olga Oreshnikov. (http://www.artistsofrussia.com/olga-oreshnikov)

Whispered Aside by Olga Oreshnikov
Whispered Aside by Olga Oreshnikov
Kathy KollwitzB rother_Love/ Verbrüderung
Kathy KollwitzB rother_Love/ Verbrüderung
Country Girl Olga Oreshnikov
Country Girl
Olga Oreshnikov

olga-oreshnikov-14263As Julian Ravest has written, “In 1990, Olga immigrated to Israel. She works in oil, tempera, watercolour, and gouache in a unique style. Her paintings are humorous, symbolic, and yet serious in content, meticulously executed and with a fresh and dreamlike quality. Her assured drawing, elaborate composition and rich use of colour are in the tradition of European painting. Her images and landscapes seem to be from a different timeless world, telling stories that are tender, dreamy, overpowering and seductive.” I was particularly taken by a work, an acrylic, called “Whispered Aside” which has a theatrical and magical quality about it. The expression on the face of the aging sailor and the slightly astonished young actress transported me to some imaginary dramatic venue in St Petersburg. The quality of execution in this painting too was quite extraordinary and delightful.

In “Garden Light”, Orishnikov has depicted an ingenue, endearingly innocent amongst a cavern of leaves, peering into the distance under her straw bonnet and surrounded by blossoming  mauve flowerheads. She clasps her hands in a gesture that reinforces her distance as an observer and suggests her naivety. Tragicomedy, flora and contemplation combine in her work to embody an elegant exuberance. This is repeated in “Country Girl” where the girl cherishes a crimson sweet pea  and beholds the blossom on the spindling stem.

The Anatomist by Simon Turner
The Anatomist by Simon Turner

Arriving this sunny morning at Sarah Brittain’s delightful gallery in Parade Street Penzance, my attention was drawn to Simon Turner’s bearded “Landlady” painted on found panel. Many of these pictures seem to have a Victorian or Edwardian quality, perhaps a little reminiscent of Monty Python. These reminded me a little of Adam Birtwistle’s portraits which I had recently seen displayed at King’s Place, http://whosjack.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/adam.png especially in relation to the horizontal structuring of the composition. Simon’s surreal playfulness shown in several zany mosaics are a nostalgic  investigation into time, dream and reminiscence. I particularly liked  “Man sending an e-mail”.stmansending

Nancy Pickard, Black Tulips oil on canvas 50 x 50cm
Nancy Pickard, Black Tulips
oil on canvas 50 x 50cm

The exuberant compositions of Nancy Pickard, however, made the visit. Nancy, who has been in Cornwall for over ten years now is clearly influenced by the landscape and the sea. It is the blue luminescence of  her inspiring canvases that drew my attention. It is the domestic peace of these compositions which attract the eye, which is echoed in her ceramics. Her delightful work may be viewed at http://www.nancypickard.co.uk/gallery.html

npblue

Cantaloupe Nancy Pickard,  oil on canvas 50 x 50cm
Cantaloupe
Nancy Pickard,
oil on canvas 50 x 50cm