Upon first seeing these paintings by Pierre Paulus I was put in mind once again of the dark and dramatic work of Kaethe Kollwitz (1867-1945) about whom I posted recently. Then the chunky expressive style depicting largely industrial scenes reminded me of Zola’s Germinal which was written between April 1884 and January 1885. The broad lines and dark colours seems well-suited to the scenery of cranes, docks and canals. The dark buildings, however contrast with the white snow-so the expressive aspect is sometimes conveyed through this wintry aspect. Paulus too is a great painter of the intensity of heavy industrialisation-human figures huddled under gigantic mills or stark against Blakean forges. The clip below is enlivened by Puccini’s Madam Butterfly.
Pierre Paulus was born in Châtelet in 1881 into a family of artists. He studied architecture at the Academy of Brussels, where having graduated he dedicated himself to painting, his only true passion. At the age of 15, he already had a considerable mastery of painting. It was not until he was 25 , however, that he became the painter we remember today, the painter of the Black Country, with its industrial and industrialized environments: mines and islets on the banks of the Sambre, steel factories throwing their flames and the background smoke … he also painted nature, people, still life and everyday scenes.
He met the acclaim in 1911 at the Charleroi exhibition of the general public, and his notoriety began to grow. During the First World War, he took refuge in London.
The interwar period was released in Europe and the United States. He devoted his whole life to Expressionism but also to other forms of art such as lithography and posters.
In 1913 he drew the rooster used as the flag of Wallonia. (With thanks to Inesvigo)
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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/
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)
As 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.
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”.
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