I met Jack Greaves at his house in Miserdon Woods, a magical spot, just a stones throw from Whiteway Colony. the famous and failed Tolstoyan community. Jack's home seemed to me to be an artist's idyll, cats, kids, casseroles and sculpture. Our first British Blue, mother of a tribe, came from the Greaves. Jack was a Loiner like Ralph Brown and they had been together at Leeds College of Art in the fifties and subsequently in the sculpture department at the Royal College. I assume that when I met Jack he was lecturing at Corsham. Ralph and Jack lived only twenty minutes from each other, a good stiff walk along lanes to die for, but their worlds appeared poles apart. During my time in the 'Golden Valley', parties, pot and claret, the Greaves were seldom on the scene. They were, I suspect, dining from a different menu. I was fascinated by Jack's sculpture, a miniature world, beautifully crafted and at that time I had seen nothing like it. I thought he had found a way through, dealing with the problems of being a figurative artist in a new and interesting way, confronting the problems that were causing his fellows to hurl themselves into the sticky morass of figurative abstraction. There was a distance between Jack's practice and that of Chadwick, Brown et al. One didn't feel he had an eye cocked on Cork Street. But the world moves on, as did Jack Greaves to Ohio State University and his work is littered around Columbus but it's connections to that thatch in Miserdon are fairly tenuous. How Jack Greaves crept in through the fog I am not quite sure but we had been talking about Corsham and I had returned to an old friend for a conversation.
Martini was fettered to the traditions of the oldest of the arts, Hellenic, Roman, Etruscan it's all there. His series of terracotta reliefs are worthy works, little poems illuminating large ideas, brilliant. When you see a body of his work you can clearly see his struggles, in his search for a new way he lost sight of his victories and his humiliated and defeated enthusiasm won the day. He ultimately abandoned sculpture for painting. Ironically one of his last and most popular sculptures was a carved marble, a memorial to Primo Visentin, nicknamed 'Masaccio', an Italian resistance leader killed in an ambush at the end of the war.
Since John Berger went for the walk I have revisited his novel 'A Painter of Our Time'. There are very few pieces of literature that get anywhere near conjuring the creative processes of painting or sculpting, but as Berger was a painter he gets incredibly close to getting you there. There is a wonderful short passage about etching and the etching press. Well if you have ever known one, Berger will get you back to it, it's smell and magic and if you have not known one he will draw you near the black ink, the plate, the pressure, the blanket, it's perceptive and evocative writing. The private view, the gallerists, the buyers, and the processes, brilliant.
AGED AND AWKWARD