Some artists are classes in painting, others in printing, engraving, sculpture but Brangwyn is no lesson he's an entire Pre- Diploma course, that dates one doesn't it?
The first thing with Brangwyn is the draughtsmanship, drawing to draw your breath, forensic observation and exuberant application, drawings that drip with ego, he could really do it and he knew it. I first had Frank thrust at me in an etching class, chiaroscuro was demanded and Frank (understudy for Rembrandt) would demonstrate it. My drawing, printing tutor, the principal of my first art school, George Willott, styled himself on the Edwardian artists such as Brangwyn. In velvet jacket and cascading bow tie George could produce a Rubenesque life drawing with the flourishes of an Italian operatic conductor, bravura, while giving a tutorial to forty, great stuff.
Frank was born in Bruges and grew in a creative and artistic milieu. At the age of seven his family moved back to England, at seventeen he exhibited at the Royal Academy, an amazingly successful career had begun. In 1936 Brangwyn presented Bruges with over 400 works, they are housed in the Arents House Museum where I had an ecstatic time last week, the wood cuts are astonishing and the large drawings for the Stations of the Cross are stunning. Brangwyn worked on a huge scale, murals, tapestries, it is renaissance in scope and the massive preparatory work in the museum for one of the British Empire Panels is incredible. It harks back to his adolescent time spent in the workshops of William Morris, Frank is a forgotten hero, he needs getting out, dusting down, and sticking back on the shelf.
I got another buzz in Bruges when I discovered that my rental was on the street that had been home to Alfred Gilbert, the great English sculptor. He left England in 1901 and lived in artistic exile in Bruges for 25 years. He is the grandfather of the artist Stephen Gilbert.
Gilbert made the most beautiful things, his art nouveau sensibilities can render you speechless but get beyond gloss and glamour, the Victorian veneers and you will find real genius. Donatello could do the homo erotic but Gilbert runs him a close second. Don't linger too long on those gleaming lissom limbs, it could be your road to Perdition. What the hell, always loved a long linger. Find some of Gilbert's small things, look at the drawings and the portraiture, it's brilliant stuff.
Full of warm surprise, that's not a school dinner pudding, but it could be, surprise accompanied by anticipation. My surprise is my response to Phyllida Barlow at the Biennale.I have trawled the interweb for pics and reviews and what I have seen has left me intrigued and entertained, not my normal response to Phyllida. She has been making lumpy, shambolic, scatty sculpture for decades, positively ploughing her own furrow, and although the art leaves me pretty unmoved the dedication is admirable, and that's what is deserving of the spotlight. I am attracted to the chucked together nature of it all, what a contrast to, for instance, Cragg's sterile and immaculate conceptions, and there is also a whiff of honesty here, no Tucker casting crap into bronze to convince us of it's worthiness. It looks great fun, we need some of that right now, it conjures up for me a visit to a Diploma show of a bright and promising student, that's not a bad thing. I just get a little rattled when the need is felt to trot out a bit of pedigree, it's highly likely that some of Fullard rubbed off with her time at Chelsea but please let's not waste time looking here for the intellectual rigour you will find in Fullard's work, and give us all a break and stop prattling on about her age. Below, The British Pavilion at the Biennale.
Well that's the warm surprise, a little like a trickle down the leg at your first job interview, the anticipation, well that's Bruges, and Bruges could mean Brangwyn! Brilliant.
AGED AND AWKWARD