Gallery Hopping in London with Meg

On Tuesday I took the train into London to meet with my friend Meg, a talented artist who studies on the Drawing course at Falmouth. Our first stop was a trip to Monmouth for morning coffee and a wander through Borough Market. With our coffees, we strolled along the river in the sunshine towards Bankside Gallery. 

This is the first time I have visited Bankside, where the current exhibition 'OFF THE WALL' is on show until September 11th. The annual exhibition showcases the work of the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. The reason for the exhibition name is that all works are sold 'off the wall' so buyers are able to take them away at point of purchase. A number of names stood out to me - which I scribbled down in my sketchbook to research when I returned home.

Robbert Baggerly's pieces demanded my attention the second I walked into the gallery, most likely because of his beautiful creation of texture. As an artist, I have discovered that he is primarily interested in landscape themes, but is particularly concerned with depicting the way that human beings have manipulated the landscape over time.

Sally McLaren's work was also a highlight of the exhibition for me. Her prints are also direct responses to the landscape around her in all its forms. On her website she says that 'the air, the elements, the geological make up' all preoccupy her when she is painting.

Bren Unwin's prints were my favourite works from the exhibition. They really spoke to me, with her incorporation of photographic processes, printmaking and painterly techniques. In particular, the poetic captions she included beneath her works were a mysterious insight into the story behind a piece.

This connection I felt to her work is interesting because in doing my research I discovered that she is interested in the relationships that exist between a perceiver and their environment and how these experiences may be visually articulated through art. This is where my work is currently headed, in terms of Psychogeography. Considering I felt a connection to the work without being aware of this contextual relevance to my own practice, she is fulfilling her intention to communicate her concerns. 

After looking around Bankside, we sat on a particularly sunny spot of grass in front of Tate Modern, to rest our legs and do some sketching before heading inside. Meg was busy working on beautiful line drawings of the trees and the views around us whilst I spent some time in my sketchbook recording the moving shadows that mid-morning light cast through the trees.

We ventured into Tate Modern, spent some time gazing at Ai WeiWei's 'Tree 2010', made from branches, roots and trunks from various different species of trees that the artist has gathered from across his native China. I also spent some time photographing the light that was falling around the wonderful architecture of the new Tate Modern Switch House. 

I only went to Tate Modern a few weeks ago but it was lovely to visit with Meg, who is as geeky about art as I am, so I could spend as long as I wanted staring at the works and reading into the context of the pieces. In particular, I spent quite some time reading into the details of Mark Bradford's large scale piece, which is currently hung opposite Julie Mehretu's work.

I have written about Bradford's work before, as I adore his use of using billboard paper pasted onto canvas as a material, and the way he uses mechanical tools to sand through layers of the collaged paper to discover older layers. He visually depicts the history of the streets he walks in such an honest way. Perhaps working through layers to reveal previous materials is something I should look at in my own practice, as opposed to simply building layers upward.

Of course, I spent more time looking at the details of Louise Bourgeois' wonderful, vast drawings on paper. There is something about these pieces and her inclusion of the written word that captures my attention. 

Below, some close up details of Julie Mehretu.  The layering and the injections of colour. The juxtaposition of the architectural geometric lines against the free, painterly marks made of the looser elements in the city like the trees and the moving people. One of my favourite pieces to view in real life. Every time you look at it, you see something new. 

We took a quick pit-stop at Pret for lunch and positioned ourselves near a plug socket to re-fuel our dying phone batteries (taking the number of pictures we did is battery draining...). We took the time to plan the rest of our afternoon, deciding to walk halfway across a rather conspicuous part of London to visit White Cube Mason’s Yard group exhibition ‘The world is yours, as well as ours’. It is a group exhibition that explores modes of abstraction in recent Chinese painting. It was a breathtaking exhibition and one I thoroughly recommend to any avid art lover.

My favourite work from the exhibition was Tang Guo's 'Luo River'. A colourful explosion of mixed media on linen. It was such an ethereal painting and the scale really made it for me. One of those works you have to stand back from, in order to take it all in.

Another artist who stood out to me from ‘The world is yours, as well as ours’ was painter Zhou Li. Her paintings, details I photographed below, take the mountainous landscape of southern China as their starting point. She puts free-flowing lines of charcoal and ink down on canvas and overlays these lines with arcs and circles of white paint. These lyrical abstractions were so detailed and the opacity of the paint against the transparency of the ink was just lovely. They reminded me of Ian McKeever's paintings, in the way that the veiled composition of materials put down were soothing to look upon.

After, we went on a little gallivant to find the building where Norman Ackroyd lives and works. Both Meg and I are massive Ackroyd fans and spent a fair few minutes taking photographs of his studio door like a couple of band groupies. He didn't appear to be in, but nonetheless, it was thrilling knowing we were so close to his beautifully made etchings and that famous map of places he has visited and made etchings of (if you've watched the documentary... you'll know).

It was a wonderful day packed full to the brim of arty antics and conversation. I'm now itching to  get back to Falmouth, get back into a full-time studio space that isn't my bedroom desk and spend more time making/talking art with Meg and the rest of my peers.