Hidden UK, Hidden Ireland – a group show curated by Sean Scully at Flowers, Kingsland Road, East London – I’ve had these rather fractured photos sitting around for weeks, been meaning to say something but you know how it is, always one more thing to do and this proposal to write and those prints to send out and just sort this thing and I’ll do it in a minute and really the sense of Flowers and Sean Scully not really needing any of my time and support when the little artist-led show down the road really does and….
I do like Sean Scully though, I do like listening to him, I do like his positive contempt, his take-no-shit, his doing it on his terms, I do like to hear him talk about art, about his art, and when he goes really big with those stripes then yes! Not so sure when he stays relatively small, he almost feels like he might be dialling it in sometimes when things are smaller, or maybe he’s just reduced it all to utter simplicity and the pure pleasure of paint, of economy. I like the way Sean Scully conducts himself, I like the way he addresses his art, I like that he doesn’t give a shit about what anyone thinks (although clearly, like the rest of us, he does). Right now, and for one more week, there’s a group show hanging in the Kingsland Road branch of Flowers Gallery here in East London, a show curated by Sean Scully and featuring the works of twenty or so artists.
“Hidden UK, Hidden Ireland features the works of more than twenty artists. In this selection of works, Scully reflects on an “entire society of devoted, dedicated, faith based painters, who work quietly in studios large and small, in towns and villages all over the UK and Ireland.” He says, “For the most part, they make something with their hands, that is material based, coaxing an image with a body, into being – working, not so differently from other painters throughout history. I haven’t actually curated an exhibition, I’ve chosen work and people who interest me, and put them together, with myself included… I wanted to bring what I could of this work together, and shine a light on it.””
And that is basically what we have, just a rather simple, rather enjoyable, conservatively hung, rather warm group show of paintings and painters. Nothing that dramatic, nothing that obviously links it all together other that a set of rather enjoyable paintings that Paul Scully has selected. Eccentric choices? Maybe? You could argue there’s almost an innocent feel to it all, almost, but surely Mr Scully is never that innocent is he? Hey look, this is just a big friendly inviting room full (full, but not overcrowded, not like that mess of a vanity hang over at the RA, £30 a go, milk it all now), this is just a good summer show, some fine paintings, some interesting pieces, some fine choices, and a show that has pulled me back in three or four rimes now.
I guess it is tempting to pick pieces out, do like that line in the Aaron Moroney piece Boundless Future, Now I’m Free and I do find myself, at odd moments whilst walking down the street or making toast, considering the two people in Kathryn Maple’s Meeting Place, and there is something delightful about Maysaloun Faraj’s Home, and I do rather like Abhayavajra Newman’s Fragments, but then if you ask me again tomorrow I might say The Alphabet Painting, Bill Henderson’s piece from 1979 is my favourite in a post punk new wave kind of way, or that I really like the Andrew Graves painting and that Steve Joy piece, but then to pick things out in a group show like this feels a little wrong, it is surely about the whole thing, the whole body of work, the pleasure in being in the silence of the room with them all and to walk from one to another and the look across and to be pulled in by something else.
I guess if it hadn’t been curated by an artist I admire, an artist that constantly fires my curiosity, I guess I might say it was a little disjointed and maybe just a touch scatter gun, but it is a show curated by Sean Scully and you can’t help but wonder why he selected that one and what was his thinking there and why are those Sunflowers over there and… “Some of these artists are more well-known than others, but that’s not my fault. There are about 55,000 artists working faithfully in the UK and Ireland: so this is a tiny fraction. But we do what we can. Though, maybe in vain, we work…”
And I do love this bit from the piece Sean Scully – affectionately known around here as The Other Sean, and yes people who know me know who I’m talking about when I say that – I do like this bit from his text on the show –
“When I was 17, I worked in a graphic design studio on Chancery Lane, and there, still as a working class boy, I was closer than I was in the print factory, to the citadel of Art, but I still couldn’t quite make out its location, or indeed where the gate was. Slightly before my encounter with the great Van Gogh chair painting, someone in the studio, who knew I loved painting, told me about an exhibition on the famous Charing Cross Road, where the theatres are. This was a painter, who seemed approachable. This was a painter, who painted kitchen sinks, windows, and flowers (big, clumsy, enthusiastic blooms) and Volkswagen parked cars on streets in suburbia, in a manner that was guileless, rough and exaggerated, in perfect harmony with the burly sunflowers. This was a painter, first, last, and foremost: whose name was John Bratby. In this work there was no hedging his bets, no in between, and no appeasement to sophistication, I loved it. Here was the key to the gate of the citadel of Art, even if the citadel, or my working class teenager idea of it, turned out to be a barn, I still loved it…”
When I was a kid of 17, there were no art galleries anywhere near me, the nearest ones were hours away, I knew I needed to make art, I had no idea how I could get to do it and there now, several lifetimes later, just a walk away from me that are so many galleries and possibilities and there’s Flowers, a great big gallery, almost hiding on the Kingsland Road and almost every time I go in there I’m the only one and the have such great shows in there and all for free (something that could so easily be taken for granted, thank you Flowers). I love this show, I love that Sean Scully has bothered to do it when he really didn’t have to, that he respected the other artists enough to put one of his own paintings in when he didn’t need to, that it has all just been there waiting during the summer months (and I’m really sorry I didn’t get around to saying so sooner) and I really must go one more time before it closes. No, I don’t love everything in the show, but that really isn’t the point and no, i don’t need to critically analyse it all and start pulling things apart, and no I really shouldn’t have picked out particular pieces and well, there you go, go have a look if you can. Aren’t art galleries great things… (sw)
Exhibiting artists include: Johnny Abrahams, John Bratby, Matthew Collings, Diana Copperwhite, Maysaloun Faraj, Liza Giles, Jane Goodwin, Andrew Graves, Jane Griffin, Bill Henderson, Nicholas Herbert, Steve Joy, Denis Kelly, David Lendrum, Abhayavajra Newman, Kathryn Maple, Jim MacAirt, Hannah Ní Mhaonaigh, Aaron Moroney, Mark Osborne, Declen Patten, Sam Peacock, Liam Scully, Sean Scully, Bill Stewart, and Adam David Taylor.
Flowers Gallery is at 82 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DP. Exhibition Opening Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm. The current show ends on Septmeber 3rd.
Previously on these pages –
ORGAN: Frieze Week Part Two, avoiding the art fair madness? The excitement of those Sean Scully paintings at Blain/Southern, punchbags, red roads, goose feathers and a strong 21st Century Women show at Unit…
As always do click on an iamge to see the whole thing or to run the slide show (the lighting in FLowers never makes taking photographs easy but you do get a flavour)