The Art Nest in Hitchin is becoming a delightful destination for all those who love original, quirky and life-enhancing art. Apart of their beautiful exhibitions and the original gift shop, the Art Nest has become a creative hub by offering courses, workshops and seminars held in the comfortable space of the Gallery: glass fusion, jewelry, life-drawing, acrylics, printing, etc., are just some of the many workshops coordinated by experienced artists and practitioners. Personally I have taken at least three of those workshops, always finding inspiration, useful guidance and something to talke home: a painting, a set of cards, or inspiration and courage for anew project. Their Spring Exhibition includes a number of artists of all across the United Kingdom, united by their love of colour, the whimsical and the magical! In this post I would like to refer to two magnificent female artists, who I found particularly inspiring:
Louise Lahive, a British artist who has exhibited in London and the United States. Louise paintings are a reminder of the magic of our everyday life. Her pots and plants are beautiful observations (or contemplations as she may say) of her surroundings. Inspired by Matisse’s use of textiles, her pots and plants are located in a textile scenario of forms and textures. As revealed by Hilary Spurling, in her magnificent work about Matisse use of textiles, fabrics are not only “decoration” but a key part of the composition and structure of the painting. Matisse’s ancestors had been weavers for generations, and textiles were in his blood (Spurling, 2005: 15). He collected pieces of fabric, from scraps of tapestry to arab embroideries. As Spurling explains, Matisse’s fabric collection served him as a combined archive and a tool store all his life. he called it “mi working library”. “Fabrics made him feel at home”… In the same way, Louise Lahive’s use of fabrics take the viewer to a homely place, a domestic setting of peace and vibrancy: in her work the colours are alive, dancing around the canvas, yet keeping a grounded materiality. Her use of oil paints is truly remarkable, and the result is an almost tactile rendition of her subjects/objects. These paintings take me through the window of a nice home, illuminated by the afternoon sun, pots titillating of colour and brilliance. The artist explains:
“My paintings are a result of observation, ritual and contemplation. Before I begin to paint I am interested in what I have around me, what I can see from the window, patterns I find, people I meet. Patterns are important to my work. I find that the simplest objects work well to achieve the most complex observations. The overlooked can become extraordinary. I work mainly with oil on canvas and build up my images with layers of paint over a period of time. “
From the series “Pots” Louise Lahive
And she really captures the attention of the viewer…. it is this solitude, this vibrant quietness, inviting to contemplation, to stop in the middle of the day and simply enjoy the painting. I truly enjoy this type of art which made use of the daily objects as an obvious threshold for the magnificence of life and the joy of being. Likewise Matisse, it seems that Louise Lahive’s interest is on the dynamics of light and colour, rather than the fabric in itself (as a couture element). In the paintings exhibited at the Art Nest, the fabrics become a scenario, a landscape, intrinsically linked to the object through the alchemy of colour and light.
Her work also reminded me of Winifred Nicholson‘s treatment of colour, she aimed at painting “pictures that call down colour, so that a picture can be a lamp in one’s home, not merely a window.” (Winifred Nicholson, 1937). As part of the Cornwall group of artists, Winifred Nicholson managed to flourish in the shade of her notable (ex) husband Ben Nicholson (who would become partner of the great Barbara Hepworth). Anyway, apart of the gossips of the time, what is really beautiful about Winifred is her understanding of colour, something that is addressed everywhere in the artists exhibited in the gallery:
“Colour has nothing to do whatsoever with the passing of time. There see the scarlet radiating from that tulip -it was eight minutes ago in the sun. See that crimson flame, darting out of the black lump of coal in your fireplace. Neither journey through space, nor burial in the bowels of the earth, can alter the brilliance of that colour which was in the sun a millenium ago- or just eight minutes past…” (Winifred Nicholson, ‘Radiance in the Grass‘ first published 1978)
And this radiance of colour combined with the poetry of everyday objects is made visible in the work of Scotish artist Bella Green, also exhibiting at the Art Nest. Since 1997 Bella has lived and worked in Dumfriesshire in Southern Scotland, where she has made her home and studio. Her work is truly poetic, in the sense that you can make of it what it says to your heart. Indeed, her work can be seen from different angles and hung from different perspectives. This playfulness and the master use of colour and layers, made her truly collectable! In her paintings you feel that the objects have their own life, as if they were celebrating a party in which you are just being invited… It may be perhaps the italian influence on her work, a mixture of playfulness and light, or perhaps the fact that you need to look carefully to see the layers of visions and images of her paintings.
Her paintings also reminded me of Mary Fedden appreciation of the “still life“, a topic that has been haunting my days for a while. The attention to humble objects (bric a brac, plates, pots) surrounded by a background of texture and complexity, makes them particularly unique.Apart of these beautiful work, I am also looking forward to see the latest collection of the Art Nest resident artist, curator and gallery owner: Emmeline Webb. I have always admired Emmeline’s fairy tale landscapes, created by washes of paint and beautiful embroided decoration. In the last collection, Emmeline promises a departure, and I had the opportunity to have a quick peek… it is sublime! In fact, i have had the fortune to see how Emmeline has transformed this space in Hitchin, alongside other brave entrepreneurs, making of the West Alley (in Hitchin) a vibrant artistic quarter!
I, also, have exhibited my work at the Art Nest, and if all goes well I may be invited again to present my latest work at the Summer Exhibition and Art Festival in Hitchin… so watch this space!
(1) Spurling, H. (2005). Matisse: his art and his textiles. Royal Academy. London.
(2) Kettle Yard, University of Cambridge. Winifred Nicholson. Music of Colour. 2012