Coming up

Coming Up:
Thu 4th July: Peter Edwards, BP National Portrait Award winner, talks about portraits.


Thursday, 20 June 2019

Pricklebums calendar opportunity

Pricklebums hedgehog rescue in Ludlow are looking for local artists who may be interested in collaborating with them on a charity calendar project. They require 12 hedgehog paintings or prints - one for each month of the year - with a short bio about each artist underneath. If you would like to be involved, please could you get in touch with them via their Facebook page or email

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Ludlow Fringe Festival: Art Trail

Once again Ludlow Art Society pulls off a corker! The 7th Ludlow Art Trail is now up and running for the two-week duration of the Fringe Festival (15th - 30th June). Free brochures available anywhere ... just about. There's some really good art on display this year and new venues at the Castle Gift Shop, The Queens pub/restaurant, Black Bough, Poyners, Sws Antiques and the new Bouvier Gallery. Pick up your free brochure and check it out!

Friday, 7 June 2019

Spotlight: Untitled

Let’s play a game. When you see an artwork called ‘Untitled’, give it a name.
These 3 paintings are all ‘Untitled’. Can you think of titles for them?

The first one is ‘Untitled’ by Karl Maughan. What would you call it? The second is by Ewa Jankiewicz. The third by Raquel Fornasaro.
Do any titles spring to mind?
I would call them… 
“Passage” (or maybe “Passageway”), “Hair”, and “Horizontal beach Moon Landing” because it reminds me of that moon flag that may or may not have fluttered in the wind, and the painting’s dark background reminds me of a cinematic blue screen, ready to have anything projected onto the background, rather like the black space around the blue earth as seen from the moon.
Those are what I would call them.
Those titles are an instant reaction, in this moment. Would I call them that tomorrow, or in another frame of mind? Probably not. Tomorrow I may think of them differently. Now that these three paintings are in my mind – and in yours – we will think of them differently.

Thoughts of these paintings, or mere silent traces of their thoughts, may slightly colour our world tomorrow.  If if we then see the paintings again, it will be with a renewed view, partly influenced by the paintings themselves. If we connect with the images, and if we change as we live our hours, then the paintings’ place in our thoughts may also change. They cannot be static. So there is validity in an artist not giving a painting a title: meanings can change, and our thoughts can change, even if just by a hair's breadth - or the breadth of a brush stroke.
'Untitled' by Marie-Dolma Chophel
What would you call this one?  Would you like it more if it had a name?

We may think that ‘Untitled’ is simply a matter of laziness, or lack of imagination, but that very transience of meaning might be part of the reason for calling a piece ‘Untitled’. Indeed, in the piece above, movement seems to be the message, particularly with reference to the grid on which the paint swirls and the waters splash.  
When you have finished a painting, using brushstroke’s discipline, and you gaze at the canvas while you wipe clean your brush, taking in its exultant resignation to your will, already starting to dry on the easel, why give the painting a name if it will make the painting sticky?
32,000 year old painting, Chauvet, France
Did the ancients give verbal names to their images?  Descriptions, only spoken in those days before writing had grown from heiroglyphs?  Did the cave dwellers give names to their paintings? Did Lascaux cave artists say “I call this piece ‘When we feel the power of the Bison’s thunder’” ? Tricky to say.
You cannot have the notion of 'Untitled' until you have first had the notion of giving something a title.  When we consider how paintings grew to have a verbal description, the notion of ‘Untitled’ feels like wishful extravagance - like trying to uninvent glasses or taxes, simply to be noticed.
At some point there was a painting that was so good, that it got talked about so much that it got a name.

by Jan-Pleitner. 'Untitled'.  (Jan did not call it 'Fish navigating rock contours')

'Untitled' by Georges Braque

‘Untitled’ is often used to tell us that the artist is not asserting a meaning or emotion to the works, and on to us: it is a way of saying “I am not telling you how to receive this”.  The piece below is 'Untitled' by Jeremy Cunningham.  Several of his paintings have been used for music album covers.  This one was used for the cover of the album 'Strangers in a Crowd' by The Levellers.  "Most of Jeremy Cunningham's paintings are 'untitled' to enable the viewer to look at them without preconception; the artist notes are provided as reasons for painting rather than being illustrative."
'Untitled' is often thought to be a simple lack of title, or a deliberate statement of encouraging the viewer's own thoughts. As if that is the whole picture!
We have words and phrases for things we do. Or so we like to tell ourselves (and those around us). However, a lot of what we do goes untitled.

The moments we make, that we have no words for.

When we are not sure what we are doing.

When we feel the game is ridiculous.

When we have done a thing before, so we do not give it a name, as we already named that experience and sensation...but it is not quite like it was before, not exactly the same, and so a new thing goes untitled...   It is as if we paint some poppies, and we have already painted poppies before, and we called it “Poppies”. We already lived those curves, and this painting is different, but it is still “Poppies”, but that descriptive word has gone to another frame.  So this painting gets no name.

When we let others shout words instead of us, because they feel better when they are loud

When it is not finished.

When we are waiting for it to tell us.

When we dare not say the truth.

When we are calling out, quietly.

When it truly isn’t about anything.

When it is about everything.

When it is too big to speak.

  If you find an Untitled painting, and want to give it a name, you could also consider why it has no title.  Is it too small, too big, has a secret, or trying to make a point about freedom?  Or is it 'Untitled' just so that you can tell your friend "This 'Untitled' painting reminds me of a blog in the Ludlow Art Society".
  "A blog?  What was it about?"
  "I don't know, really."
  "Well, what was the article called?"
  "It didn't have a title."
  "Are you sure?  An article without a title?"
  "Well, not quite.  It was called 'Untitled'".

'Untitled' by Christos Giannpoulos
'Untitled' by Dianna Molzan

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Spotlight: Who is in the Shapes?

It has been a very active couple of months for LAS, with the Spring exhibition and preparations for summer.  Spotlight took a break in April, so as not to… well, not to steal the Spotlight from the important plans and activities of the Society.  LAS is still very active now, in May, as the year is blooming, so I hope that this does not get in the way of the many notices of our LAS blog.
'To the Lighthouse' by Michael Fairfax (detail). Stainless steel needle public sculpture, Millennium Park, Llanelli

What is abstract art about?
What is it for?
  Why do people make curved abstract shapes in bronze and marble?  These shapes are not really “of” anything – just forms and curves.

  Why do we like them?

This month’s Spotlight is curved light.  Its beam takes a sweeping shape by bending around gravitational black holes and heavy, heavenly bodies.  In the Universe, in space and time, light makes shapes and forms and volumes.  We could say that abstract forms in art relate to those Universal shapes.
If you look at diagrams of gravitational fields you are shown the planes and paths and possibilities that a planet or particle can take.
A computer model of the gravitational field around two black holes as they circle each other.  The waves came from two black holes colliding.  MPI for Gravitational Physics/Institute for Theoretical Physics, Frankfurt/Zuse Institute Berlin
“The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh” - Edward Weston (1886-1958).  Weston, an early photographer, captured objects to represent them as something unsuspectingly sublime. From furniture to shells (pictured here)
From 'Iron Man' film, 2008

Is this what draws us to abstract forms?
  Do we see ourselves in the shapes and curves, the spikes and holes and planes of colour and texture?
  Usually we say that a part of our engagement with a work of art is that we relate to it personally.
'Fleeting Parts', Milana Naef.  MDF and plaster, 2016
'Wizzom' (detail) by the author, 2019

Some curvy sculptures look shapes of the body, and can be sensual.  Other works might evoke the undulations of a forest or a desert landscape.  But most abstract forms have no ostensible physical equivalents, and have little to do with such tangible life sensations.
'Sculpture 2', Anthony Caro
Right-angled steel constructions, for example, are far more diagrammatic than sensuous.  And it is not convincing that the appeal of such brutalist forms is due to our being enamoured with the industrial age which begat their authoritative angles.   Is there something else going on in our minds when we are pulled into the shapes of abstracts?
'Red Duet', Wyndham Lewis, 1914 (Vorticism)

This month I have an article in a business magazine*.  It is based around Jeff Koons, and is mainly about art’s return to aesthetics, the function of art in business, expressing a mission or ethos, the emotions in consumer choice, and how art’s true investment value is not that you might re-sell it later for millions.  Art's value in business is its cultural and emotional power.
  What I did not include in that article is part of the main reason I find Jeff Koons interesting: the impression of those shiny sculptural surfaces on a viewer.  They literally are a mirror.
'Venus', Jeff Koons

Where are you now, in your life?
  Where are you going?
  Where have you been, physically and emotionally?
What are the choices you have made, and the paths your life could have followed?  Do you face choices now, that could lead your life – and the lives of others – in a variety of directions?  Have you spent a long time contentedly in the same state, without much fluctuation in your behaviours and circumstances and desires and interests?  Have you had tumultuous weeks?  Have you sometimes drawn back, doubled in on yourself, or found yourself back where you started, and wondering about making other choices?  Where do these paths and shapes go?
These are all geometries.
  I think that a part of what we like about abstract forms is that we relate to their shapes and topographies as a description of our life.  A sculpture or a painting can be a subconscious representation of moments in our life.  We do not just appreciate a curve or a spiral.  We somehow feel a kinship with it, or a desire to be like it.
These sensations are, of course, very subtle; probably never surfacing in our conscious thought, despite them literally and physically being the surfaces of what we look at and touch.  And our impressions are also affected by emotions of colour, and rough or smooth textures and tone.  The art of colour and shape.
  It is almost impossible to tell with these sensations are real or imagined.  Whether these concepts really are a part of our interaction with abstracts, or just a hard-art fluffy theory.  And maybe we shouldn’t find out.
I leave you with this notion:
  How would you sculpt your life? 
How would you depict your life as it is, or how you might wish it to be?
  We do this shaping of our own time and space every moment of every day.  And sometimes we get our hands dirty. 
  Let’s keep making shapes.
'Sophisticated Though-forms', Alexander Varvaridze

Further information:
Angled metal sculpture: Anthony Caro.

*  Article: ‘Modern Art’, Matt Smart, B4 magazine issue 57, pages 110-111.  The article is about the purposes and meanings of 3D surfaces as forms that describe timelines and choices in our lives and work.
These subjects will be part of a talk and workshop at B4 HQ, Weston-on-the-Green, Oxfordshire, on 13th September 2019