Coming up

Coming Up:
Sat. 27th April to Mon. 6th May: Spring Exhibition at St.Laurence's Church, Ludlow.


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

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Spring Exhibition 2019 Favourites

With the exhibition over, we have counted the votes cast by the public on the "favourite exhibit" slips. Here are the top 15. Well done Carl, and how nice to see one of our student members reaching 4th! If you want to see the full list, drop an email to

Position Artist
Title Votes
1 Carl Niblett The Promenade, Aberystwyth 62
2 Carl Niblett Snow in Bodenham Wood, Worcestershire 51
3 Lily Wang Waiting At Station 28
4 Alicia Lothian C11H13NO2 - Rural Blues 27
5 Annie Day Bright Waters 25
6 Lesley Connolly Freezing February 22
7 Lesley Connolly Jolly Boys Outing 21
8 Larry Turner Winter Trees 20
9 Alexandra Adams T.B. Testing (3) 18
10= Annie Day Whispers 16
10= Val Littlehales Nature Walk 16
10= Larry Turner Ben Nevis By The Carn Morg Dearg Arete 16
13= Valerie Alexander Sunrise At Cadaques 14
13= Carl Niblett Camusdarach Roaks, Mallaig, Scotland 14
15= Catherine Downes Woodland Sunshine 13
15= Anne Fox Trawler Man 13
15= Frank Hilton Stiperstones, Ridge 13
15= Rob Leckey Morfa Nefyn 13

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Spring Exhibition Prizes

Congratulations to our six members who were awarded prizes or commendations for their works, shown below. There's still time to see the exhibition at St. Laurence's church, Ludlow, until 5pm on Monday 6th May.

LAS President's prize (£25): "Waiting at the Station", coloured pencil by Lily Wang.

Castle Books prize (£25 voucher): "Pendeen Watch Lighthouse - Plein Air Study", charcoal & pastel by Lena Jarl-Churm.

Twenty Twenty Gallery prize (£50): "Boulevard", acrylic by Stephen Foxx.

Mayor's commendation: "The Promenade, Aberystwyth", oil on stretched canvas by Carl Niblett.

Ludlow Brewery prize (beer gift pack): "Freezing February", mixed media by Lesley Connolly.

Chang Thai prize (£20 meal voucher): "Approaching South Stack Lighthouse", acrylic, collage & mixed media by Rob Leckey.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Hiding in Plain Sight

An exhibition in two parts by LAS member Tamsin Bridge

Part One - 4th to 11th May – Ludlow Library, Peter Hadley Bookshop, Tiger Lily, Blue Cross, Rickards, Castle Bookshop, Twenty Twenty Gallery, Local to Ludlow HQ and Ludlow Castle.

Part Two - 15th to 25th May, at Photo Space – Gallery One, Quality Square, Ludlow SY8 1AR

This exhibition is part of a wider project which explores the nature of story – the way it morphs and multiplies with each new telling, through time and space. Themes include forest, fairy-tale, home and childhood memory. In part one of the exhibition, a series of story boxes will be exhibited in both unconventional and conventional exhibition spaces, without being immediately obvious. Part two explores how the story boxes ‘behave’ when they are exhibited together in an installation. Photographs will support part two. The project is towards an MA in Fine Art from Hereford college of Art. The image shows a piece called, House of Whispers.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

May 2nd Talk (CHANGED VENUE) Sharon Griffin: Figurative Ceramic Sculpture

This meeting will be at Ludlow Mascall Centre, not the assembly rooms. See below for more details.

The talk is by Sharon Griffin, on "Figurative Ceramic Sculpture". Sharon currently works as a figurative artist, sculptor and part-time lecturer running a pottery workshop in Wellington and regularly taking commissions for portrait painting. She is inspired by narratives which tell a story of an everyday moment in life. She searches for a sense of deeper meaning within human form.

Ludlow Mascall Centre is at Lower Galdeford, SY8 1RZ. To locate on Google maps click this link:,-2.7133789/@52.367745,-2.713379,16z?hl=en

Parking at Ludlow Mascall Centre is free, but controlled by number-plate recognition cameras. Once parked, please go in the main entrance which is round to the left-hand side of the building, and make your way to the reception desk, beside which is a computer touch-screen where you must enter your vehicle registration number. Select the option for "Ludlow Mascall Centre Patrons", and take care to distinguish between the letter "O" and the number "0" when entering your reg. no.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Ludlow Fringe Art Trail 2019 is open for entries

Once again we are running the Ludlow Fringe Art Trail, 15th - 30th June 2019, as part of the Ludlow Fringe Festival. Artists are invited to exhibit and sell their work at a string of venues across Ludlow. This event is open to all artists including non-members. Why not take part in this growing community event. If you are interested in taking part, please email for an info pack.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Exhibition Space at Burford House & Garden Cafe

The cafe at Burford House & Garden Centre has a sizeable display of art, which is rotated on a two-monthly basis. There is space for about 15 medium sized paintings, which could be provided by a single artist or by two or three artists jointly. They are looking to fill the period of May and June. There is no charge for exhibiting and commission of 25% on sales is taken by the cafe.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Spotlight: Watercolour World

Does it look like that?
Recently at home we found a box of old photographs, dating back to the 1990s. There are also some photos inherited from previous generations, going back to the 1960s. Compared with today’s digital photography, old prints have a different colour quality, and look smoother.  Blurry as memories and dreams. 
Partly this is because prints are seen through bounced light. We see the light that is reflected off of the glossy paper and its pigments that were once laid down in red-lit darkrooms, then printed in factories. They look old now. Today we are accustomed to the digital sharpness of mobile phone’s swagger, and the Supersize-me photo-laptop screen, far bigger than printed photos of even our ancestors’ most cherished wedding moments. The difference in how photographs look then and now is not simply due to scale and pixels. Or that older photos required more preparation time – rather than indulged in it, in the style of hour-long wedding shoots, and posed selfies. Or even that we no longer have mantelpieces to limit the size and angle of frame-displayed cherished pictures. Much of the change in how we see pictures now is due to light.
Screens emit light. Paintings and prints reflect it. We see photos and paintings based on whatever wavelengths land on them and bounce into our eyes. 
In a screen, the technology creates the emitted light that we see. Not even nature does that, except glow-worms and stars. 
If we go back to the times before photography, what would we see? And how would we see it?
There is a charity that does this. “Watercolour World” is a UK charity whose people collect and catalogue watercolours from before 1901, and make them publicly available online. It gives you a view of what the world looked like – or how it was seen – or how it was portrayed, before the last century.
You can look for particular regions of the world, or cities and towns. And you can search by topic. It shows you the historical and focusing perspectives of old watercolours. If you type in a topic you can find what remains now, of how it was portrayed a couple of lifetimes ago. 
Of course, viewing these images of watercolours involves a mixture of screen-based light emission, based upon reflective old paint and paper. It is not the light of what today’s digital cameras see. It is the light that artists wanted to convey. 

In future, the next level of imaging could be anything. We don’t know. Holograms? 3-D printed models with accurate perspective? Or projecting into someone’s mind exactly what a view looks like, or an experience? 
All of these are possible with existing technology.
These are all tools for showing how something appears. That is not quite the same as showing what something is. Its essence and meaning, for example. An object or situation’s intrinsic nature. Its emotion. Existence.
  These considerations are still the realm of art and religion and philosophy. It hasn’t changed. With science as the new participant in the discussion.

      “Art, Philosophy, Religion, and Science walk into a bar. In that order.” 
  Art buys a round for Philosophy, cos Philosophy never has any money. Science talks loudly and expects everyone else to pay. Religion used to be the richest, but it also had the most internal battles and issues, and can’t quite keep up with the conversation. Philosophy has become a good listener. 
   Welcome, science. Let’s all explore existence and truths. 
        Screens. World. 
Watercolour World includes paintings that people cherished, and handed down, valued, and shared with galleries and the charity. They are the painted visions that survived the test of time. 
I searched for “reed beds” in Watercolour World, and found beauty. 

For comparison, I searched Google for “reed beds”. 
See how flat and rectangular everything has become. The difference between paintings then, and images now, is the difference between life and life’s paperwork.
It is as if, in the early 20th century, plants and fields were taken from their home and put in the workhouse. Landscapes which were once the realm of watercolour’s floods and brushstrokes, became increasingly designed by Vorticists and Piet Mondrian. Fields become angular. Form follows function.  
This trend of artistic angularity seems to be reversing now. In today’s human world of rectangles and box tessellation, art is resurrecting natural forms. A reversal.  
Much of street art aims to reduce urban angularity.  This is the work or artist Odeith, who sprays realistic images of nature or walls and old infrastructure features to beautify it, typically with detailed paintings which, viewed from the right angle, appear highly realistic, and enlarged, as if reclaiming the land, and reclaiming natural form.

We know that trends move back and forth in time. Music and clothes fashions seem to come and go and return in cycles, like waves and tides, the same as economic booms and troughs, and political divisions and cohesions. Art and technology are similarly taking alternating views, in the sine wave of time. A constant, however, is that beauty still seems to be becoming increasingly synthetic, both in science and art's approach to appearance and essence.  

'OctoElephant' in Shoreditch, by Alexis Diaz
The 19th century watercolour world is from a time that we have mostly assimilated and understood. Like today, it is loaded with beauty and progress and wonder.
Writer: Matt Smart
Watercolour World: