ART FIRST - ‘February’s Feast’
Thursday 2nd February - Friday 3rd March 2023
‘February’s Feast’ is an exhibition of work by a group of gallery artists - Kevin Laycock, Gillian Lever, Simon Lewty, Alex Lowery, Bridget Macdonald, Jack Milroy, Simon Morley, Donald Teskey, Mimei Thompson and Graeme Williams.
Gallery hours: Wednesday - Friday 11am - 6 pm, and by appointment.
ART FIRST, The Forge, 15 St Mary’s Walk, London, SE11 4UA
It is a joyful thing to be part of ‘February’s Feast’, ART FIRST’s new exhibition for 2023 bringing gallery artists together in the new Lambeth gallery space. The new space is well worth discovering - a few minutes walk from the ‘Imperial War Museum’ it is very easy to find. The exhibition will include recent oil paintings on canvas and board.
Seeing the hidden and the overlooked
‘Art does not reproduce what we see; rather it makes us see.’
As an artist I have always loved looking closely at the natural world but since Christmas I have been looking even more closely with the help of a small magnifying glass. Inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist and also a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, I have been taking a magnifying glass out on walks. Robin is an expert in moss - a bryologist - she describes mosses as the ‘Coral reefs of the forest’, a beautiful description. Her writing in ‘Braiding Sweetgrass - Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants’ and ‘Gathering Moss - a Natural and Cultural History of Mosses’ is transformational. She is a champion for the magnifying glass and has a gift for opening up a sense of wonder and humility for the intelligence in life forms we can so easily dismiss.
Jake Lever - New Paintings
If we were surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Rainer Maria Rilke from How Surely Gravity’s Law
In this new series of small paintings on paper I wanted simply to play with materials, to experiment freely and respond intuitively to my surroundings. They were all made outside in the heat of last summer, under the shade of bushes, in a field in the depths of rural Wales. The tangled web of undergrowth was a frequent starting point, the wax crayon darting around the paper, resisting the subsequent layers of watery gouache. Silver leaf applied in squares provided a geometric counterpoint to this random mark making, setting up a dialogue and providing ‘quieter’ spaces amidst the busy tangle of web-like marks. The titles (below each image) reflect my joy at reconnection with the land and sea, the latter providing a welcome sanctuary from the intense afternoon heat. All the paintings are available for sale in the shop.
‘Pigeon’ Cyanotype Collaboration
Inspired by origami, Pigeon, is a beautifully crafted combination of letter and envelope designed by John Morse-Brown, a graphic designer with an engineering background. This year I have been delighted to work with John to create a new Pigeon design using cyanotypes. Pigeon is a carbon-negative company planting trees to neutralise carbon emissions via the John Muir Trust in Scotland. John is also going to great lengths to keep all traces of plastic out of Pigeon products and packaging. (The plastic looking sticker on the Pigeon packages are compostable and biodegradable, made from cellulose, in the UK). They are for sale directly from the Pigeon Shop.
My Pigeon collaboration with John is called ‘Apothecary Pigeon’. For a while I have been making cyanotypes, a very satisfying 150-year-old process where objects are placed on paper that has been coated with a special light-sensitive chemical and then exposed to sunlight. After the paper has been washed in water, the area underneath the object retains the colour of the paper, while the area around it becomes a deep, rich blue. For ‘Apothecary Pigeon’ John and I decided to use healing plants from my garden in Birmingham as the ‘objects’ in a series of cyanotype designs.
I included honesty, fern, witch hazel and oak. Sage, tomato, nasturtium, hop and fennel. Spring onion, lovage, geranium and lemon balm. All these plants have unique healing and medicinal properties - from Vitamin C to the treatment of indigestion and anxiety, reducing inflammation and bringing down fevers, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels. They were widely used for medicinal purposes in the past, and many of todays drugs and medicines are either derived from or inspired by natural substances found in plants. In a world that often seems unhealthy and unsteady ‘Apothecary Pigeon’ has felt to be a very welcome and grounding project. I have loved producing artwork and discovering more about plants that grow a mere stone’s throw from my backdoor.
Commissions and Christmas Exhibition
In recent weeks I have been enjoying meeting with several people who commissioned oil canvases earlier in 2022. I enjoy hearing people’s reactions to the work and finding out about how the paintings ‘settle’ into their new homes. Please contact me if you are interested in commissioning a painting.
From Monday 28 November - Saturday 3 December Art First, London will be exhibiting some of my small paintings and mixed media works as part of a six day gallery artists Christmas Show at The Forge, 15 St Mary’s Walk, Lambeth, SE11 4UA. The exhibition will be open every day from Noon - 7.30pm. Call in or email Art First: firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a visit. Free parking after 6.30pm.