Friday 22 March 2019

Harold Gilman and Nick Goss

Yesterday to Chichester to visit the cathedral and Pallant House, one of my favourite galleries. The cathedral is something of an art gallery in itself, with its paintings by Sutherland, Patrick Prockter, Hans Feibusch etc, its Sutherland tapestry and Chagall window – and of course it's home to the famous Arundel 'tomb', of which I wrote recently. And the Pallant, I'm happy to say, has two exhibitions on which are both well worth seeing.
  Harold Gilman: Beyond Camden Town brings together a fine array of paintings and drawings by an artist often described as 'the English Vuillard', our home-grown intimiste. This is fair enough, and you could also describe him as 'Sickert in full colour'; having shaken off the powerful influence of his mentor, Gilman explored a world of light and colour that owed as much to French postimpressionism as to anything English, least of all the muddier aspects of the Camden Town school. Despite its title, this exhibition does include some Gilmans that are very 'Camden Town', but it shows how widely Gilman's art roamed, and indeed how widely he travelled in search of inspiration. The Van Gogh-influenced painting above – Canal Bridge, Flekkenfjord – was the product of a Norwegian sojourn, and there are works created in Sweden and even Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  Gilman was also a frequent visitor to Dieppe, and I was glad to see his fine painting of the Swing Bridge (which is still in place, and looking very much as Gilman painted it).
There are paintings and fine drawings of English landscapes and, particularly, trees, including the Cézanne-influenced Beechwood, Gloucestershire.

But the exhibition also offers plenty of the portraits and interiors for which Gilman is best known. There's the tender Interior with the Artist's Mother
And several domestic interiors featuring the redoubtable Mrs Mounter, Gilman's housekeeper – including this luminous, beautifully composed example.

The large painting known as Tea in the Bed-Sitter is represented in two versions, of which the one below, with only two at the table, is the more tense and unsettling. Note the wallpaper – this is the room from which we see Mrs Mounter in the painting above.

This is a delightful little exhibition which does enough to demonstrate what a gifted and interesting artist Gilman was – and to make us wonder what he might have done next had his life not been cut short by the Spanish influenza in 1919, the day after his 43rd birthday.

I noticed, as I went in to see the Gilman, that there was another exhibition running, showing paintings by one Nick Goss, of whom I had never heard. I thought I'd give it a look – and I was hugely impressed. Goss is a young(ish) South London artist, who draws his subjects from life (and commuting) in London, personal memories and past events – in particular 'De Ramp', the terrible 1953 flooding of Zeeland, where Goss spent childhood summers (long after the floods, but these disasters cast long shadows). A related obsession with J.G. Ballard's The Drowned World also finds its way into many of his paintings.
 The exhibition, titled Morley's Mirror, is of large pictures on linen, all created with pigment, oils and screenprinting, creating strong, collage-like images working at several levels and depths. These are immersive pictures, the kind that draw you in and envelop you in their imagery (though not all of them, I thought, quite achieved this). They don't reproduce well on a small scale, but here is the title picture of the exhibition, the central motif of which was inspired by the window of a café –
and here is one (unusually in landscape format) that clearly shows Goss's obsession with inundation – Lagoon.
Supplementing Morley's Mirror is Inspirations, an exhibition of Goss's drawings, sketches and preparatory work, and of some of the paintings (taken from the Pallant's collection) that have inspired his art. One of these is Michael Andrews' The Estuary, a large, powerful and ultra-immersive canvas from his Thames Paintings series. Pointless to reproduce it, but here's part of it (below)...
If you're thinking of going to Chichester, now is a very good time.

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