Friday 27th January 2017 Dom Brendan Thomas
The first monthly talk of 2017 was given by Dom. Brendan Thomas and was an excellent start to the New Year.
Dom Brendan, who is the Novice Master and Retreat Master at the Belmont Abbey Community near Hereford is not an artist but lectures on artists and their religious beliefs. This evening the subject of his talk was Vincent Van Gogh who had a complicated life and faith. Much of what we know about Vincent (he signed his paintings Vincent as he thought people would have problems pronouncing Van Gogh – which they do) is through his correspondence with his brother Theo. The letters reveal that Vincent was a deeply spiritual man and a tortured artist inspired by the gospels. He was the most well-read of the artists of his time and loved Dickens and Shakespeare.
Vincent was a theology student before he became an artist and in 1876 he preached at churches in Petersham and Turnham but he was restless and unhappy with the Church, so he moved to Borinage in Belgium in 1878. He had an empathy with the miners there and gave away all his possessions, even his clothes. and at that time was a bit of a religious maniac. But he didn’t use soap!
In 1880 at the age of 27 he decided to paint. Because of his religious background, he tried to grasp the essence of what the masters say in their masterpieces and believed he could find God in them.
He had broken with his religion but not from God. He had rejected the Church and was alienated from his father.
Many of his early works were dark. He painted dark churches and dark-skinned labourers.
His “Still Life with Open Bible” was painted shortly after his father’s death. It is open at a page of the Prophet Isaiah and is accompanied by a copy of Emil Zola’s “Joie de Vivre” which raises many questions about his state of mind and why he painted it.
In 1888 he moved to Arles where the sun brought new life into his paintings and he painted hundreds, often the same one over again, in the two years before his death. Many of them were self-portraits. Dom Brendan said that he had seen copies of the same painting in many different galleries in Europe. The texture of his paintings was direct and simple. He painted sunflowers and many of his paintings included the Sower. Gaugin said “His Dutch brain was afire with the Bible”. The red in his paintings represented anguish.as he suffered from depression and had a fragile mind. He said “When I have need of religion, I go out and paint the stars”. He was admitted to an asylum at St Remy after he cut off his ear. On 29 July 1890, he shot himself and died in his brother Theo’s arms.
We all listened intently and everyone enjoyed Dom. Brendan’s talk enthralled by this sad story and the telling of it from both an artistic and a religious aspect.
For more information and for those interested in a Retreat Workshop for Spiritual Growth with Dom Brendan, information is available on the website at belmontabbey.org.uk
Friday 24th February 2017
Peter Lord : Welsh faces: portrait painting in Wales
On Friday 24th February, we welcomed back Peter Lord a sculptor and art historian based in Wales. He is best known for his books and television programs about the history of Welsh art, and is regarded as a leading authority on the subject. Peter last visited the Society in November 2009 when his book “The Meaning of Pictures” was published. On that occasion, he spoke to The Society about Welsh artisans and American folk artists. This time he had his new book to discuss “The Tradition: A New History of Welsh Art 1400-1990”
Peter started with “Yr Amaethwyr” 1842 by John Cambrian Rowlands of Aberystwyth. He was a skinner and probably taught himself to paint. Many of the early Welsh painters were artisans who painted the walls, the pub signs and then portrait paintings. with a background that told a story or history of the subject of the portrait. Edward Owen of Penrhos 1731, was one of the earliest portrait painters. His mother saw him not as an artist but as a tradesman. But, he saw himself as a portrait painter.
By 1850, photo portraits were popular but they were usually taken outside as they needed good light. As a result of this, artists often painted portraits of livestock as animals wouldn’t stand still long enough for a photograph to be taken.
By 1880 artisans still painted the pub signs but the portrait painters were academically trained.
Writing about the meaning of pictures in their social and political context, he is challenging the widely-held view that Wales as a nation possessed no visual culture. He has a keen interest in artisan paintings and also painters who have been marginalised or did not enjoy long periods of success for various reasons. Art historians concentrated on painters who had been academically trained such as Joshua Reynolds and as recently as 1950, David Bell said that he did not feel that there was any visual art worth seeing in Wales. Peter showed us what they did not see or chose not to see.
Many of the paintings included in his books are works that Peter himself has recovered as part of his research, including a self portrait by Edward Owen of Anglesey from 1732. Peter discovered it after it had been lost for over 80 years. It is thought to be the earliest self portrait of a Welsh painter and was painted while Owen was an apprentice painter in London in 1732. Peter said: "These are stories of discovery and recovery and revealing these people who are so fascinating - when I write about them I reveal a lot about myself too."
Friday 31st March 2017
Visit to the School of Art - please arrive at the School of Art no later than 7.20pm
Dr Harry Heuser will give a talk on Charles Tunnicliffe's prints
We were lucky to be able to have our evening hosted by the School of Art which is becoming an annual even. It was just as exciting as ever and we were made to feel very welcome as usual. We were able to look at the wonderful exhibition on display "From the Life Room: Art School Figure Drawings and Studies since 1800". We then went into the classroom and Dr Heuser gave a fascinating talk about the life and works of Charles Tunnicliffe. He started off the evening by making reference to the Art Society's visit last year and showed photos of some of the group with the Stanley Anderson exhibition, before leading into the works of Tunnicliffe. The Art School is putting together a catalogue for an exhibition of Tunnicliffe's work entitled Second Nature. Tunnicliffe was an artist and writer and grew up within a faring family. By the age of 19 he was selling pieces of his work for one guinea and was awarded a scholarship to go to London to study architecture, painting and etching. He created beautiful intricate etchings of country scenes which were close to his heart. In 1929 his prints were not selling so well, so he moved into illustration and created the illustrations for Tarka the Otter, which most of us have read. An author he illustrated for, Henry Williamson inspired Tunnicliffe to become interested in birds and in the 1930s he started creating wood engravings of birds. By the time his middle age came, he found he could not see the intricate markings needed for wood engravings and he later retired to Anglesey where he studied the birds there and created detailed drawings of birds, often using dead birds for reference. He had his first solo exhibition in the 1970s at the Royal Academy, but this was more of a biological or scientific show of his works rather than an art exhibition.
Professor Robert Meyrick then went on to display some of the prints of Tunnicliffes works and we were able to look at the incredible detail in these beautiful pieces. It was amazing to see the variety of his work, which included illustrating much loved and much used books that we all know so well - Ladybird. He also illustrated Brooke Bond tea picture cards which were very familiar for many of us.
All in all, a very interesting and rewarding evening - thank you Dr Heuser and Professor Meyrick. I'm sure we'd love to come back next year if you'll have us!
Ruth Jen Evans - a talk by Welsh artist Ruth Jen
Friday 28th April 2017
Ruth Jên Evans who specializes in printmaking was our guest speaker tonight. Ruth Jên talked first about how her iconic Welsh Ladies came about and the history of Welsh costumes. Originally, Welsh dress was only worn by rural women and was made from local fibres, especially sheep wool which could be gathered free from the hedgerows, and was dyed using local plants and seaweed. It was promoted and adopted by Lady Llanover who made it fashionable amongst her friends and associates and gave all her staff Welsh costumes to wear.
Ruth Jên then demonstrated a simple method of mono-printing that everyone could take part in without getting too messy. She then quickly and expertly demonstrated how to draw one of her Welsh Ladies using a series of mainly triangles and then proceeded to transfer the drawing onto another material and printed it out. The result was striking and soon everyone produced their own designs and went home feeling that the evening had been well worthwhile.
Many thanks to Ruth Jên for making the evening so entertaining
Friday 26th May 2017
Caroline Maddison - cold enamelling
This evening we welcomed Caroline Maddison to speak to us about cold enamelling. Caroline is a long time member of the Ceredigion Art Society and it is always a pleasure to see what other members get up to.
Caroline gave us a brief history of enamelling which is the term given to the fusion of ground glass onto a metal base. A kiln is required for this type of enamelling which can be heated up to 500 degrees. Possibly the most renowned enamelling that comes to mind today is that done by the ancient Egyptians - particularly King Tutankhamun's mask with those beautiful blues and golds.
Caroline brought some of here work for us to have a look at which included jewellery, slate and enamel pictures. She had brought a small oven with her that was heated to 150 degrees which was perfect for cold enamelling. After a short break we were all given a small piece of mount board and a selection of enamel colours for us to try our hand at making a small piece of artwork to take home. This was great fun and everyone had a play with using leaves as stencils to create layers of colour, texture and pattern, all on a pice of card. One member took it further and enamelled a snail shell - just goes to show that anything can be enamelled as long as it tolerates 150 degrees!
Thank you Caroline for a really fun evening!
Friday 30th June 2017
Friday 29th September 2017
Angela Hathaway - Running a pottery business
Our speaker was Angela Hathway who describes herself as an Animal Artist, sculptor, ceramicist, illustrator and tutor. She says that she is inspired by animals and positive people.
Angela told us about her life and career and showed us how she made the moulds for her creations and how she built up the actual sculptures and ceramics.
She makes birds, cats, dogs, hares and horses and other animals. One of her bestselling is a small mouse sitting on a Bible.
Thank you Angela for an interesting talk and for bringing all those boxes with your delicate pieces of work for us to look at.
Friday 27th October 2017
Our speaker was Paul Webster tutor and artist.
Many of us already know Paul through his Life Drawing classes but this time he concentrated not on drawing but on colour. Many of us thought that we already knew about colour but Paul gave us a different way of looking at it.
He gave us the benefit of his experience as a painter and teacher and advised us to use the colours that give the broadest range of options eg use Process Magenta, a colour often avoided but useful to make purples when they are needed for relative contrast.
He explained that the colour space main dimentions are Saturation – the extent from grey: Tonal value – how dark or how light: Hue
He explained in detail about Colour Wheels including Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colours and touched on Colour Therapy eg blue increases calmness.
We ended the evening inspired to use colour to its best effect.
Thank you Paul for a very interesting talk.
Friday 24th November 2017
Annual Meeting - please note start 7.00pm
Our mystery speaker this year was Elizabeth Hale (known as Halie), who has taught art at Coleg Ceredigion for the last 33 years. Although she retired four years ago, she still does a bit of teaching. Halie describes herself as being a teacher first and an artist second and has always had an interest in the human face. She calls herself her a drawer rather than a painter and her media are line and colour. Her outside influences include Welsh artist Shani Rhys James who is well known for her portraiture.
Halie started a Masters degree in art four years ago and based her work on the human face and its fragility. She showed us her preparatory work for the two exhibitions she had for her Masters and also the finished work that was displayed. She finished with two short video clips of the work and the space it occupied.
Thank you Halie for being our mystery guest.