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Exhibition Review: ‘Horizons: Kettle’s Yard’ @ Jerwood Gallery

Proclaimed ‘friend of artists’ Jim Ede and his wife Helen accumulated a large collection of British artwork, for which four terraced cottages in Cambridge, known as Kettle’s Yard, became home. In 1966 the gallery was donated to the University of Cambridge and is now temporarily closed for renovation and expansion. The Kettle’s Yard collection is touring the United Kingdom whilst the gallery is under reconstruction. A selection is currently on show at Jerwood Gallery, the second gallery on the tour, providing a unique opportunity to view the works in a different environment and alongside related works from the Jerwood collection.

The majority of the exhibition comprises paintings by Ben Nicholson, his first wife Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, and Alfred Wallis, as well as Barbara Hepworth; a group of artists related to each other in their practice and personal lives. These links contribute to the coherent viewing experience as you move through the gallery. Other works in the exhibition include pieces by Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff and Georges Braque, however these works don’t appear to be the main focus of the display.

mugs ben nicholson

Mugs’ by Ben Nicholson

Ben and Winifred Nicholson’s works hang beside each other on the ground floor. Winifred’s paintings consists of landscape, seascape, portrait and still life, some detailed and realistic, others verging on the naive. Roman Road is an example, being painted on a large canvas and in a single sitting. Ben Nicholson’s paintings complement Winifred’s large scale piece. His Snowscape is a delightful painting with a subtle blue, white, ochre and grey palette that captures the ephemeral snow laden landscape that enthralled him at his farmhouse in Cumbria. More abstract works by Nicholson include Mugs, a precise painting of cubist influence and Musical Instruments, a large oil painting portraying music produced by a violin and guitar. His three dimensional painted reliefs sit beneath superbly balanced paintings of complete abstraction. These relate closely to the abstract paintings of his second wife Barbara Hepworth that hang on the first floor.

A number of paintings by artist and close friend of Ben Nicholson, Christopher Wood, hang upstairs. The large and delicately painted Self-portrait depicts Wood on a balcony in Paris at night and has a somewhat sinister quality. Boy with Cat is another large but briskly painted canvas, with pencil lines still visible in places beneath the paint. Wood’s The Bather, part of the Jerwood collection, hangs beside these works.

Alfred Wallis’s primitive seascapes inspired both Wood and Nicholson who had travelled to St Ives together in 1928. The two artists helped Wallis gain recognition for his paintings, some of which, such as Sailing Ship and Orchard, now hang in this exhibition. Wallis worked from memory, often using paint bought from chandleries, and viewing his art one can appreciate his intimate knowledge of seamanship. His naive painting style ignores conventional perspective; the scale of objects within each scene correlates with the importance Wallis instilled upon them. In this respect they could be said to reflect a map, a method of representation Wallis would have been used to reading from his career as mariner and deep-sea fisherman. The paintings are very appropriate for the gallery – one could even imagine Wallis painting the fishing boats and net sheds between which Jerwood Gallery is nestled.

Jerwood Gallery is located on the Stade, Hastings and the exhibition Horizons: Kettle’s Yard at Jerwood Gallery runs until 3rd January 2016.

By Stuart (Billy) Myles-Berkouwer

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