Brian Taylor – The Long Read


 

 

Shying away from showing his work publicly in his life time, Brian Taylor’s work is seldom seen. This remarkable body of sculpture and rare drawings are indicative of Taylor’s unparalleled observation of animated volume and we are delighted to be showing this collection of sculpture and drawing in Messums Wiltshire. 

 

Brian Taylor studied at the Slade School of Art in the mid-1950s and his prowess as a sculptor of the human figure was so impressive that he gained a covetable three-year scholarship to Rome. The artworks Taylor encountered there stimulated him enormously, ranging from classical sculpture right through to early twentieth-century modernism.

 

‘Italy called him back in 1971, and he could not resist an impulse to visit the Serra di Burano. This alluring rural area, not far from Umbria, enabled him to study horses – in particular an unusually large and well-built animal strong enough to run even when pulling a very hefty cart. Although this pugnacious creature threatened to bite Taylor, he insisted on studying the mighty horse at close quarters. He cunningly distracted the animal by flinging wet clay onto its nose. And while the horse licked off this muddy substance, Taylor took detailed measurements of its head and body without suffering any assault at all.’                                                                                                          Art Historian & Critic, Richard Cork

 

Taylor’s interest in sculpting animal form has pervaded his work ever since and we are delighted to show a selection of stand out bronze works focussing specifically on Taylor’s obsession with the characters and forms of animals.

Drawings from the Gabo Studio 
Also included in the exhibition are drawings made during a period of time Taylor spent in Naum Gabo’s studio in Connecticut. Taylor rarely made drawings of his subjects in advance of sculpting them in clay, but in 1984 he went to stay in New York and worked in the studio of one of his major artistic inspirations; the celebrated Russian artist, Naum Gabo. Taylor had made a series of drawings of the sunflowers that surrounded his summer house in Umbria, Italy, coupling a homage to Van Gogh – whom he also revered – with one of the most celebrated Russian artists of the 20th century. Taylor’s wife, Michele Franklin, whose grandmother, the painter Miriam Israels, married Gabo as her second husband, had suggested that Taylor go to New York to launch his career on the international scene:

 

“Brian had always been fascinated that I was related to Gabo,” she recalled. “Gabo kept a place in Connecticut and had a quiet studio there and after he died, my grandmother loved people to work in it.” There was a beautiful flower garden surrounding the house created by Miriam, which inspired Brian to start drawing the things he saw around him there, as he had been doing in Italy ever since he bought the house near Gubbio in the early 1980s.

HEAD CHEF: Toddy Westropp, Friday 28 August


Join us for supper at our popular Weekend Lates at the Mess Restaurant under canvas with a three-course supper by head chef Toddy Westropp. Her emphasis on seasonal and locally sourced produce ensures the best quality fresh ingredients are the stars of  the dish.

 

Starter

A shot of  zesty chalke Valley Watercress soup

Main

Choice of

Pan Fried Devon Duck with a greengage coulis, Crispy herbed Fonthill Estate potatoes.  Heritage French Beans with radish, shallots and a honey, mustard dressing.

Sea bass with lemon, confit garlic, pink peppercorn butter, served with crispy Fonthill potatoes and an orange and watercress salad, dressed with a local raspberry dressing.

Homewood Sheep Curd, greengage and drunken Apricot. Crispy, herbed Fonthill Estate potatoes.  Heritage French Beans with radish, shallots and a honey, mustard dressing.

Dessert

Panna Cotta with local seasonal fruits

 

 

Sea bass with lemon, confit garlic, pink peppercorn butter, served with crispy Fonthill potatoes and an orange and watercress salad, dressed with a local raspberry dressing.

GUEST CHEF: Ben Abercrombie, Saturday 22 August


 

Menu

Prix Fixe

£35

*

Beginning

Grilled Sourdough Bread, cultured butter from Dorset Dairy Co

Starter

Chilled courgette soup with Portland crab and apple

Main course cooked over the fire

Creedy carver Duck smoked over hay with coal roasted beetroot and elderberries

For the table

John Hurd’s water cress dressed In mimosa

Dessert

Tonka bean set cream, greengages, honeycomb almonds

 

 

Vegetarian / vegan

Beginning

Grilled Sourdough Bread, cultured butter from Dorset Dairy Co

Starter (vegan)

Chilled courgette soup with young cheese curds

Main (vegan)

Grilled marrow, white miso, oyster mushroom

For the table

John Hurd’s water cress dressed In mimosa

Dessert

Tonka bean set cream, greengages, honeycomb almonds

 

 

Recommended wine pairings available

 

TALK: SUZANNE FAGENCE COOPER; At home with Jane & William Morris


Friday 18th September 2020

In the summer of 1860, Jane and William moved into their brand-new home, The Red House, in Kent. For five busy years, their home was a gathering place for artists, poets and architects. Suzanne Fagence Cooper exploreed the Morris’s remarkable partnership and how the friendships forged in these early years transformed British art and design. William and Jane pioneered alternative ways of home-making. They worried about wastefulness. They asked tough questions about making, buying and selling. William set about revolutionising how Victorian houses were furnished. And Jane, by transforming herself and her domestic surroundings, showed how the home could be a creative space, a source of intellectual and physical refreshment.

For both, the garden was an essential part of home and every Spring was an adventure. Jane wrote from Italy, later in life: ‘they tell me that flowers are coming up in the garden, and blossom on fruit trees.’ This sense of possibility, of new growth, of fruitfulness was woven through all their schemes for their life together. Drawing on letters, diaries and the wealth of objects they made and treasured, this talk opens up new ways of thinking about, in Morris’s words, ‘How we live and how we might live’.

Dr. Suzanne Fagence Cooper is a writer, broadcaster and curator who spent 12 years at the V&A Museum, researching the Victorian collections. As an expert on 19 th and 20 th century British art, she is in demand as a lecturer for the Arts Society, and as an invited speaker for Cunard voyages. She was Research Curator for the exhibition, ‘Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud,’ held at York Art Gallery in 2019. She is an historical consultant for the BBC and Channel 4, and advised Ralph Fiennes on his film, ‘The Invisible Woman’, about Dickens and the actress Ellen Ternan. Suzanne’s publications include ‘Pre-Raphaelite Art in the V&A Museum’ and the biography of ‘Effie Gray’. Her most recent book is ‘To See Clearly: Why Ruskin Matters’ (Quercus 2019). She is currently writing ‘How we might live: At Home with Jane and William Morris’.

TALK: ‘Elisabeth Frink’ by Jo Baring from the Ingram Foundation


Wednesday 12 August 2020

A talk at the barn and online about the sculpture of Elisabeth Frink by curator, consultant and arts speaker Jo Baring.

Jo Baring is on the authentication committee for Elisabeth Frink, so who better to come to Frink’s studio reconstructed in our tithe barn gallery and discuss the legendary sculptor’s life and work.

Jo is the Director of the Ingram Collection of Modern British & Contemporary Art, one of the UK’s leading art collections. Jo has curated exhibitions at museums and public galleries across the country. Her particular areas of expertise focus on 20th century & contemporary art, sculpture, arts philanthropy and the art market.

ONLINE TALK: Podcast with Peter Murray CBE, Founder and Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park


Friday 10 July, from 11am

In the opening week of  A Place Apart – the Elisabeth Frink Studio, Peter Murray CBE, Founder and Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, recounts memories of Elisabeth Frink and discusses her legacy with Johnny Messum.

Peter Murray CBE founded the Sculpture Park in 1977 with a single grant of £1,000 and an exhibition of 31 sculptures. Since then some of the major exhibitions he has organised at Yorkshire Sculpture Park include Elisabeth Frink, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Andy Goldsworthy, which won the South Bank Show Award for Visual Arts.

He was awarded the title of OBE in 1996 for services to the arts, and the title of CBE in 2010.

STUDIO STORY: online talk with John Beard


John_Beard_events_page

Friday 24 July 2020

 

Messums is delighted to represent the important contemporary painter John Beard, whose work has been exhibited worldwide and is held in the collections of major gallery museums and institutions, and to welcome to the gallery for his first UK show since 2013. John will be our artist-in-residence in Wiltshire this September, followed by solo exhibitions February 2021 (London) and in May 2021 (Wiltshire).

John Beard’s work has been exhibited worldwide and is held in the collections of major gallery museums and institutions including The Tate, The National Gallery of Australia, The Art Gallery of New South Wales and The Gulbenkian’s Centro de Arte Moderna in Lisbon, Portugal.

Born in Aberdare, Wales in 1943, Beard studied at the University of London and the Royal College of Art. Beard has had a distinguished teaching career throughout England and Australia co – producing and appearing in a series of programmes for BBC 2 television in the UK . In 1989. he resigned from teaching in order to devote his full attention to his practice, Beard traveled extensively, living and exhibiting in New York, Madrid, Lisbon and London before establishing a Sydney base in 1997.

In 1998 he was Artist -in-Residence and his work was the subject of a solo exhibition titled After Adraga at the Tate St Ives in the UK. In 2000/1, His work Wanganui Heads was selected to represent the year ‘1998’ in The London National Portrait Gallery’s Painting the Century, a Hundred years of Portrait Masterpieces. In 2002, Beard exhibited in HEAD ON: Art with the Brain in Mind, at The Science Museum, London, England. He held a solo exhibition titled After Adraga II at the The Gulbenkian’s Centro de Arte Moderna in Lisbon, Portugal, and at The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. In 2010 a large body of work titled Gesichtlos- die Ästhetik des Diffusen/ Faceless- the aesthetics of Diffusion, was exhibited at Kunsthalle Darmstadt in Germany. In 2013 he exhibited at The Royal Academy of Art’s exhibition titled ‘Australia’ .His most recent solo shows in London have been at Hales Galley and at The Fine Art Society Gallery.

In 2010 he became a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In 2011 a major monograph of his work was published and launched in London at The Royal Academy of Art by Charles Saumarez Smith and in Sydney, at The AGNSW by Edmund Capon. In 2013 he exhibited at The Royal Academy of Art’s exhibition titled ‘Australia’. His most recent
solo shows in London have been at Hales Galley and at The Fine Art Society Gallery, both in London.In 2016 he returned to the UK and established a home and studio in London. The artist now divides his time between London and Sydney.

 

TOUR & TALK: Alexander Lindsay Exhibition: South African Landscapes


Alexander_Lindsay_South_Africa_photograph

Saturday 19 September, 11am (sold out), 12pm and 6pm

A tour of the show and talk at the barn gallery by Alexander Lindsay as he introduced his latest exhibition ‘South African Landscapes’.

We are delighted to present a solo exhibition by photographer Alexander Lindsay whose incredibly detailed panoramic landscapes – described as ‘microcosms in scale’ – aim to allow the viewer to experience a place as he did at the time of being there.

To achieve this Alex uses up to 80 photographs of a scene which are digitally stitched together to create large-scale images with a scale and depth of field that is incredibly rich and sharp. The resolution and detail are completely immersive and almost super-real and extraordinarily beautiful.

PERFORMANCE: with Anthony Matsena


Saturday 5 September, 7pm, limited spaces, register interest

 

Those who witnessed Anthony Matsena’s ground-breaking performance When it Arrives, commissioned for MOVEMENT in 2019, will not easily forget it. Following that remarkable event, Anthony become our Performance Associate for 2019/20 and this September, we are delighted to present the result of that process as a new work, made in response to the Elisabeth Frink studio building and her work. A synthesis of the legacy and output of Elisabeth Frink and the seismic changes that have taken place this year is the starting point for this new performance. Composed in three acts, and influenced by three distinct locations, the choreography will address ideas of Humanity, Spirituality and Nature in an attempt to crush borders within the framework of a performance and also those between performer and audience. This will be a significant moment within a movement that has included mass uprising, civil unrest and cries for change by one of the UK’s rising stars in the world of dance and choreography.


The performance will be shown live to a limited audience on Saturday 5 September and then debuted online on Saturday 19 September.


Anthony was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and raised in Swansea, Wales. He began dancing from a young age, training in hip hop and street dance. He then started contemporary and ballet training aged 19 at Gower College Swansea, where he joined County Youth Dance Company and Turning Pointe Dance Academy Swansea. Anthony has been a company member of National Youth Dance Wales (NYDW), creating and touring works by Kerry Nicholls, Odette Hughes (Studio Wayne McGregor), Theo Clinkard, and Eleesha Drennan. His break out moment came as a Young Sadler’s Wells Associate in 2019, and he has since performed works by Ohad Naharin, Hofesh Shechter, Richard Alston, Joseph Toonga for Just Us Dance Theatre, and most recently a new play ‘Tree’ by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah at Young Vic Theatre and Manchester International Festival. Anthony is also the co- founder of Matsena Performance Theatre alongside brother Kel.

Ticket numbers are limited to allow for social distancing, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Material Textile: Nicola Wood speaks to Ashley Gray


Armada, 1965

 

The conversation below between Nicola Wood and Ashley Gray took place on 31 March 2020

Ashley Gray:
Thank you so much for talking to us and I am delighted that your textiles are included in this important exhibition, Material Textile: Modern British Female Designers with Vibration from 1964, April Showers from 1965 and from the same year Armada in fiery reds and oranges.

Can I take you back to early days as your journey as a designer and artist has been quite unique. It was your very earliest drawings that were spotted by one of your teachers that set you on your life’s journey?

Nicola Wood:
Yes, absolutely, Mr Aspdidge at Forefield Lane school in Crosby. I didn’t know that he thought I was a good artist. I lived near to the school. I could see the school yard from my bedroom window. In the summer holidays I would take a tennis racket and play against the wall in the school yard. He encouraged my mother to send me to Southport School of Art. I was 15.

AG:
How did you find Southport?

NW:
I worked at the cinema in Southport when I was at the Art School there in the early 50s. I used to sell the ice creams in the interval. The films were mostly American, and they shone with resplendent landscapes of sun, beaches, swimming pools, palm trees, and chrome-laden automobiles; nothing was rationed; all was colour ‘opulence’. I loved them. At Southport, the training was strictly ‘classical’, life drawing and anatomy, attention to ‘the line’ was embedded in my classes: lines of the human body, the cut of clothing, the contours of landscape, and the lines of architecture.

AG:
Were you able to specialise on the course?

NW:
Yes, I was told to do Fashion and Textiles. I wanted to be in the Painting School but was told – “no, no, no, Fashion and Textiles, you’re a girl, you should do Fashion and Textiles.” I was young, I did not object of course. I couldn’t, I had always been told what to do and I did it. I did not like cutting patterns. I saw the Textile department were splashing paint around so I transferred to Textiles so I too could splash paint around.

April Showers, 1965

AG:
That was a good move. When I think of your later textiles for Heals – Vibration and April Showers – it is their wonderful painterly quality that gives them their vitality. So painting was freedom for you?

NW:
Absolutely, yes, yes. I can remember one thing that I did there, looking through a microscope at a cut-up bumble bee – all the colours and abstractions in that inspired me. You can imagine a bumble bee just the wings – extraordinary abstract shapes. I would just look in the microscope and do a painting.

AG:
It was around this time that you first visited the Royal College of Art in London?

NW:
Yes, I had heard about the Royal College, that it was the tops, the place to aim for. I had heard about London and I was curious. When I passed my intermediate exam at Southport, I don’t know how I did this! I went to London for the first time on the charabanc. A 9-hour journey, to see if I could get into the Royal College of Art. Not knowing you had to apply formally. I found myself on Tottenham Court road not knowing where I was going to live and I just asked people and finally a policeman’s wife took me in. I must have been about 17.

AG:
Did you get to the Royal College?

NW:
Yes, indeed. Textile Professor Robert Nicholson took me into his office one day and the only sentence I remember him saying to me was: “It’s pointless teaching women art, all they do is get married and have children”. I get goose bumps thinking of that moment.

AG:
Yet in this exhibition we see living proof that it was women designers who changed the cultural face of Britain. Bringing your designs into people’s homes that radically changed the way that people felt about their, and lived, their lives.

NW:
Right! But I still got First-Class Honours from the Royal College. During the period I was at the Royal College I designed a lot, I was very inspired by the Thames & Hudson book published in the late 1950s or early ‘60s, Art since 1945, which covered Abstract Expressionist paintings from America and I got involved with Abstract Expressionism and really went to town on it. It was wonderful. I made a lot of designs and sold a lot that had this abstract feeling. It was the key inspiration of this period of my life. I was discovering texture and abstract shapes as opposed to conventional flowers that had always been very popular. We did I now realise change the course of design history. Tom Worthington of Heal’s who bought these and produced them to begin with was the instigator of all of this.

AG:
Your work at the RCA was recognised by the visionary Sir Robin Darwin, one of the most revered figures in the RCA’s history?

NW:
Yes, prior to graduation, Sir Robin introduced me in the Senior Common Room, announcing that I was to be a Fulbright Scholar to the Parsons School of Design in New York. I was only 21 and had never been to New York.

AG:
How did it contrast to your experience in London?

NW:
Oh, it was contrasting. I showed up to class wearing trousers and was told to go home and change into a skirt. The world was behind London when it came to the 1960s and the mini skirt. Everything was changing, fashion changed, textile design changed, painting changed, everything was in change. It was exciting. When I got to Parsons School, they put up a big exhibition of my abstract textile designs in the lobby of the Art School, which was very nice. I had a wonderful teacher called Emil Antonucci a graphic designer, a magnificent creative man and he believed in me. He taught me how to do book jacket design and how to set type.

AG:
You won commissions in New York?

NW:
Yes, I had more work than I could handle, and I was supposed to be only studying. Endless book jackets like the 1st edition of Tennessee Williams Night of the Iguana. Full page advertisement artwork for CBS TV. It never occurred to me that I might be a graphic designer.

AG:
So, when the scholarship was completed, how did you feel about having to return home to London from New York after having achieved so much?

NW:
I did not want to go back; I was not finished. I was living in Greenwich Village on Bleeker Street, which was the hub of whatever was happening with the youth in New York. All the artists hung out down there. I had the most wonderful time and I did not want to go back to England. But I had to go. I was dating a man who I had fallen in love with. He came back with me on the Queen Mary. We were married at the Registrar’s Office in Chelsea on the Kings Road. He got work as a copy writer at an advertising agency. I still have the trunk that we used for the crossing with the Cunard Line stickers all over it.

AG:
What of your fellow Royal College classmates?

NW:
Dereck Boshier, Pauline Boty destined to be icons of the Pop Art movement, Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney and Jane Percival, Zandra Rhodes were classmates and friends. We all saw ourselves as ‘one and the same: artists’. We all lived in Notting Hill Gate – Zandra, Hockney, Ossie Clarke who lived a couple of doors down from me. Michael Hastings the playwright lived upstairs.

AG:
Where you conscious of it being such a unique time?

NW:
No, no. It was just life. If I had been conscious of it, I would have respected it more. I would never have guessed that the people I was at college with would become so famous. We were just all so involved in our own work.

AG:
So, the commissions started to come in from Heal’s, Liberty’s, John Lewis and Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba.

Vibration, 1964

NW:
Oh yes, but Heal’s had already discovered me while I was at the Royal College. They bought work from my diploma show. I remember later walking back to my studio on Blenheim crescent and seeing to my surprise and delight my designs on the curtains in a window of a big house. Vibration, the one in the exhibition, was an early one from 1964, Tom Worthington, the Heals buyer and later Managing Director, even sent staff to New York to try and get me to give them more designs.

AG:
Who else commissioned your designs?

NW:
I had a runaway hit with Rasch in Germany. I did not realise how successful it was until I got a cheque in the mail. I didn’t know if it was for £1 or £100. I took it to Barclays and asked them to deposit it and the lady said, “Oh it’s for £1,000!” My designs had sold so well for them that they put me on a royalty agreement. I was exclusive with them so I couldn’t design for any one in England any more. They advertised me and the work all over Germany.

I am still in touch with the family, we talk as if I was family. After all they commissioned me for over 25 years. I only stopped when I started painting my oil paintings in L.A. I still visited Germany twice a year.

AG:
So, in 1978 you flew across the Atlantic and settled in Southern California?

NW:
I was invited to LA for a while and I liked it so much that I kept putting off going back and I stayed. I continued sending designs to Germany, I had wanted to become a poster designer. Then in 1984 in the middle of painting, I glanced out a window of my apartment in Hollywood, and caught a glint of sunlight reflected off the chrome of a car parked on the street below. The car was a 1959 Cadillac. I grabbed my camera and raced downstairs to photograph the car feeling as if its gleaming chrome and swoopy contours were magnetic forces pulling me. I knew I had to paint the car and that I would no longer be a textile designer. That was my artistic epiphany. From that moment everything changed.

AG:
25 years as the only woman member of the Automotive Fine Arts Society in the United States?

NW:
Yes, the renowned Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles exhibited a selection of my paintings in which the actual automobile featured in each painting was staged with my painting of the car. That exhibition was sponsored by Cadillac. I was commissioned by other automobile manufacturers to create paintings of their cars; Aston Martin being one of those firms. So, all those American Movies, featuring American cars and American landscapes, the films I used to watch in Southport, they never went away.

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