Three Young London Artists Bring New Art to Pima College’s Bernal Gallery | Brighten up


Back in 2019, carefree days before the pandemic, David Andres traveled to London to see some art.

Traveling with members of the Contemporary Art Society of the Tucson Museum of Art, Andres toured art studios throughout the Old Town and found gold in warehouses in South London. He met a trio of talented young Britons who had studied at the prestigious Royal College of Art and exhibited their work abroad. Andres invited the three –– Alice Browne, George Little and Anthony Banks –– to exhibit their work in distant Arizona at the Louis Carlos Bernal Gallery at Pima College West.

Andres, the gallery’s respected curator, has organized an exhibition for British artists to mount during the 2020-2021 school year. This did not happen, of course; the pandemic forced the gallery to sink for a year and a half.

But there are silver linings. The three artists have all used the lock-in year to do intense work, working alone in their studios and creating all-new art suites. And now they have the honor of reopening the gallery with artwork shipped overseas from England. Each of the artists produced works on paper, richly layered in a raft of materials, from oil and acrylic to gouache and charcoal to pen, pencil and wax.

Their fresh work, carried out in a historic time of sadness, is like the proverbial balm of Gilead.

When you walk into the radiant white gallery, the first things you notice are the unusual colors of George Little. Andres sees in it the glorious hues of Matisse – red, orange, blue, green and white. Interestingly, Little’s work resembles that of the early 20th century modernists – Matisse included – more than that of contemporary artists today.

Little grew up in London in a family of chefs and restaurateurs. He spent a lot of time clearing tables and washing dishes, before working as a chef and bartender. In these new paintings, he uses his beautiful colors to evoke plates, tables, menus and even leftovers.

At first glance, these restaurant-inspired paintings appear to be pure abstractions, made of attractive shapes, curves and lines. “Tossed”, for example, is a cheerful mix of small irregular shapes colored in green, red and orange. But Little manages to make his work both abstract and figurative: squint on the bubbling “Tossed” and you will see that it is also the portrait of a salad.

Likewise, “Menus” is a cascade of white shapes, encrusted with curves and abstract lines, framed in rich colors. These white shapes are also a set of restaurant menus.

Little’s inventive new sequel also evokes the loneliness of the pandemic. In all the clutter of his painted restaurant, there is not a single human being.

Alice Browne’s striking paintings are more solemn than Little’s. A few of her pieces are colored in pretty pinks and sky blues, but others are dark and even spooky. A foul yellow here, a night purple there, give a disturbing backdrop to the painted ropes, arrows and chain links.

In his artist statement, Browne states: “There is no perfection, no truth; instead, I hope to do works… that embrace the mutability and failures of human experience.

The painting “Sebastian”, Browne’s contemporary version of the story of San Sebastian, seems to fulfill this sad purpose. The artwork is covered with square plaques of this unhealthy yellow, and dangerous tree branches loom across the stage. In the midst of this disturbing work is a human hand and a host of arrows piercing the flesh.

The martyr Saint Sebastian, of course, was regularly painted by Renaissance artists; they showed him almost naked and pierced with arrows. The artist’s version makes the saint almost invisible; in 2021, this Sebastian is just a suffering man.

Much bigger arrows fly through the midnight purple of “Untitled”. In another room, another set of arrows pass in front of the moon and over a treacherous chain link fence. Its chilling title? “Presage.”

But there is some relief. In the painting “Portal”, a front door of a house of a pleasant pink and blue, seems to offer a shelter against fate.

Of the three artists, Anthony Banks is engaged with nature and the outdoors. His 12 works are full of birds and boats and land around the sea. But these pieces of familiar subjects are by no means saccharin.

“Fruit Bowl and Coastline” is an abstraction that boldly shatters images into rapidly dotted outlines. “Sailing Boat” is more of a collection of colorful curved boards than a portrait of a marine dinghy.

Banks has perhaps the most interesting layering technique. He does a lot of collages and prefers a long “slow laminate” of his paper. He welcomes accidental errors, he writes, and waits “for the works to end, for marks and paint to accumulate, for the dust to settle”.

The result is a wonderful soft texture that reminds me of old-fashioned prints in children’s books. The aviary of “British Birds and Finches” almost disappears in a bright pale green, and the charming “Heron under Willow”, a mix of dark navy, golden tan and white, turns into a guessing game to find the beautiful one. bird. ??


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