Charleston’s second exhibition in the Wolfson Gallery positioned the work of former Charleston residents – Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) and Duncan Grant (1885-1978) – within a century of great British colourists.
Curated by London-based textile designer, Cressida Bell, granddaughter of artist Vanessa Bell, the exhibition featured a broad-ranging and highly personal selection of works that reflected Cressida Bell’s personal aesthetic as well as her artistic heritage.
Bell and Grant were two of the first abstract painters in Britain, and, even when they were creating figurative and representational work, the abstract qualities of colour remained a dominant element.
Drawing on loans from private and public collections, the show featured works by some of the greatest painters of the last century’ including: Eileen Agar, Robert Bevan, Francis Cadell, Patrick Caulfield, Robert Dukes, Mary Fedden, Mark Gertler, Patrick Heron, John Hoyland, Stanislawa de Karlowska, Paul Nash, Glyn Warren Philpot and Sean Scully, as well as the Bloomsbury artists Bell, Grant and Roger Fry.
Virginia Woolf called her sister Vanessa Bell “a poet whose medium was colour.” The Bloomsbury group’s modernist treatment of colour broke with accepted artistic conventions of the day. The freedom of abstraction allowed Bell and Grant to play with colour and shape in new ways; their paintings, typical of the 20th century, move towards colour dominating composition. This abstract idiom provides a new context for examining the painting of the Bloomsbury group, as radical painters who saw colour as the most vital component of an image.
‘I spent time at Charleston as a child, and the house and the painters who lived there have informed my sense of colour ever since. This show comes out of my years of working with colour as a designer, both within and beyond the Bloomsbury palette. It’s my personal selection of 35 exciting and above all gorgeous works by 20th century British artists; works where colour is the driving force, where each one tells a different story through the beautiful and striking combinations of colour in play. I’m fascinated by the power of colour, by the way it can change the mood and create a vibe that ranges from the bright and exuberant to the wistful and the ethereal. By assembling an eclectic mix of great British colourists seldom seen exhibited together I’m inviting you to see them in a new light – the light of colour.’ Cressida Bell
Land was devoted to two landscapes – The Downs in East Sussex between the Cuckmere and Ouse Valleys, and West Penwith in the extreme west of Cornwall.
Both of these landscapes have been, and remain, key for Hughes when he works in England. The Downs was the basis of his very first exhibition in 1972 and West Penwith was a key part of his large exhibition at Tate St.Ives in 2000. These two landscapes were also very important to Virginia Woolf.
Included were recent works created especially for Charleston, seen side by side with earlier works. The exhibition also includes a number of abstract paintings.
Hughes paints mainly in acrylic, on paper, board and canvas.