Art Art and illustration

Two favourites from Brighton’s Open Houses

Walking around Brighton’s open houses is a dangerous business. If money were no object (sadly not the case) I would return with sackfuls of ceramics, art pieces, and so on. Which is not to say that I don’t get a bit ho-hummish at all the ‘me-too’ stuff out there – such as enlarging small things like seedcases to make big ceramic pieces, or decorative black and white line drawings with an area of zingy colour. But in my brief two day walkabout with Lorraine (aka Mrs Kenny) I found two artists whose work I particularly warmed to.

Heike Roesel, is a fine art printmaker whose work Lorraine discovered last year. Perhaps it is because Heike is German that her patterned ornate work for me distantly echoes Paul Klee. She specialises in landscapes, of which there were many in the Open Houses. Heike’s work is different though, inspired by the scene and depicting landscapes psychologically rather than just reproducing them in familiar styles. How her work sits on the page, is often highly-graphical too, for example some pieces appear islanded in not-quite-circles in the middle of the page. So are intriguing even when glimpsed from afar.

The one below, called UP is taken from her very good up smallAnother artist whose work I adored (sadly the very last thing I saw, so was skint) was Julie Snowball. I thought her ceramics of Nomadic Ladies, apparently inspired by Gustav Klimt (although they made me think of figures in Max Ernst’s paintings too) were utterly gorgeous. Here’s an image I stole from her website. Beautiful, and unlike any other ceramic work I had seen.


Art Art and illustration Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd.

A Cancer Landscape

‘The Journey To Where?’ Michele Angelo Petrone

“The disbelief, the grief, the doubt, the flung out, the anger, the banter, the bargaining…” Personal experience enabled English artist Michele Angelo Petrone (1963-2007) reach out to others fighting disease. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease at the age of 30, Petrone became artist in residence at several schools and cancer centres, and created his own arts in health foundation.

As well as Petrone’s work, A Cancer Landscape at the ONCA Gallery Brighton till 28 February also features medical images of cancer cells, and workshop pieces generated by people who have experienced the effects of cancer. It is a fitting tribute. “My journey,” Petrone wrote, “has two intertwined threads – elements which mirror each other as exactly as the two chains of a double helix. One is the medical history. The physical injury, the illness, the happening… The parallel thread is my emotional response.”

Writing about healthcare in my professional life, last year I happened to spend weeks looking at dozens of artworks by people with autoimmune diseases. I discovered that when people use art in the context of disease, they frequently dramatise pain or emotional isolation. But when art is brave and skillful enough, as Petrone’s work is, it can connect with the other patient’s feelings and show them that their emotions are not somehow freakish or unique. It can be cathartic, and I was told at the gallery that exhibition has prompted many people to share their own stories as they visited.

Each piece was accompanied by Petrone’s written description, giving something of the emotional and physical context. More interesting to me, however, was the fact that the emotional landscapes he depicted were in primary colours and had an almost childlike quality about them. This hinted that there was something more important than the disease, and were a positive affirmation of life glowing out against the backdrop of cancer. This feeling, of course, made the few sombre compositions on display all the more poignant.

Art and illustration social media Writing

Hey! Hey! Hey!

1_doghelmetThis Gary Larson cartoon has haunted me for ages. I would want, however, my helmet to decode what human beings are actually saying. In fact, in my darkest moments, I wonder what the hell it is I am actually saying, especially when it comes to social media. Would someone sporting one of Larson’s buzzy electric radar helmets look at me, or their feeds and detect only Me! Me! Meeeee!

It’s one of my worst fears. But perhaps it is an occupational hazard when you are creative. For creative minds are laboratories where unpredictable explosions, magnesium flares, and weirdly fascinating lulls occur. For the creative person this can be completely absorbing of course, but to the outside world? Not so much.

So one of my resolutions is to remember the writer’s 101: it’s about the reader stupid.

Art and illustration Family history

Recovering an untold story

Jumper frog hurries home late from work
Jumper frog hurries home late from work
The toad boss is contrite
The toad boss is contrite

Last week I was unexpectedly given a plastic bag containing 13 boards with illustrations by my grandfather, Alex Stowell. Evidently these were intended for a children’s story, which was never published, and the text – if it ever existed – has been lost.  The pictures from The adventures of Jumper Frog, suggest a story in which Jumper Frog works as a cobbler for an oppressive toad, escapes the dangers of foxes and somehow turns the table on his toad boss.

This is a really nice piece of family history. My grandfather died before I was ten, and I chiefly remember him as a witty man with a distinct Indian accent, as he spent his first 20 odd years in the sub-continent. The illustrations for this book, however, are as English as The Wind in the Willows. While they may have their flaws, these pictures make me wonder about the literature and art that languishes in attics never to be seen.