Tuesday, 23 August 2016


Running one's own business can often mean long hours and not much free time let alone actual holidays! I have to improvise and compromise on ways of detangling my brain at the end of a long week.
A long standing method of tranquillising the tension is to meander around museums and galleries. I find looking at artistry of all dipliplines calming, uplifting and inspiring, helping me get back into the Urban Croft with renewed vigour.
Two recent exhibitions that have more than sufficed in evoking all the above responses were Georgiana Houghton-Spirt Drawings at The Courthold Gallery and Winifred Knights at The Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Georgina Houghton was a victorian spiritualist who, with no formal art training, produced the most extraordinary abstract paintings that wouldn't look out of place next to any modern artist and which she always claimed were made whilst in one of her seance trances.

Above, 'Glory be to God' 1864 Georgiana Houghton.

The results are linear spiralling concentrics, like an out of control spirograph. Delicate white hairline marks, like gossamer spiders silk, overlay layers of colourful, primary swirls and give great depth to these paintings. You really feel you are looking into the dark recesses of a tangled mind or another world.
Houghton's art was ridiculed at the time, not for its spiritual nature-those victorians, especially the Pre-Raphaelites [Rossetti was especially interested in parapsychology], loved a bump in the night, even Ruskin attended a seance-but because her work was, visually, so far ahead of its time [most of the exhibits were painted in the 1860s] and mainly because she was a woman.
By complete contrast, Winifred Knights' paintings, a prize-winning, Slade-trainned artist, are considered, calm and serene. Knights was very influenced by Italian Renaissance Art, which is evident in the composition of her pictures. Her aesthetic placement of subject matter is meticulously planned and harmonious. She was also inspired by Rural Socialism, which, depending on your point of view, could be considered no less fantastical than Houghton's spiritualism. I, for one, have never understood this concept of rural romanticism, where baking bread barefoot or rearing rare-breed pigs fed only on imported Iberican acorns is the solution to all one's woes. As His Wellerness once sang 'In the city there's a thousand things I want to say to you' whereas in the country no one can hear you scream [unless there's a referendum]
Still Winifred Knights' paintings were very beautiful to behold and made me want to rush home and get my paints out.

A View To The East From The British School At Rome, 1922, Winifred Knights

I did actually manage a little sojourn in the village of Yegen, once home to the British author Gerald Brenan, high up in the mountains of Andalusia, and it was glorious, and yes, I did wonder if maybe I could live somewhere like this. The idea of a hammock under an orange tree could be seen as the epitome of a rural idyl. Sneaking off for shady siestas with my book didn't get much closer to Heaven, but I realised the real luxury was having the time to do it and if I had all the time in the world it would cease to be that.

Above and below, my home for a week in the village of Yegen

The view from my bedroom window

Above and below, simplicity personified in the interiors

Sunset in the Sierra's

Above, a rather hot day on the Med [which incidentally is a great white shark breeding ground-biggest one ever recorded was found by a fisherman off the coast of Corsica]

Above, the little luxuries of life-a hammock, a book and a glass of wine.
Above and below,
Various views of the Sierra Nevada.

I always take paper, pens, pencils and paint when I travel. Sometimes they never make it out of my case, but this time, maybe thanks to Winifred Knights, they were unpacked and utilised. Those mountains were darn difficult to draw though, and without sounding too shamanesque, they were definite shape shifters and changed every time I looked up from my sketch book.
It was the briefest of respites because, as we hurtle with the speed of sound towards The London Design Festival, I have a workload even a beast of burden would have trouble shouldering.
Talking of The London Design Festival I'm showing at The London Design Fair to help celebrate Tent London's 10th anniversary, which is where I launched Jessica Light Trims and Tassels in 2008, so it's welcome homecoming for me. 

Trade tickets available from The London Design Fair.