The New Art Centre is proud to present an exhibition of John Hubbard’s early paintings, comprising seven black and white oils on canvas made between 1958 and 1965, which have rarely been seen before. For an artist renowned as a supreme colourist, these monochrome works are bold, dramatic and revelatory. The additional surprise is that they are landscapes. They feature the vigorous brushstrokes and the striking compositions we most associate with Hubbard’s portrayal of natural phenomena, along with a characteristic spontaneity and energy. All that is missing is colour, but that only makes them more compelling.
The genesis of these black and white paintings is to be found in Hubbard’s initial training in abstract expressionism and his early sympathies with the likes of Pollock, Motherwell, Brooks and Kline. They are redolent of an artist in transition, finding a compromise between hard-edged abstraction and representation, as he forged his own way. Hubbard of course made charcoal drawings throughout his lengthy career, and some early examples are included in our new exhibition. There is a distinct graphic quality found in these early paintings and a link to Hubbard’s affinity with the calligraphic art of the Far East. In his text published in 1981 for Hubbard’s exhibition at the Warwick Arts Trust, Bryan Robertson recounts how Hubbard was posted to Japan where he stayed until 1956. “At Harvard he had also studied Japanese and Chinese painting, gardens and architecture, but was equally absorbed by the relationship between work and life in Japan, and by landscape or bird or flower painting in black and white. In Chinese art this is the area which also interested Hubbard the most; and as a whole he prefers Chinese to Japanese art.” Indeed, Hubbard also noted that he liked the “Chinese idea of allowing a subject to absorb you… and then be assayed in a spontaneous, animated way, so as to preserve a sense of life.” Hubbard’s black and white paintings certainly do that. They enthral now just as they did when they were first painted more than fifty years ago.
John Hubbard (1931-2017) was born in Ridgefield, Connecticut (USA). He studied at Harvard University and at the Art Students League in New York and then with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Hubbard moved to Europe in 1958 and lived in Rome for two years before settling in Dorset in 1961, the year in which he also had the first of nine exhibitions with the New Art Centre in London. His work is held in major private and public collections around the world including the Yale Center for British Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Victoria and in the UK at Tate; the Arts Council Collection; British Council Collection; the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and at Pallant House, Chichester. His many solo exhibitions include the Fitzwilliam Museum; Waddesdon Manor; Modern Art Oxford and the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham amongst many others and a show of twenty-five years of his drawings at Kew Gardens. Remaking Landscape, the first comprehensive survey of John Hubbard’s career was published in 2017, a book he described as a “brief facsimile profile of my painting and drawing, it will stand as a retrospective exhibition in itself”.
Kenneth Armitage: The Richmond Oaks – Sculpture, collage and drawing
The New Art Centre is delighted to be working with The Kenneth Armitage Foundation on an exhibition of sculpture and works on paper by Kenneth Armitage which explore the sculptural potential of trees, specifically the ancient oaks he found in Richmond Park. The focal point of the show is the monumental bronze ‘Richmond Oak’ (1985) which is sited in the sculpture park at Roche Court. ‘Richmond Oak’ was originally commissioned by the Government Art Collection to stand in the garden of the British Embassy in Brasilia, one of several important large-scale works Armitage made during a long, illustrious career.
Richmond Park was one of the notable primeval sites in Britain which fascinated Armitage, and John McEwen describes it as one of the “holy English places” that Armitage returned to often as a ritual: “what a sanctuary it was for him from life’s helter-skelter”. (The Richmond Oaks, ‘Redefining: Jessie Flood-Paddock with Kenneth Armitage’, exhibition catalogue, Leeds, 2017). It was the park’s age which made it so fascinating to Armitage, the oak trees seeded in the Middle Ages were witness to the great span of history which enthralled him. For more than thirty years, Armitage visited the park at all times of the year and made studies of these trees, some becoming particular favourite subjects: “The strange peculiarities are well known – branches of massive girth… or jerky, right-angled twists and turns, as though convulsed by electric shock, and deeply fissured bark textures accentuating like intermittent traffic markings on a motorway… each black tree standing free in space isolated, awesome, still, with limbs in frozen gestures”. (Kenneth Armitage, Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo, Gallery Nagoya and Gallery Kashara, Osaka, exhibition catalogue, 1978). These tree subjects made in sketchbooks later became finished drawings, etchings, collages and subsequently table-top bronze sculptures.
William Kenneth Armitage CBE (1916 – 2002) was born in Leeds. He studied at Leeds College of Art and the Slade School in London before joining the British Army in 1939. During World War II he was stationed at Salisbury Plain. After leaving the army, Armitage became head of the sculpture department at the Bath Academy of Art, Corsham in 1946. In 1952, he held his first solo exhibition in London and showed at the Venice Biennale. He went on to exhibit in major museums, galleries and sculpture parks around the world including Documenta I, Bienal de São Paulo, Tate, MoMA, the Guggenheim Museum and Hakone Open-Air Museum. His work is also in important international collections of art. In 1953, he was made Gregory Fellow in Sculpture at the University of Leeds (to 1956). In 1958, he won best international sculpture under age 45 at the Venice Biennale. Armitage was appointed a CBE in 1969 and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1994. In 2001, his sculpture ‘Both Arms’ was sited in Millennium Square, Leeds and was unveiled by Nelson Mandela. His ‘Richmond Oaks’ body of works were first shown at Gimpel Fils, London in 1980 and were the subject of an exhibition alongside works by Jessie Flood-Paddock (former recipient of the Kenneth Armitage Fellowship) at The Tetley, Leeds in 2017. His work has often been exhibited in the park at Roche Court and was the subject of an exhibition in the gallery in 1995. We are grateful to Robert Hiscox, Ann Elliott and Catherine Aspey for helping make the current show possible.
Charlotte Verity: the seasons ebb
“In these paintings by Charlotte Verity the seasons’ ebb is marked. They are a calendar; a series of poems tracing one full moment and then another.”
– Edmund de Waal, Charlotte Verity, Ridinghouse, 2016
The New Art Centre is delighted to be showing a series of new paintings by Charlotte Verity in the Design House at Roche Court. This exhibition is selected from the large-scale paintings Verity has made over the past three years and is her first show with the New Art Centre. It is also the first exhibition in our new gallery space to be devoted to painting.
Charlotte Verity’s paintings are, at first glance, beautiful, simple and elegant; on closer scrutiny, they are, however, far more complex. As Edmund de Waal suggests above, Verity’s work captures a moment in time and this temporality is redolent of the wider world and the very fundaments of existence. Her subjects – the flowers, plants and fruit in her London garden – are painted slowly over weeks and months. Nature, of course, is in a constant state of flux. Light changes constantly, weather conditions shift, and the seasons pass; painting en plein air is certainly no picnic. And since time moves apace in nature, the moment Verity captures vanishes very quickly, so she may have to wait a full year for the right circumstances to return. It is a paradox then, that the fleeting moment Verity portrays is rendered permanently in her work.
Verity describes how observation ‘underlies every painting that I make’ and in her compositions one starts to appreciate the small marvels to be found in nature: the curve of a stem, the colour of a flower, the formation of its petals, the matrix of branches and a mass of leaves. Paint is applied thinly in muted colours, and the sense of light and space left around the subject matter, are as important as the subjects themselves so that the viewer is compelled to look more closely. ‘Looking and drawing, gazing and drawing – without prejudice’ she says, ‘is like seeing something for the first time with the urgency of a last and final glance.’ Her close interrogation of the simplest things in these paintings, does indeed encourage us to take time, and to look again and again.
Charlotte Verity (b. 1954) studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and lives and works in London. Her work is in major private and public collections, including: Arts Council England; Derby Museum and Art Gallery; Deutsche Bank; Garden Museum, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Sir John Soane’s Museum, London; Tate and University College London. She has exhibited widely including most recently at the Garden Museum, London. Selected group shows include: Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London; Drawing Biennial, The Drawing Room, London; Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut; Sir John Soane’s Museum, London; Tate Modern, London; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; and John Moores Exhibition 17 at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.