Jane Summer Exhibition Oct 2020
Fran White

Fran White

All the exhibitions I haven’t visited in the last two years

The last two years have really been quite exceptional in so many ways. Some dark and difficult days; some truly exceptional and wonderful. Many days experienced alone or just with very close family – times to truly cherish – times to count my blessings.

I really love visiting exhibitions. It gives me immense pleasure and provides me with endless inspiration. Over the past two years, this is one of the things that I have really missed.

Specifically, I have missed (to mention but a few that I can remember!):

  • Dubuffet at the Barbican. Eileen Agar at Whitechapel Gallery
  • Michael Armitage at The Royal Academy which I would have loved to see, especially his paintings on bark
  • Drawing Project UK, Newlands Gallery – Descendant’s series, Luis Chillida son of Eduardo Chillida (a great favourite of mine).
  • Helen Frankenthaler at Gagosian in London. Lisa Brice & Nina Hamnet at Charleston Trust….

I also missed the opportunity to visit Charleston: the Bloomsbury Muse exhibition at Phillip Mould Gallery in Pall Mall with members of Pure in November and a couple of painting classes at Seawhites, both of which I was so looking forward to. My absence from these was due both to Covid and my need for an operation, which was ultimately postponed until 2022. In the autumn I thought I knew what was in my diary with
the operation planned for late September. However, I was practically on the operating table when I was notified that my Blood Platelet count was too low. Over several weeks, turning to months, I had a Bone Marrow test as well as a stomach scan. Eventually, in mid-November, the haematologist gave me the all-clear for the procedure to go ahead, at which point I caught Covid!

It just goes to show that the best-laid plans and all that… lots of patience and acceptance has been practised during all of this.

I did manage to see some exhibitions between lockdowns, however. In October 2020 I drove my friend Jane Grinling and myself to the delayed RA Summer Exhibition to see her artwork in situ, together with the work of our mutual friend Juliet. They looked magnificent amongst all the other selected works.

Jane & Juliet

Visiting the RA was quite stressful, however. The traffic was dreadful. I had trouble getting my member card out of my wallet and all the time we were wearing masks! We also had to sign in with the Covid Track & Trace at most places we visited.

Despite this, we forged on and visited the Barnett Freedman exhibition at Pallant House Gallery, and while there we looked at their permanent collection, which I loved. I was inspired by a Prunella Clough Etching ‘Shadow Play 10’ and ‘The Open Door’ by John Armstrong, who was a theatre designer who informed his Surrealist paintings.

I visited The Beauport Gallery, Bannatyne Spa Hotel, in October 2021 to see the illuminated exhibition featuring my own artwork which was very pleasing.

During the three lockdowns, I also joined the Smallhythe Artists Zoom meetings, initiated by Rowena McWilliams. She held two group exhibitions at her Gallery showing work we’d made in response to our weekly themes – Discarded Teabags in October 2020 & Muchness in May

Looking back, past exhibitions I visited pre-Covid that have stayed with me as strong memories, and influences include:

  • Radical Craft, Alternative Ways of Making, at Pallant House Gallery Summer 2016.
  • Craftspace & Outside In national touring exhibition which showed amazing outsider art under the headings: Historical Work, Cultural Roots, Intuitive Textiles & Radical Missions. My friend Andy & I were there to see another exhibition, not expecting this wonderful show as a bonus.
  • Paula Rego in Milton Keynes August 2019. I was amazed that most of her huge paintings were created with pastel. I’d applied for the MK Open competition, and I wanted to check out their Gallery and get a feel for Milton Keynes the new town, which had always fascinated me. I drove there on my way to stay with my daughter in Birmingham.
  • Lots of exhibitions at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham which was just around the corner from my daughter Sal’s flat. A very moving and emotional series of etchings by Käthe Kollwitz in 2017 and New Paintings by John Walker in February 2020 just before the lockdown.

Reflecting now on these past, missed and snatched experiences I realise I really appreciate and benefit from time out to wander, to look and just absorb stuff that visiting exhibitions in real life offers. Something you can’t really achieve by viewing online.

Looking forward, now we can visit exhibitions again, I am really looking forward to visiting Lubaina Himid at Tate Modern, ‘Sirens: Sophie von Hellerman & Anne Ryan’ at Turner Contemporary and The Courtauld Gallery to see The Karshan Collection of experimental drawing which they’ve received as a recent bequest.

I love spending time on my own, so will likely visit a few of these exhibitions on my own as well as with friends. Having exhibited together in Ditchling as JFJ (JaneFranJuliet) we often plan JFJ outings – anything from the Venice Biennale in 2017 to our most recent outing to the Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at Tate Britain in May 2021.

So much to experience and see, to absorb and be…

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