Fleet Gallery in St Leonards is showing an exhibition of paintings by local artist Amanda Nicol and 20th century painter Frank Griffith under the title Side by Side. HOT reporter Siobhan O’Hanlon came away full of the joys of life.
Amanda Nicol trained in the conservation and restoration of oil paintings and worked in several studios in London specializing in Old Master paintings, notably from the Dutch and Flemish schools. Amanda now lives in Hastings and these days is focusing on her own creative work. With Hastings Country Park on the doorstep, Amanda finds it easy to be inspired and draws upon a passion for ecology and the environment. A simple love of place is reflected in these latest works.
The paintings in the exhibition were all done between last July and February between trips to Mexico for medical treatment that is not yet available in the UK. Following a cancer diagnosis and complete NHS treatment, Amanda was told that it hadn’t worked and there was nothing that could be done. She didn’t believe this and knew there were other things left to try, and less than a year later is cancer free.
Due to treatment both here and abroad, Amanda had spent less time in the countryside in the last couple of years, so these paintings were a substitute for actually being in the places she loved and at the same time a homage to them, and making them was for her healing on a very personal level. Walking in the local landscape, she says, “taught me an enormous amount about lots of things – and has given me an awareness of how precious the landscape is and how important it is to spend time in the natural world as opposed to the man-made”. This passion for life is seen in the raw, vigorous nature of the works on display. Camber Study is full of bold strokes and fresh juicy paint, a foreboding, brooding sky moves weather in over the wind-farm complemented by pops of colour reminiscent of late local artist and tutor Bill Day.
Dungeness: Amanda Nicol.
Dungeness has a physical presence built up by layers and strokes of drawn marks across a gesso ground. In Fairlight Glen there is a sense of wildness in the air, acid yellow lifts colour and gives space to the pencil drawing and areas scraped back by the heel of the brush.
Firehills towards Rye Bay and Meadow at Fairlight are rough, ready and edgy with whites breaking up the flora with gestures on the surface of the board scratched across the blocks of land.
Autumn from the Firehills is a large canvas full of reds, orange and purples – an expressive free russet explosion, calmed only by the yellowy fields that drift back to the pale purple, blue background overseen by an enormous heavily painted and worked sky.
Towards Rye Bay: Amanda Nicol.
Towards Rye Bay is a quiet piece and Fleet Gallery owner Patrick Robbins’s favourite. It is full of structure and drawing, the bones and skeleton beneath the landscape, all given softness by the sepia, umber and yellowy orange brush and flora in the foreground under a calm sky full of white light.
The evolution of these works and the feelings they evoke combine with the way in which Amanda has worked on them physically and the mediums she has used to express herself. “Because of the recent events in my life, all of this series of paintings has significant meaning. To have recovered my energy and been able to paint fairly vigorously was amazing in itself, and to use techniques and materials, including dry pigments and glazes, that I once used in restoration (although in a very different way) has been really enjoyable.”
On the other side
Frank Griffith is a significant part of this show and his pieces sit side by side with Amanda Nicol’s. Born in Wales in 1889, Frank continued to paint up until his death in 1979. In 1895 his family moved to Folkstone. He studied and worked in Paris and whilst there became friends with Belgian artist Theo van Rysselberghe and the post-impressionist Paul Signac. On his return to London, he studied under Walter Sickert at Rowlandson House as part of the Fitzroy Street Group, an organization established by Walter Sickert in 1907 to promote and support artists. It later merged with the Camden Town Group to form the London Group.
In the mid-1920s Frank moved back to France and adopted the ‘current continental painterly techniques’. He returned to England and finally settled in Evershot near Dorchester in 1954. He died in Newmarket aged 89. Over his lifetime his exhibitions included the Baille Gallery and London Salon.
Frank was a highly individual painter, a draughtsman of portraits, landscapes and still lifes and a consummate flower painter.
White Tulips: Frank Griffith.
This collection has been brought together by Patrick Robbins who purchased 18 pieces by Frank a few years back, restoring them, reframing and varnishing each individual piece and so the love affair began!
White Tulips with a palette of muted elegant lavender blues surrounding the vase has a touch of Bonnard within the shadows of the cloth.
Fruit on Cloth with Jug is heartfelt and sings with its shiny red tomato apples and succulent pears.
Marigolds in A Jug displays a deft solid approach with the confident green anchoring of the jug handle against the crisp orange of the marigolds, yet somehow remains light of touch in its overall handling.
White Flowers and Oranges is a charming jug with oranges, whites interspersed with a turquoise smattering bring it out of the shadows.
This show has both tranquillity and life-force, do come along to enjoy this celebration of life before the show ends on the 24 May. Not to be missed.
Side by Side: Amanda Nicol and Frank Griffith. Fleet Gallery, 53 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 0EQ. To 24 May, Wed-Sat 10am-5.30pm. Tel 01424 20022001424 200220.
Fleet Gallery website.