Thursday March 10 2016
This was something in the nature of an ‘accidental visit’ as we had arranged a morning to view the Canada House Gallery followed by the ICA, which only opens at 11AM. However we thought the Canada House Gallery kept office hours so were surprised to be told (from behind undoubtedly bullet proof glass) that they did not open until 11AM either (seems to be if you want a job with late start galleries and museums would be your thing) . So we turned our back on the Rumanian Yodas and headed across the Square back to the Mall intent on exploring what would be on offer at the ICA and at what price… And that’s how we fell into the rather lovely Mall Galleries, which pride themselves on being the centre for figurative art so this was always going to be a safe bet…. With nothing too challenging.
Our next mistake was to think that the exhibition announced thus ‘The Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize Exhibition' was a show celebrating the work of the eponymous probably female artist. Wrong on every conceivable count. Firstly the Lynn refers to the Lynn Foundation, a smallish charity based in Sussex whose main focus is helping the Disabled, but which also supports the arts, while the second part refers to the fact that the Lynn has combined with the worshipful company of Painters and Stainers – one of the City Guilds – to donate prize money for figurative paintings. We weren’t entirely clear whether what was on show were all the entries or merely those shortlisted but we looked at them happily in the very excellent exhibition spaces these galleries have. No photos were allowed so the illustrations for this post are screen grabs from their website, but you can see all the entries on the website.
With the paintings being figurative, Jo was very enthusiastic about the landscapes, especially those she knew or had walked through (so to speak), while I, being more of an urban bunny, rather liked the ones of the now demolished Aylesbury Estate and St Martins’ Lane by night. There are several quite effective seascapes and most artists had made a good job of capturing English skies – something of a test since Constable and Turner… There are still lives, several portraits and life drawings and paintings. A very detailed picture of some honeycomb was interesting, and we both enjoyed the back gardens viewed from some tall old houses in Inner London, which showed both nature tamed and nature less well kempt. Most disquieting was the painting. . 'The Man who drinks and his Wife'
The back two rooms (these galleries are surprisingly spacious, quiet and nearly all on one level) were playing host to a photographic exhibition and the British Life Photography Awards. Again no reproductions allowed so you will have to make do with the website. The entries came in different categories – so there were British Portraits, Britain at Work, Britons on holiday, British Weather, and Street Life. There is also a section called documentary series – a narrative sequence of photos being the key here. The quality of the photos was excellent and ranged from carefully composed compositions (some people waiting hours for a sunrise for example) to others captured in an instant while out and about on the streets.
The portraits included some celebrities but these were far less interesting than the folk captured at repose in their homes or working and playing. We loved the winning portrait of an older man polishing a brass lamp in his well-kept council house.
Visiting the Mall galleries was a first for both of us, and the two exhibitions we saw will both have closed by the time you read this (they were only there for a week). Nonetheless, we heartily recommend the Galleries: handy for Hyde Park, bright but secluded and a place where it is easy to pop in for free and relaxing time with their changing displays.