Robert Bissell ‘This Universe of Life’

Artist Statement

Mono No Aware

The environment and humans relationship to it has always been a fundamental aspect of my work and in recent years I have found myself reacting even more to the vast changes our natural world is experiencing. Looking back over the work displayed here I am aware that a narrative was being created as I painted. Beginning with Inspiration (the first painting I did in this series), the figure looks up with wonder at the waterfall, a source of creativity and imagination. In Supernova, our protagonist pays homage to the universal forces that sustain us. In The Race our elephants rejoice and play in the elements that support them and In Mono No Aware, the figure contemplates a gentle falling snow by a frozen lake as it’s inhabitants swim below. How more perfect can this world be that surpasses anything humans can create? In The Mountain, our figure faces a seemingly great challenge with an overwhelming oncoming tide and in Meeting on The Ice we are presented with an enigmatic scene as we imagine polar bears travelling south in search of new habitats. Finally, the fragility of animal and human existence is presented boldly in Titan as this majestic black rhino challenges us to contemplate our own influence over the natural world.

Robert Bissell

Animals are good for thinking
Philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss

From the Invitation to Robert Bissell Exhibition in October 2019 at Chloe Gallery, San Francisco, USA

Meeting On The Ice

Robert Bissell is a painter of naturalism and fantasy, combined and influenced by Romanticism. While his works touch upon wonderment, they offer a convincing view into a world without ‘civilization,’ wherein the viewer is mesmerized by the power of light and the essence of natural law – yet tinged by fancy. This genre of art is sometimes called Magical Realism.

Early tribal cultures believed the natural world to be the bridge connecting earth and spirit. Animals were regarded as powerful spiritual beings that could connect humans to unseen realms, the environment, and each other. Along these lines, Robert Bissell creates works that transport us into a completely different atmosphere than that of modern daily life, inviting us to learn more about ourselves and to contemplate our origins in the natural world.

In his animal paintings, the world of animals is a mirror for human existence, self-definition, and self-reflection. Yet, these aren’t mere children’s tales. “Bissell’s work disarms by narrating vitally grown-up and urgent allegories in the guise of child-like humor,” counters William Zimmer, art critic for The New York Times. 

Bissell’s paintings explore the idea that animals have metaphysical importance to our own spiritual well-being. Lured into a realm absent of humans, Bissell’s animal characters ask that we consider our own condition and place in nature. While whimsical at first glance, there is underlying tension and precariousness beneath the images. Disarmed, we objectively consider ourselves without familiar references. 

“His animal work is full of charged meaning and lore, and it’s touched by surrealism”, says Suzanne Bellah, Director of the Carnegie Art Museum. “Influenced by the surreal legacy of Magritte, he mixes scales and uses gigantism with a variety of textures and subtle color palettes.” Indeed, Bissell keys his palette to the great landscape masters of European art Claude Lorrain and Corot (France) and Thomas Gainsborough (England).

Imaginary Realist Robert Bissell creates a completely different atmosphere from our daily experience, inviting us to learn more about ourselves. In his paintings the world of animals is a mirror for human existence, self-definition and reflection.  These are not mere children’s tales – quite the contrary.  Bissell’s work causes us to reflect on the environment, life, death, renewal and the stages of transition – departing from the safety of family, and making our way in the world.

Bissell grew up on a farm in Somerset, England, where animals, Celtic legends and panoramic landscapes were part of his daily life. His keen interest in visuals began at an early age, documenting life around him through photographs. He would spend hours stalking wildlife on the moors close to his house to see how close he could get before they would sense his presence. But ultimately, country life was not for him and Bissell headed for the city to study art.

After earning his bachelor’s degree at the Manchester College of Arts and Technology, Bissell moved to London for post-graduate work in fine art photography at the Royal College of Art. 

After completing his studies, Bissell spent four years traveling the world, working on cruise ships to pay his way. In 1982, after settling in San Francisco, one of his favorite ports of call he began working for The Sharper Image as photographer of its high tech merchandise.  For the next decade he moved up the corporate ladder, during what is arguably the companies most exciting time, to become head of the creative and merchandising divisions. In 1992, he left the company to start his own retail catalog company in Portland, Oregon, which was eventually sold to Readers Digest.

In 1995 he began to wonder if the long-term implications of the industry he was engaged in really fit his world-view. The catalogs he was producing wasted a great deal of paper with very little return. Trees destroyed for paper, most of which was just thrown away. The corporate world had also taken its toll.  Bissell missed art.  He decided it was time to explore the possibilities of telling people about nature and his view of it though painting. He had studied drawing in college and believed that it was simply a matter of wanting it – and teaching himself to paint.

“I had forgotten why I wanted to be an artist in the first place,” he said. “I wanted to get that back, and I am glad I did before it was too late.”

Pagans and Celtic Christians believed the natural world was the bridge that connected earth and spirit, with animals acting as spiritual intermediaries. Now, most people live in cities and suburbs, separated from that world. “Animals used to be involved with humans as messengers with magical functions,” he says. “Now they are our slaves for consumption and entertainment. I wanted to restore their role and give them a new voice.”

Since then he has devoted all this time to painting. He regularly exhibits in museums and galleries across the United States and Europe. Bissell hopes his paintings appeal to the intellectual child in us, reminding us of the mythic and universal human values in the tradition of the great heroic-quest stories. His work encourages us to reflect on nature, the roads we travel, and the choices we make along the way. His story encourages us follow our passions and have the courage to do what is meaningful to us – whatever that might be.

The personal online exhibition ‘This Universe Of Life’ of paintings by Robert Bissell is held on the gallery website from 1st to 31st December 2019. Visit the exhibition at http://www.hayhill.com/docs/bissell.html

Roger Aslin ‘The City Revealed’

Artist Statement

3. GATEWAY ROGER ASLIN

My practice explores two key areas – the figure and the urban environment – and is influenced by my continuing interest in film and television.

My key focus now, through the medium of painting and photography, is how people interact with the contemporary environment. I show urban life in dramatic colour and shade by using a highly contrasting palette to additionally emphasise shape and form.

My historical reference is the Flaneur, a French term for an observer of city life. Edouard Manet was considered to be the quintessential Flaneur. His work ‘A Bar at the Folies Bergere, 1882′, together with works by Gustav Caillebotte, ‘Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877’ (Art Institute of Chicago) and ‘Le Pont de l’Europe 1876’,(Musee du Petit Palais, Geneva) are acknowledged examples from this period.

The Flaneur is the ultimate urban explorer, made the object of scholarly interest in the 20th century by Walter Benjamin, based on the work of Baudelaire. The Flaneur has become an important symbol for scholars, artists and writers, with Honore de Balzac describing flanerie as ‘the gastronomy of the eye’.

My work, as a modern day flaneur, takes me into the city where I take images on camera or phone, later to be refined and honed digitally in the studio before commencing painting on paper, board or canvas.

As Susan Sontag stated in ‘On Photography’ ‘The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker….cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flaneur finds the world ‘picturesque’.

My solo show ‘Urban Narratives’ at the Hay Hill Gallery, London, further developed these themes, showing many works from my urban series.

I also have a history of showing in various group exhibitions including the Royal Watercolour Society, the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize and the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition at the Mall Galleries. My work has also been shown in the corporate world including Baker Tilly and Clyde & Co.

During 2018 I was invited by the Adam Gallery, Bath to show a number of original works as one of their contemporary artists.

Roger Aslin

The personal online exhibition ‘The City Revealed’ of paintings by Roger Aslin is held on the gallery website from 1st to 30th November 2019. Visit the exhibition at http://www.hayhill.com/docs/aslin.html

Helen Warner

Helen Warner is a new gallery artist.

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The Critique

Art history is multifaceted by nature and in the study of art we learn to categorise art and artists, to group and gather like minds and forms of expression in an attempt to better understand what we are challenged with. Helen Warner, however, is not an artist that can be easily defined or included within the scope of a single artistic movement. We are confronted with a juxtaposition of powerful emotion, embraced by the very delicate and feminine touch of the artist’s intrinsic nature.

In essence, we encounter a window that is also a mysterious mirror. The viewer is able to see the artist’s heart in motion, while meandering into an endless reflection of their own souls. It is true that inspiration for art can have many roots, but it is apparent that Warner’s paintings are a product of love, joy and spontaneity. The viewer is touched in a unique way leading towards the belief that Warner’s artworks are not to be merely observed and evaluated, rather their examination must be based on the transmission of feeling.

Albeit, the intellectual study behind the compositions is highly relevant. We see an intense observation of form that in philosophy is reminiscent of Plato, forms that we are able to see but to which we do not have access. In fact, in the academic analysis of Helen’s work, we re-live the philosophical experiment in which the forms come to life in our minds but always remain out of reach.

From an artistic perspective, one can of course see a strong influence from the 20th Century. In fact, Helen Warner is an inspiring manifestation of British contemporary art and an explicit celebration of the artistic geniuses of the modern era. We see De Chirico’s metaphysics in some works, touches of Kandinsky and elements of cubism in others. These artworks are characterised by powerful application of form and careful choice of tones, that with intensity and depth communicate strong emotions and accompany the viewer into a breathtaking world that exists halfway between the conscious and subconscious minds.

The result of Helen’s art is, however, a very personal and unique expression that is able to provoke thought while speaking to our inner personalities. Through these artworks we are able to travel into a world of dreams, unreal in substance but capable of inspiring deep emotions. A true artist to discover and a stimulating journey to undertake.

Timothy Warrington
European Confederation of Art Critics

About Timothy Warrington

Timothy Warrington was born in Birmingham in 1944 and is a critical writer and curator based in London.

Mr. Warrington’s career has taken him all around the world in the search for art to exhibit in London. He was part of the organisation that hosted the largest and most important exposition of Bulgarian art ever curated outside Bulgaria, showing 300 artists. The exhibition was hosted in collaboration with the Bulgarian Embassy in London and was inaugurated by the Bulgarian Ambassador Mr Stancoff.

The Slovenian Printmakers Exhibition was another reminder of the wonderful talent that Timothy brought to London, artists that are recognised and respected all around the world. “Italian Views” at the Lord Leighton Museum, curated by Timothy, was also a great success and a spotlight into contemporary Italian Art from institutions such as the Academy of Fine Art in Florence, Academy of Fiorino in Florence and The Academy of Fine Art in Rome.

Mr Warrington has curated numerous books and writes opinions and exhibition critiques in the UK and the USA. Notably, he was responsible for the main publication related to Brian Willsher’s Bronzes, an artist who taught at the Tate and was praised by Sir Henry Moore as an artistic genius.

Timothy’s critical writing is very sophisticated – he has the power to translate the artist’s thoughts to the viewer with extreme clarity and competence. He was a member of the jury of Chianciano International Art Award alongside people like Gerard Bruneau who started his career wih Andy Warhol.

To view the catalogue of paintings by Helen Warner visit please http://www.hayhill.com/docs/warner.html

Gemma Billington ‘An Dúchas (Homeland)’

An Duchas10_Number_14

by Niall Macmonagle, Art Critic

Ireland once home to eight million people, even today is a place of ghosts. Traces of those lives lost to famine and emigration can be seen still, especially in the West of Ireland. A stone wall, a gable end, lazy beds, potato drills, a wild rose bush, a flowering currant tree remind us that a family once lived here, that this now ruin was a place someone once called home.

In her poem ‘The Island. A Prospect’, Paula Meehan charts this country’s dark history as ‘bitter tales of landlords, emigration of plantation, rebellion, famine and ruin’ and Gemma Billington’s powerful new work, An Duchas, explores aspects of that complex, lonely past in images that evoke the concept of home within and against an Irish landscape.

An Duchas, meaning native place, also means a ‘a natural affinity, a kindred affection’ and here Billington conveys not only a deepening connection with her native place but a preoccupation with and love for the landscape she knows well. Her heart’s affections are felt in work of vibrant colours, in a strikingly new command of bold dramatic lines, in Billington’s assured structure and composition.

In those new paintings the house though an intrinsic part of the landscape does not dominate. We glimpse a roof, a gable wall against the abundant landscape. We imagine the lives lived, the world’s contained with those homes. In Sean Borodale’s memorable, atmospheric ‘Air House’ (a poem he subtitles ‘composite made during visits to an abandoned house in Mayo’) he writes of how

With no usable door
I had to climb in through a broken window
There were unopened letters, a bottle of holy water
the sacred heart disintegrating on its paper . . .

That yellow wooden chair is a ghost
and in the left drawer of the blue sideboard in the kitchen
that reel of crimson thread is a ghost.

Such imagined long-gone lives are also prompted by Billington’s new paintings. Her last exhibition captured the surging, storm-filled Atlantic. Here she has moved inland and brings back to life ghostly presences. Her focus is the domestic, as in domus, ‘home’, but it is the vibrant landscape too. Her palette contains dramatic reds, blues, greens; her perspective is such that the work draws one in. For the viewer it’s a deepening silent, nourishing experience.

Living in this landscape is celebrated and though time brings change and homes have fallen into ruin An Duchas invites us to remember the busyness of life, the dreams and hopes of people who once lived here.

In ‘The Only Story’ Julian Barnes asks is life beautiful but sad or sad but beautiful. It’s a question he borrowed from Frank O’Connor’s essay on Mozart. In this instance, in relation to Gemma Billington new show the answer is life is sad but beautiful. There’s no escaping sadness and, as these paintings testify, life contains its sorrows. Place for Billington contains the past, a past that has known inevitable disappointment and loss; the work convincingly acknowledges what is sad but ends on a beautiful note. For Gemma Billington, in the new body of work, the life is sad but beautiful.

She has found that sadness in the landscape she knows well, she knows those places where houses have been abandoned but she cherishes the lives once lived there and she celebrates the beauty of the natural landscapes, on-going vibrant abundant nature. But the enduring power of these paintings is in Billington’s outstanding skill in what are loving tributes to place, what place has meant and what place means to all the lives that ever lived and live there.

The personal online exhibition ‘An Duchas (Homeland)’ of paintings by Gemma Billington is held on the gallery website from 16th September to 31st October 2019. Visit the exhibition at http://www.hayhill.com/docs/billington.html

Don Quixote

don_quixote

Nikolai Silis. «Don Quixote With A Flower», 200 х 150 х 150 cm, copper, 2018

By Valentin Ryabov, gallery owner, art critic.

In the late 60s, Nikolai Silis began working on a new series of graphics. As a result, we got 14 pages of brilliant works dedicated to the famous hero of the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote. The main creative goals for Silis were always works on the form, and Don Quixote felt just right for the plastic experiments. “I immediately imagined him all formed and twisted, made from thick sheets of metal” recalled the sculptor in his memoirs. (N. Silis, “Memoirs”, Academic Publishing Centre “Nauka”, Moscow, 2016, p.39.)

Gradually, the hero of the graphic series began to acquire real outlines, first in clay, then in gypsum and finally, in his already familiar copper form. Although later, on the creative path of the sculptor, this image received many incarnations. In particular, Silis has a smaller bronze version of Don Quixote. This version was created specifically for the Moscow International Film Festival, which was later awarded to director Yuri Norshtein when he received the Tarkovsky Award for the cartoon “The Hedgehog in the Fog” in 1989.

Don Quixote became the most distinguished character of the master.

The image of Don Quixote, embodied by Nikolai Silis, combines monumentality with intimacy.

He is largely out of the total number of his works, that usually gravitating toward generalization of forms, and yet, it is a veiled self-portrait of a master.

Particular attention of Silis to the plastic interpretations in sculpture made significant changes in the world of art and included him in the lines of greatest artists of the twentieth century: Auguste Roden, Antonio Giacometti, Henry Moore, Vadim Sidur, Tony Cregg. Don Quixote became the main work of the sculptor, in which he was able to express his moral and ethical ideals, as well as the genius of the artist-creator.

dql_3

“I have a great news. The large sculpture by Nikolai Silis ‘Don Quixote With A Flower’ arrived to my gallery in Moscow. It is the best sample! It is the last life-time large ‘Don Quixote’ sculpture. It is a fourth edition of the sculpture made from the concrete model and it is the last one since the concrete model has been destroyed and there is no team which has the right and the sculptor’s trust to reproduce the model. Previously only one edition of the sculpture was made with a battle shield as the sculptor conceived it. This fourth addition was also made with a battle shield.” – Valentin Ryabov, gallery owner.

Contact Hay Hill Gallery (info@hayhillgallery.com) if you are interested in this sculpture or other sculptures of this famous sculptor.

 

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

JUNE 23, 2014

Refresh and Renew email

By E. S. Jones

‘We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us’. Winston Churchill

Will Martyr’s stylish paintings highlight the fascinating influence of architecture on the mind. The images in his new exhibition Stay Until Tomorrow read like a catalogue of structures designed to bring about a sense of well-being. As the environments we occupy are processed and interpreted by all our senses, they inevitably contribute to identity and an overall satisfaction with daily life. Although we’ve become cynical we still secretly long for something gloriously unexpected, that the rabbit will be pulled from the hat, ears and whiskers intact.

In our modern culture, beauty has been replaced by functionality; darker and uglier concrete blocks overshadow our streets, contributing to vague feelings of claustrophobia. Contrary to the ubiquitous slogan, it does not feel like we are ‘worth it’, but just another cog trapped in a vast grey, windowless machine. These bigger and better and taller Towers of Babel are monuments to power- but leave us isolated and straitjacketed. Somewhere we’ve misplaced the importance of horizontal breathing space, under the suffocating desires for the vertical.

Martyr’s paintings such as ‘Well To Do’ and ‘It’s Only Us’ are a real release for your tired eyes. Here, from a relaxed and reclined view, the world finally looks ‘right’. Things are aligned, fitting together seamlessly; edges are smoothed out, all shapes are levelled and evenly spaced. The canvases feel familiar, with sheets of light softly slanting through glass, hushing your jangled nerves as though you were stood under the arching ceiling of a cathedral. Inside is like outside: the roof as endless as the sky, walls billowing out like sails in the wind, quietly drifting out upon the grassy sea. The sweeping lines are reminiscent of rolling hills and distant horizons, even though there are no trees left to speak of.

This artist’s technique is both architect and magician; every precise brushstroke is a sleight of hand to lull and seduce. We know that there is more here than meets the eye, but find comfort in the illusion. He does not attempt cerebral explanations of architectural psychology, but hints at our deep seated longings for freedom with his visions of the perfect tomorrow. These are truly bewitching blueprints, designed to restore connection between the inner and outer world.

ARIADNE’S THREAD

JUNE 23, 2014

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By E. S. Jones

‘The capacity to be puzzled is the premise of all creation, be it in art or science’ Eric Fromm

Maurizio Camatta’s works create exciting atmospheres, illuminating the natural curiosity of the spectator. Brilliant flashes of lightning and layers of charged elements blaze in the gathering gloom, creating his Electrical Storms. Within these canvas clouds, electrons knock knees with rising damp, kettled by the fierce outside forces. Geomagnetic clashes burn hotter than the sun, with auroras like haloes and ripping through the material of the sky. Beautifully lit on the gallery walls you find yourself wondering if the paintings would glow, even with the blinds drawn, and the lamps dimmed several octaves lower.

Unusually, Camatta finishes his abstracts with threads, as though they were musical instruments from a fantastical space orchestra. With more than a nod to string theory, they appear to be dissections of the ‘stuff’ we are made of. Like super magnified particles, the colours darkly vibrate their universal symphony, hinting at hidden things beyond our reach. In front of these works it is easy to marvel at our origins, to imagine a multi-verse of black holes, interstellar gasses and extra dimensions, to predict our eventual fate.

Camatta is the ultimate chromatographer, revealing another layer just the other side of what is perceived. As in a school science experiment, we see that blackness is not nothingness. Just as the felt pen separates into its colourful components on filter paper, so space is not actually empty but stuffed full of dark energy. It may seem like science fiction to start talking of ideas like cross-dimensional gateways, but our endless investigations have already identified previously unimagined pieces of the puzzle: up/ down/ strange/ charm/ bottom/ top quarks, neutrinos, muons, tuons and electrons. We are relentless in our pursuit of the elusive Higgs boson that will complete the jigsaw and give us The Theory Of Everything. This missing piece still nettles us today about life’s meaning. We question the existence of a ‘God particle’, blaming butterflies for triggering tornados.

So how long is a piece of string theory? Ancient texts described ‘this and yonder world and all beings (as) strung together’. They speculated about the ropes connecting earth to sun, and the mysterious solar winds. The Upanisadic philosopher Gargi first challenged the sage Yajnavalka about ‘the thread on which all worlds are interwoven’, many moons before we began to unravel string theory. Perhaps these ideas have always been there, laid out to help find our way through this Minotaur’s labyrinth.