Exhibitions: Prunella Clough


Jerwood Gallery, Hastings

May 2016-05-26

Ever since my research into the work of Prunella Clough earlier in the course I have been interested to follow up more about her and this was the opportunity. A delightful day trip down to Hastings and an introduction to a very fine gallery, the Jerwood Gallery.

The title of the exhibition is ‘Unknown Countries’ , taken from her comment, Each painting is an exploration in unknown country, or, as Manet said, it is like throwing oneself into the sea to learn to swim.” This ‘magical exhibition’ (as described in 29th April Daily Telegraph) gave a glimpse of her work from the early beginnings of views of factories, paper mills and cooling towers into the work of the late 50s , early 60s when the figurative element was eliminated to give place to more abstract work. Interestingly she would dispute this, saying, “Nothing I do is abstract. I can locate all the ingredients of a painting in the richness of the outside world, the world of perception.”

I found the exhibition to be quiet and contemplative, the paintings in their muted tones of subdued colour were unshowy and it seemed to me that the artist was less interested in the subject than in the exploration of shapes, textures and her own personal search. There appeared to be a hidden element, something private and perhaps this reflected the person that Clough was. There were only a couple of drawings but they stood out to me – beautiful observation! A display cabinet contained a collection of her drawings and sketchbooks and this was very special to see.

Points I took from the exhibition

  • She tended to compile her thoughts and responses to scenes and impressions by writing extensive notes in her notebooks to capture colour, movement and space and then working from these along with photographs.
  • Her inspiration came from the everyday objects which form part of our lives and which are mostly overlooked. “Clough takes the most common of objects as her subjects and asks the viewer to look again.” (from exhibition)
  • Paintings include memory, experience, real and imagined places, remembered and half remembered. Writer and Gallery Director Emma Hill: “Above anything Clough is a painter of the trace and evidence of human presence…paintings are resolutely of the world and they are affirmative but their peculiar resonance comes from seeing things as if half glimpsed, or made palpable by absence.”
  • Interesting comment from exhibition to think further about – ‘When asked what inspired her paintings, Clough replied “Where do paintings come from – would be a better question. Just glanced at, perhaps in passing, noticed rather than stared at. Something that settles on you and not something studied – observation, detachment, replacement.” These three last words…I want to think more about this in my own work.
  • The artist Patrick Heron believed that Clough’s paintings changed the way viewers saw the world. He stated, ‘her paintings are machines for seeing with.”

This exhibition will stay with me. There are many ideas here that I want to explore further, in particular my own love of the everyday, the forgotten objects of our lives.

Unfortunately no photographs of the paintings were allowed and so I was only able to take photos of the room and the gallery.



About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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