Chichester seemed a good place to go for a mini break, before Christmas chaos sets in. I had my eye on the David Bomberg exhibition at the Pallant House Gallery there, with the added lure of Paula Rego’s sketchbooks on show at the same place as a choice dessert. The drive down in bright winter sunshine produced long shadows across the South Downs, and the watercolours of Eric Ravilious leapt to life in front of us. It was a good precursor of what was to come, I hoped.
I didn’t know much about Bomberg before this exhibition, apart from the futuristic geometric patterns and shapes of his early work, which to be honest, didn’t really inspire me. Was it worth coming all this way?
I was unaware of how his work transformed during his life, from the depictions of Barges and Bargees at work, (there is a really nice watercolour on display here), to when he went abroad to Jerusalem where the cityscapes really lightened up his palette. A moonlit scene really captured my attention, with Bomberg using the white of the canvas to capture the tranquil light. Moving on to Spain there are some dramatic landscapes matched only by his dramatic brushwork. His pictures of the Ronda Bridge were a good example of this. In the last room there are some poignant portraits especially his last self-portrait painted when his health was declining. I think he knew this was the end of his life, and this painting was a great way to end it. They say his talent hasn’t been fully appreciated up until now, and I hope this exhibition will help him to become much more widely accepted as the great artist he undoubtedly was.
Around Chichester I looked for a some subjects that I could use to draw and tie in with this blog. It was difficult. The photograph at the top I took the next morning. It was of a heap of mud (wow!), covered in frost. It had been turned over by farm machinery giving it geometric forms which I thought could represent Bomberg’s early work. (You have to use your imagination here!) Similarly, the drawing above was of some large potato crates stacked up high in a farmyard behind some trees, this was again thinking about the geometry of his work, although it would have to be abstracted a lot more to get to anything like resembling his 1913 work “Ju-Jitsu.” Lastly, below is a sketch of Chichester’s harbour with it’s saltmarshes viewed from the marina, the nearest I could find to the canals with the Bomberg barges on.
I should have mentioned earlier, that the dessert after the main course was also very good. Paula Rego’s sketches were intimate little windows into an artist’s thought processes, as she wrestled with ideas; the compositions and characters that would populate her more finished work. A drawing of some dancers and their movement within it has given me fresh hope of resolving the difficulties I am facing with my troubled drawing of the half marathon runners – I must get back on to it.