Saturday, 24 January 2015

On the way home

On the way back from our holiday we made two stops.  Our first port-of-call was the 'Sainsbury's Centre for the Visual Arts' at The University of East Anglia just on the western edge of Norwich.  This was our first visit.
The centre was established in 1973 as a permanent home for the collections of Sir Robert and Lady Lisa Sainsbury - a mixture of twentieth century Western art and art and antiquities from around the globe, as well as the ceramics collected by Lisa Sainsbury alone.  In addition it also houses the Anderson Art Nouveau Collection and the UEA collection of 'Abstract and Constructivist Art, Design and Architecture', (as well as couple of university faculties).  All together making one of the most impressive university art collections in the country.  In 1974 it was decided to commission a gallery to house this abundance of riches.  And the result was Norman Foster's first public work.



We were busy bees that morning, not only loosing ourselves in the permanent collections, but we had a look at all four temporary exhibitions.  The two that interested me most were a selection of items from the Art Nouveau collection, and 'Reality: Modern and Contemporary British paintings', an overview of the continuing presence in British art of realism.  There were representative works by Bacon, Freud, Hockney, Lowry and George Shaw amongst others.  It was all perhaps a little diffuse, not possibly helped by the layout of the exhibition which was in a series of spaces often at a distance from each other.  The problem was however, that the realist presence in British Art itself a massive and incoherent conglomeration of artists and approaches that perhaps to try and corral it all into one exhibition was a tall order.  One glaring thing for me was the juxtaposition of such varying talents, some of it utterly sublime others bathetic.   The highlights were a monumental Freud, and a couple of George Shaw.  I found that after all, I like Lowry.  Complaints aside I think it serves (it's still on until March) to highlight an artist approach that is often neglected in the media.  I should add that I was surprised not to see any work by Michael Andrews and John Wonnacot, who both worked in the city in the 1970s teaching at the Art College.  But as they both share a retrospective at the Castle Museum and Art Gallery in the city centre their absence is understandable.  Dare I call them the 3rd Norwich School?

We stopped for lunch in East Dereham, a small market town a few miles west of Norwich;  the church was unfortunately locked, but I took these images of the outside which boasts a Holy Well, and a detached bell tower, which is a bit of a rare thing these days but was rather more common in the Middle Ages, for example Westminster Abbey, St Paul's, Norwich and Salisbury Cathedrals all had detached towers for bells.  Dereham was the site of an early Anglo-Saxon monastery and is associated with St Withburga, daughter of King Anna of the East Angles.  So it's sanctity is ancient.




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