Thursday, 6 November 2014

Discovering art in the internet age

Short and Stout by Susan Harrell
After musing over the merits of this year’s Turner Prize nominees – and trying to remain open-minded and positive – I was left not with any sense of elation or revelation, but certainly with a need to go back and look at some rather more ‘traditional’ work.

If the big galleries seem to obsess about the latest trend in conceptual art, then the screen on your desk or your smartphone can provide a door to a world where painting and drawing and printing are alive and well – and most certainly not just ‘stuck in the past’.

Technologies may change, new materials may be developed, but that doesn’t have to mean that the only way to approach art in today’s world is a dumbing-down of traditional art skills: rather, it can provide the chance to explore new ways of creating visual images.

Moscow Taxi by Mattias Adolfsson
And so, remembering August’s exercise, which came about as a direct response to an online conversation where someone was voicing the doubt that any real art existed any more, here is another set of brief introductions to artists and their work that I have encountered in cyberspace.

They deliberately range across style, subject and medium – and also place: one of the great advantages of the internet is that it allows us to find things from the other side of the world that we should not otherwise be likely to know about.

But then again, art is a universal.

Southwold by Annie Cowdrey
Annie Cowdrey’s work is varied, from pen and ink to oil to watercolour to lino cuts; while her subjects range from landscape to portraiture.

Based in the south west of France (lucky, lucky her), she maintains a particular interest in the processes of art.

It’s well worth reading any notes she makes on works: for instance, her comments on how working on a portrait is not just about the subject but about the artist themselves, is a fascinating idea.

Three Trees by Annie Cowdrey
It’s so easy to view the artist simply as a conduit when it comes to portrayals of other people, but inevitably part of the painter comes through in the subject.

Her works in white ink on black paper – particularly those featuring trees – have a ghostly and almost mythical quality. They’re so simple, one might think, but they are also so effective that they stay long in the mind.

Personally, they instantly conjure childhood journeys from Tebay to Newbiggin on dark nights, when the car lights lit up the skeletal trees ahead.

Roy's lillies
You can follow Annie in Twitter at @anniethepainter. And find out more at

@fabartstuff is different to anything in the realm of art that I’ve written about previously.

This is a three-way, Twitter collaboration between Dr Theresa Porrett, who works in the NHS supporting nurse specialists, and describes herself as a “would-be photo journalist”, health policy analyst, writer and commentator Roy Lilley, and digital professional Fran Maher.

Their feed offers a range of art-related tweets, including retweets of works by various artists, but it also includes Lilley’s own iPad pictures, which are frankly amazing.

His results are put into particularly sharp perspective by my own rather clumsy digital efforts – ‘how on earth do you even find a stylus that works properly on an iPad? I find myself asking, every time a new work pops up on my Twitter feed.

St Paul's by Roy Lilley
And that is no minor question. But even such a technology-related matter doesnt alter the basic point that, the tech aside, hes simply a damned good artist.

Although he also paints traditional watercolours too, Lilley’s portraits and landscapes done on the tablet have a distinctive and highly effective style, and are a prefect illustration of what I mean by new technologies not meaning a waning of skills.

@fabartstuff is new, but what it also shows is just how much talent for and love of art there is out there, across all walks of life – and also how the internet can offer us a portal both to discover and share a wide range of art.

Washed Clean by Susan Harrell
Meanwhile, taking a leap across The Pond, Susan Harrell is a self-trained oil painter from North Carolina, who creates photorealistic works on canvas, wood and aluminium.

Ive loved photorealism since my teens, and these works simply make me awed at the effect.

Her work ranges across subjects, but it’s in her still life paintings where the approach really works – not least in her sometimes quirky compositions and unusual takes on otherwise traditional subjects.

In the 2013 oil on panel, Washed Clean, for instance, she takes a very conventional bunch of red grapes, but gives it a distinctly modern twist by painting it from a bird’s eye view, in a metal colander, gaining wonderful light, textures and reflections in the process.

Three's Company by Susan Harrell
Short and Stout is a beautifully-realised picture of an old-fashioned, stove-top kettle – but standing outside, so that the sky and landscape are reflected in the curved metal.

Three’s Company takes a trio of apples, but this is no cliché. Instead, she paints two of them in a damp plastic bag that is clinging, in places, to the fruits.

Follow Susan at @susanharrellart and find out more about her work at 

David Stamp hails from Plymouth and is now based on the other side of the Tamar in Cornwall.

Self taught, he works in acrylic, watercolour and mixed media.

We Have Green Light by David Stamp
We Have the Green Light – a mixed-media, semi-abstract work – is indicative of the light that he conveys in his flower paintings.

And here seems the perfect moment to mention another little point: Davids subjects matters of choice include flowers – surely a feminine subject, while Susan Harrells photorealism is a style that is most often associated with male artists.

The reality is that art is a world where we can find such stereotypical and limiting ideas being happily ignored, as artists find and develop the styles that suit them – not on the basis of preconceived gender roles.

Market Jew Street, Penzanze by David Stamp
But back to David’s work. The mixed-media, semi-abstract approach is not just to be found in the flower paintings.

Market Jew Street, Penzance (the name comes from the Cornish, Marghas Yow, which means Thursday Market), includes aspects of collage and, as David himself challenges viewers: “spot the tin mine chimney in the centre”.

How much more Cornish can you get?

To find out more, Davids own website is at‪, while he tweets at @stamper485‪.

The sheer breadth of art that you can find online is illustrated by @GardenGallery2, whichis the Twitter feed for Frances, a Derbyshire-based artist who creates felted art, most of which is inspired by the wildlife in that county.

Felted Hare by Garden Gallery
This is art that is craft-based – which would have been looked down on snootily in the past.

The works produced have lovely colour, while the felting provides textural interests that Frances matches extremely well to her subjects.

Frances doesnt appear to have any obvious outlet for selling her works, so – and Im guessing here – for her, this seems to be mainly a hobby.

Its another way of seeing that the desire to create goes far beyond the walls of galleries and beyond those who studied at art school.

The internet offers the chance to explore a hugely democratic world of art.

‪Check out (and ‘like’!) her Facebook page for more examples of her work.

Raygun by Mattias Adolfsson
Mattias Adolfsson is a freelance illustrator from Sweden, producing some highly imaginative – and fun – ink drawings and, with these, some exquisite books.

Raygun, for instance, brings to mind steampunk, but then gives it a delightful, fantastical spin by turning a sci-fi hand weapon into a dragon.

Similarly, Unorthodox Friendship takes the idea of a boy meeting a dinosaur and turns that on its head by making both of them robots.

These works have real charm and humour, while his blog is a wonderful insight into an artist’s sketchbooks: Moscow Taxi is gloriously, bonkersly detailed – something that’s far from unique in Mattias’s work.

Unorthodox Friendship by Mattias Adopfsson
Ilustration is a particular art form, but what you find when looking at works like these is that it also provokes another way of examining that old question about what constitutes art, particularly when it comes to highly graphic work.

When I was in my teens and my teachers were busy mapping out a career path for me as a graphic artist, I couldn’t see that as having any link with ‘fine art’. Or put another way, with what I considered to be ‘real’ art.

Knight by Roy Lilley
Nowadays, I look at works like this and conclude that they’re all art, and that one thing that conceptual art achieves, oddly enough, is to help to eliminate some of the old definitions that created a sort of artistic caste system.

And after all, who paints history or mythological or religious scenes any more?

So whether its Mattiass illustrations or Garden Gallerys felted hares or Roy Lilleys digital creations, it’s all art: simples.

You’ll find Mattias’s blog at and you can follow him on Twitter at @MattiasInk‪.

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