Bratby Selection Day at the Jerwood – our pictures take part!

‘Everything but the Kitchen Sink including the kitchen sink’. That’s the title of the forthcoming John Bratby exhibition at the Jerwood, coming in January 2016. They invited people to submit their own Bratbys for the exhibition, and Philosopher and Battleaxe took our two to the selection session.
     Don’t get me wrong, ours are small and minor works, both acquired for modest sums from local auctioneers Burstow and Hewitt, and we were interested to know what the experts would make of them.
     The event clearly attracted a lot of attention – press, telly etc. – I’ll be watching South-East today later on!
     For those who might not know, Bratby lived in Hastings with his partner, actress Patti Prime, in the cupola house just down Harold Road from here. He died walking up the hill from the chippie. (Why not get the 20 bus up like the rest of us? Perhaps they didn’t have free bus passes in 1992, and despite the fact that Bratby could net in thousands at a time from his prolific painting output, they apparently spent every penny on high living).

     Here are our two, set out to await the selectors.  They looked quite small compared with some of the big, bold oil paintings.  The dog drawing is not signed, but is clearly an early Bratby from the 1960s,  and the picture of Patti is one of many drawn by him at the Acropolis, their favourite Greek restaurant, down by the Pier, dating from 1991. Even though they date from such different periods, we like both of them for their vibrant cheerfulness. The dog looks as if he was caught in the middle of an energetic ballgame, and Patti looks as if she is enjoying every minute of whatever she is doing!
    We actually met Patti when she came to the gallery last week – we’d come on one of my early outings to have coffee and view the current exhibitions – of which more later. She was with Jerwoodista Kate Giles, who I know well from Writers’ Group. I told Patti we had her picture on our bedroom wall, which pleased her! She was there again today, and clearly enjoyed seeing her earlier self. Here she is, with her carer and Charlie Reeves, who was Bratby’s studio assistant in Hastings. Charlie is an absolute mine of information about Bratby and his life.

   We all milled about while looking at the paintings people had brought. Here’s Philosopher with Charlie and Mark from Burstow and Hewitt, one of the panel members. We know him pretty well by now as well!

Some of the other paintings were stunning.  Clearly though, as Bratby’s output was so large, there are many works around that are not so good – this may explain why his reputation is still a bit patchy.
Here are a few more. The painting of the bathroom attracted much attention, mostly because of its subject matter, but as I kept hissing to Philosopher, it is a bathroom basin, not a kitchen sink. We both found it a bit sad that the principal preoccupations of the BBC lady seemed to be firstly the concept of  ‘kitchen sink’ (yawn..), and secondly, what the painting was worth in MONEY!

Not a kitchen sink…
Apparently painted in Hove, mid 70s, just before moving to Hastings
I love that lion
Patti looks at her earlier self.

     After that, we sat down and the panel assembled, consisting of Victoria Howarth, Deputy Director, (Liz Gilmore, the Director, was doing the talking), Mark from Burstows, Charlie, artist Tom Hammick, and Julian Hartnoll, well-known Bratby expert.

Then we all had to get up in turn and talk about our works with the panel. They seemed particularly taken with the dog drawing – it was the only one of its type, and they felt it showed a clear link in Bratby’s creative process, turning a drawing into painting. Later, they pulled it out again and showed it with the lion painting- you can see the style similarities.

Our dog up for comparison with the Lion

They also liked Patti, but then there are lots of pictures like it – there was a whole sheaf of works that people had submitted which were not shown on the day, including several Acropolis Girls.
    We won’t know until later whether our works have made the final cut, but it was an excellent morning. Everyone was very friendly, and the atmosphere was very unstuffy and un-art-poncey.
     Battleaxe followers will know of old that art-ponciness is one of Battleaxe’s pet peeves, and the Jerwood has suffered a good few lashes because of it. I was quite pleased to discover at that least some of the staff are actual Battleaxe readers! I won’t bother putting any references, just look at ‘Jerwood’ on the ‘Posts about’ bar on the right.
     So what are the current exhibitions. Well, upstairs we have ‘Lowry by the Sea’, a small but quite nice collection of non-factory-chimney paintings.  There’s one of a big ship coming into a dock which I can’t find on the internet so it is no use me talking about it….
     Then, there is ‘Horizons: Kettle’s Yard’ an exhibition of works on tour while the Cambridge gallery is being refurbished. Lots of Christopher Wood, Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, William Scott etc.  Some nice things, but to be honest, am not a great fan of the Nicholsons, I prefer Winifred to Ben, however. Not that wild about Wood either, but I quite like this bloke. Wouldn’t that cat’s claws be causing him agonising pain though?

   We went to Chichester recently, to the Pallant Gallery – they have a fabulous collection of art from a similar period – sorry – mind gone blank, I am recovering from an operation, you know…. oh, it’s the Dannatt collection. Battleaxe would recommend a visit.
    Lastly, downstairs, there is an exhibition of works by artists who have won the Jerwood Painting Prize, taken from the permanent collection. Some I really can’t understand, or appreciate, at all, like Rose Wylie and Stephen Buckley, but there is also one of my all time favourite works from the collection, this one by Maggi Hambling:

  So, altogether it feels like one of the Jerwood’s more action-packed/value for money collections of works, but as I always say, why so much empty wall, folks?  You’ve got plenty of paintings, fetch ’em out and fill the place up!  I can see minimalist empty wall anywhere – Battleaxe likes to see paintings!
   Just a footnote about me – am getting better thank goodness! As I expected, the Conquest Hospital post is already one of the most-viewed from 2015…. get a life, all you hospital drama followers….

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