Something new keeps catching my eye. I’ve already walked through Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Open Exhibition two, three times, but I still feel I haven’t taken in nearly enough. The variety of colors, styles, techniques; the cityscapes etched delicately out of black ink or graphite, the colorful watercolors and acrylics and oil paintings reminiscent of Cezanne, Dutch florals, or Mughal miniatures; the more unique mediums that define or encapsulate their own textures: every piece demands consideration, exploration. Without realizing, I’m spending five, even ten minutes in front of John Marshall’s “Drinkers in the Moon and Stars” trying as hard as I can to hear the bar’s ambient noise or finding faces in Julian Day’s “Last potato supper”. Each of the 173 paintings could take your entire time at the gallery if you let it.
At first the variety can seem almost overwhelming. You have to walk through slowly at first, relax, take it in as it comes. Step back; turn around. The gallery had been curated excellently to prevent just the sort of intensity that comes from trying to take it in all at once. The paintings are grouped partially by subject, partially by style. The groupings are loose, (still lives and florals, landscapes, portraits, abstracts; there’s a long wall covered in paintings of rivers and oceans and another, smaller wall covered in circles) perfectly created so the paintings complement each other instead of fighting for the eye.
But there is something even more fascinating about this show. The Open Exhibition, held to celebrate Dulwich Picture Gallery’s 60th Anniversary, showed only works submitted by its Friends of the Gallery. As I walked through the rooms, pausing in front of a collection of nine black and white and gray etchings and sketches, I heard another viewer comment that one of the pieces, “The Persistence of Vision” was the work of her friend Molly Behagg.
The talker had a painting of her own on display, also. Art, in those galleries, was not the product of a figure of history; art, in those galleries,was a living process, a part of a human’s life, not yet a remnant of it. As Helen Ballardie, painter of “Blind Mans Buff 1” and winner of the Top Prize winner of the exhibition said “The Dulwich Picture Gallery has been one of my very top, dream destination Galleries to show in, I think, possibly since I was a child….I came to the [Gallery] earlier in the year specifically to see the Four Masters flower paintings to help me with Blind Man’s Buff! I really want to build on this success, and use this incredible platform you have given me”. Every artwork was created by someone now, someone living in their house, going about their day just like anyone else; this exhibit gave them the opportunity to showcase incredible talent that would have otherwise remained hidden.
For further information please visit www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk. Free entry for Friends of the Picture Gallery.