I think it’s true to say that many, if not most people, would deem a painter of pictures to be a good artist by her or his ability to render things ‘realistically’. A portrait of “Uncle Fred” should look “just like uncle Fred”; a vase of forsythia should be instantly recognisable as such … and so on.
Measured by this yardstick, Mark Wickham is an extremely skilled artist. Even a speedy walk around this exhibition will have your jaw dropping at the vividness of two green apples in a bowl; the poise of a mango, coffee-grinder and fennel bulb in line on a shelf; a tableful of sharply-lit ceramic bowls; a hanging glass-faceted sphere; … I could go on …
But is this all there is? Whilst faithfully rendering objects receiving a particular fall of light, casting shadows of varying density and definition, is to be both admired and valued, there is a deeper skill to be discovered: composition. How a picture is arranged, the inter-relationship of shape, colour and light. To achieve sophistication in the art of composition marks out an artist of real class. The subtle asymmetry in many of Mark’s pictures is deeply satisfying and knowing that every square inch has been carefully considered invites you to delve into the less-than-obvious details. These paintings exemplify intelligent, adept artifice. Quite wonderful.
But what about Louise’s ceramic pieces? What a clever idea to show father’s and daughter’s work together. Initially they appear to be ‘chalk and cheese’ in terms of media and style (and of course comparing ceramics and paintings is ludicrous), but what ties them together is that attention to the importance of craft, of things being well made.
The surfaces of Louise’s vessels are perfectly beautiful. They are not ‘thrown’ on a potter’s wheel but hand-built, burnished, then painted with coloured slip. To achieve the confident shapes she does, with their often intricate, repeated patterns, represents astonishing skill on Louise’s part. They may, on first sight, appear to be coldly mechanical. They are everything but. T hey are pieces giving shape to tenderness and care.
And that’s what is at the heart of this exhibition – work full of care, of total immersion in the art of making. It’s an utter delight – and it’s on our doorstep! Don’t miss it! You have until the end of June.
At The White Horse Gallery, Marlborough
6 – 30 June 2018