Light. Time. Space. – an exhibition of photographs by Robin Stemp
Clare Hall Art Committee presented recent work by Robin Stemp from 20 January – 2 March 2023. Robin is a Cambridge-based photographer who captures enigmatic still lifes and unpopulated interiors, as well as unusual aspects of the built environment seen on her travels. Her work is calm and restrained, suggesting narratives which are open and inconclusive. The scenes seem to draw the viewer in, imaginatively, and invite interpretations from the individual’s personal experience.
The artist writes: ‘If I have to sum up the one essential point of my work, I would say it is the light and the timing of that light. Light and time and the idea of something happening. Not last week, not tomorrow, but now, today, this minute. At other times, maybe, the mood is one of expectancy – is someone about to come into the room and sit on the single chair – or have they just left? This applies even to a painted background – something entirely artificial – the light is still a creator of mood and atmosphere.‘
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‘After Nature’ by Jonny Church and ‘Rocks from Yon Hills’ by C.N. Liew – an exhibition of landscapes
From 25 November 2022 – 5 January 2023, Clare Hall Art Committee presented two exhibitions inspired by landscapes, exploring the tension between the environment and the influence of man. Oil paintings by Jonny Church were juxtaposed with ink art by C.N. Liew in Clare Hall’s Main Site.
Jonny Church is a local artist, living in Cambridge. His interest in landscape has led him to explore how representation and abstraction can intersect, at times suggesting both existence and non-existence. This liminal space offers a sensory threshold between traditional representative art and the abstract concerns of line, shape, pattern, colour and form. C.N. Liew works to convey the beauty of structures and textures on natural rocks that are a central feature within Chinese garden or landscape art – a tradition admired by generations of Chinese dignitaries and intellectuals. He argues that rocks have important connotations in Chinese culture, especially in relation to the legend of Nüwa – the goddess who repaired the broken sky by using rocks.
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A Feast for the Eye – an exhibition of paintings and collages by Jerry Scott
From 30 September – 17 November 2022, Clare Hall presented an exhibition by Jerry Scott, representative of the artist’s work over the last twenty years.
Jerry Scott’s collages have rightly been called a journey through colour and texture, offering an experience of great richness and depth. Their characterful material presence owes much to the fact that he designs and prints his own papers, many of which are close-patterned and therefore add to the density of the overall effect. Damascene – Night Weaver is an example of just how immersive these collages can be: beautifully crisp in its arrangement of forms, it simultaneously shimmers with small dots of light. Many artists who use collage let in chinks of the ground beneath the collage, to point up the play between artifice and reality in the making of art. But Scott’s collages have a firmness and completeness that disavows teasing distractions. Instead, there is a strong sense of the physical involvement in the chopping, cutting, and abutting of one piece next to another.
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almost unthought – experimental works in aluminium by Silvano Cattai
From 23 June-4 August 2022, Clare Hall Art Committee shared an exhibition of works in aluminium by Silvano Cattai. Based in Seravezza (Lucca, Italy), since the early 1990s Cattai has devoted himself to sculpture, developing his personal research and showing at several European art galleries. In the meantime he has realised monumental and public sculpture around the world.
almost unthought represents a bold approach to painting in which the metallic surface manifests as physical, like sculpture, cutting the space and interacting with light. This will be the first time these works have been exhibited. ‘I feel these new works are the culmination of all my experience…’ says Cattai, ‘all the different aspects of art and lighting and filmmaking brought into one.’
In recent years, Cattai has worked primarily as a sculptor, creating over 40 works commissioned by a private collector in Switzerland, 10 of which were monumental, and 18 aluminium paintings. During this period he travelled frequently to Switzerland and rented a small studio in Geneva, where he evolved his technique using plasma to cut steel, then produced prints on paper, using the steel plasma as a matrix. ‘I began to see colour in a whole new way,’ he says, ‘I understood that I was going to become a painter again..
Plasma, a working tool that reaches extremely high temperatures in order to cut steel, compelled Cattai to develop a methodology within which he could explore a new way of painting. Having left New York in 1989, where he was a painter and filmmaker, Cattai settled in Pietrasanta near the western coast of Tuscany and began to work exclusively as a sculptor in stone, bronze and metal. His mastery of the plasma-cutting method for steel brought him back again to painting. ‘The period of time I spent away from painting allowed me a burst of spontaneity, the unthought gesture.’ Aluminium, as a substance, allows Cattai to create a dialogue between sculpture and painting. The lightness of movement, the speed and the urgency of the gesture that he has developed with the plasma are evoked in the immediate and essential application of colours in this new pictorial language.
The Art and Heart of Leonardo – artistic anatomy then and now
Running from 5 May-16 June 2022, Clare Hall Art Committee presented The Art and Heart of Leonardo, an exhibition chiefly of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings, as seen through contemporary eyes. This exhibition was co-curated by Professor Roberta Ballestriero (Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice) and Francis Wells (an Honorary Fellow of Clare Hall).
Dissecting the hearts of oxen and working with intuition, Leonardo described, with astonishing precision, the anatomy and workings of the heart long before William Harvey posited the circulation of the blood. Leonardo was a profound lateral thinker and applied his ideas in functional anatomy across species. This allows us to draw a parallelism between his analysis of birds’ wings and photographs of birds in flight taken by Owen Burke, who has kindly lent these to the exhibition.
As an artist fascinated by both art and science, Leonardo was able to see things that many could not. This has inspired the investigative and imaginative contemporary drawings made by students of the Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice, while studying an innovative course on ‘artistic anatomy’, conceived by Professor Mauro Zocchetta. We are grateful to the Accademia di Belle Arti for the loan of some of these drawings. It is hoped that this broader approach to Leonardo and his legacy will result in an exhibition that invites engagement at many levels of academic interest.
We are especially grateful to co-curator Francis Wells, a cardiac surgeon at the Royal Papworth Hospital, who is also the author of a scholarly book titled The Heart of Leonardo, as well as an Honorary Fellow of Clare Hall. His book demonstrates the accuracy of Leonardo’s observation and physiological reasoning. Leonardo himself never published his anatomical knowledge, as he intended to do, and it can therefore be regarded as another of his great unfinished projects. Only in the late twentieth century did his achievements in describing the detailed function of the heart begin to be appreciated; and only latterly has his work received wide recognition.
Previous versions of this exhibition have been shown abroad. It is very appropriate that Clare Hall, a forward-looking college, should be the first place to show it in England. We are extremely grateful to Francis Wells for loaning us facsimiles in his possession, for the time and attention he has given to their presentation, and, above all, for all the insights he offers into Leonardo’s work. Such generosity will entice and reward many visitors to this exhibition.
Alison Brooks Architects: Cultural Formations – Selected Works 2002-2022
One of the most exciting and innovative contemporary architectural practices, Alison Brooks Architects, was the subject of an exhibition at Clare Hall from 18 February–7 April 2022.
Models, mounted on pedestals, drawings and photographs represent 20 years’ work and include major building projects, such as that recently completed at Exeter College, Oxford. All are on show in Clare Hall’s main building, designed by Ralph Erskine, an Englishman who established a practice in Sweden and became part of Scandi Modernism. His work and that of Alison Brooks establish an immediate connection, through a sympathetic use of materials, an interest in simplicity and a desire for architecture that relates to a way of life and the needs of those who live or work in it.
Each of the displayed works demonstrates Alison Brooks Architects’ ability to reveal and translate social histories, urban archetypes and iconographies into contemporary space and form; at the same time, they celebrate locality and craft with a tectonically inventive architecture.
To Ithaka: an exhibition of paintings, drawings and pastels by Mark Cazalet
Clare Hall Art Committee presented an exhibition of work by artist Mark Cazalet, from 7 October-10 December 2021.
Our first exhibition this academic year is the equivalent of a firework display in its rush of energy and its multiple sparks of brilliant colour. Mark Cazalet is a dynamic artist, whose insight and enthusiasm for art make him a notable figure at the Royal Drawing School and a significant presence within the contemporary arts scene. Yet his artistic development has followed a singular path, out of step with many of the fast-changing fashions within art practice. His chosen media are traditional, but his awareness of the texture and feel of everyday life is intensely modern. Whether travelling abroad or on home territory, he is alert to the surface appearances of things and in his treatment of them seeks out further meanings. Looking at his art, one sometimes feels that everything seems to shimmer with vitality.
Mark Cazalet is a contemporary artist based in London and Suffolk, UK. He trained at Chelsea School of Art and Falmouth School of Art. Immediately after graduating he was awarded the French government’s National Studentship award to study in France. He studied at L’école des Beaux-Arts, in the studio of Christian Boltanski. Simultaneously to this scholarship, Mark was awarded a year at the Cite-des-Arts studio complex in the Marais. After a year back in London he went to M.S. University Baroda for an eighteen-month Association of Commonwealth Universities Scholarship to study under Professor Fulham Mohamed Sheikh. Since his return to the UK, Mark has held a number of residencies, and in 2012 and 2013 was artist-in-residence twice at The Anni and Josef Albers Foundation, Connecticut, US. He is a Senior Member of Faculty at The Royal Drawing School; teaches at West Dean College and The Edward James Foundation, Sussex; and is a Trustee of City and Guilds of London Art School.
Past exhibiting artists
Artists whose work has been exhibited at Clare Hall include:
- Jasper and Jean Rose
- Nicholas Juett
- Michael Rothenstein
- Janet French
- Milein Cosman
- Chiara Briganti
- Stefan Luszczak
- Steven Mayes
- Mark Handley
- Jan Swart
- Gurpran Rau
- Michael Brick
- Lotte Atwood
- Robin Stemp
- Jake Attree
- Carol Sinclair
- Richard Bray
- Henryk Hetflaisz
- Di Bourne-Arton
- Nana Shiomi
- Rhonda Whitehead