SPRING is on its way and if you’re not convinced then it might help to bask in the warmth of a new season exhibition featuring work by such artists as South Africa’s Heike Allerton-Davies and bringing a welcome blast of colour to Corbridge in Northumberland this February.
Allerton-Davies will be sharing the limelight alongside a range of other international figurative artists at Balman Gallery’s Spring Show which opens after a preview weekend on February 16-17.
The artist, who was born in Cape Town and exhibits widely in Africa, is known for her female nudes of prostitutes, porn stars and mothers, who can come across as raw and vulnerable, or, at other times, as powerful and strong – as in her Beauty portrait whose subject stares out boldly at the viewer.
Then there’s a more familiar face in David Axtell’s portrait of the late Amy Winehouse.
Axtell, who lives and works in Cornwall and is inspired by artists Dame Laura Knight and Edward Hopper, loves music, from the recordings of Elvis in Vegas and Johnny Cash he remembers from listening to his parents’ vinyl collection to Winehouse and Liam Gallagher.
His art captures this and his edgy rock portraits include one of George Harrison which was recently completed for Mojo magazine.
Some of the artists taking part in the show are renewing their acquaintance with the gallery, such as Ukrainian-born Sveta Rumak whose first exhibition of work there sold well.
Her figurative paintings, whose seductive images, earthy colours and rich textures appeal to the senses, are simple and complex at the same time: featuring flat figures in highly- patterned clothes, enlarged almond eyes like orthodox icons or elongated shapes suggesting something otherworldly, with a nod to other historic times.
This time her soulful and enigmatic work is described as a perfect complement to that of Heike.
Flying the flag for the North East, meanwhile, will be Chris Jones in a display of cool and contemporary urban paintings which make the most of strong sunlight and shadows, such as in Morning Swim which has an almost-photographic quality.
Chris has exhibited across the UK but this is his first show at Balman.
Talking about his art, he says: “The people I paint are those who quietly go about their everyday routines: sitting on a bench waiting for someone, or descending a flight of steps in a hurry.”
As in Morning Swim, where we look down at a swimmer in a pool, Chris likes to use a high viewpoint, explaining that it creates an usual view of the figure and enhances the sense of observing a scene.
“I aim to provide the viewer with a painting which can be enjoyed both visually and narratively,” he adds.
Another artist with North East roots is Derek Jones, a coal miner’s son who was born in County Durham but now lives in Berwickshire.
He does have past connections with the gallery where now he will be showing examples of the new style he’s adopted for his female figure drawings.
And if the weather doesn’t improve by the time the exhibition opens on February 16, it’ll be the work of Dublin-born Garret Daley that most accurately captures the current climate. The artist, who apparently started out painting on cardboard boxes, will be showing off stormy, atmospheric landscapes.
The Spring Show has plenty to cheer up every art-lover and gallery director Andy Balman says: “This is an extremely exciting show for us.
“We’re very pleased to welcome Chris Jones. Having previously exhibited Chris’s work in London and the North East, this will be his first exhibition at our Corbridge gallery.
“We continue to bring the best in national and international artists to the gallery with new artist David Axtell and exciting contemporary work from Heike Allerton-Davies.”
* The Spring Show can be seen from February 16 at Balman Gallery in the Town Hall Buildings, Princes Street, Corbridge. The gallery is open 10am-5pm from Monday to Saturday and admission is free. Visit www.balmangallery.com or call 01434 634 629.