New Art Studio is delighted to have been chosen by the Ben Uri Gallery and Museum as their community partner in an exciting new virtual exhibition at the National Gallery – Fruits of the Spirit. Alongside the virtual exhibition, which includes a further eight regional galleries and museums around the country, Ben Uri Gallery and New Art Studio are having an exciting new exhibition in the Ben Uri Gallery and Museum in London.
The exhibition explores the concept of Joy through a selection of artworks from the Ben Uri Collection and new work from members of New Art Studio. The work from the Ben Uri permanent collection asks whether Joy is to be found in home (Frank Auerbach), in family (Dora Holzhandler, Bernard Meninsky), in love (Yaki Assayag, Chana Kowalska), in the shimmering heat of a summer’s day (Auerbach, Arthur Segal), in a vibrant landscape (Auerbach, Philip Sutton), in a bold still-life (Sutton, Tomalin), in celebration (Dancing Figures) or even the act of dance itself (Feibusch, Levy, Bakst). Is it achieved through spirituality (Holzhandler) or a joyous religious festival (Levy)?
The eclectic, vibrant and deeply personal artwork of the artists who are members of New Art Studio reflects these same questions regarding the nature of Joy, exploring feelings of hope, resistance, fortitude and love.
The exhibition is running from the 11th January to the 17th February. The opening hours are Wednesday – Friday 10am – 5.30pm, Monday and Tuesday by appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org
A discussion about Joy and Frank Auerbach’s Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II (2004) by New Art Studio Members, edited by Jasmin Topalusic and Ruanna Brook
In the art studio is written the word JOY on paper in purple crayon. The word has circles inside each letter and the paper is stuck on the wall. There is no explanation of who invited this thing, why it is there and what it wants. It is not mentioned for a couple of weeks until someone points it out and says ‘Why does Joy look like an octopus?’
That is a rather good observation and everyone seems to agree with a slight smile and a little confusion. The Joy that hadn’t apparently been noticed finally gets some attention after it has been sensed and unspoken for weeks. The Joy that like an octopus has been reaching for the studio members with its tentacles to grasp and feed from their minds and hearts. Just like the art materials scattered all around the studio – like food to nourish yourself in the search for the containment of ideas, of thoughts and feelings.
The tentacles of Joy bring us all together in conversation – sharing one big table between us. It feels like a feast. Every Monday, we come together to share the table and the art materials on it to paint and talk. And so the discussion on Joy starts unfolding.
These words are the words of the studio members, sewn together by us to form a kind of stream of consciousness exploration of the meaning of Joy in response to the paintings, and in relation to the members’ own experience.
Joy is when we celebrate each other’s festivals together, feeling safe; when we are painting and drawing together. When watching other artists, working with charcoal, making something beautiful from objects that have no use anymore – old paper plates, cups, bits of old card, scraps of magazines.
There are moments when thinking about Joy feels like a waste of time! Joy is hard work. To wake up every morning, to eat, to wash, to sleep, to dream. Joy is practice, choice, patience – it’s hard work. Joy is a state of consciousness, it is an inner thing. Joy also sounds like a price or a contribution of some other kind. Joy is confusion, frustration and anger at the same time. You can buy and sell Joy.
In the Auerbach painting, there are lots of colours and it looks like the work of a child. It feels like a deliberate choice of colours to look happy, contained and childlike. It has romantic and dreamlike qualities; it is in a new relationship! The world seems so bright and nice and there is a lot of hope within it. It has a summer feel, not a very fine expression in terms of technique but somehow wanting to be like a child again. The vibrancy of the colours is like an open door or window. It feels innocent and like, I don’t know, Las Vegas! There is so much entertainment, so much light and traffic. It feels so physical and thick.
But there is also war within the painting with buildings crashing down. The colours are so determined and boldly used. It’s interesting and confusing at the same time.
Look at the children – it is children that are teaching the artist about life, about ideas, everything. Art is very important to children. They can tell straight away if the art you made is true or a lie. They have truly open minds. Being a child with an open mind is a joyful practice that some adults have forgotten about, but the artist has not. The artist is in touch with this lifelong joyful practice of discovery.
But if there is no time or space for art or artists, then there is no point in living. Life feels dead, lost and pointless – such a waste of existence. Not being able to express ideas – it’s like a prison inside your own head. The expression of ideas gives life freedom outside your own mind. Ideas locked inside without expression are the death of creativity and life. Thoughts need art to feel free and life without art is like a prison. Joy in prison is a longing for life, and the joy in life can be everything.