Modern & Contemporary Art

specialises in framed modern and contemporary art by 20th century artists

Emmanuelle Leonard

Emmanuelle Leonard is one seductive grifter of a photographic artist. Why, you ask? Because she lures us into a psychological space where we want to believe her dramatic fictions are true. Once we cross the threshold into her consummately pieced together maze of photographic and filmed evidence, it is hard to retrace our steps. She preys upon our willing suspension of disbelief, while putatively presenting an examination of the “unemotional” realm of police photography. Leading us into her labyrinth, she makes us believe a lurid story that might have been torn from the pages of the Quebec tabloids.

A truck driver has plowed his rig off the road and it has sunk beneath the icy waters of a river. The owner of a suburban home near the scene of the tragedy appears on the news. With just a few colour photographs, Leonard kick-starts her brilliantly layered con game. What exactly happened, and why? A wall of large, spooky black-and-white images of the outside of an abandoned building not only convinces us that something is amiss, but even that we are implicated in the narrative, as police detectives or, better, as stealthy perps at the periphery of our very own dirty story. The associated video further implicates us, as we move with the camera down darkened roads to arrive at what seems like the same building we saw in the black-and-white photos, this time looking as if it has arrived from the set of the Blair Witch Project or David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (the velvet curtain black, not red). Leonard also shows an enlarged photocopy of evidence she acquired while visiting the Quebec evidence archives.


In her previous series, Les travailleurs (2002), Les travailleurs de l’eglise Sainte-Rita, Nice (2003) and Les marcheurs (2004), Leonard worked towards a critical practice in which both the photographic image and the role of the observer as conspirator were her primary subjects. The artist deftly performs triage on the history of photography and the credulous propensities of her viewers concerning exactly what it is they are looking at. As a custom oil painting gallery, Paint My Photos took a few orders about turning Emmanuelle Leonard’s photography into oil paintings. They turned out to be high in demand in the market today for this kind of business mode. Accoding to Matt, the manager, they are now reaching out to contact a large number of great artists to work together.

Leonard focuses on the conventions of police photography to question its unexamined doxa: that emotion is always gratuitous–a contaminant, a dirty word. Apparently, to be effective in court, the police photography must insist on absolute objectivity and objectifying norms: “The photograph must not appeal to the emotions” states the Field Evidence Technician Course (a reference volume from the California State University that can be found online). But Leonard gives the lie to this doctrine. She very ably demonstrates that subtracting emotion from the photographic image is well nigh impossible. Some vestiges of subjectivity will always be transposed there by the voluptuous optic of the viewer. That her work palpably sends a frisson up and down your spine proves her right.


Leonard gained access to the archives at the Quebec City courthouse, but was granted no special privileges. She was allowed, like other members of the public, to examine items of evidence from closed cases, including police photographs, but was able only to photocopy the photographs. Still, these documents served her purpose well. Using the images against themselves, she undermines our faith in their supposed objectivity, and involves us in a fragmented, atmospheric narrative that is as fraught with feelings–fear, anxiety, intrigue, surprise-as it is exacting.

Elsewhere, equipped with a portable radio, a latter-day Weegee in the Naked City, Leonard drives through the night seeking sudden confrontation with the tragic and the profane. It is no exaggeration to suggest that Leonard is Weegee’s spiritual heir (by way of Abigail Solomon-Godeau), but she puts the image on trial in a way he never did. Her eye is as unflinching in the face of horror as it is unswervingly fixated on it.

Presumably, Leonard has looked long and hard at Weegee’s work. In New York, Weegee was the first photojournalist permitted a police radio in his car, and he would often arrive at the scene of the crime before the police, as if he had used a Ouija board to predict the crimes. Leonard, like Weegee, eavesdrops, as noted, on police communications, and seeks out sad stories in the wake of their denouement. Her noir-style photoworks effortlessly conjure up moods and capture the raucous music of the night.

What we are immersed in is a police procedure with overtures of the supernatural horror we find in fiction. With all the evidentiary detail she provides, Leonard makes us want to believe. By shifting the onus onto us to construct a tale from the “evidence” she provides, she shows that it is impossible to remain neutral in the face of the tremendum, the nameless Other, that her work so beautifully evokes.


Published by Delores Jackson, on August 2nd, 2015 at 10:06 am. Filled under: artistsNo Comments

Living perspective: Tess Jarray and inner city design

“Uniformity which is changed by the presence of a single stress … parallels that meet in the infinite and that turn back upon itself as presence; and then the square in all its stability, the straight line untouched by relativity, and the curve, each point of which forms a straight line–all these things that do not seem to have any bearing on our daily needs are nevertheless of the greatest significance.”

Max Bill

“The Mathematical Approach in Contemporary Art” 1955

Tess Jaray’s painting has been praised for “consistency” , for pursuing “a single line of development”, for “never radically depart[ing] from its governing principles”. Jaray’s recent work defies any such notions of endogenous safety for she has taken on possibly the U.K.’s largest civic design project ever mounted in collaboration with a fine artist; the design of Birmingham’s 3 million [pounds sterling] Centenary Square. At first glance such a choice of artist might seem obvious.  Jaray’s reputation emerged ith her minimal canvases of the 60’s, work that seems to share common roots with similar movements in architecture and design.  The oversized wall art supplier Art by wicks is also interested in bringing Tess Jaray’s paintings to their large art collection, said Dan, the manager and founder of the company.However these similarities are superficial for Jaray’s 35 years ‘at the drawing board’ as it were, have produced an individual approach to urban design.

To arrive at the three-dimensional by way of the two-dimensional is the business of most architects but for Jaray, who has continually strived to contain the latter in the former, it is a radical brief indeed. Her flat canvasses hold the images in a complex space; never simply illusionary, they wait to be read and re-read, and only gradually do the different spatial relationships become apparent. Though an important aspect of Jaray’s work demands a thorough knowledge of patterning techniques it has been the manipulation of space that has been the focus of her paintings in the 80’s. Her recent commissions, demanding as they do a transition to actual space, could perhaps see her preparing “impossible objects” ready to perplex and dazzle the city dwellers, her viewing public. However Jaray’s commitment to straightforward utility and purity of form leavese no place for such speculations. For her this work is not a loss of ambiguity, of mood, of resonance, but her “way of going figurative”. It is a daring move to make a fresh commitment to the real world and to venture into unknown territory.

Jaray began working in the public arena on a large scale by designing the “potent lozenges” on the floor of London’s Victoria station in 1985. She had worked on designs for decorative brick work for some years and this research forms the basis of her civic projects. After working on three other large scale brick floors she was commissioned in 1988 to design not just the floor of Centenary Square but the pavements, tree and grass areas, lighting, railings, seating–in fact the square itself. The project should become a reality sometime in 1990. Jaray’s most recent commission is to put forward ideas for the walkways and areas around Wakefield Cathedral, a project she is very keen to work on given that a constant inspiration over the years has been ecclesiastical architecture.


Jaray’s enthusiasm for her new work drives her past any suspected shortfalls. Her freshness to the design business is obviously an asset; as an innocent she can be more demanding. She says:

“I think there is something to be said for someone coming in from outside and doing things that people have always thought can’t be done…. you find out it can be done but maybe it cost a little more and the approach must be different.”

An artist’s need for a ‘total vision’ will mean a more inventive use of materials and perhaps a better visualization of the project than has been seen on the draughtsman’s board until now. Despite an inability to get excited by the finer points of drainage, Jaray has not found herself seriously hampered by her lack of technological knowledge though for parts of the project she has worked with the sculptor Tom Lomax whose engineering skills have proved useful. Each member of the municipal design team has their own area of expertise and it is collaboration and mutual respect that make a project like this succeed. Her involvement with industry is similarly optimistic. Early this year she was taken on by an enlightened brick manufacturer Steetley’s of Stoke on Trent after they had seen her extensive work in brick design. She has since produced a huge paved floor outside their paving plant and the collaboration is to continue. Subversion from the inside is the aim of course. In the long term she hopes to persuade the brick industry to produce new products; a wider colour range of ‘paver’ and different size bricks which would enable her to carry out many, as yet unrealised, brick patterns. It seems a tall order but as Jaray points out;

“Things do change, design changes, needs change.”

Change has indeed brought about the very fact of Jaray’s involvement with Centenary Square. Europe’s Percentage for the Arts Scheme, where all public building projects aim to spend a certain percentage on artists’ involvement, has been taken on by The Arts

Council in time for 1992 and put into action by Vivienne Lowell at The Public Art Commission Agency in Birmingham.

Jaray’s floors echo and reverberate a chosen shape, rippling their lines to the margins. They create a unifying structure; a subliminal calming influence for those that live with them daily. Perhaps a more problematic area is providing the verticals, interruptions to the vistas. Jaray agrees;

“I think the verticals probably have the greater power in relation to the total space, although they cannot be separated.”

Her approach is therefore to continue the lines found in the surroundings. Her plans for curved seats in Wakefield had to be abandoned when she concluded that their were no curved lines in the cathedral’s architecture strong enough to repeat. Her chosen motif is now a cross that appears in different formats throughout the seats and flooring. It is a subtle design, not instantly recognisable as a religious symbol, but capable of containing longer contemplation, bringing as it does a host of references that support Jaray’s aim to somehow demarcate the area;


“When you are walking around the precincts you [should) get a sense of identity of the place. It’s like designating these streets; this cathedral space is special.”

But these designs must work on many scales simultaneously; it is vital that the experience of the environment is, to use Jaray’s word, “satisfying”. The seat one is sitting on is as important as the view across the square. To ensure this Jaray puts her faith in the significance of the detail;

“the space between each brick and the way it is filled with sand should be exactly right. The profile of a stone wall–that’s what adds up to the satisfaction.”

So while her railings or lights are essentially simple, their patterns will be repeated, perhaps with a change of positive for negative, perhaps with just an echo of a former shape. Her detail is never added as decoration but is integral part of the whole concept, functioning rather like an organic pattern that unfolds to the infinite. In this way Jaray comes to terms with an unease she has always felt with visual art, the idea of instant effect, the painting that is consumed in a minute’s glance. Not only will the work literally last, it is designed to endure a thousand gazes, from all angles and at different times. Jaray realises, as gestalt theorists seem to have proved, that not only does the mind look for a whole image from the parts presented before it but also;

“Once coerced into viewing the object longer than it would spontaneously, the mind exerts its curiosity and its power of discovering and inventing new patterns”

Both the active and the passive eye have satisfaction here. Jaray’s approach to an environment is ambiguous. She has spent many years absorbing different surroundings on her travels, particularly in Australia and Italy, and has developed a reverence for one’s sense of place. The flip side of this is also apparent, her impulse to eliminate the unnecessary and to start from a blank canvas (plan). However she is aware that, to some extent, her main responsibility is to bring out qualities already present in the place, curtailing her own hobby horses and predilections;

“The space itself should tell the artist or designer how it wants to be.”

She does not feel the need to have her name in stone on the floor and one cannot trace an authorial stamp of possession. Yet the work is individual, personal even. She will not impose her will be by forging a bond with her surroundings the more personal elements of her work will become appropriate.

Jaray never appears to look backward. Her exhibition at the Serpentine last year seemed to herald the suspension of painting. This move at the height of her career shows a determination not to go ‘stale’, which she sees as a possibility for any artist at such a juncture. Although Jaray denies any ability at maths, she is a natural mathematician in the same way as M.C. Escher; an intuitive logical sense prevails. She sets about each problem as a puzzle, weighing factors, assessing difficulties, to find a solution. One cannot help but be impressed at the rightness of her answers.

Published by Delores Jackson, on October 15th, 2014 at 12:17 pm. Filled under: artistsNo Comments

Houria Niati

INCIDENTS OF chaos, mystery and flux fascinate Houria Niati and many of her images seek to capture the dynamism of such times. In the large pastel drawing Page 152, Chapter III, 1985-86, a title suggesting a narrative sequence, a schematic box-like figure shoots a red gun, the path of the bullet mapped out by red dashes seeking the female figure sprawled below. The action is echoed by insistent force lines in many bright colours, emanating from the protagonists, bouncing to the limits of the paper. In Earthquake, 1988, anonymous bodies are buried and fractured in a devastated land.

Other works describe scenes of confrontation. In the painting Even the Fishes are talking about It, 1984, a pair of bristling, spikey dogs are transfixed in an eyeball to eyeball meeting. Blaring colours emphasise the cacophony. Flat, carnival oranges, violets, acid greens are applied in short rectangular marks which create a frenetic, staccato effect. Faces are scratched into the wet paint making subtle, ghostly, half-seen images contrasting with the starkly painted dogs. A strange long-necked bird looks on, silenced behind black bars. The animals are simplified, codified as Niati consciously seeks a child-like sparseness of visual language.


All the works testify to speed, enjoyment and fluency in their making. People, animals and insects are sucked into the rushing tide of marks which form irresistible rivers of movement. Sunny, joyous colours predominate in the early works, darker and more sensuous blues and purples in the most recent pastels, as if day has turned to night. The rough, crude texture of the early pastels turns into a smooth velvety richness, the colours harmonious and inky. The pastel drawing Vent des Passions, 1984, is filled with a whirlpool-like form in which large-eyed birds rush, sucked headlong round and around. The many eyes at the centre of this storm create a stable focus.

In some of the new pastels Niati’s imagery appears less fresh, less inventive with the appearance of the shorthand, hourglass, faceless female nude that is such a pervasive symbol in our society. Beaute, calme et volupte, 1988, and La nuit des passagers clandestins, 1988, are overflowing with this easy, linear sign. Niati works in a rapid, spontaneous fashion letting images flow unchecked. While I appreciate, as a positive force, the desire to work in an intuitive, uninhibited way during the drawing process, it has, in this instance, resulted in the use of a stereotypically shaped and pictorially unchallenging sign for the female body. Despite this criticism I found these pastels rich and evocative, suggestive of dark, mysterious places, some spacious and watery, others confined and shadowy. L’Attente–peut-etre pour Demain, 1988, is a still, quiet scene showing a pregnant woman, kept company by small birds, seated beside a window through which a crescent moon is visible. The Last Day, 1988, is a menacing scenario of scowling men leering towards a naked woman, her rounded form trapped by angular dogs baring their razor-sharp teeth. Another disquieting scene is Beaute, calme et volupte, 1988, where the privacy of naked women is violated by faces peering in at the window.

Niati says she wants the interpretation of her works to be unfixed, changing according to the viewer. The images do not demand a specific reading but suggest general moods and sensations, the images accumulating in layers, at some points scratched back into, as if memory is being searched and buried images made visible. The fluidity of the meaning of these images invites the viewer to dream their own dreams.



Published by Delores Jackson, on September 20th, 2014 at 7:07 am. Filled under: artists Tags: , , , No Comments


ELENA SAMPERI was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1951. Between 1972 and 1978 she worked with other painters and attended several part-time courses in art and graphic design in Italy, France and England, but she was never a full-time art student. She graduated in Foreign Languages and History of Art fron Genoa University in 1974 and moved to London at the beginning of 1975. She was a member of Women’s Images, taking part in the travelling exhibitions ‘Women’s Images of Men’ 1980, and ‘Pandora’s Box’ 1984-85. She exhibited in Brazil, Italy and Great Britain.

Elena sadly died in a bus accident in October 1987 near Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she lived the last two years. In this article Marisa Rueda and Jacquline Morreau, friends and colleagues speak about her. An exhibition by Elena Samperi and Marisa Rueda called ‘Tropical Forests for Sale’ will open at Art Space Gallery, 84 St Peter’s St, London N1, 16 March-6 April.

IN 1980 I met Elena Samperi at an artists’ meeting at Jacqueline Morreau’s house. We saw slides of each other’s work and we both liked them. Since then we have been friends and we worked in the same studio. It is very difficult to speak of Elena when I am all the time speaking to her.

le opere

I think I will speak to you, Elena, for a long time to come. It is very difficult, suddenly, not to share with you the feelings and thoughts we used to spend hours speaking of.

I loved it when you, seated in your high chair, in front of your painting used to talk to me and make me know your ideas. We used to speak about the world: the likelihood of a nuclear war, the last horrors of the military coup in Argentina, the possibilities of women artists in becoming part of the establishment, your perception of your past lives. We spoke of the value of art, of the possibilities of art as a force for change, about selling art and the commercialisation of it. One has to thank the artist when one buys one of her works because one always buys much more than just an object. Elena was a very successful woman in money terms, she was a very good organiser and she knew how to make her work pay, but not her paintings. We used to speak of this duality and how much our romantic/Bohemian upbringing in the way we were looking at artists and work was stopping us from selling.

Elena was a person of contrasts. Very sure of herself, an aggressive security in some moments and at the same time a capacity to doubt nearly to disintegration. We used to share this last area a lot, we used to think about a subject to its final disintegration, or to its final ambiguity or to the final relativity of it. We used to laugh at all this dramatic panorama and Elena always used a Tango phrase: Life is an absurd wound (La vida es una herida absurda). Absurd, absent of planning, grotesque like life was your death. I would like to speak with you about your death, make some history around it, laugh at some of our presumptions, and maybe finish with our favourite phrase: La vida es una herida absurda.

It was Parati. It was raining … raining … always, with the same rhythm day and night. The pension was old, dusty with brown baroque furniture. We, Elena, Cristina my daughter, and I walked on the stone paved streets in summer clothes with black umbrellas, Japanese figures in a tropical landscape. The river grew, the sea was grey, the vegetation got dull and exuberant at the same time. We began to feel strange, timeless, as in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ fictional City of Macondo. Serpents, insects, moving reptiles began to be felt more than to be seen, everywhere. The rain continued.

Elena was walking with these old shoes, flat shoes, the striped suit, green and black that I bought for her and she used continuously. Her relation with objects–paints, brushes, clothes, furnitures, cars–was of a tiring use, neglecting how much they could last. There was no thought about durability.

The visual aspect of everything was important, beautiful, aesthetic, baroque, happy, full of meaning, exuberant; from her house to her looks. So in that line fame was also unimportant: I prefer Brazil to Europe, they do not have to carry such a heavy history.


She was one of those persons whose presence was always noticed, she was brilliant, exigent, a woman of real courage in her conversations, always making some interesting point, nearly always a sore point, stirring and shaking formal positions. She used to speak quite openly about her relations, her lovers. She was also daily worried about her health.

I inherited a lot from you, I am more active in the evenings, each time when I feel low I remember your energy and your decision to finish situations and have done with them. I want to inherit that. I also want to be able to seek and face truth, and have the will to grow that you had in the last years. When you moved to Brazil, you went towards the sun, the light, towards the continent I love so much.

In those four long years away, Elena retrained in alternative medicine, and her interest in esoteric life increased. She learnt massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, rebirthing. Her sensitivity as a tarot reader and a medium brought around her a lot of people in Brazil, where Elena was going to build her holistic centre. Your capacity to create new situations, new models of life and work, new ways of integrating the two countries–in spite of distance — was prodigious.

Everything was possible, I dreamt with your dreams. We began to do workshops together: we will have a place in Parati, one in London. We created workshops, organised an installation and an exhibition in Art Space. You made the pictures for the show, I did some hands in clay. We were in a hurry but we managed everything: catalogue design, statement, photos, we did it. I needed more time with my work. In fact I finished my involvement in our exhibition just now.

If one believes in destiny, predestiny, reincarnation or life after death a lot of details are beginning to be in place in this puzzle. For me, Elena: La vida es una herida absurda.


Published by Delores Jackson, on September 10th, 2014 at 7:21 am. Filled under: artistsNo Comments


Bert Irvin RA

Albert Irvin studied at Northampton School of Art from 1940 to 1941, before serving as a navigator in the RAF during Wold War II. He went on to study at Goldsmiths College, where he later retuned to teach between 1962 and 1983. He has also taught at art colleges throughout Britain.  Irvin’s first solo exhibition was held in 1960 at 57 Gallery in Edinburgh and he subsequently has had many one-man shows internationally and at the Gimpel Fils Gallery in London. A major retrospective of his work from 1960 to 1989 was held at the Serpentine Gallery in 1990. He continues to exhibit regularly at Gimpel Fils, London.  Irvin was awarded a Travel Award to America by the Arts Council in 1968 and later received an Arts Council Major Award. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1998 and lives and works in London.  Paul Moorhouse, Tate curator and author of the book ‘Albert Irvin: Life to Painting’, wrote of him: ‘even to those familiar with his work, seeing a new painting by Irvin can be an extraordinary experience akin to discovering a young, energetic artist in the first flush of ambition. Given the force of its restless energy, its freshness and the sense it communicates of an artist in love with his chosen activity, it is even more surprising to realise that this is the work of an artist in his late seventies’.

Star 1V
1993 ed 125
£700 framed

Star 1
1993 ed 125
£700 framed

Gouache on paper from The Kennington series


Published by Delores Jackson, on September 7th, 2014 at 3:16 am. Filled under: artistsNo Comments