Visuals: Reviews

Review: Absurd habits get a refresh

How utterly pleasant to walk into the new exhibition by Susan Timmins at Crescent Arts.


There’s an awful lot of contemporary art in Scarborough these days. Everything from paintings to photos to sculpture to sound installations; and everyone from Hockney and Hodgkin to students fresh out of college.


In the continual onslaught it can be hard for us viewers to even begin to figure out what our response should be. Here the artist and gallery have combined to present a work in a setting where it can show off its wit and perception, and allow the viewer to stay with it and then take away whatever they want.


Absurd Multiple comprises a series of wax figures almost, but not quite, identical together with photos of each and a single 3-D printout. The work sits on its own (thankfully) in a white space. The idea, the execution and the setting contribute to a work that doesn’t badger you or shout ‘look how clever I am’ but is nevertheless strangely affecting.


The other part of the exhibition, Habit Forming Behaviour, shows multiple slides of living rooms taken from the internet. This too is affecting, though I found it less absorbing than the quiet power of Absurd Multiple. Spend a few minutes with those wax figures and they might well stay with you.

Roger Osborne


Absurd Multiple and Habit forming behaviour is at Crescent Arts until 26 July Thursday to Saturday 11am-4pm

Review: Last Stop Scarborough

Picture yourself in Portofino. Maybe Monaco, Nice is nice, could go to Cannes? Don’t bother. Save yourself the awkward run in with Elton John and spend this summer in Scarborough. Long before Easyjet had decided on the orange future of holidays, the Yorkshire resort was seen as the ultimate summer destination. And this exhibition takes us on a nostalgic trip down a sun soaked lane.



The first thing you notice is how this apparently traditional town has continually reinvented itself. From a ‘sportsman’s paradise’ to Yorkshire’s answer to the French Riviera, to the perfect family destination, Scarborough was continuously remoulded into the ultimate tonic resort. And all this was depicted in the famous and popular railway posters.


It all started towards the end of the Victorian era when pictorial designs were first introduced to advertising posters, and this new commercial art form was being driven by graphic artists. By the 1920s and 1930s Bradford’s Frank Newbould and Scarborough’s Frank Mason along with Tom Purvis, Fred Taylor and Austin Cooper were the London and North East Railway’s top poster artists.


The first room features large scenic views of Scarborough brought to life beautifully through the use of pure colours. The older posters of the 1920s and 30s are mostly screen prints boldly set apart by their block colours. Yet the standout scenic poster in the exhibition breaks away from the traditional screen print. Frank Mason’s striking painting of the Open Air Theatre beautifully captures light and atmosphere. As a founder of the famous Staithes Group and a light impressionist Mason was routinely commended on his depiction of light, and his railway posters are captivating.


The second room transforms Scarborough to the Riviera, as the resort tried to appeal to the romanticism of the middle-classes. Not able to afford holidays abroad but desperate to find the continental magic they saw in the movies, tourists lapped up any mention of European sunspots. A 1934 brochure boasts that ‘only at Monte Carlo can one find anything approaching the splendour of its setting’. Along the way people’ dress in the posters shows the changing fashions. Posters from the 1930s feature formal dress compared to the risqué bikinis of the 1960s.


Finally the exhibition has a family friendly children’s corner. Scarborough’s tradition as an ideal family resort is plastered over the room, from 1950s posters to life size family beach huts.


The exhibition is much more than the posters on show, it is a nod to the wider changes in British society, fashion and of course holiday making. You might feel a little short changed in the lack of information about the artists and their techniques. Still, the exhibition is a bit of nostalgic fun, especially for those who might remember the ice cream licker or moustache cup. 

Caitlin Moriarty-Osborne


Last Stop Scarborough runs at the Art Gallery until next January

Triple perspectives in Wolds show

What kind of art-lover are you? Are you realist or non-objective? Feeling a big figurative, or abstract?, writes Caitlin Moriarty-Osborne. The good news is at this exhibition you don’t have to choose. Peter Watson’s current show in the Gallery at Woodend features vibrant terrains, industrial landscapes, sporting achievements, and one very special Yorkshire celebrity. The versatility of colour, style and subject matter on show is impressive. Watson’s paintings include vibrant depictions of the Yorkshire Wolds, pictures of Yorkshire pits and memorable sporting events.


Watson attended both the Hull and Liverpool colleges of art and now resides in Scarborough. Watson’s work is inspired by both his surroundings and his passion for sport. His industrial paintings were influenced by his wife’s home in Wentworth near Rotherham, and his later work has drawn inspiration from the Wolds.


The show at Woodend is really three separate exhibitions. Firstly Watson’s new collection ‘Fields of view – a different look at the Wolds’ focuses on the juxtaposition of intensive farming methods and natural terrain. His oil on canvas paintings bring landscapes to life through his use of textures, colours and shapes. Particularly striking is ‘Rape and Poppies’, in which vivid colours depict an almost abstract landscape. Watson’s ability to create geometric patterns out of rural scenery is exemplified beautifully in ‘Winter Wheat’.  His patterns and use of light bear striking resemblance to the work of David Hockney, and it is surprising that the pair never crossed paths during the six- year period they would both have frequented the Wolds.


The other parts of the exhibition stay true to a logic of perspective and show his roots as a figurative painter. The second element shows paintings from the 1970s when Watson preserved the sights of the doomed Yorkshire pits by capturing Yorkshire’s industrial heritage in fourteen paintings for the National Coal Board. On the closure of the pits he assumed the paintings would have been discarded, but luckily for us was reunited with them more than 30 years later, after they were passed on to the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield.


Watson’s collection on sport is perhaps his most fun. The portraits depict local sports events like the 2004 Scarborough Vs Chelsea FA cup match. The captions have plenty of amusing anecdotes – the painting of the hunt for example proved particularly difficult as his subjects insisted on appearing in order of importance.


In the midst of the abstract landscapes and derelict pits comes the real highlight – a gorgeous almost life-size portrait of 1967’s Best Fresian Bull in Yorkshire.


Peter Watson’s exhibition has something for everyone, but for me the bull wins every time.

Fields of View runs at Woodend Gallery until 26 July


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