‘the show that never was’

• Alexander Calder red jet 1971 from DLM 195 Published by Maeght, Paris i: 275 x 380 / f:400 x 500mm

“Above all, art should be fun,” said artist Alexander Calder best known for his huge mobile wire sculptures. And Geoffrey Powell at Twentieth Century Prints wanted to focus on exactly that with his latest exhibition, ‘the show that never was’ which, due to current restrictions, could not take place. Away from the Covid conundrum, the political shenanigans, the blame-throwing, the split of allegiances left and right, Powell believes Art is one of the things we desperately need to bring an instant shot of positivity and joy to our lives.

A regular at our shows and on The Modern Marketplace, Powell had the whole thing documented via video to ensure we all get our ‘art fix’ while we are not able to physically visit galleries.

Alexander Calder (above) was an American artist best known for his invention of the mobile and wire sculptures. In fact his friend, Marcel Duchamp coined the phrase “mobile” on a visit to Calder’s Paris studio in 1931, a pun in French for both motive and motion. Calder’s earlier mobiles were motor driven but later he designed pieces that were ‘powered’ by human interaction or air currents. Spanning seven decades in art he produced paintings, outdoor sculptures, stabiles (freestanding abstract sculptures like a mobile but stationary), domestic objects and jewellery.  

“I don’t practice painting or drawing as an art, in the sense of artifice, of making an imitation of something. It’s an inner compulsion that has to come out.” Alan Davie

Alan Davie, one cent life 1964 lithograph on folded paper as issued number 111/2000 coa image: 406 x 584: frame 505 x 685mm

Alan Davie, arguably Scotland’s most significant artist of the Twentieth Century had many talents and interests. An accomplished jazz musician, he was educated at the Edinburgh College of Art and was the first British painter to recognise the vitality and significance of American Abstract Expressionism. As well as his lifelong love of music other influences included Jungian psychoanaylis, Zen philosophy and Pictish symbol stones. Davies abstract and representative artwork is now displayed in museums and art galleries worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to name a few.

“I find drawing a useful outlet for ideas for which there is not enough time to realize as sculpture… And I sometimes draw just for its enjoyment.” Henry Moore

Henry Moore, seated figure 1958 from the folio “heads, figures and ideas” lithograph from an edition of 150 decorative french vintage frame i: 470 x 330 / f: 680 x 520mm

The son of a miner, Yorkshireman Henry Moore served in the First World War before studying drawing and sculpture at Leeds School of Art. If somewhat controversial, winning the international sculpture prize at the Venice Biennale in 1948 helped cement his reputation as one of the most celebrated British artists of his time. His love for printmaking started after he met master lithographer Stanley Jones at the Curwen Press and the reclining female form and mother and child played a prominent role in his sculpture.

“Drawing makes you see things clearer and clearer and clearer still, until your eyes ache.” David Hockney

David Hockney, princess in the tower (Grimms fairytales) 1970 etching and aquatint Petersburg Press C edition of 400 coa i: 447 x 323 / f: 560 x 425mm

English painter, draftsman and printmaker, Bradford born David Hockney was also a stage designer for opera and ballet and photographer. Considered a prominent figure in the pop art movement, Hockney is now thought of as one of the most influential British artists of the 20th Century. He studied at Bradford College of Art before heading to the Royal College of Art in London where he received a gold medal in the graduate competition, clearly an indicator of things to come. He flew between London and the USA where he lectured at various institutions before settling in Los Angeles and then more recently France. He continues to harness new technologies in his art, with some of his latest work being ‘painted’ on the iPad.

“I see no thread running through my work; I simply get on with my life and painting.” John Piper

John Piper, Gedney, Lincolnshire. 1964 signed and numbered by the artist from an edition of 70 printed by Curwen Press Tate Collection i: 812 x 592 / f: 920 x 680mm

Regarded as a pioneer of modern art, John Egerton Christmas Piper was an English painter, printmaker and designer of stained glass windows who trained at Richmond School of Art and later at the Royal College of Art in London. During World War II Piper was an official war artist, which is why his work often focuses on landscapes, churches and monuments. His wartime depictions of bomb damaged churches and landmarks like Coventry Cathedral made him a household name with many of his works now displayed in prominent institutions including The Tate Britain.

“Je suis un moine de l’Art!” (I’m an art monk!) Ladislas Kijno

Ladislas Kijno, 1789 lithograph signed, titled and numbered in pencil by the artist from an edition of 100, 500 x 650 mm approx.

Prior to his birth Warsaw born artist Ladislas Kijno’s Grandfather was murdered by the Cossacks and his father, a first violin at the Warsaw Conservatory was deported to Siberia for participating in the uprising of the Poles against the Russian invasion. This heritage and family history made him a deep thinker, contemplating the real nature of life. He moved to France with his family as a toddler and before becoming a painter, studied philosophy at the University of Lille where one of his mentors was Jean Grenier. Picasso described Kijno as a ‘powerful artist, a little crazy and perhaps too inclined to philosophise’. These two elements helped him become one of the major figures in the Art Informel movement and it was while living in Paris that he developed the ‘froissage’ technique, a method of creasing paper, which later expanded to crumpling canvases to give relief to his surfaces. He earned the title ‘the spiritual father of French street art’ due to his experimenting and the pioneering use of aerosols in his work.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a life time to paint like a child.” Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso, 1982 image from the Vollard Suite poster for an exhibition of etchings from Durer to Picasso at the Galerie la Palette, Toulon 500 x 650 mm approx.

Pablo Picasso, a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist and theatre designer spent most of his adult life in France. He was undoubtedly one of the most famous artists and innovators of his era and contributed to a number of artistic movements – surrealism, expressionism and neoclassicism – as well as helping kickstart cubism alongside George Braques. With quotes like “Painting is not made to decorate apartments it’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy,” how can you not love the man whose life’s work of over 20,000 pieces continues to heavily influence us to this day.

“The artist has to make the viewer understand that his world is too narrow, he has to be open up to new perspectives.” Antoni Tapies

Antoni Tapies, newspaper 1968 from DLM175 published by Maeght, Paris showing fold as issued i: 380 x 560 / f: 580 x 760mm

Barcelona-born Antoni Tapies was known for his abstract mixed-media paintings that incorporated unconventional materials such as marble dust, found objects, sand, stone and resin. These as well as often backward hand written script and gestural brushstrokes formed his lexicon of symbols and marks which he used to communicate in his works. Influences stemmed from his strong Catalan roots, the Parisian intellectual scene he was part of in the 1950s and his encounters with exponents of Art Informel, one of the most important modern art movements in Europe spanning the 1940s-50s, where he met Jean Fautrier and Jean Dubuffet. With his love for sculpture and art theory, Tapies became one of the most famous European artists of his generation.

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