Wednesday, 31 May 2017

'Ten Years of Painting' at The Barbican

Chapter Six. Ten Years of Painting

"My solo show at The Barbican 'Ten Years of Painting' included two large works on paper made in my last year at art school in Cornwall, alongside a range of more recent paintings and a series of charcoal and pastel works made in London. Through this exhibition I was able to identify precise developments and observe subtle shifts in my progress. It was useful to have that moment of detachment and see my paintings exhibited outside of the studio in an entirely different context. I usually showed my paintings in alternative settings but this exhibition was quite different and very mainstream.

The private view was rather formal within the corporate surroundings of The Barbican. The bar attendant, in her uniform of black and white, dispensed drinks from a table covered by a crisp white linen cloth. The guests who came to the private view, perhaps bemused by their surroundings, sipped wine from tall stemmed glasses, talking quietly to each other.

This survey of my paintings came at a timely point in my career. I realised just how hard I had worked over those ten years and how much time and effort I had invested in my paintings. I could only hope that at last I had made a breakthrough."

Excerpt from my (as yet!) unpublished autobiography 'Art, Life and Everything', edited by Anna McNay.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Contemporary Masters from Britain. China Tour

Yantai Art Museum, Artall Gallery, Nanjing, Jiangsu Art Gallery, Nanjing and the Tianjin Academy of Fine Art
Between the 7th July and 30th December 2017, 80 works of art drawn from the Priseman Seabrook Collection of 21st century British Painting will go on display in 4 Chinese art museums for the very first time. The host institutions are the Yantai Art Museum, Artall Gallery, Nanjing, Jiangsu Art Gallery, Nanjing and the Tianjin Academy of Fine Art, Tianjin.
Along with the exhibition, six of the exhibiting artists will go out to talk on the subject of British painting in light of the digital revolution and explore why the hand-made work of art is more relevant today than it has ever been, connecting directly as it does with the profound human need to touch, feel and mediate emotion. Because painting’s rising relevance in the 21st century is beautifully aligned with the resurgent growth of interest in vinyl records, knitting, film photography and unplugged music. In this new exhibition, we will see how painting exhibits a universal desire to connect to the real in ways which enrich us all.
So why is painting from the United Kingdom relevant to a Chinese audience?
When we look historically we see how Britain has nurtured some of the world’s greatest painters, from Holbein in the 16th century to Constable and Joseph Wright of Derby in the 18th, Turner and Atkinson Grimshaw in the 19th and Freud, R. B. Kitaj, Rego and Francis Bacon in 20th century. This level of excellence in the art of painting in the British Isles has continued to evolve into the 21st with a new generation of artists who have made the production of significant painting their life’s work.
In 2014 I came to realise that many of this new wave of British painters had yet to be collected with same the geographical and chronological focus of their predecessors and foreign contemporaries. So, with the help of my wife I began the process of bringing together a body of work by artists which followed the very simple criteria of being painting produced after the year 2000 within the British Isles. The painters we began collecting included European Sovereign Painters Prize winner Susan Gunn, John Moores Prize winner Nicholas Middleton, 54th Venice Biennale exhibitor Marguerite Horner, East London Painting Prize Winner Nathan Eastwood, NPG Portrait Award Winner Paula MacArthur, Griffin Art Prize exhibitor Matthew Krishanu, Birtles Prize Winner Simon Burton and Mary Webb who received a solo show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in 2011 amongst many others.
Creating this focus has enabled us to uncover a number of significant themes which at first were hard to discern. In it we can see that painting is now expressing itself along the same lines as the slow food movement, meditation and unplugged music. Within the era of the digital revolution it offers a direct and contemplative connection with the hand-made, with real objects which mediate our emotional makeup. We see this most clearly in the fact that the paintings within the collection display no clear and consistent group narrative or movement other than being broadly realist, abstract and surrealist, and are instead an assembly of highly individualistic interpretations which offer visual interactions with the physical world. One interesting thing has however remained consistent. When we look to the past we notice how many of the greatest painters who practiced in the UK were born abroad, including Holbein, Freud and Auerbach who were born in Germany, Bacon who was from Ireland, Kitaj the USA and Rego who was born in Portugal. Indeed it is this international influence which has probably helped create such a strong and vibrant tradition in the genre in Britain and which is most reflective of our civilization as a broadly international and multi-cultural society. In the 21st century we see this strand of internationalism continuing in British painting and being signified in the collection by Monica Metsers who was born in New Zealand, Claudia Böse and Silvie Jacobi who were born in Germany, Rhonda Whithead from Australia, Laura Leahy and Julie Umerle who are from the USA, Alison Pilkington who is from Ireland and Ehryn Torrell who was born in Canada.
This role call perhaps highlights the biggest change we begin to notice in British painting, and it is the shift from the predominantly male dominance the genre experienced up to the end of the 20th century to a significant ascendancy by female practitioners. Indeed, of the 75 painters so far represented in the collection 44 are women, placing male artists in the minority. Something else I wish us to consider in looking at the works themselves, is that just as there has been a major shift in fine art practice from male to female dominance, there is now also a shift occurring in the way painting is being perceived as an art form in the light of the digital age.
Within the field the multitude of “isms” which previously made up the landscape of 20th century art have instead been replaced by the one big “ism” of the 21st century, “individualism”. In this context we may begin to think of and experience paintings not as works of art produced from the hands of specifically female or male artists, but from a group of individuals; unique, talented and united by the common bonds of time and place and a desire to connect to the elusive experience of what it is to be human. In exhibiting their work, we create international dialogue and debate between ourselves and other cultures. This is not the art of globalisation, but is instead an art of internationalism, which defines itself as the free and open exchange of ideas between all peoples for the common good.
Robert Priseman, 2017

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Contemporary Masters from Britain

Jiangsu Art and Craft Museum

Jiangsu Art Museum

Yantai Art Museum

Tianjin Academy of Fine Art Museum

Very excited to be part of the 'Contemporary Masters from Britain' exhibition which tours to four museums in China this year: Yantai Art Museum in Yantai, Jiangsu Art Museum in
Nanjing, the Arts and Crafts Museum in Nanjing and Tianjin Academy of Fine Art Museum. Above are photographs of the museums.

Whilst I have already exhibited my paintings in Europe and the USA, this will be the first time I have shown my work in China. I'll be exhibiting 'Eclipse', a painting from the Priseman Seabrook Collection.

'Contemporary Masters from Britain' begins on 7 July in Yantai; then travels to Nanjing from 24 October until 31 October 2017, culminating at Tianjin Academy of Fine Art at the end of the year.  

A catalogue is published to accompany the exhibition with an essay by Robert Priseman. This can be purchased through Amazon or downloaded from the website here. Click to view.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Memoir: 'Art Life and Everything'

'Maze'. Oil and acrylic on canvas
© Julie Umerle
"I was happy with the direction my painting was taking and the way it had evolved. Most of my peers were supportive of my work but my paintings often received a mixed response from the faculty. I didn't mind the criticism. In fact, it helped keep me grounded and encouraged me to work harder.

One of the positive crits I received for my work was from Jerry Saltz, a visiting tutor who wrote for the Village Voice when I was a student and who is now senior art critic and columnist for New York Magazine. He was always very enthusastic and encouraging about my work. He described one of my paintings as looking like 'fucked-up formica'. He certainly has a way with words but the simile was intended to be complimentary."

Chapter Ten. Parsons School of Design.
Excerpt from 'Art, Life and Everything', unpublished memoir by Julie Umerle edited by Anna McNay

© Julie Umerle

Friday, 16 December 2016

Memoir: 'Art, Life and Everything'

Carpenters Road Studios, Stratford, East London
"In 1989, after my lease at Stratford Workshops expired, I moved to a large Acme studio complex in East London on the site of an old Yardley's perfume factory. Carpenters Road Studios was the largest studio block in Europe with 140 studios on site. It was an opportunity to meet and interact with a wide range of artists so I was very excited about joining the group. Several floors of the old factory had been converted into studios; nearly 500 artists worked there between 1985 and 2001, including Rachel Whiteread, Fiona Rae and Grayson Perry.

At first I rented one of the starter studios on the ground floor which was a large room sub-divided into six, partitioned off from each other, yet still somewhat open plan. My studio had a skylight, whilst some of the adjoining studios had no natural light at all. I worked there for four years before moving to a bigger studio in the same development when I was finally able to afford more space."

Chapter Six. Ten Years of Painting.
Excerpt from 'Art, Life and Everything', unpublished memoir by Julie Umerle edited by Anna McNay

© Julie Umerle

Friday, 28 October 2016

SCOPE Miami Beach 2016

Installation view

Delighted to be showing my work at this year's SCOPE Miami Beach Art Fair, Booth H19.

The 16th edition of SCOPE Miami Beach returns to the sands of Ocean Drive and 8th Street. Featuring 125 international exhibitors from 22 countries and 57 cities, SCOPE Miami Beach will welcome over 50,000 visitors over the course of 6 days. Amidst an unprecedented outpouring of critical acclaim from press, curators and collectors, and a digital and social media outreach campaign garnering over 450 million impressions, SCOPE Miami Beach is once again poised to lead the charge for emerging contemporary art markets.

For further details about the art fair, please visit the SCOPE website: