It is a happy and unusual occasion when two married couples completely dedicated to painting come together to celebrate in a showing of visual delight. All are united in a lively regard towards nature and the light which reveals it.
The story starts at the Camberwell School of Art where Frances Mann and Julie Giles were students and their husbands-to-be were teachers. The Manns have been married for 33 years and Giles for 42. Both families are close friends.
Frances Mann looks after Sargy who is now completely blind. Amazingly he still paints as can be seen in the excellent and comprehensive book by himself and his son Peter, called “Sargy Mann – Probably the Best Blind Painter in Peckham” published by SP Books which is being promoted for the present exhibition. He is showing a series of oil pastels done between 1968-1973. They show his love of landscape expressed with great intensity of colour, allowing the light to flood in, high in key, beautifully organised.
As well as being a mother, carer, model and teacher Frances snatches time to paint small vivid pictures, in her own words “chasing a moment when a piece of colour or a thrilling spatial arrangement in a particular light seem like something I don’t want to forget”. The result is poetic, whether it be washing on a line from a glimpse or from memory the rising moon in a landscape. There is a beguiling simplicity and rightness of composition she shares with her husband Sargy.
Graham Giles is a painter to his finger tips. He embraces landscape in a physical way, feeling its rhythms and presence. He empathises with water, trees or rocks, the way he paints expressive and in tune with his feelings.
Julie is also a landscape painter. She hits a note with perfect pitch. She has painted a lot in watercolour which has had a liberating effect, giving her oils a fine transparency. Both painters have a high intelligence and this shows in the intensity of their expression. In Julie’s case she wants to incorporate figures. It’s as if she likes both Bonnard and Breughal. She needs the flitting of figures on beach or amongst the trees as much as she needs solitude in a landscape pure and simple.
The exhibition speaks of companionship and a common love of visual beauty. They are to be saluted for their continuing explorations and artistic integrity.
9 July 2009 Anthony Eyton RA