It’s nice to stumble into an exhibition and find that the artistic statement says, “I might get the hang of this painting thing one day” rather than going on for 274 lines about meaning. Sometimes a still life is just a still life – even if it is fun, playful and well-executed. Sometimes the meaning, and the pleasure, is all in what’s on the wall and there’s not too much need to consult a catalogue to tell you what you’ve just seen. And so it is with Russell Dorey at the Lucy Bell Gallery.
The images are small in scale, feature a scarce handful of everyday objects and use a bold but narrow range of colours. Lines and perspective are simple. Nothing about any of these screams technical mastery. But far from being mundane or dull there is a joy in seeing things put together, in seeing a bottle of Duval or Pelforth next to a couple of empty bottles and a key, in seeing a Vermeer postcard next to a pencil and a beaker. It’s a pleasure that’s hard to explain beyond just saying: roll with it. Dorey obviously enjoyed painting this so you can enjoy looking at it.
Too often art likes to only aim for the highbrow or the obscure. Here are works that concentrate on what was in front of the artist’s nose – like a poet writing a sonnet to his half empty coffee cup on the desk rather than the field outside the window. It reminded me a bit of seeing Hammershoi at the Royal Academy a few years ago – almost shocking for just being normal.
But there’s not enough ‘normal’ in art galleries and when it’s there we should celebrate it.
There’s more about the exhibition here.