29 JULY 1989, Page 39


Lucy Harwood (Sally Hunter Fine Art, till 11 August) Summer Exhibition

(Michael Parkin Gallery, till 8 September)

Summer Exhibition

(Cadogan Contemporary, till 2 September)

Limited stakes

Giles Auty

Last Sunday the BBC began a six-part series which explains the reasons for which half a dozen putative celebrities have spent £500 each on original works of art for the BBC's collection. Presumably the series is television's answer to the well-known silly season in the press when everyone in their right minds is on holiday somewhere pleasant, leaving only demented journal- ists and readers behind them. Whether the £500 ceiling is best explained on the BBC's part by meanness or lack of confidence seems open to question. Given a line-up Which includes Joan Collins, a professional footballer and Norman Rosenthal, exhibi- tions director at the Royal Academy, I tend to favour the theory of damage limitation. Miss Collins could command a greater fee than £500 to hoist up an eyelash but unlike those despised souls who buy a Painting simply because it has their favourite breed of dog in it, Miss Collins prefers those that feature her favourite breed of female: the scheming vamp or lap-woman.

When I began writing for this weekly in 1984, £500 still presented some kind of artificial barrier over which the timid art buyer was unwilling to leap. Those days

are long behind us now. In that same year I reviewed an exhibition of paintings by Allan Walton at Sally Hunter Fine Art.

The gallery has moved since then, just round the corner to 11 Halkin Arcade, Motcomb Street, SW1, but the quality and modest prices typical of works in the gallery remain. Sally Hunter is showing paintings by Lucy Harwood at present, who, like Allan Walton, was influenced strongly by .the idiosyncratic style and

habits of the artist Sir Cedric Morris and his friend Lett Haines. Nearly all paintings in the present show are under the £500 mark. Lucy Harwood (1893-1972) was an interesting yet quirky amateur, whose pro- ductions are less to my taste than those of Allan Walton. However, those seeking to start a collection of original works at modest prices could not do better than call regularly at Sally Hunter's gallery and also at Michael Parkin's gallery on the other side of Motcomb Street, at number 11. Michael Parkin's summer selection fea- tures few works under £500 this year but plenty to choose from in a range from £1,000 to £2,500 by Morwenna Thistleth- waite, George Dannatt, Percy Jowett, Kate Nicholson and other worthies. The current show does include, however, attractive small watercolours by Virginia Powell and Alexander Mackenzie at startlingly low prices; indeed, two of the former or one of the latter would leave enough change from £500 for a substantial lunch at Motcomb's, just down the street.

Those who see mixed summer exhibi- tions as occasions to drag unsaleable relics screaming into the July sunlight could not be further in attitude from Christopher Burness at Cadogan Contemporary, who, in two and a half years, has established a reputation at his large and airy gallery (108 Draycott Avenue, SW3) for excellent shows of perceptual painting, mostly by young artists. I doubt somehow whether this gallery is familiar to any of the BBC's art-buying celebrities, yet those with £500 of their own rather than other people's money to spend are advised that almost a third of the 150 paintings currently on view Victoria Rees's 'View Over Severn Vale', subtle landscape at a modest price. are priced at this magic limit, or under.

I saw at least half a dozen paintings by young artists that I would be very pleased to own, as well as others by more estab- lished practitioners such as Sargy Mann and Dick Lee. Many of the younger artists are former students of the Royal Academy Schools from days when the benign influ- ence of Peter Greenham was still apparent. I have written of Catherine Goodman's work before and am delighted with her continuing progress. The works of Nicho- las Granger-Taylor have taken on a tem- porary angularity, but one of the unex- pected pleasures of the show was the incandescent landscape painting of Vicki Reynolds who, as a latecomer to art, has brought a fiery commitment to the noble profession.

On a quieter note, I was taken greatly with the subtle landscapes of Victoria Rees and Peter Lloyd Jones. The former's 'View Over Severn Vale' and 'Winter at Coombe' and the latter's 'House by a Lake' are three paintings already worth far more than the mere £1,650 total asked for them might suggest. At an average price of £550 each, less the small trade commission I could legitimately ask, the three would just squeeze under the £500 barrier per picture. Will the BBC's celebrated team of art buyers find anything as good?