Wales Contemporary Exhibition 2020

Susan Isaac - Working the LandscapeI was delighted in September to have one of my sculptural pieces, ‘Working the Landscape’, shortlisted in the Wales Contemporary Exhibition 2020, to be held at the Waterfront Gallery in Milford Haven. Having delivered my  work at the end of October, sadly the exhibition timings were then disrupted by  Covid-19 restrictions. The planned opened on 6 Nov was delayed to 12 November, with the intention to remain open to 30 December. Unfortunately the gallery had to close its doors again on 4 December so that far fewer people have been able to see the exhibition than planned.

It is, however, possible to get a sense of the exhibition and to view all of the works online. First, the  Waterfront Gallery website has a full listing of works in the exhibition, including mine. Second, the gallery organisers took the opportunity to film the launch event. Unable to be at the opening myself due to restrictions that came into England at that time, and although not amongst the prizewinners, I  was pleasantly surprised to see (as below) that my piece happened to be centre-frame for much of the video! The exhibition was formally opened by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism for the Welsh Government,  with prizes announced by sponsors Port  of Milford Haven,  Valero UK, Rob & Tessa Thompson and George James. The submissions were judged by artist Basil Beattie RA, Welsh-based sculptor Sebastien Boyesen, plus painter and emeritus professor Gerda Roper, and in a second video you can watch the judges and sponsors discussing the exhibition.

Here is a glimpse of my piece, a ceramic sculptural group:

As I wrote in my submission for the exhibition, “These figures are reflections on Welsh mining landscapes – contoured layers referencing mountainside surface workings and underground coal seams, made poignant by my uncle’s recent death in his Valleys home close to the mine he and earlier generations worked in.”

WALES CONTEMPORARY EXHIBITION 2020 – at the Waterfront Gallery in conjunction with Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru (Arts Council of Wales)
12-30 December, 2020

Shortlist Exhibition: at the Waterfront Gallery, Milford Haven, The Old Sail loft, Discovery Quay, The Docks, Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire SA73 3AF.
Transfers to the gallery@oxo, London, 25 Feb – 7 Mar 2021.


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Crew Yard Ink Drawing Studies

Susan Isaac - From under the Crew YardThese two ink drawing studies are part of my ‘Between Times‘ exhibition at Gallery 6. Both were made during lockdown in April at our farm, against the backdrop of the old Crew Yard that abuts our 18th century threshing barn. They made for an interesting compendium of human activity – I liked the sense of a conveyor belt of daily life, a sort of suspended animation.

In the first, ‘From under the Crew Yard (High Farm)‘, the shapes outlined with light and the shadows thrown by the various items of clothing (similar but different each wash day) are framed by the crew yard beams and pillars. The warmth and light seemed to radiate through the clothing and reflect down from the corrugated roof.

Susan Isaac - View from the Crew YardIn ‘View from the Crew Yard (High Farm)‘, the washing became highlighted against the deeply shadowed barn wall. I enjoyed following the mechanical details of barn construction and the neighbouring old stable, becoming increasingly aware of functionality as well as the gentle, seemingly incidental, decorative detailing. The spacing and proportions of the rough wooden pillars and the corrugated wave of iron sheeting of the Crew Yard building keeping step with the lines of pantiles and dentilated eaves of the older barn and stable – form and function in harmony.

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The Ossington Coffee Palace, Newark-on-Trent

Susan Isaac - The Ossington Newark-on-TrentEarlier today, I was happy to deliver my painting of ‘The Ossington Coffee Palace, Newark-on-Trent’ into the hands of its new owners.

This beautiful grade II* listed Victorian building is a significant landmark on the edge of the town centre, opposite Newark Castle. I loved the perspective from this side with a variety of Tudorbethan detailing and sweep of foreground railings curving around and in toward the main building.

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Evening Light, St John’s Street (Cambridge)

Susan Isaac - 'Evening Light, St John's Street (Cambridge)'This painting, ‘Evening Light, St John’s Street (Cambridge)’, sold recently at the Saffron Walden Gallery run by the splendid Bill Tickner, who has held my work for several years now. It has now found its way to a new home in Utrecht!

I painted the scene in Cambridge at the end of Winter in 2017. The monumental tree trunk all but obscures St John’s College Chapel, its bare branches filling the air with intricate tracery. I loved the moss green swathe of grass spread before it like a Pre-Raphaelite’s cloak.

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Sir John Hurt Art Prize 2020

Susan Isaac - Washing in the Crew YardIt was lovely to learn that one of my paintings has been shortlisted for the Sir John Hurt Art Prize 2020, run by the Holt Festival.

“Washing in the Crew Yard” is one of a series of works I completed during lockdown, where I was seeking compositions at home to substitute for my usual landscape settings. In part I was exploring a hierarchy of marks to be made when recording moments in time – the results were very personal, intimate glimpses of my immediate environment.

The painting will be part of the shortlist exhibition in a Covid-secure garden setting near Thurning in Norfolk on 26-27 September – it will be open to the public for timed visits (that are free but must be booked via the Holt Festival website).

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Rabbit Hole Day (Harley Open 2020)

This piece was selected to be part of the Harley Open 2020 exhibition, which runs from 1 Aug to 1 Nov, 2020. It was amongst the first paintings I made during the Coronovirus lockdown days at the end of March and beginning of April.

Susan Isaac - Rabbit Hole Day
Continue reading

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 8 (Trowse & Prizes)

Susan Isaac - Trowse settingA couple of day’s after the event (I was really tired when it finished), here is my account of the final day of the Paint Out Norfolk 2020 event. The painting locations for the last day were narrowed to the vicinity of the exhibition marquee at Whitlingham Country Park, with a further restriction of a 2pm deadline to allow for exhibition curation and judging in the afternoon and early evening.

A couple of us headed off past the suggested nearby Colman-family model village of Trowse, to the industrial area beyond the river Yare, where I scouted around the ‘Tarmac Trowse Asphalt Plant’ and spotted some abandoned shopping trolleys up an adjacent track. I thought I might find an interesting composition by conflating the metal gridwork of the trolleys with the girdered and gantried construction elements of the works. Continue reading

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 7 (St Benets)

Susan Isaac - St Benets NorfolkFor today’s Paint Out Norfolk session, I went off-piste and followed my nose to a site called St Benet’s Abbey on the river Bure in the Norfolk Broads. Once again my Sat Nav was very ‘creative’ but I arrived eventually. The standing gatehouse to this monastic ruin had been requisitioned in the 18th century by a windmill enterprise and thus had been spawned a curious hybrid – half Gothic stone ruin (all arches and pinnacled pilasters) and half industrial construction (stolid, no-nonsense brick). The combination was extraordinary and irresistible, with strange juxtapositions of form and materials.

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 6 (Wells-next-the-Sea)

Wells-next-the-Sea is an old favourite of mine, with its many distinctive features and so I was delighted that this was one of the options for our sixth day of plein air locations.

Susan Isaac - Measuring the Tide (Wells-next-the-Sea)By the time I’d arrived the sun was high and second breakfast was well overdue. I made for the foreshore near the Tide Recorder Station, hoping it would be a less populous place (considering the swelling number of tourists channelling into the area). Continue reading

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Paint Out Norfolk 2020 – Day 5 (Burgh Castle)

My Sat Nav took me on a merry dance this morning, taking me over several rather daunting self-service level crossings and down a very long and unlikely single-track concrete road but, eventually, with the additional aid of an out-of-date OS map, I arrived at the most extraordinary site of the ‘Saxon Shore’ Roman fort remains at Burgh Castle.

Susan Isaac - Burgh CastleThe consistency and scale of the monumental flint & tile construction was unexpected and it certainly took a bit of time to develop a feel for the place and how to respond to it. I walked around the inner and outer areas of the enormous rectangular structure, struggling to find an obvious composition. Continue reading

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