Text and Reviews


‘Pure drawing is an abstraction. Drawing and colour are not distinct, everything in nature is coloured.’
Paul Cezanne

Cezanne rolled out the path of modernism, releasing colour and form from depiction and heralding a truth to material. This simplicity is found in work of Group 7, here is proof, as is evident in the renewed interest in abstraction within contemporary painting, that new forms are to be found in the fundamentals of the language of paint. There is a ‘material’ suspension in these works, where trees, grids or squares become loaded with an intrinsic being, a near existential joy, think Cezanne’s apples. There is no room for irony here, these are seekers after a truth, indeed Brian Bishop’s perfectly rendered ‘squares’ declaim their reality, scumbled marks break out from beneath, paint drips off the cut cloth edge.

This search maybe begins with the inchoate drawings of Michelle Griffiths, where the potential of what’s not there, absence, lends them formal power, to end with Pete Symons’s film, quite simply light on nature, an end that is really a beginning. Bonnie Brown’s work ripples with this very light, nature as the intangible floats to the surface, while in Martyn Brewster’s prints colour dips and quivers, a seismic reflection sinking into dark depths. Although there are nods to landscape in the paintings of Ursula Leach, it is not until we come to Fran Donovan and Symons’s work that nature becomes explicit, but it is a nature subsumed to a material formalism of the painters’ language. Indeed in Leach’s work the colourfields rise up, literally floating off the surface of the canvas.

Colour and form, these are intrinsic to the painter, printmaker and draughtsman. These artists grapple with the intrinsic, what is evident here is the more you seek the truth, the bigger the questions become.

Dominic Shepherd


L’Artishe Gallery run by Sharon James, an experienced knowledgeable artist herself, is a well run professional gallery showing a regular programme of high quality exhibitions.
The current exhibition by Group 7 running until November 9th brings together extremely interesting work by this group of well established artists, all with their intrinsic merits. In my opinion of particular note are two monoprints by Martyn Brewster , ‘Heartsong’ No. 550 and ‘Heartsong’No. 551, with their use of vibrant colour giving a sense of grand space on a small scale. ‘Red Barn’ by Ursula Leach, an oil on canvas, utilises red, yellow and green to their full potential and Fran Donovan’s ‘Freezing Hill 1’ ,oil on canvas, is a fine example of her lively approach to abstract painting. ‘Red Tree’, a mixed media picture with its centralised image by Peter Symons is I feel successful due to the unity of colour. All the artists involved, ‘the magnificent seven’, have put together an exciting exhibition which should be viewed and enjoyed.

Rod Hague



FROM THE ART by Martin Urmson

“The jazz band of artist groups in harmony”

The artists who make up Group 7 are distinctive in style yet together produce a sense of working towards a similar end.

Without a specific theme, it’s commendable that their Young Gallery show conveys this joint purpose. Differences in taste and understanding of colour abound and some choices will suit the viewer’s preferences more than others.

Much of the work by Michelle Griffiths is almost monochromatic and her style will be the most difficult to appreciate. Her charcoal marks and brushstrokes can seem child-like, yet one can see in “Figure to Ground” there is a measure of control. Has she gone beyond the common aesthetic, much as jazz musicians abandon melody in favour of the squeaks and squawks they can coax from their instrument?

As an analogy, if Group 7 were a jazz ensemble, Griffiths would be on trombone, Bonnie Brown is the drummer; her work all about pattern and rhythm. The paintings have the appearance of having been through a gentle wash cycle, like faded denim. In “Stilled 1” she has worked on top of the faded layer to create depth. It’s an interesting and unusual effect.

Fran Donovan’s paintings have become familiar from her brushstrokes and colour palette. She is showing canvasses in a wide variety of sizes, of which the medium size seems to suit her brushwork best. She creates crashing chords of colour with a counterpoint of feathered arpeggiated edges. Donovan is the pianist of the group.

On trumpet must be Ursula Leach, whose work is often as bold as brass. Strident blocks of yellows, orange, red, green call the tune, yet in “Glimmer” she shows she can handle subtlety too.

Just as bold in his use of colour is Brian Bishop, but in his paintings the composition is more fragmented. He is possibly seeking the same kind of harmonious balance as Mondrian, but with purple, red, orange with lime green and turquoise the common colours. This is a bit rich and discordant for me, yet so vibrant he must be the vibraphones player.

For his dark blue/green “Saltway” paintings, Peter Symons takes responsibility for the low end on bass. My own preference is for a lighter, subtler painting “Saltway 3_10”, with close tones in the green/yellow spectrum.

Martyn Brewster works with silkscreen on a small scale and shows a sophisticated understanding of colour, with tones combining to produce a pleasing, balanced result. With the analogies wearing a bit thin, I’ll suggest he’s on guitar, and capable of memorable solos.