A sneaky peek at Stanley Spencer ~ Pallant House, Chichester

Without doubt one of the highlights of my job is getting to see things before other people.

I’m not quite Doctor Who, but with a magazine which works two months ahead of real time it can feel like it at times.

To sneak behind the barrier and see an exhibition that is still not quite finished is pretty special. The description plates sit on the floor leaning against the walls and the table is laid for the private view.

It feels sneaky. In a good way.

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Stanley Spencer, Heaven in a Hell of War runs from 15 February – 15 June 2014

Now I’ll be honest. I’d never heard of Stanley. My work at uni was slightly different – more Emin and Durchamp than murals with religious themes. I could probably blag it and not be honest but for me the joy of discovery would be lost then, and I’ve never been good at pretending to be more informed thank I am.

So, for those in the same camp, Sir Stanley Spencer (1891‐1959) is regarded as one of the most important painters of the 20th century. If you look at the image above, the top left has elements that could be seen as pop art…

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See? Now that is pretty cool. While the focus being on “behind the scenes” of war, a comforting side to the horror. Or making beds and breakfast in the war hospitals rather than the wounded I think is refreshing.

ippThe detail is insane and, thanks to the way it can be highly focused in one place and almost abstract in another, it leads the  viewer’s eye to every inch of the canvas.

Spencer is credited with taking the everyday and giving it a “Biblical grandeur” – personally I believe you can often see what you want to.  I learnt that from studying English Lit. But if you put your mind in the right frame and squint a bit I could buy into macintoshes becoming wings and arms spreading a duvet mimicking  the stance on the crucifix…

But mostly I just like the appreciate the staggering scale, vision and subject. I’ll also admit I enjoy the slightly wonky perspective because sometimes paintings can lose the character of the creator and just turn into painstaking photographs I think.

Pallant House has managed to secure sketches by Spencer, belonging to Chichester University, and his most famous large‐scale work from Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire.

The result is a journey avid fans and newcomers can appreciate and it is another reason to tip your hat to this fantastic gallery.

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