An exciting exhibition of paintings is taking place at Cross Lane Projects in Kendal this summer, paying homage to artist Gerard Hemsworth (1945-2021) and bringing with it some of the biggest names on the contemporary art stage.
High on Hope gathers the work of Hemsworth alongside eight other artists, all of whom have been taught by him on the Goldsmiths Master’s programme between the late 80s and early 90s. The show was conceived by painter Rebecca Scott and showcases the work of artists whose thinking and output aligns with that of Hemsworth, described as “post-conceptual figurative or representational painting”. At first glance his own work is sparse in colour and minimal in form, yet behind the compositions lies an interrogation of the nature of painting itself.
Hemsworth started out as a sculptor before turning to painting and teaching, with his pedagogic work contributing to Goldsmiths’ quickly growing prestige. His paintings often employ seemingly innocent, universal cartoon characters painted in bold lines and residing in flat, monochrome worlds, yet everything from the titles to the careful compositions suggests that there is more to his pieces than an appreciation for children’s books. Uncertainty and nuance lurk in every painted corner.
High on Hope explores the concept of representation and interrogates the language of painting and its possibilities through the work of eight other artists: Mark Fairnington, Roy Holt, Rebecca Scott, Bob & Roberta Smith, Michael Stubbs, Jessica Voorsanger, Mark Wallinger and Suzy Willey.
Highlights include Rebecca Scott’s paintings which draw on the long, classical tradition of the practice yet they are brought into the present day with the process of layering imagery, styles and symbols. Michael Stubbs also employs a similar approach of layering in his abstract canvases.
Bob and Roberta Smith, on the other hand, is displaying text paintings – colourful calls to action encouraging viewers to make art, respect its power and realise its potential in society. Despite the activist edge, the pieces remain joyful and fun, and draw attention to their own varied functions as both standalone works, banners and reusable signs.
The works in High on Hope vary from Rorschach-style canvases to embroidered wall hangings and meditative depictions of horses. They may leave you with more questions than answers, and if this is the case, it’s a clear sign that Gerard Hemsworth’s legacy still remains very much alive.