09
Dec

IN CONCERT

DAVID COWLEY & BARBARA WAKEFIELD

David looks up over his glasses, and hesitates, that pause that comes when you want to impart significance. “Sculpture in clay can be all about technique and process and painting on canvas can rely too heavily on expressive freedom. What is crucial to both my sculpture and my painting is structure” It is hard, at first, to see how his paintings show this idea of structure, how they can be seen as anything other than free, they first strike you as swirling and meshing globs and slabs of colour. But when you understand that they are paintings of space, cathedrals and concert halls, and people, and the music that they are playing, you can start to pick out what might be an arch, a pillar. You realise the paintings are depictions of space, time, activity, an attempt to capture the complexity of experience.

Barbara, David’s co-inhabitor of the neatly divided ground floor studio, works with ceramics. Ranks of coloured discs, soft blue and raspberry, putty and cobalt, all to test the amount of colour the porcelain can support, are displayed in a case. Experiments in form and testing the capacities of materials are key parts of her work, this will to invent produces some genuine marvels. Little undulating bowls shaped around passion fruit. Liquid bone china poured into moulds to resemble tall paper bags, the china thin with crisp edges.

Music is essential to both of them. They go to recitals together, listening, looking harder and longer than anyone else there, sketching. And then they bring this fullness and lyricism back to their studio. It’s not just the music that these two otherwise quite distinct artists have in common. An idea derived from music pervades their work, of things working together. Things judged and balanced and orchestrated. Sometimes in sympathy, sometimes as counterpoint. As I leave, I turn, and see them, David looking through a stack of watercolours, the stiff paper scuffling, Barbara scoring a pattern into something, scratching and shuffling.
Quiet human music.

Quentin Newark

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