LOCKDOWN 3 may have a multitude of restrictive minuses, but it means you will not miss York-born artist Jake Attree’s new exhibition.
Forty-four new works should have been going on display at David Messum Fine Art, in Bury Street, St James’s, London. Instead, the show is moving to a virtual platform online at messums.com from February 3 to 26, bringing art “from our home to yours”.
This will be accompanied by a £15 fully illustrated catalogue with a foreword by author, art critic and curator David Boyd Haycock; a short film with commentary from David Messum as he explores and discusses the paintings, and a virtual gallery that allows “visitors” to experience the complete exhibition.
“Picture fuses with place, and place with picture, in a cyclical relationship that serves to produce something entirely new and very personal,” says Boyd Haycock of Attree’s new works.
On show online will be a combination of Attree’s monumental depictions of the streets of York, verging on abstraction, and a group of oil pastels inspired by the Flemish Old Master Pieter Brueghel.
“Many of the works have advanced upon stylistic developments that were seen in Attree’s earlier exhibitions with Messum’s,” says Katie Newman, Messum’s managing director at The Studio, Lord’s Wood, Marlow Common, Marlow, Buckinghamshire.
“The small blocks of colour that characterised many of the works from the Ancient City series exhibited in 2013 have moved in an ever-increasing abstract direction, hovering at times on the cusp of complete abstraction.”
Attree, 71, was born and grew up in Grange Garth, in York, where his first art teacher was John Langton, another northern painter fascinated by how light falls on buildings and landscapes.
“York is a majestic city with a long, extraordinary history – from the Roman metropolitan centre to the Viking port of Jorvik, to the great medieval walls and Minster. Here is layer upon layer of history and those seams of history are like the layers in Attree’s drawings and, in particular, his paintings,” says Katie.
“Thus, recent works such as the Red Roofs, York From The Bar Walls series are both a vision of York and a vision of history, a place that is at once both ancient and modern, here and everywhere.”
Drawing is the way that the deeply thoughtful Attree explains the world to himself wordlessly. “So I do it all the time,” he says, outlining how the foundation of his work is predicated on careful and endless observation.
He sees this need to draw as lying deep within our being. “We have been drawing – or something very like it – since the time of the cave paintings at Lascaux and Altamira,” says Jake, pointing to human art works that date back almost 40,000 years.
“Drawing, like all truly creative activity, is not an entertainment or pastime, but rather something fundamental to our psychic health as a species.”
Hence Attree not only draws, but he does so daily, working out of a long, narrow studio at Dean Clough, Halifax. “I do believe that it is not until we have drawn something that we have truly looked at it. This is what artists realise, and it is amazing to think that drawing was once ‘out of fashion’ in art schools,” says Jake, who studied at York College of Art, Liverpool Art College from 18, and then the Royal Academy of Arts in London in his 20s.
He lives in Saltaire, in West Yorkshire, but returns regularly to his home city, where he makes initial sketches in the open air before transforming them into paintings thick with oil paints.
“York has always been emotionally very important to me,” he says, as his latest works will testify online from February 3.