Jean Cooke RA, Dream Dream. Acrylic on canvas, 50 × 50 cm Photography: John Bodkin, DawkinsColour
This gallery, like an infant in an extended family of adults, can charm everyone who sees it, but it can also be excruciatingly difficult to control. Not that Mick Rooney, responsible for its hang, has put a foot wrong. He’s done an admirable job, disciplining and ordering a bewildering mixture of diversity and incident, of many disparate subjects and styles.
Hung six deep from ceiling to floor, most of the paintings here are quite small. Rooney has imposed a structure on them with the aid of an unusual stratagem: he began the arrangement of each wall not at its centre, working outwards, the conventional method, but by aligning the pictures horizontally at the top and working downwards.
Here is the happiest conjunction of Academicians’ work with send-ins, of the well known and the obscure, of the usual contributors to this gallery (for example, Bernard Dunstan), and of the closely observed and the lyrically imaginative. Mary Fedden has two still-lifes here, unusually her only pictures in the exhibition. Anthony Green is represented by a small but intensely personal object consisting of mirror glass and painted canvas. The glass gives us a reflection of what inspires so much of his art, as well as ourselves as voyeurs.
Of the non-Academicians, Tai-Shan Schierenberg’s portrait of a Scotsman is worthy of note, as is Nadia Hebson’s portrait of an anonymous woman given a Germanic air by the firs in the background. It might almost be by Cranach or Altdorfer.