January 27, 2021 - Timothy Tew
Lurking behind every work of art is a story. Sometimes it’s as brief as a breath, unconscious to even the artist and of no importance to the viewer. At other times it’s epic, looms large and the viewer is supposed to “get it.” Epic stories are familiar to us through novels, movies and television, but they also exist in painting. A fine example is Jacques-Louis David’s ‘Coronation of Napoleon’ (1805-06); a majestic 20 by 30 feet painting extolling the Notre Dame ceremony that officially made Napoleon an Emperor.
In fine art, representation, rather than abstraction, is the domain of storytelling. But as a painting can represent only a single moment of action, as compared to the powers of the screen and the novel, the chosen image must encapsulate the idea of the whole or it fails. The ‘Coronation of Napoleon’ did this; not in portraying the moment when the Pope elevated Napoleon to Emperor by placing a crown on his head, but by portraying the moment when the newly enthroned Emperor did the same for Josephine, the Pope then only looking on. In one skillfully composed image David pictured the whole sof Napoleon’s rise; the way he took power for himself by taking it away from others.
It has always taken enormous skill to represent a story in a painting—in a single image, no matter the size. But today, it’s harder because our minds aren’t trained to think this way. However, there are still visual artists who rise to the challenge and we would be hard pressed to find a better example than internationally recognized, award winning Julia Fullerton-Batten, a photographer who has exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, who carries the honor of being a Hasselblad Ambassador (Hasseblad is the Aston Martin of cameras), and whose photographs are in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Born in Germany to a German mother and British father, Fullerton-Batten grew up in Germany, then the United States, until in 1986, at the age of sixteen, her family moved to London. During this time her life was marked by fantasizing about bigger worlds, sensing new horizons, and dealing with teenage uncertainty. She also made the decision to become a photographer, introduced to the medium by her passionate, amateur-photographer father.
Today, Fullerton-Batten lives in London with her husband, a commercial photographer, and two young sons in the slightly rural borough of Chiswick where she gets inspiration from reading, being outdoors, visiting art galleries and living in one of the most culturally vibrant cities in the world. Her cinematic and painterly photography projects are all self-funded and involve months, sometimes years, of research, planning and execution to complete. Story and meaning are the crux of her art, in the series “Unadorned” (2012), featuring corpulent and obese nudes, she addressed our obsession with body image by staging her models in sublime settings in order to render them beautiful in a new way. In “Old Father Thames” (2018-2019), her most ambitious photo project to date and one that required a large team of assistants and multiple models, she recounted historical events associated with the Thames river, such as a time when Londoners were allowed to sunbathe on its banks.
Though Fullerton-Batten began her career assisting commercial photographers and still does select commercial projects, she always knew she wanted to chart her own creative course and was fortunate to gain notoriety and win awards with her first independent fine-art project, “Teenage Stories” (2007). Partly autobiographical and redolent with the emotionally turbulent experiences of her parents’ divorce when she was a teenager, the photographs follow a girl’s difficult transition to womanhood and experiences with relationships. This led to other projects based on her own experiences, including “Mothers and Daughters” (2012) and their successes gave her confidence in, as she says, “going deep down within” for material. She has never looked back and, as she gained renown, the stories expanded into broader social themes and the scale of her projects grew.
Supporting and propelling the material she explores are her meticulously envisioned settings. Nothing escapes her notice and her production setups are similar to the cinema or stage. This is made possible as London has fascinating locations to hire, with many prop companies on her doorstep. When she finds a location she loves, she may still strip it of its contents—repainting or re-wallpapering walls, bringing in different furniture, dying curtains or clothing to get just the right shade, choosing objects, designing costumes, and giving direction to her hair and makeup stylists—in essence treating the setting more like a womb for her imagination, all to create the perfect atmosphere and mood. Much of her attention to detail comes from her mother’s love of beauty, a mother who, Fullerton-Batten explains, was insistent on making every aspect of their lives beautiful, to the point of sewing all of her children’s clothes (keep in mind this was in the 1970’s and 80’s) and dressing them like the siblings in the ‘Sound of Music.’
Fullerton-Batten approaches photography much like a painter, with her attention mainly focused on what is in her imagination and how she wants to interpret it, rather than finding a scene to capture. This results in what she describes as “painting with light” and "tearing apart shadows and light,” which she does with actual lights—lots of lights, often necessitating many generators because the demand of power is so high. This lends her images their surreal quality and invigorates her art with time-honored painterly values, something contemporary artists often don’t know about or forget, thereby creating new possibilities for contemporary photography. You know she has succeeded when a viewer of one of her photographs asks, with a curious look, “Is that a painting?”
Like the masterful French film ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ (1964 and starring Catherine Deneuve), a musical with refined visuals and mesmerizing colors we tend to associate with painters or decorators, Fullerton-Batten confounds our expectations of photography. As if assembling pieces of jigsaw puzzle, she merges these with digital technology (her camera is the Hasselbad H6d 100c, which she says is the best digital camera on the market), the production demands of cinema, her painterly wiles and love of beauty to create striking images whose sensitivity set them apart and can be appreciated from different angles or levels of experience.
One final thing enhances Fullerton-Batten’s art and this is her emotional range. In her photography, emotion manifests as mystery, tension, fear and alienation, but always with an overlay of empathetic exaltation. We see this easily in “Feral Children” (2015), a project based on the accounts of lost, abandoned, or kidnapped children who grew up alone, except for the company of animals. At first, we are struck by their wild alienation, then feel the strangeness of their connection to their surroundings, then, through Fullerton-Batten’s deft emotional understanding, we sense they have survived by finding life and meaning because of their kinship with animals.
I discovered Julia Fullerton-Batten’s photography while perusing the internet for artists to potentially represent. My demands were high as I have a reputation to uphold, but I also wanted artists with a fresh and different perspective. In addition, I wanted them to already have national and international exposure so together we could build more of the kind of recognition we desire and deserve. I wasn’t expecting to stumble upon a photographer, as I'm known for showing painters, but I found exactly what I was looking for in Julia Fullerton-Batten. Now, I hope you will look at and pay close attention to her art.
January 11, 2021
January 1, 2021
December 3, 2020
March 16, 2020
March 16, 2020
October 17, 2019
Sergiy Hai is one of Ukraine’s most important contemporary artists. Born in the late 1950s, Serhiy Hai (better known in the Russian market as Sergiy Hai) gained an important regional reputation and has exhibited extensively in Ukraine, Russia, Eastern and Western Europe, and the United States. His work is in museum collections in Ukraine and in many private collections across Europe and in the United States. In 2019, he was chosen to represent Ukraine at the Florence Biennale.
This 2019 exhibition, is Hai’s fifth at TEW Galleries. The show features powerful paintings with typical strong design and an inventive approach to medium. Also included are bold figural ink wash drawings. As in the past, the scope of Hai’s typical imagery is quite narrow—he paints and draws nudes, figures, equestrian works and still life. These select themes are revisited over and over again in infinite variety and brought to life through the artist’s intimate perspective and impressive technique.
From a technical standpoint, Hai’s unique application of layered paint can, at times, be heavily applied, while in other instances, manifests as barely discernable washes of color. His virtuosity is undeniable; so too, is his use of smoky-rich tonalities which lend great drama to his works. The artist’s imagery is high impact, with little that is pictorially extraneous. His subjects are forthright; direct and simple without being simplistic or in any way naïve and the paintings, while masculine, are luscious and extraordinarily sensual.
Hai’s unpretentiously quick and direct approach to painting displays a lack of sentimentality but also has an extraordinarily gentle aspect; while his love of sinuous, lyrical line, cherished settings and evocative chromatism is entirely seductive.
Hai’s art invites viewers to join his reverie by suggesting outcomes yet leaving the narrative squarely in the observer’s own imagination.
̶ Jules Bekker, 2019
October 5, 2019
Occasionally we come across an artist whose work immediately feels right and TEW is pleased to introduce the painter Amy Donaldson to our gallery clients.
It is not often that we find an artist with really solid technical skills and a mature visual voice. Amy Donaldson fits the bill on both scores and, to cap things off, her work is, simply put, satisfying and beautiful.
Donaldson’s mark making and paint application is energetic and robust with decisive brush strokes. Her paint runs the gamut of thin washes of color to thick slabs of oil and her marks change from lyrical lines drawn with a paintbrush, to stabs of color, applied fast and intuitively.
She is influenced by impressionistic landscape, of that, there is no doubt, but Donaldson also has a deep understanding of abstraction, compositional elements and spatial visualization. Her works are both dense and airy and, as the eye moves across the canvas, there is always a surprise, or an energetic interaction between marks, or color and brush strokes. Her work reminds one of the riparian edges of stream beds or ponds, of wildflowers in thick grass, of reflections of sunlight and sky on the water’s edge.
These are livable paintings…alive paintings…that invoke the sensation of a deep draught of air on a clear day. Other interpretations may be divine flow or divine communication, but, however you see her work, you will also feel the energy behind it.
̶ Jules Bekker, 2019
July 30, 2019
A few years ago I wrote a blog titled “Why is art so expensive?” The topic came up again recently so I decided to revisit the subject, this time hoping to clarify some of the confusion about art as investment caused by news of artworks selling for millions of dollars.
The fact is, that very little art will ever provide a solid return for the financial investment, especially in the short run. The only thing you can be sure of, is the aesthetic, emotional and/or intellectual enjoyment that comes from buying and living with art you love. However, because collecting art becomes more challenging as prices rise, it’s important to put pricing in a context that is understandable. To do so, let’s start with artists.
Unlike most professions for which a university degree provides the training to get a good paying job almost immediately, for an artist, this is only the beginning and it generally takes years to develop the skills and, more importantly, the vision, to create work that will stand out in the marketplace. Personal experience has led me to believe that most artists won’t hit their stride until they are in their thirties. This means many lean years at the start and the income they sacrifice during this time often has to be caught up once their careers bloom. Additionally, many artists create highly individualistic artworks that can only be appreciated by a limited number of collectors, thus these artworks are more expensive because the cost of producing and selling them isn’t altered because less people want them. We’ve also got to consider all the costs artists share: daily living expenses, art materials, running a studio—whether it’s a room in their apartment or separate space required for larger work— insurance, shipping, websites, photography, additional education, travel and advertising. On top of this, virtually all successful artists rely on galleries to publicize their art, build their careers, instill confidence in collectors and transact sales. This means that the costs of running a gallery: salaries, rent, utilities, marketing, publicity, insurance, office supplies, shipping, travel and entertainment, get added to the prices. And, as reputations can’t be manufactured out of thin air, typically the more credible and established the gallery is, the higher their expenses are.
Because we live a world of mass produced and cheaply made goods, it’s perhaps natural to think that artists would sell a lot more art if their prices were lower, but lower prices for remarkable art won’t make it more accessible or understandable. Only education and exposure do this, and they aren’t easy, cheap, or quick for artists or galleries to acquire and then to pass on to the public. Thus, unless you’re going to buy art from student artists just starting their careers or novices, or you happen to be one of the rare people who has the knowledge and innate ability to recognize what almost everyone else misses, you’re going to find that art always seems expensive. This is why I encourage collectors to think of art like a vacation and, instead of asking how much what they collect is going to appreciate in value, to value it first in terms of enjoyment, and then decide if it is worth the expense.
Ultimately, collecting art you love is a benevolent process because you understand that by bringing beauty into your life, you’re also supporting a network of people involved in a process that is far larger than it appears to be on the surface. Otherwise, without this realization, prices won’t make sense and you’ll miss the invigorating, enjoyable experience of living with art.
TEW Galleries – One of Atlanta’s Leading Contemporary Fine Art Galleries since 1987
June 11, 2019
Now that I’m back in Atlanta and living full-time in my new French Attic apartment on the third floor of the gallery, my bond with the business is changing, and in some ways, all that is old is new again. I was recently reminded of this when I went to Paris and London in February, to visit artists who were key to my early success as a gallerist and still continue to be important to me, despite the fact that many of our newer collectors may be more familiar with recent artists. Thus to bring all of our collectors up to date, I’ve written this report about my trip.
Most of the gallery’s clients know that I lived in Paris and it was meeting artists there that prompted me to get into the gallery business in 1987. One of the artists I discovered was Isabelle Melchior. I fell head over heels in love with her paintings when I saw them in a show, what the French call a “Salon”, named “Young Painters” at the Grand Palais, just off the Champs Elysées. The exhibition featured hundreds of artists and I went through it slowly, looking for artists that I might represent. I found several I liked, but when I came to the work of Isabelle Melchior, I knew I had stumbled onto a treasure. This has proven to be one of the great moments of my life and formed the foundation of my professional success as a gallerist. I feel very lucky to have one of the paintings I saw that day, hanging in my French Attic.
To read more about Timothy's visit with artists in Paris click here.
April 23, 2019
In our commitment to seek out exciting talent, yet undiscovered by the art gallery world; TEW Galleries is pleased to introduce Woody Patterson to our audience of collectors. Patterson began studying art at a very early age and his interest resurfaced while attending Birmingham-Southern University. After graduation he attended the Art Institute of Atlanta, leading to a career in graphic design and advertising in Atlanta which continued until 2012 when he decided to rediscover his potential as an artist. Quite fortuitously he was asked to help a friend clean out a warehouse filled with circuit boards, electronic wire, radios, computers, and everything in between and he realized a new way forward. Using these artifacts of modern life, he launched into wedding them into his art, creating innovative works that he feels are more relevant to contemporary times.
Patterson’s worked has developed along dual lines which through materials, joyous color, and a similar foundation, are tied together. One body of work is comprised of narrow, vertical pieces painted with controlled horizontal stripes of different colors to which he attaches a separate three-dimensional column. The other is rectangular and square, vertical and horizontal. It is also striped with color, however, with the addition of meticulously veneered shapes, these works have a sense of circular movement and accompanying energy. View the digital catalogue
April 23, 2019
Anyone who has been around me long enough has heard me say I am convinced I was a painter in a past life. However, in this lifetime I'm a gallerist and part of my work is to develop close relationships with artists in order to understand, nurture and share what they create with the world. This is always interesting, but it is particularly wonderful when an artist finds the courage, fortitude and vision to reinvent himself (or herself) in a powerful and surprising way. Such is the case with Calvin Jones, an artist we have shown before but whose development I have been following closely for several years.
Calvin became a highly successful landscape painter in Atlanta in the 1990's and 2000's. In need of change and new inspiration, he moved to New York in 2008. Returning to Atlanta two years later and still finding himself in an artistic crisis, he began to focus on new subject matter. With time, the crisis transformed into a creative rebirth as he slowly gave new expression to his imagination, feelings and extraordinary painterly abilities, some of which were developed in the movie industry, where, as a set painter, working fast, and being clear on how to produce the desired end result, are requirements.
There are few artists who can create a painted surface that is both athletic and elegant, but Calvin does this and it gives his art a presence that is both manly and incredibly sensitive. In addition, these paintings, which I call imagined portraits of women with one standout portrait of Tom Ford, are powerful elegies to both presence and absence and speak to the important role women have played in the artist’s life, and the ways in which our society looks at, and also overlooks, the beauty and power of the woman.
Great art has an ability to both tell us what we see and suggest what we can’t. However, to pull this off, it requires an artist with highly developed skills and unique talents. Calvin has both and, using rich, jewel-like colors, he switches between creating complex, textured surfaces, and laying down elegant brushwork, all the while, outlining his world of beautiful women. View the digital catalogue.
March 11, 2019 - Timothy Tew
September 1, 2018
May 29, 2017