Kate Wilson: Book launch: Review by Bruni Schling

Kate Wilson: Book launch – Wednesday 15 April, City Lit.
Drawing and Painting: Materials and Techniques for Contemporary Artists, Kate Wilson, Thames and Hudson, UK, 2015, hardback, ISBN 978-0-500-23927-8

If there was one really memorable day this spring, it was Wednesday 15 April 2015. It was not only the hottest day this year – in fact the only hot day which the British weather has granted us this year – it was also a day on which I had (so-to-speak) two hot tickets. One was for the book launch of Kate Wilson’s book “DRAWING AND PAINTING. Materials and Techniques for Contemporary Artists “ At the City Lit, where she is Head of the Department of Art, and the other was an invitation to Malcolm Franklin’s Private View at the Eames Gallery in Bermondsey.

I took my bike and full of zest I cycled from Wembley to Covent Garden to join Kate and her guests. Given that it was such a glorious day, I felt confident that, treading the pedals, I would make a little later to Malcolm’s show as well. But I got soon absorbed in the convivial atmosphere at the City Lit, where fellow artists and students of Kate’s enjoyed a glass of wine or so while Kate was busy signing copies of her book. Speeches were short but instructive and everybody engaged with Kate’s lively account how her book came into being.

This was the moment when I held the book in my hands for the first time and flipped through its pages. At first sight it looked like another beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated coffee table book, an easy ‘How-To’ guide, which would not look amiss as a present on a birthday table or under the Christmas tree. But a closer inspection it opened up its complexities and riches. For sure, it is a wonderful introduction to a large variety of techniques and material for those who always wanted to take up art but never got round to it, but it is also jam packed with information for the advanced amateur to the experienced professional.

How many of us have settled into using a limited range of materials and techniques and always felt we should expand our scope but don’t know quite how to go about it? This is where Kate’s book comes in. There is nothing fuddy-duddy about her presentations.  While there is a healthy regard for traditional media and techniques, the instructions and examples are invariably chosen from contemporary artists and practices. Thus the ancient art of paint making comes along here in refreshing new garb and established materials, like oil and charcoal, are juxtaposed with newer ones like glass, metal. I felt like going home straight away and try something.

There is a beautiful balance between the hands-on approach to materials and techniques on the one hand and illustrations on the other. Yet what makes this book so refreshing is that it takes the reader beyond mere reproductions of art work to the profiles of artists who have excelled in a specific technique.  Thus illustrious names are placed side by side with those of less famous and emerging artists. We find Anselm Kiefer sharing a page with FPS member Alex Harley, and later on the book, in the section on abstraction, there is an image by another FPS member, Susan Absalon, who – by the way- has a painting in this year’s Royal Academy Summer Show. With this she follows in the footsteps of Simon Burder, Kate’s husband, who is by now a seasoned contributor to the RA Summer Show and who, among some other collaborators, also contributed two chapters to Kate’s Book.
All evening I had been waiting for Kate’s demonstration of making egg tempera but I was so engrossed in the book that I missed it. Well, this leaves me with the instructions in the book then!

I also missed Malcolm’s show that night – I could only manage one good thing in one evening, but a few weeks later I wandered on another sunny Sunday down Bermondsey Street to the White Cube and in passing I looked at Malcolm’s impressive work through the window of the on a Sunday evening - another fine day – and looked at his impressive work through the window.  Another time, another review! First go and buy the book!


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