23 July – 24 September 2022
Private View: Friday 22 July
Ceramics show with a stone circle, tables of pots and jugs, a stone wall and a totem.
Clay pots varying in different sizes installed in front of a Persian style rug.
Clay heads disfigured and marked, changing their appearance. By Gavin Turk

Exhibition photography by Mark Woods. All works copyright the artists.

The largest exhibition of Contemporary Painting is coming to Cross Lane Projects, Kendal, this Summer, bringing together the biggest names in Contemporary Art.

‘High on Hope’ has been conceived as a memorial exhibition for the artist Gerard Hemsworth (1945-2021). It brings together a selection of Hemsworth’s canvases with that the work by eight other artists whom he taught, on the Master’s programme at Goldsmiths College, London, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The exhibition, which has been devised by the painter Rebecca Scott, focuses on artists whose work she sees as resonating with Hemsworth’s own engagement with a type of “post-conceptual figurative or representational painting”.

For Hemsworth, both in his own work and in his teaching, the criticality of art was central. He saw all art as falling into two broad categories “art that celebrates the world we live in, and art that questions it”, or to put it another way “art which addresses what we know, and art which addresses what we do not know”. It was the latter of these positions that governed much of his thinking in the studio and pedagogically.

The Goldsmiths MA and Hemsworth as a teacher and artist influenced a huge number of artists working in all fields of art. This exhibition brings together some of these artists: Mark Fairnington, Gerard Hemsworth, Roy Holt, Rebecca Scott, Bob & Roberta Smith, Michael Stubbs, Jessica Voorsanger, Mark Wallinger and Suzy Willey.

The artists on show reflect Scott’s own circle of influence and interest in the language of representation in painting.  Scott has selected each work carefully to draw out allegiances, connections, and what she describes as “trickles of thought”.

Mark Wallinger’s primal id Paintings (2015) spotlight through their resemblance to Rorschach test, perennial questions associated with all paintings – what do we read into a painting from our own subjective experiences? And how much of what the artist has made is unconscious and impulsive? Other artists in High on Hope also complicate the reading of pre-existing imagery. Suzy Willey has consistently used comic strips as a format to speak about the nature of making and communication. Her slowly made paintings are all about painterly concerns – edges, colours and brushstrokes. Rebecca Scott and Michael Stubbs use, to consistently different ends, a process of visual layering within their paintings. Both artists place fragments of one image on top of another, recognising how painting as a language is an unstable and frequently growing palimpsest of past positions.

There is also a jamming together in Jessica Voorsanger’s embroidered wall-hangings. These complex and decorative works employ a variety of home-spun sewing and tapestry skills, in balanced but wonderfully eccentric compositions. Voorsanger sees tapestry as the ultimate form of popular art, and one that is both democratic and yet anonymous.  The artist Bob & Roberta Smith is exhibiting text paintings that ask us to consider how we should as individuals and citizens engage with art.  They emphasize the importance of active participation and the universality of art. Smith’s paintings are perhaps best understood as urgent and joyful rallying cries. In Mark Fairnington carefully observed canvases, such as those of horses or bulls, the pedigree of both a type of painting and the animal itself is put under scrutiny. Roy Holt’s paintings are similarly paradoxical and meditative. They revel in asking questions. Both in what they depict, and how things are depicted.

Text extracted from Daniel Sturgis’ introduction to the exhibition High On Hope, featured in the catalogue alongside original texts by Julien Delagrange and Mo Throp.