Cymru Culture

Articles / Erthyglau

Review; Rock House goes POP, Richard Blacklaw-Jones

(December 01, 2017)

Review; Rock House goes POP,
Richard Blacklaw-Jones
Rock House Gallery, North Street, Haverfordwest

Rock House goes POP, Richard Blacklaw-Jones

Some of the biggest pleasures in life come from enjoying someone else's achievements; your niece's first solo bicycle ride, the time your mam's Baked Alaska actually worked and... when an artist you admire finds their true voice; the case with Richard Blacklaw-Jones.

For many years, a leading light in the local arts scene, Richard initially found a following with his charming minimal mosaics using sea glass on glass and copper-bronze scrap on slate. These materials were given added interest and value by Richard's having found and removed them from beaches. This is Richard's particular thing - finding and removing man made materials from beaches, then turning said stuff into art... and explains the name of his website:

Some years ago he started using the plastics and other stuff as well as they gave him a wider palette of colours, textures etc., to work with. This was a successful transition for him as he realised that he was a pop artist. He now calls himself a modern pop artist and following this realisation he had a successful exhibition at MOMA Machynlleth in 2016. His work now sits firmly in the mainstream of that tradition.

The new exhibition is all made from 2D man-made materials: plastics; lino; fibreglass; metal; foam; whatever he finds. As long as it's man-made and shouldn't really be on a beach.

At first glance the new collection is very striking and attention grabbing. It is colourful and busy, dynamic and different. There are also some new departures for Richard in that these pictures are bigger than hitherto. As Richard says, "I depend on what I find and each bit can be considered as a pixel if you will. So the scale of what I can create is, to a degree, controlled by the size of the bits I find. Going bigger is more ambitious and technically challenging (more careful cutting and fitting of bits together), but I definitely wanted to have a more Wow!, impactful presentation." Richard has definitely succeeded in this aim. His work is serious and playful, sometimes political and direct, sometimes dreamy and abstruse. One piece firmly on the political spectrum are Mrs May and her Cabinet Conferring, a rambunctious collage of idiocy and despair, a glorious mess. Though none of the actors are named, it is quite clear who the artist represents and you will laugh. The printed 'Rise Rise as One' in the foreground is directed at us with hope. Note the two sets of blue fingers in the foreground. Are the actors gesturing at us? Probably.

Mrs May and her Cabinet Conferring, Richard Blacklaw-Jones
Mrs May and her Cabinet Conferring, Richard Blacklaw-Jones
mixed media on plywood, 90 x 50 cm

His inspiration sometimes comes from his surroundings (he has a series based on the towns of Pembrokeshire, Haverfordwest, Milford, Tenby and so on). Stuart the Busker is an homage to a well known local hero, celebrated with his ever-present worn, black leather jacket and guitar. This picture has an almost sonic quality with colours and figures seeming to resonate outward from the body of the guitar in the foreground. The use of the bicolored materials to frame the picture echoes some of Robert Rauschenberg's work from the 60s.

Stuart the Busker, Richard Blacklaw-Jones
Stuart the Busker, Richard Blacklaw-Jones
mixed media on plywood, 72 x 95 cm

He is also inspired by circumstances, the things that happen in the world (another series on the current refugee and migration crisis). Oh Aleppo exemplifies this aspect of his work and evokes a different emotion. The piece features a doll's charred arm rising from a twisted broken structure looped in and out with smoky flames. Oh Aleppo has the power of a Guernica and the pop sensibility of a Sid creation from Toy Story. Encircled in the outside of a box lid with the centre cut out there are suggestions of structure, frameworks and masonry leaning at odd angles which are interspersed with fragments of letters, which you realise with a pang represent the broken cries of those trapped, injured within the by now obvious bombed remains of buildings. A blood curdling picture for any parent.

Oh, Aleppo, Richard Blacklaw-Jones
Oh, Aleppo, Richard Blacklaw-Jones
mixed media on plywood, 51 x 68 cm

The pictures have a narrative and intention, but as they straddle abstraction and representation there is room for individual interpretation. They are clearly carefully composed and even though they're abstract or semi abstract you can see recognisable symbols in them which, along with the titles, give the viewer plenty of 'Wow!' moments.

Like any artist who has found his metier, signatures of style can be seen. Richard likes to split a thing to make two of it. These duplications or repeats can be seen throughout the exhibition. He likes to fill holes in the found bits e.g. a grid-like mesh filled with contrasting colours. There are lots of broken graphics (i.e. letters or numbers) incorporated throughout the works. These tropes lend the exhibition a pleasing sense of unity, the pictures being imbued with a strong sense of individual style. This use of repeated forms at different scales and orientations reminds the reviewer a little of Eduardo Paolozzi's prints from the 70s. Paolozzi hated being called the 'father of pop art', but he clearly was and Richard's work is a worthy descendant.

Guitar Genie is arguably the most commercial of the pieces on display. Without a doubt, this will be appearing on a Welsh musician's new CD or concert poster, and maybe on next year's top-selling t-shirt. Art goes POP. Clearly a guitar but can also be seen as a landscape with sky, clouds and busy foreground.

Guitar Genie, Richard Blacklaw-Jones
Guitar Genie, Richard Blacklaw-Jones
mixed media on board, 60 x 33 cm

Interested readers can look up his Facebook page or the web page or, you could contact Richard Blacklaw-Jones via his website to view the pieces which are yet to find a new home.

David Buck, December 2017

All images © 2017 Jo Sayers/Panda Bear Photography

Facebook: Beachcombing Art


cylchgrawn Cymru Culture magazine
Published by/Cyhoeddwyd gan: Caregos Cyf., 2017

Click here to return to the Articles - Erthyglau page

Powered by Create