Common Ground – the quiet, contemplative, spiritual Art of Alan Lennon and Michael Cook @ Lennon-Art Gallery, Edinburgh
Lennon-Art is a bright and colourful gallery in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, founded earlier this year by the artist Alan Lennon, to showcase his own multi-media work, alongside contemporary figurative paintings by selected artists.
A new exhibition Common Ground (17 November to 3 December, 2017) is a collaboration between Alan Lennon and Michael Cook who share a strong artistic bond through similar ideas and themes, specialising in symbolic figures set in imaginative environments.
The narrative behind Common Ground focuses on spirituality, religious faith and the wider aspect of the human condition, the characteristics and essence of existence – birth, growth, emotion, aspiration, conflict and mortality.
On the opening night, Richard Holloway, the writer, broadcaster and former Bishop of Edinburgh gave a most profound speech on the topic of philosophical belief. Unlike the animal world, it is only the human race with the intellect to question the meaning of life, the reason for so much suffering and sorrow.
It is has long been the role of artists, musicians and writers to express their own views on this elusive subject. Gerard Manley Hopkins used poetry to describe his religious faith using symbolic images of birds, trees and natural world.
He advises gallery visitors to view the art with a fresh eye, without having to rely on the given title – let the images, mood, sensibility relate to you personally what the artist is trying to communicate.
Alan Lennon’s paintings explore the human form with a recurring theme of isolated figures, often surrounded by the open sea, with facial expressions which depict deep contemplation and thought. In works such as “Adrift” and “Fish out of Water”, there is an unsettling sense of loneliness, despair and vulnerability. But, of course, you can find your own hidden meaning in these soulful compositions.
A more humorous, quirky portrait is of a red haired girl, sitting (perhaps) on a seashore rock, where, in her arms she cuddles a cute, fat cat.
The title is “Hear What I am Not Saying” whether this refers to a silent prayer to God, or trying to converse with her cat. Enigmatic yes, but such a poignant image.
“My quiet figures occupy barren landscapes, still monuments that focus on unspoken communication, the subtlety and complexity of a moment, the simple gesture loaded with meaning. ”
Alan is also a most accomplished sculptor working with both clay and stone to create meticulously carved Heads and Busts. Reminiscent of Rodin’s “The Thinker,” one stunning piece, “Regret” is of a man covering his mouth with his hand, as if he cannot dare to speak, in a state of mental torment.
Michael Cook lives and works in Melbourne, Derbyshire, inspired since childhood by the countryside of fields and orchards, flora and fauna. Following the Romantic and Visionary tradition, his artwork represents feelings of joy and loss, as well as capturing the power of religious devotion.
‘My pictures recall the days I spent wandering alone through the Derbyshire countryside, where I discovered both the beauty and the pain of Nature. I deliberately employ Nature as a metaphor for emotions and I use human figures to express mystery and spiritual longing.’
In a striking portrait, “Hand Like a Nest,” the curved bowl-like hand of Saint Kevin gives sanctuary for three tiny blackbird’s eggs; his head is portrayed in sharp, chiselled Cubist style, the eyes shut in peaceful repose with a kindly expression. Behind, soft light shines through the window comparing the interior confinement of the room and the distant outdoor world.
Like charming children’s book illustrations, Cook also specialises in animals such as carefree hares racing across a flourishing green meadow, against a backdrop of trees, sun and moon.
This well curated exhibition clearly shows how Lennon and Cook’s work complement each other so beautifully. Around the gallery their joint theme an underlying sense of kindness and compassion, an aura of silence, private visions of anguish and indecision, trying to find the right path on the journey through life.
“Where lies your landmark, seamark, or soul’s star?” ― Gerard Manley Hopkins
At this time of year, as we head towards Christmas and the birth of the New Year, these gentle, solitary figures amidst calm, dreamlike, landscapes illustrate the meaning and importance of peace and goodwill to all mankind.
Thought-provoking narrative art with real emotional heart.
Lennon-Art Gallery, 83 Henderson Row, Edinburgh EH3 5BE
17 November to 3 December, 2017 – Mon-Sat, 11am – 6pm. Sun 1 – 4pm.
Original art, paintings, sculpture, photo-montage prints and cards.