Blogging about some of the things happening at Wysing, or influencing what happens at Wysing.

Archive: October 2014

Remembering  2 October 2014

Sometimes, the connectedness of things really throws me and at the same time reassures. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised, or maybe I’m more attuned to it than usual... last Sunday I watched a really informative TV programme on the painter David Bomberg, who was a contemporary of Dora Carrington and Stanley Spencer and an artist who was cruelly marginalised by the British art establishment during his lifetime. The reason I watched it in the first place, as I hardly ever watch TV, was because when Gustav Metzger was in-residence at Wysing last summer he talked a lot about Bomberg and how they had worked together briefly as part of The Borough Group. Gustav also mentioned that he was being interviewed about Bomberg for a BBC TV programme and of course it was the one that was screened on Sunday. Bomberg’s is a tragic story of a man of immense talent who lived to make art and who was left literally penniless and starving at the end of his life.

A while ago I was asked by someone to nominate an artist for the Joanna Drew Travel Bursary. This award had been set up by a group of friends in memory of Joanna who had been Director of the Hayward Gallery from 1987 to1992 and before that curator at the Arts Council for many years. She died aged 73 in 2003. I never met Joanna Drew, and indeed had never heard of her before being asked to nominate for the award, and I have only seen a couple of photos of her. But at an event to remember her earlier this week I was very moved to see just how much her friends still loved and admired her. These friends have been quietly distributing travel bursaries for the past ten years in her name, to ensure that younger generations of artists have the opportunity to fulfill ambitions and for them to know about Joanna and how important she was to her friends and to the arts in this country. I recently found out that whilst at the Arts Council, when it was an entirely different organisation, Joanna had brought many international artists to the UK and that she was friends with Picasso and Max Ernst. But the funny discovery was that in a male dominated arts establishment that hated him, the one person to insist upon a retrospective of David Bomberg’s work at Tate in 1967 was none other than Joanna Drew.

Joanna was born into financial privilege and no doubt that helped her on her way. But she was clearly talented and worked extremely hard, with great purpose and charisma. I’m pleased that I’ve had a reason to find out about her and her life although it's strange how little exists as a document of that influential life. And I’m glad that David Bomberg is finally receiving the acknowledgement he deserves for his work, at least his paintings still exist for us to see thanks to the art collector Sarah Rose.

How easy it is to forget people. We shouldn’t.

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