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Benjamin Hope Observations

JP Art Gallery London


This is dedicated to all the people I have met on the street since I first started painting outside in 2013. Thank you for all the encouragement, kindness, jokes, interesting chats, family tales, pistachio ice creams, boxes of cheesy chips, bottles of water, cups of tea, glasses of wine, and friendly smiles. It seems art means something to almost everyone, cutting across all cultures and walks of life. I am exceedingly lucky to be at the coal face where all these paths converge.†Benjamin Hope, 2015


Benjamin Hope Observations

JP Art Gallery London


INTRODUCTION When it comes to painting, I am something of a polygamist. I wish I could spend a lifetime with each of my three loves: painting en plein air, still-life, and portraits. If I paint differently for each, it is a reflection of distinct perceptual experiences: the fleeting atmosphere of cities and landscapes, the textures and symbolism of objects, and the uniqueness of character in different people.  For this, my debut show, there is still-life and a selfie, but I have emphasised the outdoors with paintings from the cities of my past (Oxford and Cambridge) and my present (London), as well as further afield.  A constant through all my work is that I paint directly from life, from looking and perceiving, and this gives the series its title: Observations. I live for that precious hour when all that seems to exist is the subject.  Benjamin Hope, 2015


January Snow, Greenwich Park 2013, oil on canvas 40.6 x 30.5 cm 16 x 12 ins With the exception of a couple of tiny paintings years ago, this was my first real attempt to paint outdoors in public. I was daunted to say the least, even just setting up my easel. I need not have worried for it is actually a real joy once you feel on top of the piece, and people are lovely. I had no idea about the kit you need to keep warm. My thin wool coat and trail shoes were woefully inadequate and I got so cold that eventually I couldn’t hold a brush even remotely still. These days I get through the winter with a thick down jacket and enormous Canadian polar explorer boots.â€

Greenwich Church Street 2015, oil on board 30.5 x 30.5 cm 12 x 12 ins

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The Hare & Billet 2013, oil on canvas 30.5 x 40.6 cm 12 x 16 ins

Fog Engulfs The Paragon 2013, oil on board 20.3 x 25.4 cm 8 x 10 ins Setting off on a December morning run, I found myself in a real Blackheath pea-souper. Such conditions are rare so I cut the run short and rushed out with my easel to a spot looking onto The Paragon. I was hooked by the chimney stacks peering out of the fog but they soon disappeared completely and I had to stand around reassuring myself that they’d return. Eventually they did, and the sun just about managed to bring out some sheen on a roof tile and the odd car.†5


Montpelier Vale, November Morning 2014, charcoal on paper 61 x 46 cm 24 x 18.1 ins

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Down Montpelier Vale 2015, oil on board 25.4 x 30.5 cm 10 x 12 ins My favourite sight in Blackheath—the sun in your face as you walk to the station. I actually began the piece in 2014 but the seasons had changed before I had a chance to return under the same sunny conditions.†7


Olympic Crossroads 2015, oil on board 61 x 25 cm 24 x 9.8 ins

The Mill House, Blackheath 2015, oil on canvas 81.3 x 30.5 cm 32 x 12 ins

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Almost Springlike, Blackheath 2015, oil on canvas 50.8 x 63.5 cm 20 x 25 ins This took multiple sittings—or rather standings—during February 2015. By the end, some good banter had developed with the regular passers-by. One man asked about price during my first session and then jovially added £1k to my figure each time he saw me.  The village is often crawling with musicians on their way to rehearsals at Blackheath Halls, so I was treated to a range of instrument-laden figures. I eventually decided to pick on a violinist. 

Tranquil Vale, Spring Morning 2015, oil on board 25.4 x 30.5 cm 10 x 12 ins 9


The hottest day of the year. I took to the shade of a tree on Tranquil Vale but it was still boiling and throughout the whole painting a steady stream of greenfly showered me from above. Itchy and dehydrated, I came away with possibly my favourite painting of 2015.â€

Tranquil Vale Heat Wave 2015, oil on board 30.5 x 40.6 cm 12 x 16 ins

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An engineering friend of mine at Cambridge once told me that the biggest greenhouse effect from planes comes not from the burning of fossil fuels but from the vapour trails they leave behind. Watch the skies over Blackheath on an otherwise clear morning and you will appreciate this. Nevertheless, vapour trails can be beautiful. I like the variety, from clean thin white lines to dispersed streaks of man-made cloud.â€

Morning Vapour Trails, Blackheath 2015, oil on board 38.1 x 25.4 cm 15 x 10 ins

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Proper spring weather at last and the onlookers were in good form using unforgettable phrases like “that’s mustard mate!” Very little joy for the nearby Oxfam rep though. What a thankless task—I don’t think he got a single bite during the entire time I was working, but he did make it into the painting (in a fluorescent bib to the left of the information point). 

St Pancras from Kings Cross 2015, oil on canvas 50.8 x 76.2 cm 20 x 30 ins 12


End of Day, St Pancras 2015, oil on board 12 x 25 cm 4.7 x 9.9 ins

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Clapham Junction from Lavender Hill 2015, oil on canvas 50.8 x 40.6 cm 20 x 16 ins

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The Lavender Hill Mob 2015, oil on board 35.6 x 30.5 cm 14 x 12 ins A lot of onlookers have no idea what I’m doing—why should they?—and I’m often asked “are you painting?” or “what are you painting?” In this case, an old lady stood next to me, a little bemused, on a crowded, hot afternoon in Clapham Junction; after a while, she asked “is that a boat?” Admittedly it was early on in the work and the sweep of Lavender Hill was just a grey smudge, but it reminded me of the enormous disparity between what I worry about and what other people see. Even after three years of painting on the street, I can still feel self-conscious and at times I imagine people criticising every technical aspect of my work, in the same way my internal voice does.  15


Clapham Common, East Corner 2015, oil on board 30.5 x 25.4 cm 12 x 10 ins

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End of a Humid Day, Clapham Common 2015, pastel on paper 30.5 x 25.4 cm 12 x 10 ins

The Pavement 2015, oil on board 16.5 x 35.6 cm 6.5 x 14 ins 17


The SS Walsh 2015, oil on board 63.5 x 50.8 cm 25 x 20 ins It stood at the crest of a hill and it resembled the prow of a ship. Where Battersea Rise and Lavender Sweep meet at a sharply acute angle… Seen from the road, the house had a certain naval quality, with… its dramatic air of forging ahead, as if it were surging through the waves of Battersea and pulling the neighbouring shops along with it. (The Falling Angels, John Walsh)  Perhaps this is what that lady was alluding to when I was painting Lavender Hill (see p15)! 

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Battersea Rise, August 5pm 2015, oil on board 20.3 x 20.3 cm 8 x 8 ins One of the most enjoyable kinds of painting happens when there is no possibility of taking time or being overly careful. This is often at the end of a day when there is some glorious but fleeting display of light. It helps to have been working all day on other pieces because I am then fully warmed up and in the flow of things. For speed, I sometimes use the ground colour (a wash I apply when preparing surfaces just to get rid of the white) as part of the painting if it happens to be of the right tone. You can see this here on the road and pavement and I rather like the effect. It can be tempting to neaten things up back in the studio but I try to resist for fear of losing the immediacy of the work.â€

Battersea Rise, Rain at Dusk 2015, oil on board 25.4 x 38.1 cm 10 x 15 ins

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Clapham High Street Rain 2015, oil on board 30.5 x 25.4 cm 12 x 10 ins A large tree kept me dry on my first go at this. I assumed the second session would be much the same so I didn’t bother wearing a waterproof and got stuck in. 90 minutes later I started to feel cold and I suddenly realised why—I was soaked to the bone and hadn’t noticed. The rain had been much heavier and the back of my easel was nearly full to overflowing. 

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Bank Station, June Afternoon 2015, pastel on paper 25.4 x 30.5 cm 10 x 12 ins

Paternoster Square 2015, oil on board 25.4 x 45.7 cm 10 x 18 ins

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New Routemasters, Threadneedle 2015, oil on board 25.4 x 50.8 cm 10 x 20 ins A lot of factors can come into play when deciding where to set up your easel. Lamp posts and other street furniture are useful in crowded areas because they provide an unpopulated wake in the flow of bodies. In this case I was hooked by the Threadneedle Street windows in the early evening sun but I was forced to set up at a point that would be in the shadows soonest because we were bang in the middle of a heatwave and any direct sunlight was just too unbearable.†22


I was very excited creating this because it was the first example of a new system in action: I tape pieces of paper to the back of my boards and carry around a set of Unison pastels so that I’m always ready to do a quick pastel piece if I feel like it (which I often do). I keep buying more and more colours, though, and my backpack is starting to get ridiculously heavy.â€

Threadneedle, June Afternoon 2015, pastel on paper 23 x 28 cm 9.1 x 11 ins

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Queen Victoria and Cannon Street, Morning 2015, pastel on paper 63.5 x 50.8 cm 25 x 20 ins

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St James’s Park Deck Chairs 2015, oil on board 22 x 16 cm 8.7 x 6.3 ins

Whitehall Place, Late Winter 2015, oil on board 25.4 x 45.7 10 x 18 ins

Horse Guards Avenue 2015, oil on board 16 x 22 cm 6.3 x 8.7 ins 25


Dusk on the Longest Day, Knightsbridge 2015, pastel on paper 35 x 30 cm 13.8 x 11.8 ins

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Oriel Place, Hampstead 2015, oil on board 25 x 30 cm 9.8 x 11.8 ins

Farringdon (Quiet at Weekends) 2015, oil on board 25.2 x 37.5 cm 9.9 x 14.8 ins First celeb encounter of the year: Anthony Horowitz and his wife, the producer Jill Green. It turns out that’s his car in the shadows on the right. He wasn’t in the slightest bit offended by me confessing that I’ve never read a word he’s written (though I have heard him interviewed and his enthusiasm is infectious). 

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View from Pret, Trafalgar Square 2015, oil on board 22 x 16 cm 8.7 x 6.3 ins

End of Day, The Strand 2015, pastel on paper 30 x 40 cm 11.8 x 15.7 ins There isn’t much time to capture the dusk or the last few moments of sunlight, even in June when that time of day lingers. I did several late evening pieces over the summer of 2015, often choosing to use pastels because they tend to be that little bit quicker. I love working as fast as I can, trying to get everything done before the artificial lights become completely dominant.†St Martin-in-the-Fields from Costa 2015, oil on board 16 x 22 cm 6.3 x 8.7 ins 28


Looking West from London Bridge 2015, oil on board 25.4 x 12.7 cm 10 x 5 ins

Evening, Near Temple 2015, oil on board 16 x 22 cm 6.3 x 8.7 ins

Dusk from Blackfriars 2015, oil on board 22 x 16.8 cm 8.7 x 6.6 ins 29


Grey and Calm, Southwark Bridge 2015, oil on board 40.6 x 17.8 cm 16 x 7 ins

Southwark to Blackfriars, 5pm 2015, oil on board 21 x 15.4 cm 8.3 x 6.1 ins 30


Evening Sun from Southwark Bridge 2015, oil on canvas 45.7 x 61 cm 18 x 24 ins

Tate Modern, End of Day 2015, oil on board 20.3 x 30.5 cm 8 x 12 ins 31


Through the Eye 2015, oil on board 30.5 x 25.4 cm 12 x 10 ins

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Under Hungerford 2015, oil on board 40.6 x 30.5 cm 16 x 12 ins This was a tough one because, even on calm days, the bridge acts like a wind tunnel, and after a while, the constant cooling flow of air on my eyes started to affect my vision. Worse still, buskers were singing the same songs over and over, cheerfully murdering some of my favourites (except the Simon & Garfunkel guy, he’s quite good). Nevertheless I enjoyed it, especially painting the water and the elevated walkway—it’s not often I get to put people in the sky. 

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Westminster Cathedral 2015, oil on board 30.5 x 35.6 cm 12 x 14 ins During my second session on this, I was thinking about Ken Howard’s work partly because the view reminded me of his brilliant San Marco paintings. Only moments later a voice cut through the noise of Victoria Street: “Are you Peter Brown?” Something about the tone told me he knew I wasn’t. I looked round to find the man himself: Ken Howard! What a lovely surprise. We’d never met and this was the perfect moment to do so. The conversation soon moved on to nicknames. Following Pete the Street (Peter Brown’s long-standing nickname), someone has suggested High Street Ken. Neither of us could come up with a play on my name. As he said goodbye and disappeared into the distance, I couldn’t stop smiling at my new-found ability to materialise great artists merely by thinking about them.  34


Winston and Big Ben 2015, oil on board 20.7 x 51.3 cm 8.1 x 20.2 ins This is where I should wheel out a punchy Churchill quote. It is often claimed that in response to proposed war-time cuts in arts funding he responded with simply “then what are we fighting for?” Unfortunately, this is bogus; he never said it. However, he did say this:  The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them …Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due. 

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High Street, End of Day 2015, oil on board 22 x 30.5 cm 8.7 x 12 ins

Oxford High Street 2015, oil on board 40.6 x 58.4 cm 16 x 23 ins On the final morning of painting this, I got up before 5AM to make sure I would have plenty of time to finish before returning to London. I was painting by 7AM and within minutes a toothless man appeared asking for the location of a particular Oxford sex shop (apparently “they do good stuff”). I replied that I wasn’t an expert but it’s bound to be on the Cowley Road. 

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Magdalen Tower, Bright April Morning 2015, oil on board 25.4 x 30.5 cm 10 x 12 ins

Wet Day, Sheldonian 2015, oil on canvas 40.6 x 50.8 cm 16 x 20 ins This took several sessions. I did the bulk of the work during a couple of week-long stays in Oxford in the spring when there were plenty of showers. I then took to looking at the Oxford forecast to make a day trip to finish it off. Cover was provided by the iconic Bridge of Sighs.â€

St Aldate’s, Oxford 2015, oil on board 16 x 22 cm 6.3 x 8.7 ins 37


St Mary’s Window from The High 2015, oil on board 30.5 x 40.6 cm 12 x 16 ins 38


Spring Morning, All Souls (Dave’s Van) 2015, oil on board 25.4 x 30.5 cm 10 x 12 ins

Last of the Sun, St Mary’s 2015, oil on board 38.1 x 25.4 cm 15 x 10 ins 39


Trinity Street, Towards St John’s, Cambridge 2015, oil on board 40.6 x 50.8 cm 16 x 20 ins

Benet’s Café 2015, oil on board 15.2 x 30.5 cm 6 x 12 ins

Magdalene Street, Late Morning 2015, oil on board 25.4 x 30.5 cm 10 x 12 ins 40


Rose Crescent, April Evening 2015, oil on board 20.3 x 35.6 cm 8 x 14 ins I got that tug as soon as I saw Rose Crescent in the April evening sun. With telephone wires, theatrically lit awnings, and shop banners that echo the line of the shadow, it was so obviously a painting. It had to be done, even if this meant completely blocking the pavement right on the corner of Trinity Street and Trinity Lane.  I loved it, especially getting in the glancing light on the windows in the very top left with only seconds to spare before they were plunged into shadow.  This was also the one and only time I’ve asked someone to go away. For some reason a man decided to get right in my face, munching on peanuts, rambling on endlessly about his bike lights. I felt slightly guilty afterwards, but there was no way I could let him get between me and a rapidly descending sun. 

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Midday in May, Craster Harbour 2013, oil on board 25.4 x 17.8 cm 10 x 7 ins

Sun on the Harbour, St Andrews 2013, oil on board 22 x 25 cm 8.7 x 9.8 ins 42

Gloomy afternoon, Market Street, St Andrews 2013, oil on board 40.6 x 30.5 cm 16 x 12 ins


Early Morning Tourists, Erice 2014, oil on board 25.4 x 30.5 cm 10 x 12 ins

Uphill to San Giuliano 2014, oil on board 24 x 45 cm 9.4 x 17.7 ins I was overwhelmed by potential paintings when I first arrived in Erice for a week of work in June 2014. I could have stayed for months trying to capture all the narrow streets and piazzas.â€

Path from Erice Castle 2014, oil on board 30.5 x 20.3 cm 12 x 8 ins

I had a little debate with two tourists about the telephone cables. They assumed I would leave out such modern adornments but I love the way they bridge the streets of the town. They are part of the world now, and more importantly, they cut through compositions in interesting ways.†43


First Evening in Port Isaac 2014, oil on board 25.4 x 20.3 cm 10 x 8 ins A nice little opener to 11 days in Cornwall from June 27th 2014, I painted this just after we first arrived. In the end it turned out to be one of my favourite little pieces of the whole trip.â€

Changeable Day, Port Quin 2014, oil on board 19 x 19 cm 7.5 x 7.5 ins

Dolphin Street, Port Isaac, 8AM 2014, oil on board 20.3 x 40.6 cm 8 x 16 ins 44


Port Isaac Boats at Low Tide 2014, oil on board 30.5 x 20.3 cm 12 x 8 ins

Port Isaac Boats at High Tide 2014, oil on board 40.6 x 50.8 cm 16 x 20 ins 45


The T端rlersee 2014, oil on board 16 x 22 cm 6.3 x 8.7 ins

Aiguille du Tour, Mont Blanc Massif 2015, oil on board 20.3 x 20.3 cm 8 x 8 ins 46


Self Portrait with Palette #1 2014, oil on canvas 73 x 92 cm 28.7 x 36.2 ins

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Red Teapot 2012, oil on board 17 x 15 cm 6.7 x 5.9 ins

English Discovery 2011, oil on board 13 x 18 cm 5.1 x 7.1 ins

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Eggs in Wax Paper 2013, oil on canvas 43 x 28 cm 16.9 x 11 ins

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Teacups in the Financial Times 2012, oil on canvas 56 x 26 cm 22 x 10.2 ins

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Jack The Lid 2015, oil on canvas 41 x 24 cm 16.1 x 9.4 ins

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BIOGRAPHY Benjamin was introduced to brushes at an early age by his mother, Jane Hope, who is also a painter. But he had other hankerings which sent him on an unconventional career path, at least for someone wanting to be an artist. He decided against Art School and instead pursued Mathematics and Physics, culminating in a PhD from Cambridge University. He also ran a lot, representing both England Schoolboys and Cambridge University at cross country.  During the 12-year span in and out of academia, painting was largely confined to summer breaks, but his work still gained recognition with a commission from Oxford University’s Bodleian Library to paint a still-life commemorating their 400th anniversary.  After graduating from Cambridge, Benjamin set his sights on painting full time. He headed straight to the City for a spell as a “quant” with the sole purpose of kick-starting this new life. Finally, in 2011, having secured a small studio close to Greenwich Park—and almost exactly four years to the day since he completed his PhD thesis—Benjamin took a 100% pay cut to begin painting for real. 

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CV Born 1976

Awards 2014: Pintar Rapido First Prize (The Pintar Prize) 2014: Jackson’s Prize, United Society of Artists Open Exhibition 2014: Runner Up, Lynn Painter Stainers Prize

Solo Exhibitions 2015: JP Art Gallery (Observations)

Group and Open Exhibitions The Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Competition: 2015 The Royal Society of Portrait Painters: 2015 The Pastel Society: 2015 New English Art Club: 2014, 2015 JP Art Gallery: 2014 (Blackheath and Belgravia) Royal Society of Marine Artists: 2014 Pintar Rapido: 2014 United Society of Artists: 2014 Lynn Painter Stainers Prize: 2014 Royal Society of British Artists: 2014 Royal Institute of Oil Painters: 2013, 2014 Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers: 2013 Royal Academy Summer Show: 2013 Blackheath Art Society: 2013, 2014 Oxford Art Society: 1998, 1999, 2001, 2013, 2014, 2015

Collections Work held in private collections in the UK, Australia, Italy, Switzerland and the USA

Memberships Oxford Art Society Blackheath Art Society

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Being a debut show, this is the perfect time to name some people who have helped make it all happen over the years. I thank Wendy Skinner Smith, Peter Brown, Rachel Smart, Luke Wilcock, Emma Pooley, Auntie Pleasance, Anika and Daniel Bitel, Nicole Zitzmann, Katherine Vinnicombe, Sarah Maisey, Julia and Pete Ashley, Cliff Abrahams, Anne MacFarlane, Katherine Eddy, my parents, Jane and Andrew Hope, and Joanne Parker of JP Art Gallery. Each of you knows how you’ve made a difference to my little project and I will be forever grateful.â€

Catalogue Design: Camilla Webb Carter Photography Artwork: Stephen Brayne On location: Robert Hughes Andreas Hilfinger Alex Freeman Lesli Lundgren Printed by Charlesworth Press 54


JP Art Gallery 18 Battersea Rise London SW11 1EE + 44 (0)20 7738 1440 JPArtConsultancy.com Front Cover: Back Cover: Back Cover Inside:

Clapham Junction from Lavender Hill (detail) Teacups in the Financial Times (detail) St Pancras from Kings Cross (detail)

Š JP Art Gallery All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.â€


JP Art Gallery JPArtConsultancy.com

JP Art Gallery Benjamin Hope Observations 2015  

A catalogue of works by Benjamin Hope for the 'Observations' exhibition at JP Art Gallery, London, November 2015