At last, at last, many of London’s commercial galleries have reopened. As the country emerges from its lockdown, for better or worse, things aren’t quite back to normal. A spontaneous tour through open galleries isn’t going to be possible for a while: all of my visits have been by appointment. This extra element of necessary planning isn’t a bad thing though - it makes you more considered about what you want to see.
I chose this exhibition in particular, not just because the gallery’s a short bike ride from my flat, but because the subject matter’s redolent of something else we can’t do in lockdown: travel somewhere for pleasure. Tim Stoner’s a British painter who is based in southern Spain; the title of the show is the old Moorish name for the region. And his large landscape paintings glow with its colours. Such as the blueish turquoise sky and age-yellowed white houses in Ronda, or the the peachy sunset light in Tormenta, pictured below. All so refreshing to eyes tired of viewing the same four walls in the same locked down city, day after day.
Suitable for an area with so many layers of history, Stoner works in palimpsest, adding and removing layers of oil paint to his works over the years. Each work is buffed and finished with a layer of varnish: there are no rough textures on these large linen canvases.
The dates of work commonly span three years. Upstairs, there’s a painting he’s been working on for a decade: Sefardi (2010-2020) is a pinkish whirl, in which mysterious figures from the region’s long-lost Jewish community perform a dance. It was completed recently enough to suffuse the empty gallery with the smell of fresh paint. Easily detectable through my mask.
Aside from the mandatory mask wearing and the need to make an appointment, a few other things have changed for the gallery goer. Once a hoarder of exhibition press releases on paper, I’m going to have to get used to scanning a QR code on the wall to get more information about the show. I also forgot to give my hands a spritz of sanitiser on the way in, though I didn’t make that mistake on my way out.
But I exited the gallery happy and satisfied. What a joy to smell fresh paint again!
Tim Stoner: Al-Andalus is at Modern Art (London). February 28 - June 27 2020