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Principal Artists Exhibiting at Adonis Art Part 3

By Stewart Hardman and David Jarrett

 

This is the continuation of a series of articles on Adonis Art, London’s only gay art gallery, begun in The Archive #11. The gallery is located in the Earls Court section of London at 1b Coleherne Road, London, SW10 9BS (telephone and fax 011 44 20 7460-3888). Adonis Art was founded in 1995 by Stewart Hardman.

 

Fraser Diesel
Fraser Diesel was born in South Africa and studied art at Rand University. He continued his studies in London at the St. Martins School of Art. On returning to South Africa he pursued a successful career as an advertising art director, but the pull of painting led to his returning to London in the late 1960s as a full-time painter.


Diesel is most well known for his abstract paintings, which recall his childhood on a remote farm in the Kalahari Desert and the Hottentot people who lived in the area, but he has always drawn and painted the male nude from life, and this continues to be a major facet of his work. His elegant, elongated figures are uniquely identifiable whether drawn in charcoal or painted in oils.


Fraser Diesel’s paintings are in collections all over the world, including the collection of Vera Vrost in Munich and Sarah Vignola in San Remo.

 

Johan Ekkel
Johan Ekkel graduated from the Royal Academy of Art and Design in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, and for 20 years worked as an illustrator for advertising agencies and book and magazine publishers. During this stage of his career, he won awards from the Dutch Art Directors Club and also from the Netherlands Post Office for his stamp designs.


Since taking early retirement in 1997 he has returned to his first love–painting and drawing the male nude. His works often have a feel of Italy about them. He works in oil and paints in intense colors as if working in the Mediterranean sun. He likes to paint the male body in extreme poses, testing his technical ability often placing his subjects are painted with water, especially the shower or the bath. Johan Ekkel lives and works in Amsterdam.

 

Zoran Korac
Zoran Korac was born in Skopje, Macedonia, in 1962 of an artistic mother and a military father. All through his school days he excelled at art and his ambition was to become a painter when he left school. He cultivated artists and professors at the academy during his school days and spent his time learning the basic techniques as an unofficial apprentice to them.


He was devastated when his father refused him permission to go on to art school, insisting that he study for a more regular career instead. The father/son conflict led to Zoran leaving his home and country, traveling around Europe for several years before settling in London in 1990. All through this period he continued to paint and develop his artistic sense.


His first exhibition was hosted by the Battersea Arts Centre in their Lavender Hill Gallery in 1994, followed by another in 1996 at the Pump House, Battersea Park (both in London). Since then he has contributed to several group shows and has exhibited individual paintings at Adonis Art. In March 2003 he had his first solo exhibition at Adonis Art.


His images of the male form, in primary colors on a deep black base, are passionate and enigmatic. Zoran says of his work that it is inspired by his childhood ambitions and that his goal is always to be “true to his dream.” His paintings are in collections all over the world.

 

Cornelius McCarthy
Cornelius McCarthy is one of the leading painters of the male form working in Britain today. His work combines naturalism with a stylized, almost cubist element (particularly in his earlier work) to produce his instantly recognizable work. The figures are single or in pairs, often with still life renderings of fruit, vases or flowers. His young men are strong, yet vulnerable with a delicacy of mood that is at once charming and delectable.


McCarthy’s art training at Goldsmiths College, London, under Sam Rabin and Betty Swanwick had a lasting influence on him. He was nurtured on the art of Catholic Europe. His first of many trips to Italy was at age fifteen. Much later, the intense magic of Picasso’s art proved to be an important liberating experience for him. His style has developed organically since the 1950s, incorporating and modifying the influence of Picasso, Keith Vaughan, Andre Derain and the Cubists.


Stylized patterns, crosshatches, and still life objects give depth and intensity to his work. Developing ideas in sketchbooks, a composition may flow from a sketch stage, to a drawing, to a pastel, and to a gouache before reaching its final form as an oil painting. He especially likes gouache because of its density and solidity of color.


He has had three one man shows at Adonis Art since 1996. His latest show opened May 6, 2003, with 16 out of 46 paintings selling on opening night. In this show, the male images were more realistic, but had a distinct painterly quality. Before that he exhibited at St Jude’s gallery in London in 1989 and 1991. Shows include “Het Mamelijk Naakt”, Bruins Gallery, Amsterdam; “Art for Equality”, ICA, London; “Crusaid”, Broughton House, Cambridge; and at the Leslie-Lohman Gallery in New York.
Publications include Interiors, published by Gay Mens Press (GMP) in 1987, with an introduction by Emmanuel Cooper. Some of his paintings have been reproduced as GMP book covers and as illustrations in a variety of books and articles.


Cornelius McCarthy lived most of his life in London. On retiring in 1988 he moved with his partner of 40 years to the edge of the Fens in West Norfolk, where he spends a considerable part of his time developing a two-acre garden. He is represented in many private collections in Britain and other European countries, as well as the USA, Canada and Australia.

 

Andrew Potter
Andrew Potter has been painting professionally since 1995 as an illustrator, muralist and portrait painter. Prior to that, he painted theater sets and was a contract negotiator for British Telecom. Potter works part-time at the Royal Academy researching customer queries.


Andrew Potter began male figurative work at the University of Wales, where he received his bachelors and masters degrees in fine art. He was an out gay man at the university. The artist’s male figurative work shown at Adonis Art are both monochromatic and full color, although the monochromatic work, while less popular at Adonis Art, is possibly his best work with a highly sensual, 3-D, sculptural effect. The artist likes sensual art but not overtly explicit erotic art. Potter believes that eroticism is principally derived from one’s imagination rather than pure visual stimulation.


Andrew Potter’s earlier painting technique relied on his hands, finger and cloths as much as brushes to apply paint. Today, encouraged by Stewart Hardman, he paints in a more conventional method with oil on thickly gessoed paper adhered to board. Originally, preferring to let a painting evolve, he now works from sketches, editing the drawings before beginning to paint. He uses six to seven layers of glaze over a single monochrome under painting to create glowing luminescence.


Many of Potter’s paintings of male bodies have the look of a dream-like photograph, due to their close cropping and soft-focus. Additionally he uses strong side lighting — a baroque period association–to create strong contrast, drama and visual excitement. Potter believes that an artist should aim for beauty in his paintings, seeing past reality into a potentially beautiful existence. He dislikes paintings that are “overly” finished, believing that the artist should stop before reaching that state.


Potter’s favorite painters are Alma Tadoma, Lord Frederic Leighton, Henry Scott Tuke, various Dutch 19th century artists, Italian Baroque painters, and the UK painter, Michael Leonard. Sources of inspiration range from classical nude studies to glossy fashion and gay magazines.


Andrew Potter has had seven one-man shows since 1994, including three at Adonis Art in 1998, 2000, and 2002. He has participated in ten group shows, and won four awards.

 

 

Matthew Stradling
Matthew Stradling, 41, is one of the principal English artists specializing in the male body. His work with a distinct style, subject matter and subtle meaning has yet to be fully appreciated.


The artist studied at the Watford School of Art & Design in 1981-1982 and then at St. Martin’s School of Art in London from 1982-1985, obtaining a 1st class honors degree in fine art with a focus on painting. Even though he had not fully acknowledged his homosexuality, Stradling disliked the rigid atmosphere at St. Martin’s, as all of the instructors were heterosexual and were entrenched in the house style of abstract expressionism. Stradling rebelled preferring classical or Renaissance art. Following a two-year absence from school, Stradling obtained a master of fine art degree from the University of Reading in 1987-1989.


After over 100 paintings in a classical, neo-baroque, embellished style from 1987 to 1996, Stradling’s work from 1996 to 2000 stripped off the pearls and jewels of his earlier work. He attempted to find a balance between the physical ideal and the reality of what exists. Questioning the gay world’s obsession with physical perfection at the expense of other aspects of being human, he switched the focus of his painting from seeking a viewer’s sexual response to seeking an emotional response.


During the past two years, however, with a more relaxed attitude, Stradling returned to his earlier style–but with more gusto. His virtually unique male figurative art pictures attractive young men surrounded by a lavish display of velvet, pearls and precious stones. Many of them look like enlarged Renaissance miniatures with great detail. On occasions there is a hint of androgyny. His paintings often have a surrealistic, fantasy or mythological quality.


The Mirror is a male version of Venus with a mirror. A stereotypical gay hunk, as the image of desire, is seen staring over his shoulder at himself in the mirror while displaying himself naked to the viewer. The purposely small genitals of the young man contrast with the size of his otherwise perfect body conveying the idea that the model is not potent as a person and thus unable to maintain relations with other humans because of his self-focus and loss of his capacity to be human. Resting the beautiful man on gilded skulls, Stradling symbolizes the people that the young man has used up to satisfy his own sexual needs. In addition, the emptiness in back of the mirror is symbolic of the emptiness of the young man’s life.


Omphalos, (oil on canvas, 83'' x 71'', 1991, private collection NYC) was painted for the exhibition at Battersea Arts Centre Gallery (B.A.C) in London entitled “Luxuria.” The title is from the Greek for “navel” — the center of things. The Greeks used the word omphalos to describe sacred places and shrines. In creating the painting, the artist sought a balance between “flowing motion and stillness.” He believes that “behind the ever-circling turmoil of life there is an all-encompassing silence and point of calm.” Stradling says “Omphalos is a doorway or a frame that leads us into infinity or an invitation to a dream world…. The figures become like spirits swimming in ecstasy through the delights of the material world.”


Stradling’s pearl imagery is multifaceted. The first pearls, symbolic of sperm, appear in Murder Me Love (1989.) Pearls also echo throughout many of his works — representing tears, atoms, or chains of life. In some works, pearls are coming out of wounds mixing blood, sperm and tears in one image.


After initially painting the wounds of St. Sebastian — a passive male figure being penetrated by spears and shafts — he explored wounds inflicted on gay men by a homophobic society. Replacing blood — symbolic of pain and sorrow — with pearls, the artist transforms the imagery with beauty and perfection, thus making pain positive and beautiful: tears to pearls.


Stradling started out using pictures of models from porno magazines and making them into “high art” — thus transforming “dirty” magazines into a thing of beauty. Today, he will often paint friends or acquaintances and elevate them into gods.


After 17 years living in the same flat in the Finsbury Park section of London (his studio is in an adjacent rear building), in February 2002, Stradling moved in with his current lover of seven years to a flat located in the Hackey section of London. Like many struggling artists, for the first ten years he relied on state support. In the late 1980s he supplemented his income by painting displays at Tower. Now Stradling generally alternates his time by painting intensively for six months and then taking three months off to regenerate.


Over the last 15 years, he has had 11 solo shows and numerous group shows, principally in London. In 2001, he was selected by Sotheby’s to represent the U.K. in the 2001/2002 Young Artist International Touring Exhibition, exhibiting works in New York, Tel Aviv and Amsterdam. Also, in 2001, one of Stradling’s paintings was selected for the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London.


Matthew Stradling’s paintings have been included in numerous publications, such as Rouge (UK), Blue (Australia), Gay Times (U.K.), Visual Arts (U.K.) Time Out (U.K.), the Face (UK), Outrage (Australia), and Babilonia (Italy). Blue (June 1997) had a beautifully illustrated six-page article on Matthew Stradling, discussing his 1996-2001 changes in style. In chapter eleven of the book, Outlooks — Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Culture (1), Matthew Stradling talks in great detail about his art, his frustrations, his goals, and his approach to art. The painting Omphalos was highlighted in the music video Fear.(2)

 

(1) Outlooks — Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Culture, chapter eleven, pp. 139-143,
edited by Peter Horne and Reina Lewis, Routledge, 1996
(2) The music video collection is called, Twice Upon a Time, by Siouxsie and the Banshees.




empty Stewart Hardman
in the gallery
at Adonis Art, 2004



empty
Fraser Diesel
Life Study #2, 2002
Oil on canvas
19" x 15.5"



empty Johan Ekkel
On Capri, 2001
Oil on canvas
13" x 16"



empty
Zoran Korac
Reverie, 2002
Acrylic on canvas
26" x 22"



empty Cornelius McCarthy
Heart of Gold, 2003
Oil on canvas
40" x 30"



empty Andrew Potter
at work in his studio,
2000
Photo by
David Jarrett



empty
Andrew Potter
The Achilles Girdle,
2000
Oil on board
22" x 16"


empty Matthew Stradling
in his studio


empty Matthew Stradling
Omphalos, 2001
Oil on canvas
83" x 71"







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