Royal Ballet Solo Exhibition – 17 Oct – 14 Nov. The Portland Gallery, 80 Hill Rise, Richmond TW10 6UB
‘Light Fantastic’ at The Portland Gallery
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Since August I have been working with The Royal Ballet School at their White Lodge site in Richmond Park. Feeling at a bit of a loss since the Byrne Bros project was completed, I approached the Ballet School and was delighted when they agreed to allow me access to White Lodge over the summer. The exhibition at The Portland Gallery will contain over 20 paintings produced as I immersed myself in this fabulous environment.
I was given access to the archive where I was allowed to photograph the old ballet shoes worn by Dame Margot Fonteyn. It was a real privilege and I could only imagine how her feet would have felt at the end of a performance.
The forest surrounding the lodge contains many ancient oak trees and these have become part of the body of work along with the resident deer that inhabit Richmond Park. It was gloriously hot August day in Richmond Park as I navigated my way slowly past a heard of fallow bucks who were camped on the roadside and munching happily in the morning sun and flicking away flies with their antlered heads. There are over 300 fallow deer in the park and approximately the same number of red deer.
The view of the Lodge from the bottom of the hill was magnificent and I paused to admire the ancient oaks rising in a stately fashion form the bracken but I wanted to imagine how it would look dressed in autumn colours and late afternoon shadows.
The interior was equally fabulous and the first image I concentrated on was the main ballroom’s chandeliers and I attempted to capture this spectacle using mirrors and an unusual format:
Continuing on a the theme of paradoxes I used ornate railings as a device to separate the dimensions within Le Reflet de la Lune which was given it’s title by my clever student Sandra who speaks French fluently.
I have also used tiny shoes as a means to return to still life painting, I find this to be a necessary balance to working from my imagination. With several weeks to go now to the opening I have still to complete a painting of floating feathers and hopefully one of oak leaves.
‘Tiny Dancer’ oil on panel – Lee Campbell
The show has also given me a chance to explore the mixed media collages that I enjoy in between paintings:
and to revisit the theme of bubbles:
and works that simply suggested the ethereal atmosphere:
White Lodge is a neo-Classical Palladian building and a rich history dating back to 1727 and built for George II. Since 1955 it has been home to the Royal Ballet Lower School which was founded by Dame Ninette de Valois and has just had a £22 million refurbishment.
The students are comprised of 120 11-16 year olds and among the allumni is Darcy Bussell and there are approximately the same number of staff attached to the complex.
There is a Museum in the crescent wing which has been imaginatively and instructionally designed to trace the history of ballet parallel with the history of White Lodge – firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. 0208 3928440
Richmond Park has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a National Nature Reserve. The royal connections to this park probably go back further than any of the others, beginning with Edward (1272-1307), when the area was known as the Manor of Sheen. The name was changed to Richmond during Henry VII’s reign.
Exploring the building I enter through the rear of the building to discover it almost deserted except for some workmen and the security guard -
What a delight to have the freedom to explore this extraordinary interior alone. Beginning in the lower brick tunnels which link the classrooms and dance studios I crept respectfully through taking photos of all before me.
Light effects ….on the shiny floors seemed to echo with the steps of dancers past and the kids artwork, but the real delight was the costume room where I found rows of tutus stacked kebab fashion and hanging joyfully, hats, props and shoes patiently awaiting the next performance.
and looking out across the park to the lake I could see tiny figures moving slowly in the distant heat. The Shard which I had painted during my last project was visible trusting upwards through the heat-haze on my way up the hill.
The garden had a display of gorgeous old roses which smelled heavenly and sculptured trees statues and a summer house.