Exhibitions Reviews and Press Releases


Essential Sustenance at the Brewhouse: Paintings by Jack Coulthard

Images of what might have been

by Roger Coward

If you enjoy skilled workmanship - then that alone is a basic reason for going to the Brewhouse Exhibition of the paintings of Jack Coulthard entitled "Images of what might have been" (after all he was in the Royal Engineers). He was also with a Bond Street Gallery for eight years - and one can understand why: and inspection of the paintings indicates a brilliant mind at work behind them and a richness of allusions within them. But Jack Coulthard tells me that his favourite comment on his work, spoken by a 60 or so year old lady at a previous Brewhouse Exhibition, was "How is it you can see so deep into out hearts?".

And he does that by combining elements of popular culture - the Salvation Army girls or the fairground - with profound mythological/psychological/religious concerns as in paintings entitled 'Annunciation', 'Lady Persephone', 'Euclidian Landscape'. As a painter he takes on board contemporary hard-edge flat-colour interests together with pub-sign, barge-decoration and fairground designs in the service of landscape and the figure. Yes, he can even paint the human figure and faces! (The Sally Army girls are getting sexier - I bet they're pleased!)

This traditional painterly seriousness, his actual skill, his 'heart' - his concern with depicting ordinary people in their 'realistic' relationship to the cosmos (their myths, collective psychology, God) in paintings such as 'Cathar Country' or 'God is very, very angry' makes him in the words of Terence Mullaly, the art critic of the Daily Telegraph, one "of the most independent and also worthwhile of contemporary British artists". "A man who is in touch with trends but who is unimpressed with the tin thunder of much that is fashionable" (Arts Review).

His often witty, and we would have to admit, sometimes silly. His incredible skill at manipulating perspective and different planes within one frame (actually, usually several frames) does, lets face it, sometimes become too complex or too clever. His concern to be 'significant' sometimes becomes overstatement but thank God (or maybe God thanks Coulthard) here is an artist who will actually take the risk of looking at a bit more of reality that the motor car or the texture of paint on canvas.

And how lucky the Vale of Taunton Deane is to have a painter of this calibre on its historic soil. His interest and skill at painting outcrops of rock, hills and sky echo and seem appropriate in a hilly County which contains Glastonbury with its Tor and ancient initiatory caves at Wookey. His gradually developing approach to the Feminine from the Salvation Army 'Sallys' through to Demeter and Persephone remind us of that ultimate symbol of the Feminine, Joseph of Aramathea's Holy Grail, brought to Somerset so long ago, and kept alive in spirit by at least one '1984' Troubadour - the exhibition includes some of Jack Coulthard's 'Poems'.

To say that "There’s something for everyone" is not to minimise Jack Coulthard’s achievement - because he does pick up on what's going on for us all at a deep level. You will probably laugh - and there aren't many art exhibitions that invite you to do that! You will certainly be surprised and delighted for Coulthard makes many surprising connections. You may be a little annoyed - but not shocked or abused because Jack has 'heart' and hopefully we'll all have bigger ones after "Images of what might have been".