Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Roger Blaker’s debut at the Fleet

Forty years after he began painting, Roger Blaker has his first show, at the The Fleet Gallery in St Leonards. Siobhan O’Hanlon went to see it and spoke to the artist.

“The works in this show are the pieces that have survived after 35 years of being moved from one attic to another, showcasing paintings and constructions, including prints from the 1970s.”

Roger left school at 16, his dyslexia a potential barrier to the fact he had always wanted to teach. After attending courses in Brighton run by an elderly left-wing couple, he acquired the skills and went into teaching aged 20 at Brighton/Hove grammar school teaching pottery. At 21 he married a Dutch woman and spent time in Holland, where he was inspired by the work of Mondrian. A bit of a reactionary, he considers himself to be a teacher, artisan and painter. He loved teaching and taught for 30 years, 25 of those locally in Cranbrook, again teaching ceramics.

Roger had never looked for a show. But Patrick Robbins, the Fleet Gallery owner, heard via Reg Hendrickse, a mutual friend, that Roger collected art and among his collection were works by British artist Victor Passmore and an extensive collection of constructivist art from Eastern Europe.

Sharing this passion, Patrick went to look, and remarked on a few pieces lying about, to which Roger replied jokingly, “It’s one of mine.” The majority of his works were in the attic, covered in dust. They had been made predominantly in the 70s and 80s when he would return home from teaching.

Patrick was inspired to launch a one-man show for Roger, who restored 40 works for it.

“I’ve fallen on my feet,” Roger told me. “Occasionally I’ve sold things, but [this was] the opportunity to bring it all to one space and see it together, to appreciate the struggle to find a personal language of my own and the search that I saw in early works of Corot.” There is the impossibility inherent in writing about painting, with the problematic gap between expressing and interpreting the visual with the verbal. While painting might point to ideas, words are ideas; constructivist artist Naum Gabo put this lucidly in Of Divers Arts:

“I would not need to mention this seemingly obvious fact were not the public prone to disregard or forget it. More often than not they expect a painting to speak to them in terms other than the visual, preferably in words, whereas when painting or sculpture need to be supplemented and explained by words, it means either that it has not fulfilled its function or that the public is deprived of vision.”

One pivotal piece is an early landscape painting made in late 1968. For me the viewer, the journey from that one piece to the abstraction of the collection is reminiscent of Mondrian, from a landscape and tree to truly deconstructed works.

For Roger it is about pure obsession, as are all his varied interests. His house – nicknamed ‘the museum’ by his grandchildren – is full of fossils, rocks collected during travels, including last year’s trip to the South Pacific  and more recently up in the Outer Hebrides with his daughter, drawing on the rugged landscape for his latest works as he moves away from having finally seen this precious collection unveiled.

“I prefer not to give titles to my work, most are ambiguous,” Roger says. From his oval abstraction, with a touch of cyan alongside cool fresh blues held by sharp black lines, to a constructed grouping of white rectangles with shadow creating lines depth and space.

A piano concerto with musical lyrical lines of blues against cream play across the surface,  to the softness of work that appears heavily embossed with soft white curves and angles, fluid and pooling on the surface.

Go and take it in, feel refreshed and uplifted by the purity. This is not a show to be missed


Roger Blaker: 1970s Paintings and Constructions To 27 September. Fleet Gallery, 53 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN38 0EG. Tel 01424 200220. Open 10am-5.30pm, Wed-Sat.

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Posted 17:59 Friday, Sep 12, 2014 In: Visual Arts

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