My first introduction to the paintings of John Caple was through Nell Leyshon and the hardback cover to her novel Black Dirt and the pictures quickly connected with me in a way that one artist rarely does.
Nell very kindly sent me a copy of John's book Somerset which has been perched open on a bookstand by my desk every since. I stare at it, disappear into it, turn the page to a different picture every few days but it's been a book that I have completely and regularly immersed myself in from the moment it arrived.
Something seems exactly right when I look at John Caple's paintings, from style to colour range to atmosphere, I pick up an honesty there making that deeper significance very available, and to someone like me who can stare at a picture for ever and not see what I'm supposed to, that's all very heartening.
In John's own words...
'I have looked for descriptions that have sensed the invisible hand of nature shaping everyday lives and the fascination this inspired.'
mixed media on board
32 x 44ins
There is something genuine and unpretentious to these paintings and perhaps this biographical detail explains that,
"He is entirely self-taught and as untroubled by contemporary art as he is unbothered by academic training. His work requires neither. He has worked out the way he paints entirely for himself, a manner of painting that is straightforward, simple and perfectly suited to the job. It belongs to that long tradition of English folk art that one sees in medieval church carving, samplers and early English pottery."
Initially I sensed a likeness to the St Ives paintings of Alfred Wallace but there's a vast difference and this information from the JM Gallery website confirms what I thought I knew but couldn't quite express,
"In the twentieth century the folk tradition was often confused with naïve art, yet an important distinction exists between the two and that distinction in many ways helps to understand John's work. Whereas a naïve artist paints entirely from within a private, enclosed world, an artist like John Caple is expressing stories and sentiments that have a shared ownership. In the twenty-first century he is an oddity amongst painters - though that is an observation that will trouble him little."
Now imagine how I felt when I discover that the preview is to be held from 6-8pm this evening on the day that I will be boarding my train home from London at 3pm....parrot...sick as etc and how grateful I am that the gallery have very kindly said I can go in and sneak a preview of the preview and just see John's paintings for real.
I'll report back, but for anyone in London between 3-22 December 2009 don't miss the chance to see these paintings if they strike a chord with you too. The exhibition is on at the John Martin Gallery, 38 Albermarle Street W1 (Mon-Fri 10 - 6 Saturday 11- 4) just around the corner from the Royal Academy.
'In the west country there is a word Wisht which describes all that is uncanny, mysterious and enchanted and can be applied to pretty much anything...the cusp between dusk and dawn, the edge of a wood...Heard but rarely seen, the nightingale's song represents the numinous presence of nature, conveying the awareness and the enchantment of these unseen realities.'