5th September 2020 by Octi in Blog

We are delighted to announce our collaboration with House of Hackney exhibiting an exciting exhibition of paintings to feature in their first ‘Castle of Trematon Treasures’ launch. 

In 1580, Elizabeth I ordered Sir Francis Drake to stash looted treasure, a hoard of gold, silver and emeralds pirated from Spanish ships while voyaging the Pacific Ocean, in Trematon Castle before it was later shipped to the Tower of London. Now over 400 years later the castle is home to the founders of House of Hackney and their dog ‘Drake’. The Castle of Trematon Treasures shares their horde of treasure, curated to the theme of the season.  

Ken Spooner: Three Paintings for Castle of Trematon Treasures 

This group of three paintings has been chosen specifically for the ‘Treasures of Trematon’ as they pictorially depict the themes of voyage, conquest and treasure which underlie the castle’s fascinating former history and now new narrative in the hands of the House of Hackney design team.  

‘Follow The Signs’ depicts cyphers on a huge pictorial map of a voyage spanning space and time. Through symbols of runes, motifs, sgraffito and handwritten text, it invites the viewer to read the visual imagery of the canvas to travel on its pictorial plane via means of the ‘signs’ it contains. There are endless possibilities to the direction of travel across the symbols; each reading is therefore unique and personal to the viewer. The direction and end-game is unclear; like a journey into the unknown the ‘treasures’ the viewer seeks may well be the very signs, depicted in gold leaf, and paths she is following. The text ‘eARTh’ situates ART within the word EARTH, creating a dualism between these concepts, reflects the House of Hackney ethos that art is inherently connected to the beauty of nature. The deep red and ochres of the painting the colours of raw clay, fire, and the centre of the earth itself. Exploring themes of voyage, mapping, mark-making, art, the natural world, ‘Follow The Signs’ expressly represents the Treasures of Trematon ethos of voyage and discovery, and meaning buried deep within the natural world. 

‘The Voyage of Gold’ depicts a central figure striding purposely across a sea-going barge, surrounded by objects of ancient treasure. A central gold orb, painted in golf leaf, shines out above this figure like the sun, identifying him as the Egyptian god Amun-Ra. The figure’s stance, one foot striding in front of the other, conveys the journey in western art from the earliest Greek copies of Egyptian statues towards an aesthetic of naturalism. As the sun-god himself, or a sculptural form of an early ‘Apollo in his image, and in particular a valued ancient artefact painted gold, he is himself the gold the painting’s title seeks. This idea of art as ‘treasure’ is emphasised by the golden yellow of much of the painting’s surface, the gold leaf of the sun-crown, and the caerulean, lapiz-lazuli pigment of the canopic jars so treasured in antiquity. These jars, containing the body parts of their owners – whose cohesive form now exists only in the statue commemorating him on the deck – are guarded by a red Pharaoh dog, such as those depicted on early tomb paintings, itself astride a small vessel of his own. 

‘The Final Voyage’ depicts a diverse group of figures travelling across the sea or sky. Egyptian motifs prevail, not least the idea of the mythological solar barges used to convey the souls of the dead to the afterlife.  Yet the grouping also shines with Christian imagery; this assembly of twelve around a central figure with a halo-like headdress resembled the iconic Da Vinci ‘Last Supper,’ invoking both redemption and resurrection, and the bird flying in front of the ship suggests the white dove flying ahead of the arc. Exploring ideas of travel and exploration, the figures face in both directions to suggest an openness to the direction of adventure; the painting’s Cornish ancestry just alluded to in the Alfred Wallis-esque naïve boat in the lower left corner. 

Writing: Alicia Livingstone, 26th September 2020 

Henrietta Dubrey: Ten paintings for Castle of Trematon Treasures 

“Henrietta Dubrey’s female nudes are ferocious; primitive, boldly linear and curvaceous; they face the viewer centrally, frontally, with a knowing confidence. Set against flat, brilliant backgrounds of solid colour, despite their comparatively muted flesh tones, visually they engulf the surface plane as the focal point of attention. These are pieces which through rapid and determined painting a tangible sense of movement and poise communicates itself forcibly. Depicted with faux-naïve simplicity with more than a nod to primitivism, these figures are unabashed and luxurious in their femininity, the sex stark and strangely integrated into the geometric formation of the body. Inspired thus by the giants of linearity, Picasso, Le Corbusier and Hockney, Dubrey brings us a thoroughly contemporary image of the female, draped in cutting edge or avant-garde clothing. Indeed, sensitive to forward thinking fashion and the diffusion of imagery through modern photography, this is made apparent in the strong sense of unwavering focus throughout the works; that an image, once conceived, is rapidly recorded onto canvas with ruthless efficiency.” 

Quoted from Olivia McEwan June 2014 an introduction to Henrietta Dubrey’s figurative art. 

This collection of 10 paintings, all abstract bar one, have been chosen specifically for the Castle of Trematon Treasure because of their unique style which correlates expressly with the ethos of the House of Hackney’s new Cornish venture. The voluptuous female figures which feature regularly in Henrietta Dubrey’s paintings complement the luxurious surroundings and decorative nature of the products available in this current collection. 

I shall write about the inspiration and background to the individual paintings in relation to this collaboration between myself, Frieda Gormley the co-founder of House of Hackney, and gallerist Alicia Livingstone of Livingstone St Ives. 

In ‘Elle Dort’ we see a reclining figure, filling the frame of the canvas; her sculptured, cubist nature describes her naked repose as she snatches an afternoon nap in the late Autumn sun. Inspired in part by Picasso’s ‘monstrous women’ this rounded female is confident within her body and not afraid to be seen.  

‘Blink’ is an abstracted female. Like a foreign figure, a traveller or an exotic alien, she arrives on the scene with open arms, bringing with her warmth and sunshine. This style of painting is more typically seen in Dubrey’s works on paper. A more lighthearted approach to the depiction of the human condition. 

‘Hors d’Oeuvre’ is a purely abstract painting from my imagination. The pear like shape feels like a seated woman, grounded by the dark circle where her buttock would be. The title suggests nourishment and food, taken I imagine in an outdoor setting, on a verdant green lawn. The small red circle/dot, a device often used, creates an accent, the cherry on top, as it were. Again, the colour palette is reminiscent of mellow autumnal colours. 

‘Promise’ is my Amazonian wild woman. She is strong, determined, ambitious as she stands proud upon a diffuse pale pistachio ground. 

‘Pearl’. A woman turns her head to gaze over her shoulder, distracting herself by looking out of the window away from her desk. She is adorned with a fashionable pearl earring, which complements her stark black top, which in turn somehow cheekily exposes her breast. We assume, therefore, that she is most probably working from home! 

‘Modernist’ and ‘Metropolis’ fall into the same category as ‘Pearl’, being medium sized oil on canvas paintings, depicting the modern woman. Highly stylized, in bold colours and more decorative in nature, these figures gaze outwards from their brightly coloured grounds, asking the question of their viewers; what are they thinking about, dreaming about, are they looking at themselves? It is for the onlooker to make up and see whether there is a connection they can feel with the mood that is being portrayed. They become vessels for us to examine ourselves. 

‘Odalisque’, named after looking at the famous nudes of Ingres, is as the name suggests an exotic, sexually attractive woman. This abstracted figure reclines on a sandy beach, near a pool of water, fleshy and voluptuous in her abandoned pose. 

In ‘Life Study’ the young woman sits with her arm propped up on a pink armchair. The simple depiction of her form in lines, triangles and circles blends with details of hair, fingers and facial features, all in soft pinks and yellows accentuating her femininity. The distorted depiction and simplification hark back to some of Picasso’s muses during his cubist period. Like many of Dubrey’s muses, this figure is from imagination, recalling images from magazines, other painters, family photographs, all synthesized into a universal being. The pose reminded me of the many hours spent as a student at the Royal Academy Schools, in the life room, the model seated for long periods of time and captured in some sort of reverie. 

The small painting on paper, ‘Bath Time’ sees a woman at her bath, a pastime often depicted by artists. Dubrey was particularly thinking of the paintings of Pierre Bonnard who recorded his wife Marthe’s ablutions, in a domestic setting. There is a cheekiness in Dubrey’s figure as she turns to see who might be looking, whilst displaying her gorgeous nakedness and long wavy hair whilst in her act of toilette. 

Writing: Henrietta Dubrey September 2020 

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