Critics prefer Blondes

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Indy Lifestyle Online
'A Tribute to Carel Weight' at the Crane Kalman Gallery is a celebration of a much-loved painter and teacher who died last year at the age of 89. The selection covers a career of over 50 years and establishes him, above all, as a painter of life. His subjects often have a classical or biblical plot - The Death of Lucretia, say or The Return of the Prodigal Son, but the action always unfolds on the streets of the capital.

There's a sense of place in these pictures which will mean something to most Londoners and a quirkiness which recalls something of those more familiar English eccentrics, Lowry and Spencer. I didn't know Weight, but clearly he meant a lot to those that did, and the overriding mood of this show is of friendly and fond remembrance. It makes for a pleasing, if rather nostalgic, atmosphere and a worthy tribute.

I do know Jeffrey Blondes, however, whose recent paintings are on show this month at The Fine Art Society, and it would be disingenuous of me not to admit that he is a friend as well as an artist whose work I admire. That said, what I first liked about his work hasn't been changed by knowing the man behind it, and so as a critic, rather than as a friend, I recommend a trip to New Bond Street.

At a glance, Blondes' haunting, slightly melancholy, paintings of rural France recall the 19th-century landscapes of Corot or Courbet, yet such comparisons are confounded by a closer, longer look. His work is rooted in the age-old tradition of working from nature (he always paints in the open air), but it is unquestionably modern in the way that it is made.

The first thing that one sees is a kind of frozen quality: a record of Blondes' time spent on the job. Yet the more one looks, the more the images seem to be subtly shifting; the edges a little blurred, the centre not quite still. I'm not sure how he does this, even though I've watched him work, but I do know that they are subtle paintings that reveal themselves slowly, and which will reward those who give them the time that they deserve.

'A Tribute to Carel Weight', Crane Kalman Gallery, 178 Brompton Road, SW3 (0171-584 7566) to 25 April. 'Jeffrey Blondes: New Paintings of Rural France', The Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, WI (0171-629 5116) to 25 April