Contemporary Art Market: Galleries put on a show for artists who bide their time

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The Independent Online
THE ART market is not generally kind to slow painters but there are currently two one-man shows in London galleries devoted to artists who take up to a year to complete a painting.

Norman Blamey is at the Fine Art Society (148 New Bond St, W1) and Eric Holt at the Piccadilly Gallery (16 Cork St, W1).

Godfrey Pilkington, of the Piccadilly Gallery, said: 'I've asked Holt if he couldn't stop a bit earlier and let us sell incomplete pictures as 'studies'. But he likes to go on working on the painting, changing it again and again until he is satisfied.'

Holt's show is the first since 1987, and he has managed to produce 14 pictures for sale - a couple of them date back to 1986. Some are very small. Obverse Image, for instance, measures only 12in by 10in (30cm by 25cm) and can be had for pounds 5,000; it is a delicate realist rendering of the back of a painting, showing bright splashes of colour on the part of the canvas that has been folded round the stretcher.

That would have been a fairly easy image to create. Holt's big , year-long, pictures cost around pounds 20,000. In his Carnival Fantasy, for instance, which measures 36in by 24in (91cm by 60cm), a carefully rendered girl on a swing is suspended above a crowd of revellers and colourful balloons; every one of the participants is precisely drawn.

The charm of Holt's pictures relies on breathtakingly precise realist drawing combined with wild surrealist fantasy and very bright colours. He is 48 and lives close to the Queen's estate at Sandringham, Norfolk, with his wife and two children. He is a passionate organic gardener, so his trees and flowers are painted with profound understanding and affection.

Norman Blamey is 78 and the show at the Fine Art Society is only the second exhibition of his career. He has exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions almost every year since 1938 and been so admired as a result that he has had no need for selling exhibitions.

His work falls into three groups, commissioned portraits, scenes of his own family life, and paintings of everyday events at his church.

The Penitent, which shows the back of an old woman, wearing a brown coat and brown hat, kneeling before a priest, is a frighteningly successful piece of realist reporting on the human condition ( pounds 6,500). Blamey's skill lies in arranging his compositions and viewpoint as well as applying paint. In Time Like an Ever Rolling Stream ( pounds 8,500), his late wife is depicted standing next to an old clock adorned with the Greek letters alpha and omega; she is standing symbolically next to omega.

There are only one or two oils for sale but there are many pencil studies for pictures at prices from pounds 350 to pounds 850.

Blamey taught life drawing at the Royal Academy Schools for many years and his drawings are in the best academic tradition. His aim is to achieve 'intelligent precision, rather than emotional swagger'. The same could be said of Holt; indeed, it could pass for the motto of most slow painters.

(Photographs omitted)