Contemporary Art Market: Mythic life-forms hint at rebirth of the chisellers

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The Independent Online
Sculptors who chisel stone are becoming an endangered species as welded steel, plastics and pickled cows become the materials favoured by fashion.

But a reminder that the chisellers could be producing the sculpture that will live on when fashions change is provided by Peter Randall- Page's show at the Reed's Wharf Gallery (Mill Street, London SE1).

He is gradually extending his list of devoted admirers. Sir Roy Strong has written a catalogue note; Lord Carrington has bought one of the new pieces - his second Randall- Page purchase - and the Tate bought from his 1992 show.

Five boulders are the principal exhibits. Randall-Page has given substance to the mythic idea that if you break open a stone you may find a life form within it. In myths it might be a curled serpent; when Randall-Page cuts his 4ft hunks of granite in half, a form of life that has never existed - but might have done - is revealed.

The two halves of the boulder roll slightly apart and the interior life form is a bit snailish, a bit jelly-fish, a bit serpentish. He has kept so close to natural forms that his imaginary interiors seem part of nature. He calls the sculptures Secret Life, adding a roman numeral to distinguish them. Lord Carrington has bought Secret Life V, the smallest and cheapest ( pounds 9,000), which has an interior of bobbles. The others are priced from pounds 22,000 to pounds 27,000.

Randall-Page has also explored his fascination with re- inventing organic forms in a series of etchings and linocuts which provide an inexpensive way of gambling on his future reputation. They are priced between pounds 60 and pounds 140 unframed, pounds 92 and pounds 209 framed. Two dozen of them have already been sold.

Another artist who has also found his own individual aesthetic, quite outside the flow of fashion, is Patrick Hughes whose new work is on show at Flowers East (199-205 Richmond Road, London E8). He has invented a captivating form of optical illusion - paintings which appear to shift and change perspective as one walks past them.

He builds wooden projections on to a board before he begins to paint, then adds such subtle shading that the human eye is tricked into seeing the projections as recession. A knowledge of his technique does not prevent the eye being tricked.

His favoured themes in this year's show are a library, with angled shelves receding; an art gallery, with old-fashioned paintings hung postage-stamp style; clipped hedges making garden vistas; and skyscrapers. They range in price from pounds 7,000 to pounds 20,000, depending on size and compexity.

Angela Flowers says that his paintings sell particularly well at international fairs. She sold three of them at FIAC in Paris last week and had to send out an assistant with another Hughes to replenish the gallery's stall.

(Photograph omitted)