Brian Rice at The Art Stable

THE spring programme at The Art Stable, Kelly Ross’s always exciting gallery in a former farm building at Gold Hill Organic Farm, Child Okeford, opens with In The Beginning, early works from the 1950s by Brian Rice, on until 9th March.

At 87, Brian Rice is recognised as one of the most important British abstract painters with work in close to 70 museum and corporate collections, mainly in the UK and USA. But anyone who is familiar with his distinctive abstract paintings and prints is in for quite a surprise in this new show. a

In the Beginning presents a fascinating archive of works made by Brian in the 1950s whilst at Yeovil School of Art and Goldsmiths College, London. His earliest works, delicate landscapes and portraits date from a time when art education was rigorous, and the teaching of skills paramount. These closely observed figurative images from an artist now so well known for his bold, purely abstract work, perhaps demonstrate the value of such a foundation, enabling the student to move with confidence into their own creative path.

Visitors will recognise some of the landscapes and townscapes depicted in these lively and colourful paintings and prints. The lithograph of Yeovil’s Cattle Market and St John’s Church, captures the changes which the town has since endured, and the 1953 print Floods at Muchelney shows how little other things change.

Brian began art school with the idea of studying architecture) which required hours of close observation and his love of ancient churches has stayed with him to this day. “Drawing was the foundation of our work, but we had facilities to take this into so many types of printmaking as well as painting,” says Brian, whose first, exquisite wood engraving of a cockerel, Rare Breed, is in the show. “We also had classes in heraldry, a subject that may seem strange today, but which greatly influenced my abstract work and still does.”

Brian’s early idea of studying architecture quickly changed: “It soon became clear to me that the painting students were having a much more interesting time!” He continued his studies at Goldsmiths College in London, after which he very quickly became an artist whose abstract work helped define the 1960s.

Alongside the Brian Rice exhibition, there is also And Suddenly I Saw, work by another acclaimed artist, David Marl.

Pictured: Fair at Ham Hill by Brian Rice, 1955 gouache