Ben Uri is delighted to be one of the National Gallery’s nine regional collection partners for the virtual exhibition Fruits of the Spirit: Art from the Heart, curated by Ayla Lepine and Susanna Avery-Quash, which pairs nine paintings from the National Gallery with nine paintings from diverse UK public collections to explore the themes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self‐control.
Our partnership pairs the National Gallery’s Sunflowers (1888) by Vincent van Gogh with Ben Uri’s Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II (2004) by Frank Auerbach to explore the ‘fruit’ of joy. The accompanying online catalogue includes texts by the National Gallery, Ben Uri and our community partners New Art Studio, the latter edited by Jasmin Topalusic and Ruanna Brook.
Inspired by this partnership, the current exhibition at Ben Uri Gallery seeks to unpack and examine the concept of Joy through a selection of artworks from the Ben Uri Collection, encompassing paintings, drawings, lithographs, photography and sculpture, in a variety of styles, spanning figuration to abstraction, Impressionism to Cubism, Neoclassicism to Surrealism, and employing palettes ranging from the monochrome to pure, bold colour. It is complemented by a display of vibrant, life-affirming artworks by New Art Studio members (for sale) exhibited in the lower front gallery.
The display questions how – and indeed, if – joy can be expressed through the use of colour and/or the application and handling of paints or other media, including repurposed everyday materials, such as glass, papier-mâché and steel. Can it be found in nature - whether a landscape, seascape, trees or flowers, or the shimmering heat of a summer’s day? An urban cityscape, perhaps denoting home, familiarity, safety, belonging? Or in relationships: maternal love, loving partnerships, communal activity or by oneself? Is it achieved through secular means or through faith? Through spirituality, or in a joyous religious festival? Is it an act of celebration or even the act of dance? Or, to paraphrase designer and art therapist Elisabeth Tomalin, is joy simply to be found in the act of creativity itself?
Ben Uri extends huge thanks to all those involved in realising this exhibition: Ruanna Brook, Jasmin Topalusic, and all the members of New Art Studio, and the Ben Uri team: Silvia Cafaro, Jon King, Clare Matthews and curatorial intern Verity Laycock.
Sarah MacDougall, Director