Victoria and Albert Museum: Passion, Power and Politics

Until Sunday 25 February 2018


Opera: Passion, Power and Politics is devoted to a richly complex passage in European cultural history. Dramatically lit, boldly theatrical and graphically vivid.

The Telegraph


I thought this would be an interesting exhibition to write a blog about!  

The subject is an established and traditional art form that is looking to maintain its popularity and does this by constantly assessing and evolving.  

It can be argued that all art forms need to be constantly developing to ensure that they remain current, relevant and popular.


I decided to visit the exhibition and write a blog because of the catchy phrase : ‘Passion, Power and Politics’.  These are emotive words loaded with energy, dynamism and emotions:

‘Passion’ is an intense emotion, strong and barely controllable.  A man can be described as impetuous with passion or in a state of strong emotion.

I think that passion is an important quality in art; it can be argued that this is a feature common to artists and may be the quality needed to imbue works with energy and emotion.  I think of Van Gogh and his passion for his work, or Michelangelo the Renaissance Master and how his sculpture in particular was imbued with such intense feelings of power and emotion;  I think of the DyingSlave or the Pieta.


The Passion is how we describe Christ’s death.  Intense emotion is imbued in the subject of the Pieta.  As I have just mentioned, the sculpture by Michelangelo is deeply intense and conveys raw emotion and intense sadness.  


Power is the physical strength and force exerted by someone or something.  Eg. the power of a storm.  It is also the ability or capacity of do something or act in a particular way.  Eg. the power of speech.


Power is an important feature to all artforms: the power of the image, the visual impact an image can have.  These are equally important to both opera and fine art.  In the case of the later, there are several aspects to power:


First, there is the power of the patron, the power of trends and what is current and popular.  These factors heavily influence art styles; what is popular sells!


Lastly, the term ‘Politics’: to play politics…..There are several interpretations of the word:  firstly, to engage in political intrigue, taking advantage of a political situation or issue, and resorting to partisan politics.  More relevant to art is the ‘politics’ of dealing with people in an opportunistic, manipulative or devious was.  The sole aim is for advancement.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  It is being aware of current trends, being aware of the tastemakers in our society and being focused on advancing your profile as an artist and also that of your work.  


The exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum is focused on opera and a period in cultural history.  The Telegraph continued and described the exhibition as


‘Dramatically lit, boldly theatrical and graphically vivid’.  


These are all words that convey excitement and anticipation.  These are the same emotions one thinks of when describing contemporary art and emerging artists.  The anticipation that you could be viewing work by the next David Hockney and Lucian Freud…...


Using the adjectives in the quotation; I would like to use them as a starting point to describing a selection of works by a select number of emerging artists  represented by the Hornshaw Gallery.  These artists also took part in the recent exhibition ‘Genius in Beauty’ during September 2017.  


David Ridley:


David Ridley is an outstanding artist whose  images are immensely popular with international buyers. His work can be viewed as abstract and resembles seascapes:


'Drawing upon elements of abstraction, my paintings seek to capture the atmospheric and transient qualities of the landscape; contemporizing the traditional landscape. Through an alternation of line, colour and texture; each painting takes on its own unique setting. Rather than replicating an image I seek to evoke the aura of a place, to capture an atmospheric scene or moment in time - immersing the viewer in a sense of space and timelessness...'


David Ridley 'I forget Where We Were' (Mixed Media on Canvas, £1,300.00)

I forget Where We Were by David Ridley

Wendy Hyde:


Wendy Hyde's artwork is idealistic in its portrayal of a utopian image. Her artwork is a series of beautiful images inspired by music, nature and beauty:


'I paint not what I see of the visible world, but how I feel it to be. It is not a literal description of a place, but a feeling of a place and how one is affected by that environment. My inspiration comes from the Landscape, Skyscape, and Seascape, music that I listen to Classical, blues, soul, jazz or colours that I see in everyday life. I like to work on a large scale when possible, as this gives me more freedom of movement and allows me to be experimental.'


Wendy Hyde 'Nuances of Colour' (Oil on Canvas, £1,300.00)


The focus on colour and the abstract nature of this artwork epitomises art of a utopian image: the bright and vibrant colours and the abstract nature of the artwork heralds a modernist approach to seeing.


Looking to the Past is also another interesting theme that was considered in the exhibition. The idea of looking to the past is conveyed in the works of Daisy Clarke.

Daisy’s work is popular with collectors; it is imbued with a romantic view of the past. Her work includes a variety of subjects and demonstrates her versatility as an artist. Daisy has recently added some new works to the gallery:

Widely sought after and collected by everyone from New York Managers of JPMorgan, to actors Hugh Grant and Jeremy Irons; Daisy Clarke creates whimsical artworks that reveal a unique sensibility.

‘The moment a fairy tale moves from dark to light, the sound of the wind through the pines, the sentience of animals, far beyond the edge of the clouds. What we fear in the dark and what lies beyond fear.....'

Daisy Clarke The Tower (Oil Paint on Canvas, £550.00)

This is a recent painting by Daisy Clarke. It depicts a tower and landscape, there is a woman standing on a hillside positioned beside the tower. This is a sensitive depiction which is demonstrated in the subtle use of colour and attention to details.

Daisy Clarke The Tower


Daisy Clarke 'Blue Bird' (Oil on Canvas, £2,000.00)

'Blue Bird' is a recent portrait by Daisy Clarke, it depicts a lady in costume, she is standing in a room holding a red rose; some of the petals have fallen on the floor in front of her. This is an interesting and compelling image; do the fallen petals signify something? The owl in the portrait may also be a symbol; it is usually a symbol that traditionally represents or accompanies Athena goddess of Wisdom (or Minerva in Roman history.)

 Daisy Clarke Blue Bird


An artist whose work creates utopian images is Amarjeet Kalsi:

Amarjeet Kalsi 'Follow that Dream' (A digital print of 50, £75.00)

Amarjeet Kalsi Follow That Dream


The image of this artwork best sums up the enterprising and aspiring nature of emerging artists carving a future and careers.

This is a popular artwork both because of the title and also the image. It is also versatile and could be displayed in any room at home or in an office.

Anika Manuel ‘The Paradise’ (Acrylic on Circular Canvas) £700.00

‘Similar to Warhol’s celebration of fame. Anika Manuel portrays the actress Milla Kunis. The star appears unkept, yet paradoxically styled. The tropical background explores notions of fragility and the theme of theatre, the floral, leafy background is lush, bold and dramatic; echoing the drama of the portrait.’

Anika Manuel ‘The Paradise’ (Acrylic on Circular Canvas) £700.00

Anika Manuel


Simon Kirk ‘Grudge Match’ and ‘Watchers’ (Collage and Mixed Media) £225.00 each.


Both panels are available exclusively from the Hornshaw Gallery.

'Grudge Match' by Simon Kirk (Collage and Mixed Media) £225.00

Simon Kirk Grudge Match


'Watchers' by Simon Kirk ( Collage and Mixed Media)  £225.00

 Simon Kirk Watchers


Simon Kirk ‘Grudge Match’ and ‘Watchers’ (Collage and Mixed Media) £225.00 each.

Both are small panels measuring 10 x 15 cm. Simon has sold artworks internationally and exhibited at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibitions. He has also been the subject of solo art shows. These small panels are ideal and have proved popular with buyers living in flats in Central London. They are exquisitely crafted pieces that are practical for modern living. Similar in practicality to portable miniatures of old, in the case of the latter, their sole purpose was to be carried around and admired by their owners. Simon Kirk’s panels suit the compact and neatness of living in a cosmopolitan city.


Opera As An Evolving Art Form:

Opera can be viewed as a traditional, conservative and elitist art form.  Yet, it must also be acknowledged that, to remain popular it needs to reflect, change, evolve and generate renewed interest.  

This is also the case with contemporary art; it’s important that emerging artists do the same.  In the case of the latter, emerging artists are always a focus of attention and anticipation; we are all waiting for new styles and trends…..the next best thing…….  Notable in recent times are the ‘Young British Artists,’ names include Gavin Turk, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.   There was press interest in the conceptual artworks that caused a sensation; I think of Tracey Emin’s unmade bed and Hirst’s animals in formaldehyde, there is also the idea of Hirst’s workshop and artists working for him to produce works such as the commercially popular spot paintings.  Admittedly, these works caused a sensation in the press, they also aroused discussion on what is art ?  

In the case of Damien Hirst, it led to a retrospective of his artwork at the Tate - no mean feat!  This is a privilege held for artists no longer alive and for icons such as Modigliani, Marina Abramovic and Ai Weiwei.  In the case of Damien Hirst, his was a record for visitors to an exhibition - this says an awful lot and in some ways exonerates the Tate from exhibiting works by what may be viewed as such a controversial artist.  

The exhibition was clearly a commercial success on account of the record number of visitors. It generated so much interest, so as to attract people to view the exhibition.  This interest was also extended to an auction of works by Hirst on the day after Lehman Brothers crashed.  This was a ‘White Gloves’ sale held by Sotheby’s in London.  ‘White Gloved’ in that all lots sold - a great achievement at the best of times for an auction and particularly following news of a prominent bank going bust and the shockwaves this must have caused!


Henry Jones:

‘I spend much of my time observing and sketching scenes from life. These images are often abstract gestures, and suggest rather than represent the general atmosphere of the subject. Along with any photographs I might take, the sketchbooks allow me to return to the essence of a subject and then to create a more successful studio painting.’

Henry Jones is an artist who has recently joined the Hornshaw Gallery.  Literally within a week of his work appearing on the website, there was a great deal of interest.  His works were also very popular at the art exhibition ‘Genius in Beauty’.  

Below are 2 recent paintings that sold within days of being added to Henry’s profile page; these both depict foxes - it would appear that the fox is a popular theme for Henry and a popular choice with clients.

In the case of the first artwork, Jones depicts a fox chasing a rabbit.  I think that the sense of drama and the speed that Henry Jones manages to capture so beautifully is what make this artwork an instant success, it’s the reason why this was purchased so quickly.

Henry Jones Fantastic Mr Fox








In the case of the second painting, Henry Jones has depicted a fox.  It is a beautiful and naturalistic picture of a beautiful animal.  I think that it was this sense of beauty that attracted considerable interest and led to another rapid sale.

Henry’s work has been popular with a wide range of buyers ranging from clients based in London to international businessmen who appreciate the refined and detailed depictions of London life.

‘Charing Cross People’ is an example of such a work depicting London life.  This was recently exhibited at the Hornshaw Gallery’s ‘Genius in Beauty’ art exhibition in September.  It depicts a scene of London commuters either on their way to or from work.  The detail Henry captures made this a popular work that received considerable attention at the recent art show.


Sonia White:

‘I experiment through painting, dyeing and printing. I use various mediums including inks, dyes, rust, bleach, acrylics, oils and spray paints. The list is endless; I will experiment with anything I can find! I like to work with these materials outside in the elements where the climate can affect their behaviour, contributing to the energy and outcome of the piece. It is this evolutionary process that I find the most exciting.

 Sonya White Epitome of Goodness


Epitome of Goodness is a beautiful example of Sonia’s work.  The image is depicted on fabric and at the recent ‘Genius in Beauty’ exhibition was mounted in perspex.  It was a striking image.  It depicts images from nature that epitomise all that is goodness.

Sonya White Untamed


Untamed is another example of Sonia’s work.  It is an abstract artwork that depicts objects and images that convey all that is untamed.  There is also a sense of energy and a certain restlessness conveyed by the large and sweeping brush strokes.

This is in contrast to the paleness of the colour palette Sonia has used; despite the energy and dynamism of the bushwork; this is contrasted to the muted colours that imbue the work with a soothing quality: browns, pale greens and blues are all natural and earthy colours that soothe…….




In conclusion, I would like to again return to the Telegraph quote concerning the Opera exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum:


Opera: Passion, Power and Politics is devoted to a richly complex passage in European cultural history. Dramatically lit, boldly theatrical and graphically vivid.


The Telegraph


Having considered the works of a select few emerging artists that are represented by the Hornshaw Gallery and also, considering the phenomenon of contemporary and emerging artists, I think that the quotation and use of adjectives such as ‘Passion, Power, Politics, Bold, Theatrical and Graphically Vivid’ are all words that can be interchanged between opera and contemporary art.  


Both are artforms that are seeking to challenge, arouse interest and inspire.  Both are traditional artforms that have been popular for centuries, yet are keenly aware that they must remain on the pulse and are sensitive to new trends, tastes and viewer expectations.  They are perceptive to changes and will evolve to maintain their popularity.