EDWARD DURDEY MA (RCA)
The plaster carved reliefs echo Indian temple carving although being informed by early Greek bas reliefs are carved in builders finishing plaster and waxed. The paintings, discovered in the making are glimpses into the Artists unconscious and bring to mind early icons. They are suffused with jewel like colour and lyrical light, sometimes Influenced by Durdey`s work in specialist decoration .Vessels and fruits in abundance, symbols of fecundity. imbued with human presence.
Since leaving the Royal College of Art in 1982 he has travelled widely and held nine one person shows, two in India, from 1992 he has worked in specialist decoration, as part of a team, for the interior designer John Stefanidis on projects in USA France, Turkey, Greece, Kuwait, and the UK as well as many individual projects locally
1975-1978 Wimbledon School of Art BA (Hons)
1979-1982 Royal College of Art, painting school MA (RCA)
1983-1985 Travels in India, China, Thailand, Australia, USA
1992-1996 Visiting Lecturer, Bedford College
1992-2016 Specialist Decoration, USA, France,Italy Turkey, Greece, Kuwait,Dubai UK.
1983 Christies Inaugural pick of Graduate Art
1983 Royal Academy of Art Summer Show
1984 Hayward Gallery Annual Drawing
1985 Cleveland Drawing Biennale
1986 Benjamin Rhodes Gallery London
1988 Benjamin Rhodes Gallery London
1989 Milton Keynes Gallery
1991 Pundole Gallery Mumbai India
1991 LTG Gallery New Delhi India
1993 Benjamin Rhodes Gallery London
1996 Leicester Royal Infirmary
1998 Summer Show Royal Academy of Art
1996-2002 Silbury Group Milton Keynes
2006 The Print Factory Milton Keynes
2007 The Print Factory Milton Keynes
2008 Caxton Contemporary
2009 Bedford Street Gallery
2009 Caxton Contemporary
2010 Bedford Street Gallery
2012 Creative City Milton Keynes
2012 Suzie Zamit and Edward Durdey Bedford Street Gallery
2013 RCA Secret Royal College of ART
2014 Print Factory Milton Keynes
2015 Move to Manor Farm Studio
2015 Group Show Suttons & Robertsons Bristol
2016 RCA Secret Royal College of Art
2017 Manor Farm Studios
2019 MK Open
2019 Woburn Mosaic Gallery
2020 MK Calling - MK Gallery
2021 Bath Society of Artists - 116th Annual Open Exhibition
Few people would characterise British society in the late twentieth century as deeply spiritual. We consume, maybe we feel a twinge of guilt; and then we go back, to consume again. On the whole we run the risk of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. Following the trend, art either positions itself well and truly in the marketplace or addresses a political issue of rights and liberties in which the message is more important than the medium.
So when Edward Durdey draws aside a curtain, opens the shutters, or leads us up a staircase into the world his art represents, we stand naked and silent, scouring our memories for a point of reference. Indeed memory is the faculty most stimulated by Edward Durdey's images. We have entered the landscapes of half remembered dreams; places where, psychologists would say, primal instincts and preoccupations once more come to the surface.
A veil rises, a door swings open, and we feel we might be about to participate in some arcane ritual, or witness the enactment of a myth. Amidst the ancient temples, flaring torches and flowering trees something elemental is going to happen. It may be as simple as drawing water at a well, or as mysterious as a man transforming into a tree. No ultimate interpretation is remotely possible. All one can say is that Edward Durdey's work reminds us that beyond the material world lies the life of the spirit, and the mystery of existence.
Edward Durdey employs a range of media each of which brings something different to his chosen themes.
The monoprints, each is an entirely unique impression, are the most spontaneous. The range of moods is wide, from the dark and brooding Tree Spirit, to the light, almost ecstatic Earth Vessel. Often produced on the spot at the source of inspiration, they are fleeting glimpses into the artist's subconscious.
The plaster reliefs and sculptural works are obviously much more laborious in their production. Handling the material still leads the artist to intuitive actions although the end result is more likely to be an image of an architectural nature. The large relief Interior is a characteristic example of a clearly constructed space. Human activity is implied by the abandoned towel and ewer; as if the ritual ablutions have just taken place. These works often appear like fragments from a shrine or temple bearing symbols of the cult.
The oil paintings come across as the most deeply considered works; the painting process itself demanding work over an extended period. Here the mysteries of a spiritual world are most vividly detailed. For instance in the painting Hearth where the array of pipes, lamps and strangely wrought vessels are suffused in warm light from the column of dense, glowing smoke. Surface textures and patterns are reproduced with ingenuity and wit. The colours are like those found in minerals in nature, then baked in the equatorial sun. The brown, gold, white and blue, like the elements earth, fire, air and water, are an integral part of Edward Durdey's vision of symbols and transformations.
It is this happy union of medium and handling with image and spiritual content which makes Edward Durdey's work both a gratifying artistic experience and a beguiling invitation to a few moments of self examination.
Peter Laws 1989
Milton Keynes Exhibition Gallery.
EDWARD DURDEY : RIDING A BRUSHSTROKE
In Riding a Brushstroke, one of a series of monotypes made during an extended tour of India in 1987, Edward Durdey shows a figure balancing upon an uncoiling, squiggly line. He (unless it is a she), appears crouched, attentive to every shift under his feet, slowly, gingerly coming up straight, like a surfer on the crest of a new wave, or a bareback rider at the circus. But this line or brushstroke is far more unpredictable than any horse or wave: it wriggles and squirms as though likely any moment to relapse into the inchoate mass it came from. Do we see it as a snake or serpent, an age old emblem of wisdom, of the canny, of the not human? We may recall the slim athlete who is poised so silently and elegantly on the ball in Picasso's great early painting of the circus, but this figure is not so confident: he will not, we sense, bounce off his mount, somersaulting through the air, and, smiling, bow to the audience. He stares down at the head, if it is a head, of the thing in deepest concentration. Riding the brushstroke is not a placid matter to be repeated at will, but an adventure, a one off; each stroke will have its own character, its especial and particular difficulties and potentialities. His arms are not outstretched like the tightrope walker's, but extended in that twenty to ten position of the orator. Even as he rides this most recalcitrant of gestures he seems to be preparing to speak. But, we may at this point recall, the brushstroke is no more than a few inches long, the little fellow if he stretched out straight would only be seven inches high. Just as with Calder's circus, he inhabits a separate and smaller world that ours. Should we look more closely we see he is even more insubstantial than the brushstroke, as likely to dissolve as a castle espied in the shape of a cloud.
To so tease out the implications of an apparently simple image serves well to remind us that Durdey's work is not as straightforward as it might initially seem: it is not about calmness, but about attaining a state of calmness. Born in Stoke on Trent and largely brought up in Hong Kong he has lived, since leaving the Royal College of Art in 1982 and travelling around the world, on the Woburn estate, in relative isolation. It is significant that he has made a living through selling painting and doing assorted design jobs: he sees his work as a natural extension of his personality, not a calculated intervention into the issues and fashions of the "Art Scene". He is very much someone who believes in and enjoys the physical activities of making art: hence the monoprints and the recent series of plaster reliefs. The art is in the doing.
IN THE PLASTER RELIEF WELL:
"And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up." (Genesis, XXIV, 16).
In such manner is found Rebecca, Isaac's wife to be. Wells are sacred places in the world of the Old Testament. They are places of fruition; sites where the internecine struggles of the desert must cease. (It is the age rather than biblical pedigree of these references that is important: Jung with his concept of the anima is the specific influence on Durdey in his use of symbolism.) Millennia before Freud, we find the implicit sexuality of the imagery of the well made explicit: A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Awake, o north wind: and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits, (Solomon's Song, IV, 14, 15.) Fruitful boughs, enclosed gardens, pitchers to be filled, a gentle air of expectancy: Durdey's plaster relief has all these things. As is often the case his work enlist a whole history of metaphor and allusion. The works are without irony. Perhaps at times a wry humour, but without irony, even against irony. It is a matter of stating. Presenting. As of saying, 'pitcher', 'tree', 'water', 'well'. The pastoral resonance of the image may disguise the frankness of presentation, which is a little like Bresson's or Morandi's. The poetry is in the objects. As these reliefs make clear Durdey's art aspires not to music or literature, but rather to architecture: the altar frontal of Bodhi Tree, the monolithic Music Box, Altar, Arch, Stairway. As architecture they hint at some of the graver landscape architecture of the eighteenth century: Hawksmoor's Mausoleum, the temples at Riveaulx Terrace, the Pyramid at Blickling. These structures are, when chanced upon, initially surprising, but gradually one becomes aware of a sense of propriety, of rightness. As objects emplaced in the landscape they change one's perception of that landscape. Like their post modern progeny Rossi's 'Theatre of the World' they encompass and are separate from their environment. The largest of Durdey's reliefs, Stairway, is prototypical: through the stairway is the entrance to a transformed or fictive world: a monument here is the entry point to a different world or view of the world. The most architectonic work here is a drawing in which an overtly sexual vase (Durdey's imagery is persistently feminine) is backed by two severe black forms which look a little like wrought iron thrones. Such an austere work is appropriate reminder that the paintings and reliefs are conceived as visual artefacts before they gather literary or mythical allusions.
26 x 20 x 3.5 ins / 66.1 x 50.8 x 8.9 cms
They are visions of little dells, and nooks, and corners of Paradise: models of the exquisitest pitch of intense poetry... There is in all such a mystic and dreamy glimmer as penetrates and kindles the innermost soul, and gives complete and unreserved delight, unlike the gaudy daylight of this world.
So Samuel Palmer described William Blake's illustrations to Thornton's Virgil, a key influence on Palmer's work, and in this century on neo romanticism. It is obvious that in such works as Waterwheel with its setting sun, its bowed tree and slowly flowing water Durdey is close to this tradition, but there are important differences. Unlike Palmer or Cecil Collins there is not an unworldly, or even antiworldly vision: partly through the interest in Indian culture with its earthiness and heavily material forms of worship. These works remain very much in the everyday world: they are not paintings about calmness or some pastoral 'nirvana' but about questioning such possibilities. One danger in the pastoral today is that it can collapse so easily into Laura Ashley platitudes: the very concept of the pastoral has been vitiated by its uses in advertising and commercial marketing. Could Claude Lorraine have painted so in the age of 'Country Living'? There is always a strangeness to Durdey's 'pastorals' that keeps them as art: a play with representations, mirrors, windows; with abstract marks that defy local colouring or the requirements of modelling. (Witness the marks on the vase in Unveiling.) In the paintings the juxtaposition of objects verges on the surreal: a light shines from a broken amphora, fish sail by, leaf sprouting bell pulls hang down into the water.
If the reliefs generally suggest the pastoral, albeit one unusually filled by man made objects the large paintings look more like settings for dramas: in Unveiling it is almost as if a curtain had been pulled back from the stage. Windows, doorways and mirrors are ever present to reiterate the painting's role as a point of entry, of transformation. What the drama is that has been enacted or is about to be enacted is uncertain, but that it has some sacramental or ritual element is probable.
If the reliefs suggest the pastoral and the paintings suggest stage sets, the monotypes are like pages of a diary: observations and meetings, recollections and speculations. In his travels around India he does indeed use the monotype as a way of making a diary: hence the presence, so noticeably absent elsewhere, of human figures. There are two dangers in making art of India, or of visiting India: firstly of making tourist exotica; secondly of making easy assumptions that all things Indian are inherently spiritual and lapsing into lotus blossom hokus pocus mysticism. Both these Durdey avoids: the great liege of Indian culture is that the spiritual and material are not rigorously separated. Even if this world is but illusion (Maya), it is not sinful, we must live in it, ceremony and devotion (bhakti) are a physical matter: a symbol is an object
Ultimately words keep missing what is especial about Durdey's work: in moods it is particularly wordless, silent. There is an equanimity to it which is to be treasured. There is much else to admire: the gravitas of his architectonics the virtuosity of his drawing, the poetry of the objects he makes and represents. In an age of doubt, cynicism and proliferating complexities it is reassuring to find an artist who speaks at once clearly, and optimistically, whilst preserving both sincerity and visual sophistication.
© Tony Godfrey