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John Tunnard Inner Space to Outer Space - Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, UK

From: Elsie Green
Date: 16 Mar 2010
Time: 02:42:23 -0600


John Tunnard, huh? I'm an artist and educator but I'd never heard of him. It turns out not many people have: googling, biographical details are scarce, and such books as exist are mostly out of print. I had a problem however: a long-booked saturday workshop for kids and an implicit promise to the gallery that I'd use the works on display. And Walter Sickert, bless him, is not great for 10 year-olds. I needn't have worried. Tunnard is a gift to KS2 and 3. His work is colourful, bright, and complex (in excecution at least). His themes - half creature, half machine forms - buildings - insects - and outer space provide great starting points for discussions about abstraction, representation, and personal imagery. Like all boys (and some girls) Tunnard has his obsessions, too - insects, architecture and the cosmos. The limitations of Surrealism are so often that images are too visceral for a young audience, being those of personal fantasy (there's something slightly embarrassing about Dali, for example). But that dosen't happen here. Tunnard's obsession with space travel, for example. or his interest in the detail of an insect's wing, offers all sorts of potential for discussion and development. For kids who still have reservations about subject matter, the works themselves are formally interesting. Complex compositions, thin paint over thick, scratches and scoring, etc may prompt discussions about Picasso, Braque and others, but also practical experiments with tecnique - how good to see them close up! This is the acceptable side of painterly abstraction for young people. http://www.pallant.org.uk/ (Elsie Green is an independant artist and educator. Her views and opinions have no connection with those of Pallant House.)