The Reading Room

Paintings by Rod Harman and Jon Cole. Sculpture by Christina Keep at 12 Claremont, Hastings

Jon referred to this exhibition as Rod's reading room. Jon delighted in Rod's watercolour paintings and Christina's raggedy doll like forms. He bought me one of Rod's paintings which has the sun painted in all its various positions from dawn to sunset. It is a profound painting and one that I will always be very happy to live with and am very grateful for. Jon exhibited Brown Clown on the wall above the stairs just outside Rod and Christina's work in the Pine Gallery. This to me is so typical of Jon, that he would emphasise the work of others and be less forthright about the positioning of his own. We spent a long afternoon together drinking tea with an occasional smoke whilst Rod and Jon spoke animatedly about their shared love of Wittgenstein. Jon had based Brown clown on a picture he had found in a child's colouring in book. He had worked on individual sections of the deconstructed clown and then re-aligned each piece to form the whole irregular composition. Jon not only loved jigsaws as a child, he was brilliant at them and it was a regular challenge to work together to complete a 500 or 1000 piecer upside down (brown side up). If you look at Brown Clown, neither the individual pieces or the clear lines of the human clown form line up with each other. Perhaps there is a reference to Picasso's 'demoiselles' or even to Picasso himself with those huge mischievous but sad brown eyes and painted now so that they are staring and disconnected. Brown clown resonates in many ways but it will always remind me of Jon's playful tendency to try out a novel and unexpected approach to all that he did.

Philip Cole

Here are Rod's words about the exhibition


‘Perhaps what is inexpressible (what I find mysterious and am not able to express) is the background against which whatever I could express has its meaning’ Ludwig Wittgenstein.

This is not only beautiful but challenging, and close to my ‘experience subject matter’; taking Holy Communion.

As I was painting in the Pyrenees last summer (mountainous regions make you rethink roads and directions) I was also reading Jean Genet’s (novelist and playwright) Prisoner of Love. This sentence cornered my mind ‘If you put back the fourth wall of the stage the characters become people’. When I’m painting I am theatrical, illustrative, use props, stage directions, actors, lighting and see them as plays. Some are flops, some run, but it’s not the end of the world (this is to come). I say this because as a tourist with ‘one leg to stand on’ I try to visit and stand under the ‘Last Judgements’ of this region – the awesome Romanesque works of Christ, face to face.

It was on a drive into Spain to revisit Ripolls rampant Last Judgement that I stopped to ‘take in’ a 13th\14th Century wooden life size Deposition, (the strange horror and blessing of nosiness). It was a Holy day and Mass was under way in for me a foreign tongue (speaking tongues).

From the back I glimpsed, past the raised hands of the priest consecrating the Host, the carving. I put my hand out for the Host ; under it an attendant passed a beautiful patina, (O Sacred Spirit who didst brood). Swallowing I turned, following an elderly couple. They shuffled behind the altar to the foot of the Deposition. They reached up, held Christ’s feet and spoke to him – a conversation. For these moments I ‘audienced ‘ myself , kissed his feet and made a vow to ‘homework’, my painting – to learn to digest Christ, paint and paper. The truth is I didn’t know where to look.

Homework. An assemblage of Eucharist (still life).

Mass (an appointment, structures of altars, stage, table. In attendance man and woman – us, me. The movements of breaking, swallowing, morsels, liquids, `Remembrance, partaking – enzymes of thought, a sort of reverse Chinese chopsticks, invisible things. Stage directions – enter the Host stage centre. Work.1 An occurrence inside.


— Jon Cole