IT was gratifying to be publicly thanked for buying the Young Gallery a painting by John Piper, unveiled last week.

Not thanked by name, as it happens, but as one of the 110,000 members of the Art Fund who stumped up the money.

The gallery acquired the work through auctioneers Christie’s for £25,000 according to its website, and as the painting belongs to a series of Piper’s best works, it seems good value.

Maen Bras (big stone and rain) depicts a wild scene in the mountains of Snowdonia.

The media of ink, watercolour and gouache have been energetically applied by an artist clearly immersed in the landscape.

John Piper is an important artist because he has the ability to imbue his work with a sense of spirituality. He also embodies something of the British character.

He painted a lot of churches, but the spirituality I mean is more secular, and quite unsentimental.

In the pictures made in Snowdonia his relationship with the landscape is pantheist.

“Each rock lying in the grass had a positive personality’, said Piper of the Maen Bras scene, ‘for the first time I saw the bones and the structure and the lie of the mountains, living with them and climbing them as I was, lying on them in the sun and getting soaked with rain in their cloud cover and enclosed in their improbable, private rock world in fog.”

Contemporary artists who work in a similar manner often find favour with me.

Painters such as David Risk Kennard and Richard Hoare seem to be working in the same tradition and to similar effect.

Maen Bras forms the centrepiece of the latest show at the Young Gallery, featuring mainly landscape work from its permanent collection.

It’s well worth a visit, particularly for works by Risk Kennard, Alan Davie, Eric Gill, and a Maureen Davies from her recent show.

Paradoxically, I also like a John Jessop Hardwick from the opposite end of the artistic spectrum to Piper.

It depicts a bird’s nest, is Victorian, sentimental and precious.

As a photographer, I have some doubts about the photographs by Mick Maslen.

Remember when pictures of doors with flaking paint were all the rage?

I really don’t see how these fit in with the rest of the show.

At the opening last week both Sir Christopher Benson, who unveiled the Piper, and Young Friends chairman Paul Whitehead made pleas for a new building for the Young Gallery.

Interesting that The Arts Council recently published figures claiming the Turner Contemporary in Margate added £14 million to the local economy in its first year.

Martin Urmson

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