COLIN ORCHARD Jane's Studio_ _ for NC homepage

Of the many tools at an artist’s disposal, strength of composition must surely be the most important. Without first class composition, even the most skilfully painted canvas, or powerfully constructed sculpture will fail to reach its full potential, and interestingly, any artwork can be pared down to the bare minimum providing its composition remains flawless. (See Donald Judd and other leading minimalists for irrefutable evidence of this!)

This October our Colin Orchard exhibition, which celebrates the artist’s 80th birthday, is a masterclass in compositional punch. And that’s no surprise: Colin spent much of his career as a layout artist for The Times newspaper, and was later Art Director for Letraset International, so clarity of composition and slick, suspenseful use of space are in his creative DNA.

Colin will also tell you that he has a preference for square format works, since the purity of the square maximises compositional power. In his work, less is more – so much more – than you will see in the work of his contemporaries. Subject, which in this collection includes landscapes and scenes of women in studio interiors, is irrelevant to compositional considerations. Composition is an art form all of its own.

But what if your artwork area is not as large, your format not as flexible as the endless range of dimensions afforded by canvas? What if exquisite detail and fine craftsmanship need to be contained within the edges of a tiny box? Or in a piece small enough to pin to your lapel?

Alongside Colin’s work this month, you can see a towering talent for miniature composition in the beautiful work of jeweller and metalsmith Cornelius Jakob Van Dop. Each of Van Dop’s works is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, yet within every piece you will see a perfect balance of space and subject. Each of his works, either by way of detail or, in the case of his single entity brooches, by omission, tells a story of wild nature, moonlit nights and our countryside’s rich abundance of small creatures.

Bee and butterfly brooches rest lightly in perfect equilibrium, and boxes detailed with wide fields full of summer flowers and buzzing insects are as focused and composed as any painting.

Colin Orchard at 80, with Cornelius Jakob Van Dop is on show from 10th to 31st October.

Images – Top: Jane’s Studio, oil on board, Colin Orchard | Bottom: Moths and Crescent Moon, Cornelius Jakob Van Dop