The Art of Haidee-Jo Summers
Recounting an experience.
How I came to write this page.
My first acquaintance with Haidee-Jo's art.
Some reflections.
How I came to write this page.
Naive Art Criticism

I have never before written about art. Not at least "Art" (the visual) rather than other arts or "The Arts". Nor had it occurred to me that I might; that I have anything to say about the works of particular artists that might be of interest.

This with good cause, for I have neither done it nor studied it (in any earnest), so I am well disqualified from speaking.

That I embark on this improbable enterprise does not mark a change in any of these disqualifications, or even despite it all, that I have something to say which lovers of art will find to be interesting (though I don't rule that out).

It is more from compulsion that conviction that I now embark on this modest piece of, what might be called, naîve art criticism.

Great Art

I visited the artists "cottage studio" in the expectation of being at best pleasantly impressed (as is my usual fate on these occasions), and found myself thinking as if I were in the face of great art in my backyard. I don't imagine myself qualified to judge whether art is "great" or not (not that I am convinced anyone else is), so I am not here to tell you that Haidee-Jo is a new Picasso.

Still, I'm going to talk as if she were, for that is how I found myself thinking, and it is my purpose here not to tell you the truth about Haidee-Jo's art, but to tell you the truth about how and what it made me feel and think.


I suppose I should confess that beyond the compulsion, perhaps contributing to it, I have an interest in something I call (mostly just to myself) "expressionism", tenuously connected with artistic movements using that word, but spanning all the arts and philosophy, and life. Haidee-Jo's art I took to be expressionist in this very general sense, and talking about it gives another perspective and perhaps another toe hold on these tenuous ideas.

But there is something else. The work, the artist, between them, somehow, impressed themselves upon me in ways which I do not understand. This is some token of that impression. An attempt to understand it, and a gesture of appreciation, for what she has given in her work.

Visiting the Studio
My first acquaintance with Haidee-Jo's art.
The Cottage

One weekend not so long ago in Lincolnshire, a number of local artists opened their studios as part of an enterprise entitled "Art on the Map". Having been out to support our grandson's football team, my wife and I took in a couple of studios on our way home.

The second was Haidee-Jo's in the small Lincolnshire village of Fulbeck. Toad Hall is a tiny cottage which makes the traditional "two-up two-down" terraced house seem palatial.

It is one-and-half up and down, for there are just two rooms at about 9 feet square, (one up one down) and some more space which might be 9 by 6. The two larger rooms were galleries, the smaller space on the ground floor was both lobby and what passed for a kitchen. upstairs this must have been in two parts, for I recall at the front the room which was presented as a studio, at about 6 foot square, and I imagine the remaining space may have been a tiny bathroom.

The Art

The exhibition was of course mainly housed in the two largest rooms, one up, one down. As a casual observer of art, I usually move through a gallery expeditiously, and I have no recollection at all of what I felt about the first of the two "large" rooms, though it must have set my temper for appreciating the works to follow.


In the upstairs room, my attention was immediately seized by the largest piece in the exhibition, of a woman standing in front of a field of sunflowers. The painting, perhaps 3x4 feet, dominates one wall of this tiny gallery (I think there may have been two doors in the wall). Sunflowers naturally bring Van Gogh into mind, and the manner of their presentation was, if not a mimic of Van Gogh, at least in the spirit, speaking confidently out from the canvas.

My eye was drawn quickly from the sunflowers to the woman, particularly to the arm. held horizontally across her waist. It stood out from the canvas. My eyes are not so good, not dreadful but well below average, and I am looking at the arm trying to decide if it really is in relief. I have to move closer to the canvas to settle the matter and establish that the canvas really is flat.

This too we know from Van Gogh, most conspicuous in the exaggerated perspective of his wicker chair. But I never found in Van Gogh the same sense that the objects in the painting really were jumping out of the page, (perhaps I have seen these paintings to often in books rather than in the flesh), perhaps Van Gogh's exaggerations go beyond what the eye can credit, nonetheless to good expressive effect.

In Haidee-Jo's painting of the sunflower field the effect is too local, it draws the eye too forcibly to the forearm of the woman, a place where it only belongs because of this impressive technical effect.

The Window

I am now I think, becoming more seriously engaged, and as I survey the paintings on the opposite wall of the room I am aware that I am peering closely (my eyes) and at uncharacteristic length.

The largest and most impressive of these is a view from a house into a garden. The window through which we see the garden benefits from the same technique, the window sill standing out from the canvas. This feature extends across the larger part of the canvas, sloping up and away, and the effect is better balanced than in the sunflower field.

The other more pervasive effect which suffuses the picture comes from the colours, with which the picture glows. If this follows Van Gogh in being a work of expression, it is a far cry from the turbulence we often find there; it expresses something sublime, glowing beyond contentment.

Can art be as great when it flows from peace as from torment?

Great Art

Oh, dear. That word again. And who am I?

I am reaching the end of my uncharacteristically intense examination of the paintings on the wall opposite to the sunflowers. On the left, high up, a small abstract in which colours must to all the work. And I realise that I am thinking about these pieces in just the way I would when passing in a national gallery through the parts which I love the best. I am feeling, this is as good as it gets, my appreciation in this medium knows no better.

The Portrait

Just one more painting to mention. We are now out of the main rooms in a smaller room at the front which is presented as the artists studio, with a work table sporting the accoutrements of an artist, and works in progress.

On the floor, unframed, leaning against the wall is a self-portrait of Haidee-Jo, which I have subsequently christened to myself "La Demoiselle de Fulbeck". It is at once realistic, and surreal. Words fail me. I long to have it. There is no price.

Demoiselle D'Avignon

Almost involuntarily I have called Haidee-Jo's self-portrait "La Demoiselle", though she is not.

It reminds me of, Picasso's seminal work which lead the way into Cubism. It strikes me in the same way, as leading from an expressionism in which colour and perspective are the vehicles, into a more integrated expressionistic style.

Picasso's transition under the influence of Cezanne, and of his then recent exposure to African art, took art from the expressionism of fauvism into something more abstract and more intellectual and more?

Some reflections.

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