One of the joys of walking around London, especially in Mayfair with all its art galleries, is that you sometimes see something that takes you by surprise and draws you in. So it was with the Bowman Gallery this week, as I walked up Duke Street, probably named in honour of James, Duke of York, later James II and, in the 17th and 18th century, was an exclusive residential area.
No. 6 Duke Street was redeveloped in 1922 by the Clerical, Medical and General Life Assurance Society to designs by W. Curtis Green and Partners with retail/gallery outlets on the ground floor and offices above.
Bowman Sculpture, which now occupies the gallery space at No 5, specialises in sculpture from the 1860′s onwards and often has looked quite traditional as I have walked past. However, last week there was something different. I not only stopped, I had to enter and investigate the flowing, swirling work of Montreal-born Paul de Monchaux, who now lives and works in London. And, another plus, I’ve also discovered another gallery, Morgan Piper who, in perhaps a reflection of the modern times, does not have a permanent space but organise pop-ups in other gallery spaces in Mayfair and St James’ and is also a co-founder of the art trail, ‘The Line’ in Greenwich.
The reason I was drawn into the exhibition became obvious. ‘Volutes’ bridges architecture and sculpture. De Monchaux, who is now in his 80′s, takes his inspiration from the classical Grecian Ionic column which has curved volutes as its characteristic shapes and, since Vitruvius, has been considered to be the female order, with the more severe Doric being the male (though Vitruvius referred to the column itself as being more slender and therefore more feminine).
Over the years, his Volutes have become more free-flowing and curving as he has broken free of the constraints of the architectural capital to create vibrant, lively work, which has a life of its own.