Bill Pullen exhibition and artist’s talk

By Millie Page, 6.2

Painting with eggs may seem unorthodox at first, but it is actually a sacred art practiced by icon painters for centuries in Europe, Asia and Africa. Last Wednesday, Bedales’ Art Department was fortunate enough to host William Pullen who demonstrated this extremely niche and traditional medium to a small group of onlookers.

Firstly, he took us through the act of how to pick up a new material. When a different medium is used the mind-set changes, which Pullen explains, is important, because as artists we must “accept and embrace change of all aspects”.

The artist himself often feels the need to ‘swap between’ different methods to avoid the artist equivalent of writer’s block, and has created everything from work in watercolour to sketches in silverpoint. On the latter art, there is no going first time the pure silver tool touches the paper, especially imbibed with chemicals to ensure a permanent mark. This creates beauty in that it is possible to see the sketcher’s first vision of the subject as they put point to paper superimposed with the finishing finite detail.

This is the polar opposite to watercolour, which are executed within minutes, and being able to switch from one of the other is a wonderful and liberating thing.

Then it came to the tempera.

This is where the sense of time held tradition is the most obvious, among powdered, occasionally toxic pigment pots and jars of rabbit skin glue, the artist opened a box of eggs (bought in a rush from Bedales Outdoor Work) and began to show us a process left almost untouched for hundreds of years.

The talk was a mix of technique and art history as well as personal experience and approach. Tempera is a troublesome and time consuming painting method, of which little was known until the 1950s when societies of curious artists developed recipes through experiment and pouring over Cenini’s original tempera handbook from the 1500s.

Gradually a small niche group of contemporary artists began to use the forgotten medium once again. As someone who is interested in using the material myself, the talk was informative for many reasons. For one, I had seriously underestimated the time it takes to paint even one painting using egg yolk emulsion as a binder. To paint something detailed it would take me weeks, or months of dedicated time!

This is possibly the reason that it has been used in past religious art, such lengthy amounts of time (not to mention the costs of the pigments) and attention to detail could be consecrated only for something believed to be truly sacred.

This is where Bill breaks the cycle. His content is virgin of the familiar coy Madonna and her child, and is free from the gold leaf and sense of grandiosity. The fruits of his labour are highly detailed, hyperrealist still lives and luminous landscapes, with the seemingly glowing quality of the tempera working to his advantage. Instead of painting massive spiritual portrait, the artist chooses instead to accurately accentuate the natural dreamlike atmosphere that lives within a landscape.

A small painting in the current exhibition is proof of this. This is another point: the constraints of tempera do not force you to follow the majority of tempera art and painting inherently religious or detailed work.

You can choose to paint in whatever way you want as long as you feel the material is a guide to the quality you want in the final product.

Indeed, the chicken did probably not expect its egg to be part of a masterpiece of cross-hatched lines of warm and cool colours, so why should the artist feel anymore obliged to paint what the observer expects. Art is unpredictable and should be a breeding ground for new ideas, for which old materials could be used.

Overall, the quasi-performance was both inspiring and intriguing, showing how a paint can behave in a completely different way to expecting, with colours becoming brighter when the opposite tone is used as an undercoat. It was also a very intimate thing; painting in tempera is a process of pure creativity from the moment the egg is hatched to the last brush stroke, and it is a blessing that art made in this way can be admired for a thousand years.

Leading lights give inspirational jewellery talk

By Veryan Vere Hodge, Head of Development

The Design Hub in the new Art & Design building was packed with students, Old Bedalians, present and past parents on 9 November to hear the life stories of jewellery experts Joanna Hardy (OB 1974-78) and Shaun Leane.

_dsc6901-cropJoanna talked of starting her jewellery-making life in the Bedales workshop with the help of teacher Martin Box, then becoming a diamond grader and a leading trader in the diamond industry.  She was hungry to learn and even though she was a young woman in a completely male dominated industry at that time, her gender soon became irrelevant.  She was respected for her knowledge and quickly realised that knowledge meant power, which no one could take that away from her.  She further inspired with tales of her extensive travels and going down mines all over the world, her incredible detailed knowledge of gemmology, and her experiences working for Phillips and Sotheby’s. She admitted she was terrified the first time she stood on the rostrum, but that she knew she had to put herself out of her comfort zone to keep developing. Joanna is now an Independent Fine Jewellery Specialist and her application to join the BBC Antiques Roadshow consisted of an email with a photo attached of her on her Harley Davidson motorbike – a good way to ‘stand out from the crowd’.

_dsc6869-cropShaun Leane then took to the floor and explained that he had been a restless child and a little bit naughty, but he found his path when at just 14, his school’s careers advisor helped him onto a foundation course and from there he went on to do a seven year apprenticeship as a goldsmith in Hatton Garden.  The fine examples of his early works were astonishing but it was his friendship with Alexander McQueen (known to him as Lee) that enabled him to put the traditional skills he had learnt to new mediums and push the boundaries of fashion.  His skeleton corset has become an iconic piece, showcased in museums all over the world.

He also talked of his honour to design a piece for Boucheron’s 150th anniversary.  The audience audibly gasped at the beauty of his ‘Queen of the Night’ piece as they did for his gauntlet ‘Contra Mundum’ made in collaboration with Daphne Guinness, which had taken four years to make and had pushed the boundaries of what was technically possible.   He now has his own Shaun Leane collection, inspired by his catwalk pieces and he continues to push the boundaries, working his designs onto buildings.  Both speakers had clearly worked hard during their careers, and this drive was evident in their complete passion for their subject matter.  The talk raised £800 for the John Badley Foundation and huge thanks goes to Joanna and Shaun, and also the BPA Fundraising Committee and Design department.

Find out more about Joanna Hardy here.
Find out more about Shaun Leane here.

Showcase of Bedalian talent in art auction

bedales painting

A host of some of the most famous names from the world of art have donated exclusive works to Bedales, for an online auction to be hosted by Paddle8. The two week auction to go live on 11 November, will be a celebration of paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture and jewellery, many of which have been donated by artist OBs and parents.  All funds raised will go towards the new Art & Design building and a 100% Arts Bursary Scheme for Sixth Form.  Please come to a private view featuring a selection of the works on Friday 7 November, the Orchard Building, 6-8pm.  The exhibition will also be open on Saturday 8 November 12pm-2pm.  Image ‘River Avon / May / 7pm’, Egg Tempera on Gesso Panel, Rupert Muldoon, OB.

Here is a preview list of artists:

Slim Aarons

Sarah Armstrong-Jones, OB

Solange Azagury-Partridge

Charming Baker

Erwin Blumenfeld

Helaine Blumenfeld

David A. Burrows

Stanley Chow

Danielle Colucci

Sir Terence Conran

Lydia Corbett

Alexander Creswell

Dido Crosby, OB

Arabella Dorman, OB

Tracey Emin

Shepard Fairey

Patricia Field

Barry Flanagan

Murray Garrett

Luey Graves, OB

Stefan Hirsig

Ivon Hitchens

Derek Hudson

Gary Hume

Getty Images

Bill Jacklin

Alison Jackson

Nick Knight

Chris Levine

Toni Martina

Bruce McLean

Donna McLean

Graeme Messer, OB

Jacqueline Mina

Miraphora Mina

Michael Minas

Rupert Muldoon, OB

Nina Murdoch, OB

Bethany Murray, OB

James Napier, OB

Charlotte Olympia and Boyarde Messenger, OB

Steuart Padwick, OB

Sarah Raphael, OB

Gary Scott

Jo Scott

Georgia Glynn Smith, OB

Kate Teale, OB

Vivien Zhang

Frank Worth

Jonathan Yeo

…plus more to be announced.


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.