Famous five escape the London art scene

IT says a lot about the entrenched thinking of the London art scene that the idea of five contemporary artists leaving the capital to show their work together – and in the North – is seen as surprising. Some might even say it's shocking.

Yet, when art writer and curator Nicholas Usherwood invited Royal Academicians Maurice Cockrill and Stephen Chambers to join a mixed show with fellow painters Lino Mannocci, Luke Elwes and Christopher P Wood at a gallery in Leeds, they jumped at the chance.

All were intrigued by the chance of reaching a new audience beyond the London galleries where they regularly have one-man shows.

"It would absolutely not have been possible to put this show on in London," says Usherwood, whose co-curator is Christopher P Wood, the Leeds-based artist who trained at Chelsea before returning to set up his studio in Yorkshire.

Despite being local, Wood's work has rarely been shown in his home city, yet it sells nationally and internationally through shows at Agnew's, in


Usherwood approached these particular artists for Five London Artists because he felt their work would at once be both complementary and have a common thread.

"They're all artists I've worked with over the years and admired, a wish list of painters whose painting is transformative.

"They all go where their painting leads them, rather than having grand ideas beforehand. They're also linked by a kind of poetic content, which is what I hope other people will see when they view the


"None of them have had a proper show in this city. It's a shame that Leeds has a fantastic tradition of modernism and contemporary painting, yet artists feel they should always have to take their work to London. Art doesn't just happen in London – the door swings both ways."

One of Usherwood's dislikes about some of the capital's great public galleries is the extensive labelling of paintings.

"They're telling you 'this is what it's about', and there's no arguing.

"While it's sometimes good to get a little steer about what an artist was thinking, I don't believe anyone should be given chapter and verse of what art is 'about'. Each one of us perceives it so differently to the next person."

Needless to say, there are only simple title labels on each of the paintings in this show.

Lino Mannocci uses a language of deeply textured wave formations, dry stony backdrops and impressionistic fairy creatures to take the beholder on a strange adventure in time.

These works evoke the feeling of cave paintings and ancient rites brought into daylight for the first time.

Maurice Cockrill, who is also Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools, is a

highly distinguished free-flowing painter who allows form to emerge out of his materials.

The paintings here are strongly rooted in landscape, with some crisp and rather menacing shapes and other, more indistinct and less provocative forms all in the same rectangle.

The more muted colours of years ago have been replaced by a more adventurous and colourful Cockrill in 2009.

Painter and traveller Luke Elwes roams isolated corners of the Earth that often have religious connotations, and comes back with haunting images that are both particular to one place but also have a universal quality.

They are meditations on life, place painting, everything. Paintings to get lost in.

Watermark, with its unfathomable depths, and tough uncompromising artchitectural block in crimson is memorably ferocious and challenging

to the eye and to the imagination.

Stephen Chambers's work is the most mathematical and structured in the show, creating mysterious tableaux out of everyday objects

such as ladders, jugs and flowers

Each item takes on a life of its own, and it's uncanny how his vision can be so measured yet stir up chaotic feelings.

Christopher P Wood reveals here some of a new series of paintings on poets, and his terrific colour sense blazes before us in The Poet and the Great Sea, with its Byronic character amid a primal landscape/ dreamscape, a ladder appearing to connect two different worlds.

The more you look, the more you see, and I defy anyone to live with this intriguing painting and not come up with a different narrative of

their own every day for at least a year.

Other works shown by Wood here place objects as symbols in indeterminate space (inside the mind?), with overtones of Dali very much in evidence but almost playfully developed.

One thread that runs through these five different painters' work is that of each embarking on an exciting uncharted journey; another is that they all rigorously (and successfully) plough their individual furrow unfazed by the narrow diktats of the London art scene and

what a handful of "names" tell us is of greatest value – artistic or otherwise.

Five London Artists is at Artco, 1, Meanwood Close, Leeds LS7 2JF

until November 7.

Information: 0113 262 0056 or at www.artco.co.uk