Reviews of
Cally Trench's
first solo exhibition

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Reviews and Responses

Portrait of Dr Caroline M Fraser

Cally Trench
Portrait of Dr Caroline M Fraser (1983)
Chinese watercolour and gouache on paper
72 x 50 cm Private collection


Born thirty-one years ago 'in a London suburb' the fascinatingly named Cally Le Poer Trench read Chemistry here in Oxford before turning to employment in the Civil Service for three years in London and Hong Kong. At this point she made the decision to leave the security of an assured job and paint full time. Her gamble seems likely to pay off. Her work is large, bold and humorously truthfiul. From the squeezed toothpaste tube and bathtaps of 'Bathroom' to the billowing lines and unshaven legs of 'CND Lady' her work has the confidence and wit too often lacking in the self-conscious world of modern art.

The exhibition also includes two commissioned portraits of of a more formal nature, landscapes which explore the effects of light and weather, three trompe l'oeil paintings, and various others. Acrylics are a much favoured medium, either on wood or canvas. This is her first exhibition and all but four of the paintings are for sale, ranging in price from £80-£350.

Elizabeth Tom, 1985

Exhibition of paintings by Cally Le Poer Trench at the Vaughan Exhibition Room, Somerville College until 17th May, open 10am-6pm.

Originally published in Oxon Magazine, Issue 31, May 10-23 1985, page28.

Cally Trench

Cally Le Poer Trench, a former Wadham student, is showing 20 paintings in the Vaughan Exhibition Room, Somerville College, until May 17. From reading chemistry, then being a civil servant in Hong Kong, she became a full-time painter four years ago and shows small representational, meticulous pictures to suit those who like hard-edged clarity.

The subjects are everday and familiar: "Rainy day on a bus to Aylesbury", "Door and Wardrobe". But this is not the kitchen sink vision of the fifties. The artist uses acrylic and gouache in flat hard planes immaculately presented, except where she has used pastel; here, perhaps, the mixture of the media is not too happy.

She has plenty of ideas and it will be interesting to see how she develops them in the future, whether with greater imaginative freedom from the subject matter she chooses demands, or continuing with the hard-edge trompe l'oeil painting as practised by certain surrealist painters. "Bookcase" invites us to read the titles, which in themselves are typically acceptable - and here may be the strength. The portraits exhibited are flat caricatures showing none of the romanticism that is often the portrait painter's weakness; "CND Lady" is certainly very well designed.

If the artist's commitment to such normality could relax and widen, she will present us with a fascinating point of view.

CT (Clova Tudor), 1985

Originally published in Oxford Times, 10th May 1985.

Kitchen Shelf

Cally Trench, Kitchen Shelf (1985)
Acrylic on wood, 18 x 30 inches
Private collection

Cally le Poer Trench

Cally le Poer Trench first realised her talent with a paintbrush was worth something at 17 when she started swapping paintings for bottles of scotch.

Curiously, it never occurred to her that she might earn her living as an artist, though towards the end of her four years at Oxford reading Chemistry her tutor complained that she spent more time painting than she did writing essays.

But it was as a civil servant that she tried to carve out a career, working first in the narcotics division at the Home Office, then in Hong Kong.

... Friends were clamouring for pictures to decorate their walls. And in the end she decided being able to paint was preferable to a secure job.

In 1981 she returned to Oxford and she has since managed to keep body and soul together by selling the odd painting, undertaking commissions and doing the occasional part-time job.

In the last year she has finally decided to try to make a name for herself - "I should feel awful if I reached the age of 80 and I'd never tried" - and for the next two weeks is holding her first exhibition at the Vaughan Exhibition Room, Somerville College.

Among the 20 paintings are a couple of commissioned portraits, a number of gouaches on everday themes like the view you get of your feet and the taps in the bath, and the alarm on the bedside table when you wake up in the morning.

Three trompe l'oeil paintingslook so lifelike that they make you want to take the bottle of sauce or the book from the shelf, and there are a number of studies of the way light and weather change in the urban and rural landscapes.

The canvases likely to attract most attention are her three studies in acrylic of contemporary types.

... She is toying with the idea of compiling a complete exhibition of Types if her paintings sell well at Somerville. They range from £80 to £350 - or as she says with a wry smile: "rather a lot of bottles of scotch".

(Don Chapman), 1985

Originally published in Oxford Mail , 3rd May 1985.

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