Welcome to the Gallery

Imagine is set in the Suffolk village of Long Melford.
This is an attempt to record the daily trials, tribulation and pleasure of running an art gallery.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

I must be one of the only people in the country that hasn't put pictures of snow on there blog,
well that's just about to change.
It did seem little point putting photographs on just to announce "we have snow", as at the moment it would be hard to find somewhere that hasn't any, well in this country at least.
It is strange to have it "white" so early [or late] in the year, but it does start to make sense of all the old fashioned Christmas cards that we are used to seeing.
"A white Christmas"?
Whatever next? "Peace to all mankind", somehow I doubt it.

So much as I was "itching" to take pictures in the snow I hadn't had a chance as I have been in the gallery with the heaters on full power, looking out at the winter landscape not being part of it.
That changed at the weekend.
The snow, while looking pretty is a mixed blessing. Yes, it looks very seasonal but it has put an end to Christmas shopping as so few people have been venturing out.
It has also caused some problems for us with travelling to the galleries, both here and to Irene's in Lavenham.
Neither are far away from home but with the country roads being unusable they might as well have been 50 miles away, as we were unable to leave home in a car.
However, there has been a growing list of frames to be made that has been slowly building up and I had decided that on Sunday I would go to Lavenham and get a few done.
They had to be done as people were expecting [with pictures] them to give as presents, so I decided that I would walk to the Lavenham gallery and get them done just in case conditions got worse.
The village of Lavenham is only three miles from our home and the journey shouldn't have taken too long but I decided to "speed" things up by walking cross country rather than taking the meandering lanes.
I wish that I hadn't, but I'm glad that I did.
The journey took far too long but it was a delight.

I walked out of our gate and proceeded directly into the fields opposite.
Although I have walked the route before this time it was so different.
I walked along the old wooded path that follows the stream that passes by our house, it was lovely to walk in the virgin snow, sheltered by a roof of trees but being able to hear and occasionally see the running water.
I came to an unsheltered part of the track where the stream was in clear view. This is an important location for the family as our old dog loved to sit here and bark while Irene threw
stones into the stream, with each splash he became more excited and would bark louder.
I couldn't help but imagine him sitting there in the snow, I'm sure he would have loved it.
Dogs do like adventures.

I continued on my own, walking through the snow, hearing nothing but my own footsteps,
apart from the occasional gunshot of course.
It seems that whatever the weather there are always pheasants "just asking" to be shot.
Eventually I came to, then waded the small ford.
This was really starting to feel like an adventure, everything seemed so much more romantic and dramatic than it would normally be.
In fact it seemed that I was incapable of walking 50 metres without taking at least 5 photographs, most of which I knew would be rubbish but I couldn't help myself, we don't often have snow.
I arrived at the pine forest, unfortunately my path didn't take me through it and I really didn't have time to spare to detour, so I passed on by and crossed the empty fields, empty except for
Crows and Rooks who so fitted the isolated landscape.
I walked through a small wood which resembled 'Narnia', pausing only to look at a frozen pool,
it was strange to think that only a few months before I had been tempted to strip and bath in it
on a rare hot summer day as I sat watching a Kingfisher dart from perch to perch.
Now it looked black and foreboding against the snow covered banks.
From the wood across a beautiful wild field [beautiful in any season], then into the "tunnel".
It isn't really a tunnel, but it is a tunnel of trees that runs for about a mile.
It was once the route of the old steam railway, before the "cut backs" of a previous era.
It was strange to walk this route thinking that once in a time before modernisation and good communications all of the small villages were connected by the rail.
Now they are all isolated and older people can only travel by the "once a day bus".
That's progress.
Walking along the disused track it was easy to imagine people looking from windows of the train carriages, watching the countryside pass by, and if they were young putting heads outside to watch and smell the clouds of steam from the engines.
As a child I used to be so very frightened of the big steaming monsters as they pulled slowly into the station.
So loud dark and menacing.
I used to put my head under my mothers coat until they stopped and the "hissing"had subsided.
Now, I miss them so, but walking the track I was once again that young boy, head out of the window, sniffing the strange smell of the steam.

Now the rail track was silent, silent, sad and very beautiful.
The tunnel before me illuminated by snow, and there in the far distance the circle of light
where the woods stopped.
The wood stopped but a steep hill beckoned. In fact it didn't really beckon it's just that I had no other choice, so puffing like a train off I set.

So it was much, and many pictures later that I eventually saw the distant church tower of Lavenham in the distance.

Oh dear!
I knew things were going to get worse, after all who can resist taking pictures of Lavenham in the snow?
No one. Including a local like me. It is so very pretty and at Christmas everyone seems to make a great effort with their decorations, it really seems like a place where Christmas does really exist.

I took pictures [too many to show], and yes I even completed my picture frames and then I had the excitement of returning home in the dark.
It's strange how nothing is a pretty, or as friendly in the dark and I'm sure the woods were longer, deeper and darker than those I had walked through earlier.
At one point I knew that I had heard hoofs on the track.
Images of Dracula's stagecoach came to mind, only to be swiftly replaced with images of
'Black Riders'.
Then they appeared.
Three deer ran across the track, then another four, then another two, then more.
Fourteen in total, silhouetted against the snow, any other night I wouldn't have seen them and in my imagination they would have remained as Black Riders.
The sounds of the deer, owls, startled pheasants and the "cawing" and flapping wings of the rooks I disturbed as I walked the wooded path made it all a memorable day.

I survived my "big adventure" and here are a few pictures to prove it, none of them convey what I experienced but maybe a lot of that was in my mind.
I don't want to do it too often, but for one day in my life it was good to be young again.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

As I have mentioned before artists, like all of us come in many different shapes, forms and guises, and of course with the odd sprinkle of ego now and then.
This is normal of course but as you may have realised by now there is only "one" ego that is allowed free rein in this gallery.
Yep! That's mine. [It's too large to fit this page].

So, whats this all about?

The whole pleasure of having the gallery is to show beautiful things, objects of all forms that fill that" little hole" of need that exists inside all of us.
As I have been told in the past "people don't need what you are selling".
Very true, you certainly can't eat it, or fill your car with it, but, part of you certainly needs it, and like everyone else I certainly need "a fix" of living with beautiful things.
They touch your heart.
No, they lift your heart and spirit and in these troubled times we all need something that does that from time to time.

So. back to artists.
I have always maintained and experienced that the bigger the artist, the more humble and generous the person is.
I have frequently been astonished by the generosity of "big name artists" who reply to my requests to show their work.
Many times I have had replies such as "of course you can" or "thank you for your kind words, how soon do you need it", or "when would you like it sent" "what a lovely gallery you have".
This sometimes from artists that make me feel "we are not worthy".
But instead, they have the ability make us feel special.

Then, every now and again you have an artist of some description that we have "championed"
who has gone on to have a sniff of fame. "A legend in their own mind".
Wow! They are gone.
"Can't do that now I'm very heavily committed", or "I regret that I have no new work as I sent it to the Broom Cupboard gallery in New York".
America, New York?
I suppose a village like Long Melford can't compete with that.
Well it can, but not with the inflated ego's, after all the locals are still trying to come to terms with mine.

This is starting to sound a little bitter so perhaps I had better explain.

No, named artist commits to an exhibition that they can't fulfill, or at the very least they ask for a long "lead up" time so that they have the time to put special pieces aside during the course of their normal year.
Yes, you do have a long wait but you are assured that the end result will be worth while, and that your time and money spent in promotion is not wasted.
"At the end of the day", the public decides, and as a gallery owner you can only hope that what you promise is delivered.
As they say the rest is in the "lap of the Gods".
So when I try to prepare a year in advance it is reassuring to know that artists offer to do the same and make the same commitment.
But, that is not always the case as sometimes artists who don't have a reputation to lose
don't prepare until the last few weeks and as a result submit "OK" art for their exhibition,
then wonder or blame the gallery their art doesn't sell.

So it is with these thoughts at the back of my mind that this morning I decided that I would concentrate on trying to get a few outstanding artists that I really admire to commit for future exhibitions.
By this I mean artists that I have had dialogue with but who won't commit to a date until they know that their calender is free enough to let them give proper justice and representation to their own art.
At times they are allusive, but they never let you down once they have said "yes".

As I sat at the computer preparing to write long letters detailing the advantages of showing with us I was surprised by the arrival of a mail from a sculptor that I have been pursuing for a long time.
Jan Morgan.
Result! We will be getting his work, but only when he has fulfilled current commitments.
"This is more like it, I can live with those sort of things", someone is being honest.

I don't care how long I have to wait for Jan's work, in a way the anticipation is half the pleasure.
"No", I'm lying there, having them here and seeing and touching them will be the pleasure.

The sculptures are so exciting, not only are they so well made but the also tell a story.
The display of them is everything, it is so much more than just the sculpting, there is such a clever mind behind them.

So, having been fulfilled in only a few short minutes of the day I decided to "go for broke", and approach yet again one of my favourite sculptors.
Tricia Cline.
Tricia has told me in the past that she will let 'Imagine' have some of her art, but only when she could fit it in.
I can live with that as I know we will get the work sometime and I won't be messed around with
false promises.
As I now know professional artists never promise then not deliver, and I have the work of many of them here to prove it.
They have made my job a pleasure, it's the others that are causing the ulcers.

Above are two of the sculptures by Jan Morgan followed by a couple of haunting pieces by Tricia Cline.

Hey! Did anyone suspect anywhere back there that I was annoyed, I hope not.
After all I'm professional.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Each year we hold about six different exhibitions at the gallery, some solo exhibitions and the others usually group shows set around a theme.
These I really enjoy as it gives me the opportunity to have a little "artistic" input of my own,
firstly in deciding upon a theme then secondly in choosing the various artists that I think will best bring the idea to life, it is always very satisfying [once the opening is over] to stand back and marvel at the interpretations from the various different minds.
The first planned for next year is on the theme of the 'Rime of The Ancient Mariner', this was originally planned as a solo exhibition by the sculptor John Maltby but he has since urged me to "go ahead with the idea" as a group show.
This will of course make for a more varied show, it is something I am looking forward to planning.
I will have to give much thought in a short space of time as I am thinking of sometime in May which doesn't give a lot of time for artists to think and prepare, even if it is just for the inclusion of one piece. I think that I will make this my Christmas "break" project, so when I arrive back here on 'Boxing Day' after my 24 hour holiday I will have a much clearer idea of who I would really like to be involved.
So although we are very much involved with the whole Christmas experience at the moment
[it is a little festive here just now] my thoughts are very much on the future, even to the extent that I have asked one artist to show in 2012.
Perhaps I am getting too ambitious.
So, for next year our first planned exhibition is not until the end of February which at the moment seems a long way off, although having a little break from the planning and promotion side of things will be welcome [although I do have to start designing advertisements soon].

Lindsey Carr, is the artist for our next show.
I am so pleased that I had asked her earlier this year when she first exhibited with in a joint exhibition with fellow artist Mark Rowney.
Then the connection between them was that they both painted onto wood.
I loved both there works, although then Mark was perhaps the more established of the pair I had a "gut feeling" that Lindsey was really going to "take off", so on impulse I asked if she would come back in a year and have her first solo exhibition.
She agreed, thank goodness as now one year on her work is sought after worldwide and in just a few months from saying "yes" her art was being shown in numerous exhibitions in America and Europe.
But, next February she is all mine.
I am really excited and honestly can't wait to see her new work, although I know it will only frustrate me as I will want to own so many pieces but won't be able to afford one.
Still for a short while it will all be mine.
A few days ago she sent me an image of a painting that was about 90% finished, this was so that I could use portions of it for advertisements and editorials etc.
I loved it, if having a small print of this unfinished picture was all that I would personally own, then that would be enough to keep me happy, it is beautiful.
I will say and urge that if anyone out there can afford it, then snap up one of her paintings while they are still affordable as I am certain that this girl is going to be an artist that I will one day be able to boast about [I like to boast] to people. I'm sure only to have them exclaim.
" You, had HER work "?

Another exciting event that I will look forward to is the launch of the latest Jackie Morris book,
something that is still very much ongoing at the moment. I know that Jac is working to a publishers deadline as usual which can't be the best experience in the World, but although she never seems to realise it at the time some of her best work is produced under these circumstances.
It is a book of Nursery Rhymes titled 'A Rhyme in Time' .
I know that is the title because the cover has been printed and I have a copy of it.
Jackie is obsessed by time [along with a thousand other interesting things], or more to the point the waste of time, I think she really is a person for who the days just aren't long enough,
I think to do, and create all of the things she talks of and plans would take at least one and a half life times, but I somehow have a feeling that she will do most of them.
I am aware that I do mention her fairly frequently on the blog, this is perhaps because she is so very inventive and her idea's so exciting, plus she is one of the most generous people we know.

With her obsession with time it was no great surprise to find that her new book cover was designed around a clock.
From the first time I looked at the illustrations I could only think of just how good this could be if it was turned into a real creation.
I often tell myself "You must not dabble with artists creations".
But what the hell, I know best, don't I?

For a week or so my mind was occupied with trying to image how this clock could be brought
to 'real life'. Was it possible? Who had the ability to do it?
In my mind there was only one person, Jon Mayle.
Jon, a jeweller/designer /artist, I have known since we were both very much younger.
Thinking about it, maybe 40 years, which is incredible as I don't look a day older [well let's face it, does Father Christmas age]?

Unfortunately for me Jon is one of the people who at times can be immune to my powers of persuasion [luckily his wife and sculptor Jan isn't], so I wasn't sure how he would take my request to make a "real clock".
But, I asked.
After a couple of days he came back to me, "I can do it, no problem, exactly as the pictures, but
before I start ask Jackie if she minds".

Well you know how "up themselves" and precious some artists can be?

Well, Jackie isn't one of them.
"Fantastic, when, how much will it cost, I can't wait to see it, brilliant".
Were among Jackie's many comments.
So some time in the near future I will be showing pictures of the most amazing clock.
A collaboration by two talented artists [plus me of course].

Now then, that has made something come to mind.

A while back I had thought of an exhibition titled "Collaborations", I had forgotten all about the idea until I wrote those words.

Heck! How many months are there next year?

Above are unfinished painting by Lindsey and Jackie's front and back cover paintings.