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.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

It seems strange that after talking about my own pictures yesterday that today they have been the one thing that has dominated my thoughts and preoccupied me.
It started after an early telephone call from a picture library that represents a small portion of my work, the main reason that it it is a small percentage that they have involvement with is because the "owner" who is also a photographer keeps rejecting my work.
It is a case of the goal posts being moved each time.
This isn't a problem as three years ago I stopped sending them work, then one year ago today their marketing lady called me to ask why I didn't send them anything new, and "why was a competitor receiving all of my photographs"?
I explained that it was because they themselves rejected my images, she promised to rectify this, and true to her word they accepted my next batch of photographs, which have since been offered to different publishers.
A few months ago I sent for their approval a few new pictures, all of which were rejected.
Not a problem as another library were happy to take them and they have all since gone on to different publishers.
Why this is prominent on my mind is because today I had a call from the above mentioned lady
telling me that " it is one year later, and you still aren't sending us pictures".
Confused? I was.
I pointed out that they themselves reject what I send them so "why call me"?
This has played on my mind all day and many things at the gallery have been neglected as a result, so I thought best thing to do was to "clear my mind", show the "rejected" photographs
and move on.
Tomorrows another day and I have more interesting things and people to deal with.

Monday 28 September 2009

When we first opened the original idea had been for the gallery to be a "vehicle for my 
own photography",
it was Irene's vision and though I am sure she had many occasion to regret it, I will be forever in her debt for having the belief and conviction in my own work.
In many respects we have long outgrown my own photography but every now and then I like to show one of my new pictures that in some way moves me, and which I hope may "touch"
other people.
Recently for the first time I visited 'Hadrian's Wall', which has been an ambition since childhood.
I didn't know what to expect but I was surprised by "the lack of it".
I travelled from one section to another, following a map, at each sight I expected to find the 'WALL' of my dreams.
It almost didn't happen until I chanced upon one small section at 'Wall Town Crag', and although there was very little wall I did come upon the base of a 'Watch Tower'.
Here the only guard in evidence was a solitary sheep.
It was exactly what I was looking for, it had all the atmosphere of isolation and magnificence that I was searching for.
So here is my Hadrian Wall photograph, titled 'The Guardian'.
I have included the different"shots" used to create the picture plus different versions created.
I wanted the finished picture to look 'Biblical', I will never be happy with the result so I will leave others to judge. 

Saturday 26 September 2009

It seems really strange with Christmas still seeming so far away that today two people have asked
"what are you doing for Christmas "? By which they meant what artists or what exhibition will we have.
I must say that my thoughts hadn't really developed that far ahead, as although are exhibitions are planned far ahead I never give an real thoughts towards the Festive Season. I know we would be unlikely to ever hold a solo exhibition at that time as people are looking for a broader spectrum of work than one artist would be likely to make, also I'm never too sure about group
shows as we usually have a theme for artists to work towards.
But then I suppose Christmas itself is a theme.
So with that thought in mind I have made a start by approaching Louise Richardson.
She has some work in our current 'Birds & Bees' show.
Her work is very strange and almost magical, for instance her "Night Dress" and "Cobbled" shoes are very fairy like, I could imagine finding them discarded in a forest clearing after a fairy tale party had taken place.
I think her work would be perfect for December, so I have asked her to make something 'wintry' and 'magical' to take centre stage in our 'Christmas Window'.
She has said that she will so know I can only look forward in anticipation to seeing what she creates.
I suppose it's a bit like a child waiting for Christmas.
But then we are all children at heart.

Friday 25 September 2009

Good news I had a positive "yes" from Herman Muys. He will be involved in the group exhibition.
This is not something that I take lightly, Herman is one of the worlds leading ceramic sculptors,
who has exhibited around the globe and is an artist who doesn't need a small gallery like us to promote his work. As far as I am aware we are the only UK gallery to have his work on display,
something I 'pinch' myself about daily', we are just so fortunate.
Why he decided to "give us a try" I perhaps never will know. 
My approach to him was on a Christmas eve two years ago, with the spirit of Christmas in the air,
I sent an email to a gallery in Belgium [who had shown his work] asking would they forward my letter, in which I asked " would he let us try his work in an exhibition that we had planned".
Christmas morning I thought about what an idiot I had been to approach someone so big,
"why do I do such stupid things?" , I asked myself.
Boxing day, came the reply. " I would love to be involved in your exhibition, I'm not sure how we I will get the artworks to you, but we will speak soon".
I have since come to realise that some of the biggest artists are the most generous and kindest of people, I think they feel that as long as your motives are genuine, and that you really are moved by their art they will do anything to help you.
Many times I have felt humbled by the generosity of famous artists.
But one snag, how was I going to collect the work of Herman Muys?
Like most of my problems I put the the thoughts in my mental "pending tray".
Luckily not every one is like me.
A few weeks later an elderly gentleman wearing a leather hat walked through the door and asked "are you John, I'm Herman?"
He and his artist wife Monique Muylaert [much more of her later] had driven for a day and come via 'Euro tunnel' just to bring me his work. They stayed for 30 minutes, during which they signed autographs for a few lucky customers who knew who they were, then rushed out saying "we must get back for our train".
What can I say?
A few months later I travelled to Belgium to collect more work from them both, again they were so very generous. I visited their home and studio where they encouraged me to take whatever art I would like to have. It was an incredible experience, their home and studio was full of wondrous art, and it was mine to choose from.
They filled my car, and would have let me taken more had there been the space, then they guided me into Antwerp where in the very centre of the city they have their own gallery [open by appointment], and after giving me a brief tour presented me with a set of keys to the gallery and the flat above and told me that "they hoped I enjoyed my stay".
For two days the gallery and house were mine.
I still can't believe it.
To describe the pleasure of staying in my own private gallery would take far too long but let's just say it was an experience.
Since then we have always held some of Herman's and Monique's work here at Imagine, but it has never been taken for granted, these are world class artist/sculptors, so it was with relief and gratitude that I recieved the good news that "yes" herman would be involved.

Over the last two years we have had many beutiful pieces of art from them, both large and small, one of my favourite pieces of Herman's art is a box.
He once made 100 boxes, each 10cm x 10cm in size, they were exhibited and a book produced of the exhibition, '100 x 10 x 10'.
We were fortunate to be allowed to have four of the boxes, which have long since sold, but Herman & Monique visited recently and left me with an item.
Box 101
My favourite.

Tuesday 22 September 2009


It's a bit of a strange week so far as most of my mind is absorbed with the current exhibition but all the time "the future" is lurking there at the back of my mind. Not in any unpleasant way but just as something that has got to be thought about and planned. I often wish that there were more months in the year as there is so much work and so many talented artists that I would love to exhibit. I often think that I will be an old man [even older than I am now] before I have 'scratched the surface' of the the work that I would like to show, also I am very aware of the artists who have helped us and to whom we owe a great debt, some of them very lovely people with who I would love to have a friendship with outside this strange art world we inhabit. 
In time I would love to think that we will have done justice to all our talented friends out there, but one thing at a time.
Next years exhibitions have been hovering at the back of my mind for a long time now as it is an important year for us, it will be five years we have been here showing the work that we love
and we want next year to be "special" [for many reasons].
Two exhibitions are "set in stone", they are with potter Jim Malone and sculptor Brendan Hesmondhalgh, both of whom we are really excited and proud to be showing, in fact Jim has been "booked" for 4 years.
For the past week the 'germ of an idea' has been on my mind, I have been thinking about the possibility of showing Emma Rodgers alongside Herman Muys and Ostinelli & Priest.
I think the work would sit well together but ultimately it depends upon what the artist's think.
For me this is perhaps one of the 'fun parts' of having the gallery but also one of the hardest and most worrying, trying to persuade different artists [who are heavily committed elsewhere] that
it would be 'good and exciting' to show with us [and each other].
First call was to Emma, who as usual was exciting to talk to and ready to try anything new, one look at her work gives away everything about her personality, exciting, vibrant and full of life.
"YES", was her response.
Next was Herman, but before I contacted him Gaynor Ostinelli called me, so I outlined what I had in mind. She said that subject to talking with Paul she thought it would be "yes".
So one to go, Herman.
I have written and will now have to wait, but whatever the outcome the pleasure has been in the vision, of seeing in 'my minds eye' how it could all look. Maybe nothing will come from it,
but the pleasure for me has been in the vision.
How lucky am I?
Another person I HAD to contact was the incredible ceramist Amanda Popham. I had spoken to her a couple of months ago to ask would she have a 'solo' exhibition sometime in September,
she agreed to but I have never got around to confirming in writing until today, so I just hope that meanwhile she hasn't been whisked from under my nose.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Saturday can be a strange day of the week, although being the day when most people have a little
more time to browse and chat about different works it can also be the day when they try to cram a weeks worth of leisure into one day, so I'm never sure what to expect.
Today was a busy day as a lot of people had heard or read about "Birds & Bees" and it was the first opportunity that they have had to come and look, this meant that I was able to indulge in my favourite pastime "speak about the work and the artists". I'm sure that once started I could "talk for England", at times I just can't help myself.
Everything on display is here because in one way or another I am moved by it, and when people
enquire about a piece or an artist that I really like I have trouble containing myself. It's not that I'm trying to sell that particular work [although that wouldn't be a bad idea] it's just that I want people to love and be moved by something in the way that I have been.
I appreciate that I have been fortunate to meet and get to know lots of different artists and have the privilege to visit their homes and see their studio or work shop, I have visited their landscape and seen what moves and motivates them and I want to share that with the visitors in the gallery. I have always loved telling stories and I really enjoy bringing the work of artists
alive with a description of their lives and the world they live in, I have become aware that this adds value to anything that they may purchase which I understand, as art is a very personal thing and it is nice to know something of its creator.
Today has been one such day, I have lost count of the number of times I have recounted the background of Mark Rowney "growing up the son of a cowboy, in County Durham". When I get time I will tell you all, to say he is a "bit of a character" would be an understatement.
Aside from him I have been telling people how Lindsey Carr has an American exhibition as a result of 'The Fox Confessor' painting we have here,
described how Iris Milward makes her incredible tiles, and as usual answered questions about the animal sculptures of Karen Fawcett, whose work seems to fascinate everyone, myself included.
I even found time to take a sale now and then.

Friday 18 September 2009

Friday 18th September

A day spent re-arranging the shop, you have to live with things for a little while before you can
see where they can be shown to their best advantage, sometimes there is nothing wrong but with a little shifting around suddenly everything gels together. The work that didn't need moving was the work by Ostinelli & Priest, as I mentioned yesterday they saved the day arriving with large sculptures  at the last moment after we had been let down by one artist who had been experiencing problems and was unable to send larger work that we had been anticipating.
Paul and Gaynor arrived 15 minutes before the opening with some of their beautiful pieces, they
instantly assessed that I was in "full panic" mode and set the work up themselves, and there it has stayed.

Although hard pushed to have a favourite I find I keep going back to look at the
'Stalking Horse'
It looks different from every angle and I know my photograph doesn't do justice to the sculpture, which has a very commanding presence.
When I have the time I will show more of their work, I know they are destined for
great things and at the moment I am thrilled to have a collection here. There are times that everything feels like my own private collection but sadly that's not the case.

Thursday 17 September 2009

At this event we were extremely lucky to have artist who made great efforts to be here for the opening. Louise Richardson came down from Norfolk, Mark Rowney with his entire family from
County Durham and Lindsey Carr who "flew" in from Scotland.
Of course not forgetting Gaynor and Paul of Ostinelli & Priest who arrived minutes before the opening to 'save the day' with their beautiful sculptures [more of them later].
It was lovely to see them all and to get to spend a little time with them.
Lindsey I was meeting for the first time which seemed so strange as we had spoken and gotten to know one another over a period via the magic of email. We didn't need to introduce ourselves but
just carried on our conversations but this time without a keyboard. Her painting on wood called 'Spoils of War' was one of mine and a lot of other peoples favourites, though having said that there were a few that I would love to own.
The piece by Mark that seemed to fascinate people was the incredible leather carving
titled 'Hedge', the sheer size and amount of detailing is incredible, even today looking at it I am finding more tiny creatures that I have missed before.

September 17th

Today is the first day that things have started to feel a little more like normal after the opening of the new exhibition last Sunday. As usual it was stressful with everything being behind after the last minute arrival of some of the work and it was only after the door opened and with a glass of
wine in hand I was able to start relaxing.
The opening was very well attended and the day passed in a blur, meeting many old friends and
making  new ones, it amazes me how many of our customers make the effort to come to each event and it is having their support and praise of the gallery that means so much to me.