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.

Saturday 24 October 2009

I thought that instead of talking about the gallery and the work in it that it might be a good
idea to let people get an idea of what it looks like. I have often tried to take pictures inside but
they never give a true impression, I know that if I put off waiting until I have 
photographs that I am happy with it will never happen so I am showing a few pictures that I took a while back.
They were taken at the time of a group ceramic exhibition so it's a case of "name that potter".
In truth the place never looks a great deal different to this as we always have pots on show and if not pots then ceramic sculptures.
The building itself is interesting and has a mixture of styles and periods.
Like most of Long Melford [the Village the gallery is in] it is a timber framed structure
although you wouldn't know this from the outside appearance as like the majority of the other
buildings it has been covered outside with brick.
If the outside 'veneers' were removed from the buildings what you would see would be a Tudor
"chocolate box" village, but for whatever reason the structures have been covered over at different periods in time.
So from the outside we are a 'Georgian' house and on the inside we are?
Well, I'm not really sure as it's a bit of a mixture, we have three fireplaces two of which are 'inglenooks', a reclaimed brick floor, a few new oak beams and plain plaster walls, underneath which is 'wattle and daub' which can be seen through a glass panel which was put in place just
to give people an idea of the age of the building.
It's not perhaps the best setting for contemporary art, but we like it and it is the very quirkiness of the place
that made us go for it. There are times when hanging pictures that I do think
"why didn't we go for a modern plain building"?
That aside, I suppose the odd mixture does suit my equally muddled mind.
The display areas we have tried to keep as plain as possible, and where possible have created 'sand pits' to exhibit work in.
Perhaps a bit of an outdated idea but I like it and after all "it's my party".
I am constantly trying to think of different ideas for displaying work and if possible I would love somehow to include water but I still haven't figured that one out yet.
I know there are lots of things that need to be changed and in time they will be, but the most important aspect that we want to create is an environment that people feel at ease coming into as I can't stand the "look but don't touch" atmospheres that you encounter sometimes.

I always want to sell the art we display but if people are happy to come in, feel relaxed and
just enjoy and talk about the exhibits then that gives me equal pleasure.
Not so long ago an old lady came in and spent about an hour and a half looking and asking questions. Before leaving she purchased a small pot and said "I'm sorry that I didn't spend much I will come back and talk to you again when I have some money". I told her to come back whenever and as often as she liked and that it didn't matter about buying anything as I myself couldn't afford to buy the very work that I show.
I explained that although I couldn't afford anything at least I had the pleasure of admiring and caressing some of these beautiful objects on a daily basis.
"Yes", she replied.
"You are just the curator. The curator of beautiful things".
She will never understand what pleasure her words gave me, someone understood how I felt.
So if anyone wants to come, admire and just talk, the door is always open.
Even when it's freezing. 

Thursday 22 October 2009

On Wednesday I went to London to visit the 'Affordable Art Fair', this is something I have long wanted to do but each year something else crops up and I never manage to go. I must admit that the prospect of going to the City is also something that deters me, which is strange after having spent most of my life working in various parts of London. I suppose that I have become something of a 'country bumpkin'.
The chances are that I wouldn't have made the visit this year but for the fact that I had to return
some of the incredible paintings by David Shanahan and a sculpture by Beth Carter, both who were showing there on different stands.
The fair is a very prestigious event and last night the private view was even more so, I enjoyed myself "rubbing shoulders" with the rich and famous and I would have had an even better time
enjoying the free cocktails had I not been facing such a long drive home.
It was a very 'interesting' evening and I'm glad that I went.
As a gallery owner I actually get very little time to visit other galleries and it becomes hard to gauge where you stand in the scheme of things. With our own gallery all that I can see each day are the things that are wrong and that bother me, and I have yet to sit back and think "this place is good", all the time I want to change and improve not just the quality of the work but the gallery itself. I think in terms of the gallery I will never be satisfied, but last night it put in
perspective for me the quality of the art we show. When I say 'art' by that I mean paintings, photography, sculptures, ceramics and just the general mixture of work that we are lucky to have and show.
Walking around for the third time at the Fair it finally occurred to me " we are better than most people here", which sounds very egotistical, but it's not that, it was about the artist/makers
that have taken a chance with us and believe in what we are trying to do, and it is the fact that they have the belief in us which makes it all possible, so a big thank you to those that have helped and stuck with us over the years.
For the first time, today back in the gallery I have thought " I think we are going to go somewhere".
All this aside, what was the most interesting for me at the Fair was a sculptor that I came across 'Antonio Lopez Reche' who was sharing a stand with some other sculptors.
Ever since childhood I have been obsessed with mythology, on occasions art that relates to it is  shown in the gallery, in fact a couple of years ago we had an exhibition 'LEGEND' devoted to it. So it would be easy to understand why I was drawn to the work by Antonio.
What seemed strange was that I was returning one 'Minotaur' by Beth Carter only to discover
another artist working in a very similar style whose work we hope to be showing soon.
Above I have shown a few pieces of their sculpture , the top three are by Beth.
I like both there styles.
What the evening did do was to give me the determination that next year
I would be back, but this time not to look.

Monday 19 October 2009

Where the last week went to I'm not sure but I do know that it seemed very hectic.
Last Monday the potter Mark Griffiths delivered his work for the exhibition that was to open on the following Sunday. It made a real treat to have exhibits delivered early, and I knew that this was going to give me plenty of time to arrange the gallery, do a price list and generally get done all of the small jobs that seem to mount up before an exhibition.
We usually try to clear the gallery before a show so that there is no distraction from the new work, this is something that is always a nightmare as it involves wrapping, boxing and storing all
of the 'normal' work, something that seems to take longer each time.
Having Mark's work here early meant that as I packed things away I could unwrap and display his pots as I went along, so in theory the gallery would look normal to any person calling in.
Well, that was the way it was meant to work.
In reality it turned into the normal chaos with boxes and wrappings littered everywhere and the place looked anything but normal.
Funnily enough more people tend to come inside when it is like this, much to my embarrassment.
At least when Mark arrived on Saturday afternoon everything was ready and we were able to
go out for a drink and talk "pots". 

At the opening Mark had agreed to demonstrate how he throws his pots, so in centre position within the shop we had a 'potters wheel' and piles of clay and Mark complete in his 'potting' overalls.
It's hard to understand and to explain the fascination of watching a potter 'throw', but fascinate it does and we soon had a small crowd including some well known potters surrounding Mark,
who spent as much time answering questions [from people writing notes] as he did throwing.
With the exhibition and demonstration under way I was able to start relaxing for the first time  and I took my first opportunity to have a good look at his pots and was able to appreciate them without any of the setting up concerns on my mind.
I loved what I looked at.
It was a good day, a good show and with some very good pots.

Saturday 10 October 2009

I mentioned a while ago that we had an exhibition coming up next year of the potter
Jim Malone
so last weekend when he was showing at a gallery in Kensington in the heart of London
I went down to see him and the pots on show.
Although I have spent most of my life working in London it now feels a place very alien to me
and if wasn't for the opportunity of seeing his work I wouldn't have put myself
through the 'ordeal' of a London visit.
But it was worthwhile, and apart from the disappointment of missing Jim who had to catch a train back to Cumbria I was glad that I went.
I had visited his studio about six weeks previously which was a unique experience,
at the time he had no pots to show as they were all waiting to be fired.
This turned out to be a magical experience as it gave me a small insight into his world,
as apart from the orderly racks of decorated but unfired pots
on his desk were lots of sketches of the pots that he was making with his notes of how he
intended to decorate and glaze them alongside.
It was a unique insight into the world of the artist and my only regret was I couldn't see how the drawings interpreted into the finished pots.
However the trip to London enabled me to see what his mind had 'envisaged'.
This was important to me as his exhibition with us next year is the fulfillment of a dream.
I have loved and collected Jim's pots for over a quarter of a century [which sounds a very long time indeed] and it has been a long held belief that one day he would be famous.
Now he is.
I remember at his first exhibition over 25 years ago thanking him for making my dinner plate that I used each day [and every day since] as it gave me such pleasure.
He asked my name and shook my hand.
When we opened the gallery I approached him and asked could we stock some of his pots,
"I remember you, didn't I shake your hand a while ago"?
It had been something that I had long remembered but never expected him to.
I was wrong, Jim is the man and the potter of my dreams,
his success gives me nothing but pleasure and has me often thinking
"I knew he would make it".
So can you imagine the pleasure that it will give me next year to host an exhibition by this man? Not many dreams in life come true but this one has.
To top this I am going to be writing an article about him and his work for the magazine
'Ceramic Review'
to coincide with our exhibition.
It does make me think that at times in our lives, for "better or worse'
some things are meant to be.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Very soon I have to return the paintings of David Shanahan as he will be showing in London at the 'Affordable Art' fair and he will need as much of his work as possible to show there.
In truth we have had them here for much longer than had been originally intended but the response to them has been so good that I asked if we could show them a little longer.
David being the lovely generous man he is agreed to let us keep them until the middle of this month.
His paintings are like nothing you have seen before and are very beautiful and slightly disturbing, and all are very obviously about Ireland, if it were possible to determine a persons Nationality from their face then his paintings more than any artist show the Irish people. The paintings certainly provoke a lot of thought and have generated great interest.
It is easy to see why he is so sought after and why his work is in the collections of many famous people.
It is said that 'every picture tells a story', Davids work tells you a fragment of a story, each picture is like a page torn from a book.
It has you asking "what came before, what will happen next"?
This is one of the great appeals they have and it has been interesting here in the gallery to listen to peoples different interpretations of them.
I really like the paintings and the man that painted them.
So my thoughts have been very much on David and his art, which had been the catalyst for our Ireland exhibition a few months ago, and as it does one thought led to another and it had me thinking about how lucky we had been with different Irish artists/sculptors/potters.
I love to visit Ireland and am very much in love with the landscape so it has become a great pleasure to get to know, and then to show some of its artists.
The three artists whose work we always have on display are Ana Duncan, Fidelma Massey and
Adam Frew.
Adam is a young potter from Northern Ireland and I will write more about him at a later date,
but as far as I am concerned he is the best new potter to emerge for sometime and I am convinced he will be going on to great things.
Both Ana and Fidelma are sculptors, but such different sculptors, their work is as different as it is possible to find, but at the same time both have their roots very much in Ireland and it shows in what they make.
For me the "Boats" by Ana are very much about the Ireland I dream of as they depict scenes that are now rarely seen but which are very much about the heritage of the country.
The sense of motion and action that she manages to capture with her bronze sculptures is incredible, they really are full of life and action. In contrast her figures of women in all their different shapes and guises are very gentle and extremely beautiful.
Fidelma's work by contrast very much shows the Ireland of Myth and Legend, like David's work
they leave the viewer asking many questions. I believe a lot of the Legends involved in her work are from her own imagination and I'm sure if asked she could tell many stories about them.
She is an extremely versatile artist producing work in ceramics, bronze and stone as well as her
unusual drawings, I think the work that we have shown in Imagine just "scratches the surface"
of what she is capable of producing.
'Scratching the Surface'?
Above are a few pictures of there collective work which does just that.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

The last few days have been busy, so today it is hard to know what to talk about because as usual it is at the end of the day that my thoughts have turned to the journal and there is not enough time to mention everything that I have seen, or where I have been to and things that I have thought about , so I decided that  I would tell you about the one idea that has occupied most of my thoughts today. The reason for this is because I have been talking to one artist and answering questions about another all day, so here is where my muddled mind is tonight,
I intend to go very soon to visit the amazing illustrator and author Jackie Morris who lives in a remote corner of Pembrokeshire. Jackie is a very successful artist and also an incredibly intelligent and very caring woman, if anyone has followed her journal over the last few years they will understand what a very clever, complex and articulate person she is, her daily writing on her 'blog' I can only compare with Dylan Thomas, and I don't say this lightly.
I am constantly in awe of her and relish the insight that she gives us all into her daily world.
Over the past couple of years Jackie has been very kind to us, as a gallery, she has given us lots of amazing work to display which has been a thrill and pleasure, but on top of that she has never put us under pressure to "sell" or blamed us when we haven't, which believe me is a very rare thing. More than anything we want to sell an artist's work and Jackie understands that and helps us along the way.
I have long wanted to have an exhibition of her work but have never managed to gather the courage to ask her, so to my delight a few weeks ago she asked " how about an exhibition next year"?
What a delight and privilege.
This I am determined to do but only one thing has troubled me, we are very much a 3D gallery
and our main display areas are devoted  to sculpture and ceramics so I know that people who made the effort to come to an exhibition would expect something else as well as paintings.
What to do?
Most of today was spent talking and answering questions about a ceramic sculptor 'Karen Fawcett', who is a very good friend and like Jackie has supported and believed in the gallery for a long while. They are both part of our extended family and their help is appreciated, having artists who take it upon themselves to help you out when they know you most need it, sending us there best work when it could and would be taken by any gallery  is never taken for granted.
So, I'm going to show Jackie and I need someone who makes three dimensional work to show alongside and compliment it.
I must have lost the plot somewhere, I have just compared their different works.
Blimey! It's the same but in different mediums.
I just hope that Karen who is due to have a baby very soon thinks the same and will agree to an
exhibition as I think that they will work well together, they are so very much alike without knowing it or each other, and the combination of their work I'm sure will look
really good.


Saturday 3 October 2009

It would be unfair to let our latest exhibition come to a close without talking about the artist Mark Rowney.
Without Mark there would have been no exhibition. It all started from the day I stumbled across his painting 'Aerobombus' on the Internet whilst following a "lead" on another artist.
One look and I was hooked. Like many people I have long been a fan of the artist Kit Williams [famous for the treasure hunt book 'Masquerade' ] but I had never come across work that equalled it until I looked at Mark's work, not only was this as good but he had taken it onto levels that Kit had never dreamt of.
I just had to show this work. From this obsession an exhibition was born.
Mark is a man of many, many talents but is also the most down to earth person that you could ever meet.
Having said that it paints a different picture from the man that I have come to know, let me tell you a little about him.
Mark is the son of a cowboy, and grew up on a 'cowboy' ranch. Hhhhmmmmm! Maybe not that unusual, apart from the fact that this ranch was in rural 'County Durham' not Texas.
Both his parents were committed cowboys and they ran for many years a Cowboy Ranch in England. Mark says that from an early age dressed as a [confederate soldier]he can remember directing cars to their places in the car park, so not the normal childhood but a lot more exciting than most, it seemed that Mark had the 'boyhood' that most of us dreamt of,
but for Mark this was all a part of everyday life.
He eventually went on to study art at St. Martins Collage in London, but it is his story of his homecoming that I will never forget.
Whilst away he had grown his hair long and dyed it yellow [as you do when young] but before returning to the 'Ranch' he at least had the foresight to call his Mother and warn her, she promised to "break the ice" and tell his father.
Returning home Mark says everything was "fine" except for his father who sat "drumming" his fingers on the arm of the sofa saying nothing, and who eventually got up and walked out of the room,
to return Minutes later and proclaim " just look at yer, what are you turning into"?
These comments coming from a man dressed in a 'Stetson hat', wearing leather 'chaps' and with
two 'six guns' in holsters.
"I realised then", Mark said "that my life just wasn't going to be normal".
It hasn't been, but it would take many more hours than I have to even give you a glimpse of it.
Mark has had many "artistic" adventures around the world, I would suggest the best way to learn of them would be to give me a call then we could all arrange a [very long] evening in a pub to hear them.
Mark is one of the most interesting, exciting yet humble artist's that we have had the pleasure to show and I "really" hope that our association continues for many years.
Here is just a tiny taste of his work. 

Friday 2 October 2009

I have spent the last couple of days trying to design an invitation for our next exhibition.
We have never run two exhibitions so closely together, but in this case I had to make an exception.
This last year has been a strange and very hard one for the majority of  people and none more so than artist's.
I have been told many times this year "art is something that we don't need", as people try to justify why they aren't spending. This is strange as art is something that we can't live without, it enriches our lives and often "fills a void" which we had been unaware of until we see a particular piece of work which will then eat away at our desires until we possess it.
Well that's how it works for me anyway.
But it has been a strange year and one that has fed the seeds of self doubt to many artists, so it has been a delight and pleasure each time that we have encountered one who has carried on producing strong work with no thought of "market forces" but with a love and strong belief in their own art. 
None more so than Mark Griffiths, the potter.
Throughout the year he has been producing work that just gets stronger and more beautiful, and in spite of the times has gone from strength to strength creating for himself a large following and a market eager for his work.
I had longed wanted to show his work but our schedule didn't allow us to run any more exhibitions until the middle of next year, and I knew that by then Mark would be too committed elsewhere and would be unable to show with us.
So taking the "bull by the horns" I asked was he able to fit us in at all this year.
The result, we are running two exhibitions much closer than we have ever done, but it was that or lose the opportunity of showing Mark for some time.
This has meant that for me the last two days have been spent putting a new invitation together.
Something that I enjoy yet hate as I am never happy with the result.
This evening I completed it, so here it is ready to go to the printer on Monday.
I hope you like it Mark