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 30 March 2010

Another piece of work for the exhibition turned up to day from Jennifer Collier,
she does make the most unusual things.
Once we had a childs dress from her which was constructed from tea bags.
Now that's something that the English would call art,
we do like a drop of tea.
It was a really beautiful object, displayed in its case it would have been impossible to discern what it was made from. There were times when it was about to sell when I would proudly explain that it was "made from tea bags" and the prospective buyer [idiot] would exclaim
"tea bags"!
Then dismiss it as being something unworthy and would leave.
It takes all types.
Jennifer is very talented and her art always finds a place in my heart.
It is nice to come across things that are so innocent and which are made for their own sake.

The number of times that I have had the words from the '10cc' song run through my mind
"art for art's sake, money for gods sake".
I'm sure that they never owned a gallery but they certainly understood what I often feel.

Anyway, Jennifer has made the most unusual wall piece [as you can see]
with pictures tumbling out of the pages of an old Alice book.
She will be making something else, as today I sent her a pile of pages from several antique
'Alice's Adventures' books.
I have no idea what I will get in return [maybe abuse, but I doubt it]
but I do know that her resulting art will be very unusual
I would show other pieces that we will have but they are stuck in "customs" at Heathrow airport. I think at the moment someone is trying to work out how much IMAGINE are going to make from this. When they have decided we will get the tax bill and end up thinking
"why did we ask for this work".
It's a money world, well at least it is for everyone else.
Let this be a lesson, I was instructed by an artist recently to forward something to America,
I was told to value it at £30, send it as a gift and not to insure it.
Two days later it was in California, meanwhile I have been waiting for a piece of "ART" valued at £150 which was insured and has been in customs for a week.
Good to know the boys are on the case.

Talking of which, America, customs, transit and the like I want to mention the art of
Michael Parkes.
I mentioned a while ago that I was interviewed and vetted for suitability to sell his work.
Well, apparently I am suitable and will shortly be the only UK gallery to represent his work.
I have had over the last week or so been asked to make a selection
of his pictures that I would like to show.
This has been an awful task [nice but awful] as I wanted so many.
Today I think I have made my final selection, so I have requested them and with luck after
a few weeks sitting in customs they might make it into the gallery.
Remember, "you are not artist's", but gift suppliers.

Here are some pictures.
Obviously the first two are by Michael.
The other two are of Jennifer's wall piece that arrived today for

Monday 29 March 2010

As work is starting to filter in for our coming exhibition I have begun to feel a little more settled.
I can see it all taking shape before me, and I know at the opening
When I have at last calmed down I will really enjoy it all, and will be able to appreciate the 
different pieces of art that I am receiving.
Sometimes you can be too close to things and it takes a little time to be able to "stand back" and see things in the way that they are viewed by others.
If that makes any sense.
I suppose I'm just trying to say that at times stress spoils things a little.

There are times that I get annoyed with some galleries that only hold exhibitions with certain artists in the knowledge that "this will be another sell out".
It seems so wrong, it makes good financial sense but to me it seems a bad thing to do.
Sure, I certainly want to make some money, but I also want to show work that I feel needs to be seen for its own sake.
This of course involves a little bit of risk, but when it works brings us so much pleasure.
First and foremost the pleasure comes from knowing that you haven't let the artist down,
which believe it or not is the greatest pressure that I feel on a daily basis.
I appreciate that a lot of artist/craftspeople have taken a chance with us, and more than anything I want to repay their trust and loyalty.
Risk is a two way thing, the artist takes a chance with us, then we take a gamble that what we are doing will appeal.
So while I really believe in the coming exhibition it is hard to enjoy the work as it arrives
because there is a lot of trust and goodwill attached to it, and it is only when the door "opens"
and things are then out of my control that I can stand back and think
"that's really beautiful" or "how on earth was that made".
Those days I am just a member of the public, and I enjoy it.
Perhaps too much sometimes, because we always seem to get though a load of wine.

So, things are starting to be delivered and with a little trepidation I am starting to look
forward to the opening [with a fluttering heart].

Here are a few [only a few] of the pieces that have arrived today.
I will try to keep on top of things and to show you different pieces as they come.

So here we have an ALICE apron, dress and stilettos [what a tart] all made from a vintage
Alice In Wonderland book. The book was by Lewis Carroll [my joke] and
the art by Jennifer Collier.
The last piece is the first of many by the sculptor Jan Mayle.
Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee
[I'm not sure which is which]

Saturday 27 March 2010

For some time now I have put off writing anything, not because nothing has happened, it has.
But a lot of the things and the people connected with them have left me feeling very negative.
So I thought rather than record bad thoughts I would write nothing.
As they say [who are they] if you can't say something nice about someone then say nothing at all.
So, having said nothing about the "someones" I will concentrate on the good things that have happened, and there have been a few.

What have I been up to?
Well, I spent a couple of days on a boat.
I had to go to Holland to arrange delivery of some sculpture from a nice man named
Hans Blank.
Hans does the strangest of work, most of it is related to the sea, and all of it looks as if it has been excavated from some ancient site.
The journey to see him has been off,on,off,on, for so long now I think we both thought I would never make the journey, but at last I did.
As I anticipated the journey was long and boring, which strikes me as a strange thing.
Had you asked me a few years ago "how would you like to go to Holland, work related"?
I would have thought "GREAT", a few days away from the workplace, but now I find that I am reluctant to leave the gallery for more than a few hours.
"It is me, and I am it".
Much as I really enjoy meeting and talking with different artist that we work with I always wonder "what is happening back at base"?
Usually, not much plus it's good to give Rebecca some time here without me telling her how she should arrange the paperclips.
But I do miss the daily involvement, so a trip to Holland was a bit of a chore plus an expensive one at that, still what did I expect when I found that the boat had a cinema as well as a shopping mall. Life on the ocean wave is not for me but I did get to read a couple of good books.
Apart from the fact that I was meeting an artist at the journeys end those weren't normal days.

What was more normal and much more exciting was meeting some artists closer to home.
Like every gallery we have people coming in and asking "would you like to see my etchings"?
Or words very similar.
On these occasions my heart sinks as I feel that if I haven't found them already then the chances are that I won't be interested in their work.
But that's not the main point as I realize that most of these people have "worked up the courage" to come in, and I really don't want to turn them away or dampen their enthusiasm.
It's not a nice thing to do.
Very rarely have I taken anything from any artist who has walked in and I had despaired of the day when someone really different would come through the door.
 But it happened this week.
An artist called Paul Rumsey came in while I was out and left a book of his drawings for me to "look" at.
I called him within four minutes of looking at them.
Paul returned and brought with him some of his work.
To describe his art as dark would be an understatement, but it is not just dark but very thought
provoking and every picture 'really' told a story.
His work is of worlds only seen in our imagination or dreams. Disturbing and very beautiful.
I suppose that it came as no great surprise to learn that he is collected worldwide [by famous
people] and that he shares the same agent as H.R.Giger [the man who designed ALIEN].
It was really rewarding for me to know that he had studied the gallery and then sought me out.
He must have read me like a book.
Needless to say his work is now hanging on the wall.

Another really lovely and very interesting artist that I have seen recently is Graham Piggott.
Graham's work couldn't be more removed from that of Paul's.
It is very gentle, and timeless sculpture.
For years he and his wife Corri have produced as sculptures almost every imaginable scene
from 'Alice in Wonderland'.
Which is obviously why I went to see them in Oxfordshire.
There is far too much to tell of the visit and the things that I saw but it was all so exciting I will have to write about them both at length very soon.
The sculptures by Graham really are like antiques, they all look so precious. But at the same time very childlike, I can honestly say that visiting them was like opening a window
to your childhood.
I left with lots of 'Alice' sculpture, but I think we have agreed "not enough" so I intend, and look forward to returning again very,very [next week] soon.

Another artist that I unfortunately have not met, but whose art I have received is
Bertem Rene
Bertem lives and works at New Smyrna Beach, Florida [now a journey there I would like].
He is a 'Mask Maker', and he has made us a very special "one of a kind" White Rabbit mask 
for the ALICE exhibition.
I know very little about Bertem, but I do know that he is extremely kind and very generous.
He is a man of few words but those few speak volumes about him.
I had managed to make contact with him and asked if he would make us a mask for the exhibition. The next I heard was to tell me it was about to be sent.
I replied had I known I would have asked for one of the incredible
'Green Man' masks that he has made in the past.
Two weeks later a box arrived with the ALICE mask and to my great delight a
Green Man.
In the box was a short note, it finishes thus.
"No matter what reason one covers their face with a mask, remember...............
It's all about your persona".
The words made me feel cold, I had been uncovered.
What an incredible artist and person, I feel humbled and privileged to be showing his craft.

Well other things [in fact lots] have happened, but like you I'm feeling tired.
I want to go home, be welcomed by my dogs, eat then sleep.
Tomorrow's another day, and who knows what delights it may bring me.
I do have a suspicion of one , but I won't mention it in case I frighten the artist away.

One last thing before I drive off into the sunset
[that was two hours ago but it's good to be romantic at my age]
At last the ALICE invitation is ready for the printer on Monday morning.
So here is the cover, along with Bertem masks, a Graham Piggot sculpture and of course a Paul Rumsey drawing.

Sunday 14 March 2010

This morning I was checking the different blogs of various artist/sculptors that I follow,
one of these is of the potter Margaret Brampton.
Margaret who I have mentioned before is contributing to our ALICE exhibition.
To my delight she had posted a picture of a bowl that she has made for the exhibition on her site. It is lovely, simple, innocent and full of the characteristic charm of her work.
Once I had got over the excitement of seeing something that we will be showing I then started to worry.
Something that now seems to be part of daily life in the gallery.

"That's it"! I thought.
Stop thinking of details and articles for the exhibition in June and then the next in July,
focus on the next exhibition which is
I must admit I would rather do this as I am really looking forward to it.
So today I moved one step closer to making it a reality.
I have over a period of time [since deciding on the exhibition] started collecting various
antique Alice in Wonderland prints.
They range from 70 to 100 years old and are really very beautiful.
The idea is to have them framed to show alongside the contemporary art.
I know that showing "old" work isn't something a gallery should do, but as I have said before
"it's my party".
I suppose that is my ethos for everything that we show, I exhibit the work that moves me and then hope that in turn it will move others. 
I think that this is the only way that it can work for me, because as much as I need to,
I don't try to "sell art", 
I just try to make people understand why I love some things so much.
Sometimes my enthusiasm flows over and as a result we have a sale.
Which as much as I wanted this, it wasn't what I was trying to do.
In my mind "selling" art cheapens it.
Maybe I should just work in a supermarket where I wouldn't have this dilemma.
Whatever, as usual I digress. Where was I?

Oh yes! The old prints.
I really would love to keep them all for myself, but this hasn't happened before so I shan't start
I am really finding it hard to chose what to display and how to go about it.
For instance, should they be in groups?
As an example of what I am thinking here are three versions of the same scene by different artists.
The picture is The Pool of Tears.
The artists are Mabel Lucie Attwell, Margaret Tarrant and Arthur Rackham.
Should they be framed together, or not?
Of course the bottom picture is Margaret's bowl,
no dilemma there.

Friday 12 March 2010

I think that this evening is the first time that I have been "on top of things" and back to normal for a long time. At last I can concentrate on where I'm going instead of where I've been,
if you know what I mean.
That isn't entirely true though as the Jim Malone magazine article is still hovering over my head,
after many alterations [not with the text] we are now discussing the captions to go with the pictures. I think that they have whittled it down to eleven photographs, I thought they would use about three but they kept asking for more until I said that there "wasn't any more", at that point they must have got serious and started to vet them.
I know that one day in the near future I will be very grateful for what they have done but at the moment every time the name Jim Malone is mentioned I want to scream,
"I haven't got any more pictures".
Which is a bit silly because last time he was mentioned I was asked 
"could I have an invitation to his exhibition"?
That aside, as I say I'm on top of things.

This gives me the opportunity to mention two new sculptures that have just arrived from
Antonio Lopez Reche.
It seems like only yesterday that I mentioned the hope of having some of his work here, now
he is almost part of the gallery furniture. A permanent fixture.
I hope so anyway, I find his work really powerful and dynamic, it really tells a story.
One new piece is a Minotaur and is titled
"Bring  It On!",
one look at it shows why it is so named, it has a real undercurrent of violence about it yet at the same time is very moving and gentle.
The other sculpture is "Morning Love", which doesn't make a lot of sense but it does when you look at the piece.
I really don't think that it will be here long.
Still, until it goes it "is mine". I can look at it and admire it every day.
I hope it sells so that Antonio has a reason to send me something else, but, I will miss it when it goes.

Other things have been arriving, exhibits for the ALICE exhibition.
This feels good, as with a month to go before the opening I can start to gauge a feeling for how the exhibition will look.
Today's arrivals may surprise some people, in fact it may not be deemed as "ART",
but it certainly is to me.
These are Dolls, yes that's what I said "Dolls".
These are by the award winning artist Ankie Daanen, who comes from Holland but spends a lot of the year in Spain where she teaches her art.
Holland, Spain then America.
America is where she is most exhibited, and I was fortunate enough to have approached her while she was on route to Spain where she was going to pack work for the USA, before leaving herself to exhibit there and in Canada.
She really is a lovely person and became very excited when I invited [begged] her to be involved
in the ALICE show. She told me that she had no time to make something especially for it and invited me to choose from what was already made and that I felt would fit in with the theme.
This I was very happy with, but today when her work arrived I found that she had made 
something especially for us. I haven't had time to photograph this but I will include it in a posting nearer to the event.
It was a very kind thing to do, given that she was under pressure.
Some artists are like that.

Here are the sculptures by Antonio, plus one innocent 'Alice at play' doll. 

Tuesday 9 March 2010

The forthcoming ALICE exhibition is very much in my mind at the moment , but I thought it about time I mentioned something about recent events that now seem long in the past,
even though only a few days have passed
from when they were occupying all of my mind and time.
We are now in the middle of an exhibition titled 'All Creatures Great & Small'.
Not that original I know, but what the 'heck' it makes sense of the work displayed.
The star of this exhibition is a young talented sculptor named Brendan Hesmonhalgh.
I suppose it would be easy to describe him as a 'Ceramic Wildlife Sculptor' but to do so would "water down" conceptions of his incredible talent.
Brendan sculpts all life, human and animals, in fact perhaps the best piece of his work that we have ever shown was a life size 'ICARUS', something totally unusual and beautiful,
it literally "stopped people in their tracks".
It now presides over a garden in Shropshire, set high above the lawn where eventually he will fall to earth.
There is only one problem with Brendan, he is too popular. 
His work is in demand everywhere, from galleries and public alike, which makes it very hard to
to get a sufficient amount to make a good display,
and it was for this reason that the exhibition was conceived.
What artist could resist a solo show? I asked myself.
So a year ago I asked. Brendan agreed, and we have spent a year in anticipation of the large amount of sculpture that would be on show.
Unbeknown to me other galleries must have planned the same.
So it was, that a week before the opening when I found that another gallery was holding an  exhibition with 'his' work in their show a "little" bit of panic started to creep in.
Unfortunately I am one of those people who always look on the dark side of things.
I am a born pessimist, I justify this by saying "I'm always prepared for the worse and if it doesn't happen then I'm ahead of the game".
Perhaps not the best way to approach life, but it's mine.
Little wonder my wife is always telling me to "lighten up a little, smile more".
I can't I'm a pessimist.
So, with this being my nature I approached my good friend and talented sculptor Karen and asked if she could help out "just in case".
Although she has more than enough to do Karen [as always] told me not to worry and that she would somehow get something new to me on time.

I'm sure that Brendan just likes to make old men worry,
but he didn't let me down, his sculptures arrived just in time, on a truck.
They needed a truck to deliver them because of the shear scale of the work, I don't think that anyone has ever told him that "less is more".
To Brendan "more is more" and I can vouch for this as I struggled with two [passers by] other 
people to carry a magnificent life size 'Pig' into the gallery.
Where for the last week he has drawn crowds of people to the window.
Add to this, dogs, hares, seals and giant
 pelicans the gallery soon filled up, but what was missing were smaller delicate animals.
Then "the cavalry" arrived, in the form of Karen's smaller delicate animals.
The combination of the different works made for a really well balanced show, but I must admit my nerves are getting a bit frayed with each exhibition, wondering, "will they won't they"
in respect of getting work here on time.
At the other end of the spectrum we have the sculptor John Maltby
booked for an exhibition in July.
Alongside Emma Rodgers, Herman Muys, Claire Curneen and Eve Shepherd
he will be part of our
'Ceramic Sculptors' exhibition.
Although it is still months away he contacted me earlier this week and asked,
" how many of my sculptures do you need, what size do you want them and when by"?
This was followed by a telephone call asking if I needed photographs to promote the exhibition.
Almost unheard of.
I suppose it is because he pays so much attention to the important details that every show he does is a 'sell out'.
I feel privileged that such a "legend" has agreed to contribute to this exhibition.

From tomorrow I hope to be back to current events, but until then here are a
few samples of what I have been talking about.
The beautiful Kestrel is by Karen.
I will mention here that although I was lucky enough to have an Owl as a member of my family
[you can't call a wild animal a pet] for fifteen years my lifelong ambition has been to have a Kestrel. Not to own, but to share its life with us.
Having the Kestrel made by Karen here for a few days is the closest that I have come to that dream [hey, Karen it's my birthday this week], it really was so very life like.
The Rhino's head and Whippet are by Brendan [no picture will do them justice].
The wall sculpture is by John Maltby


Tuesday 2 March 2010

I have had too many things that I should have written about but I thought that maybe if I start with the latest and then try and catch up over the next couple of days then that might be best.
Or, perhaps that's just me pretending to myself that I will write about things instead of ignoring them.
I really am behind on lots of different jobs at the moment, the weekend saw the opening of our latest exhibition which has taken up a lot of time and has left me playing catch up,
but I will write about that as soon as I have taken some pictures of the different exhibits.
I had intended to take pictures at the opening but that didn't happen, which is maybe just as well as photographs taken while talking to people don't tend to be that good.

So, the very latest thing of any interest to have happened was a telephone call that I received about 30 minutes ago.
It was from a woman in America called Brooke Oliver,
who is the agent of the very famous artist
Michael Parkes.
I have been longing to show his art for a long time but I knew that I would be wasting my time as he is far too successful and shows in galleries worldwide, so why would he be interested in us.
However, I gave it a lot of thought and then decided it was worth trying.
I can only be told to "get lost", I thought.
I can live with that.
So off into "space" went my email asking "was there any chance"?
The result was that for the last four days I have been eagerly awaiting a telephone call which was arranged for this evening.
Basically, he and his company wanted to know what I could do for Michael in terms of representing his work.
It was a challenge for me considering that another major London gallery was competing against me. I did the only thing that I could and "poured my heart out" and told Brooke that we may not be the biggest gallery but the work would be shown with genuine appreciation.
It was the nearest experience to a job interview that I have had for many years.
I wanted those pictures as much as I wanted any job that I've applied for,
after an hour the poor woman announced to my delight
"well I'm sold".
I wanted to put down the telephone and skip around the gallery punching the air, but I didn't think that that would go down too well on her phone bill,
so instead I just sat and continued the conversation with a fast beating heart and
a big grin on my face.
It is still very early days and there is a lot of details that remain to be sorted out, but I am
one step closer to achieving an ambition.

For those that don't know Michael's work, apart from his beautiful paintings he produces
lots of his work as 'Stone Lithographs'.
A technique that is all but extinct, well certainly in the manner that he works.
The way he works hasn't been used for a very long time, he actually draws his art onto stones,
not just one stone, but the same picture produced again and again [by hand] onto different stone slabs.
Each different picture represents a different colour of the finished artwork.
The stones are then covered in different inks and each colour hand printed onto paper with each colour fitting precisely.
The skill involved in this technique is beyond belief, and it is the precision and understanding
of what the combined colours will look like which makes it almost a lost art.
I have only ever seen stones illustrated with such craftsmanship at the museum in the
London College of Printing when I was a young [much younger] man.
We [the students] were being shown the history of printing and the methods that no longer existed.
So to find years later that there was a man who had this ability was a great surprise,
Especially when you consider the subtle beauty of the pictures by Michael
that are shown above.
Let's hope they will be in the gallery before too long.
Hey! I'm taking orders now.