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.

Thursday 26 May 2011

The 'Ancient Mariner' art that I am showing today is chosen because these are the pictures that I had ready and was happy with.
I was going to show two other talented people but on consideration I didn't think that the
images did justice to their work so I will try again tomorrow.
However I am more than delighted to be able to show the work of sculptor Eve Shepherd.
The pictures again don't do justice to the work, but these sculptures seem almost impossible
to capture with the camera [sometimes it happens] so these are the results of the best efforts by Eve and myself.

Eve is a pretty famous sculptor by any ones standards and has become one of my favourites,
but this wasn't by intent, just accident.
She contacted me a couple of years ago saying
"I believe that you show ceramic sculpture, and that's where I want to go".
That sentence is a slight compression of an hour long conversation, so I admit that I have skipped a little piece here and there.

I had no knowledge of who or how well known she was, and I don't think for a second that she expected me know to of her.
She really is not that sort of person.
Eve is someone who takes her art very seriously, but outside that she
is such a lovely down to earth grounded person.

Obviously I now know of her fame [and have even watched her on TV
but it doesn't make the slightest difference.
She is still just Eve.
I like to think that we have become good "mates", or as she told me a few days ago "we work together", having come to regard her and her work very highly words like that meant a great deal to me, but I know she is right we do.
Both mad as "hatters", we have brilliant, exciting conversations together and I always put down the telephone with a big grin on my face.
Believe me that rarely happens.

She doesn't need to be involved with a gallery as small as Imagine
[not when almost every gallery and auction house is asking to show her work].
But she has chosen to, and although I shouldn't take that lightly I do, because like I said we have become friends and with good friends you take them for granted, which I know you should never do but it does make for a much nicer life having the knowledge that
"they will be there for you".

Not that this was the case with "The Mariner" exhibition because unknown to me it was her
favourite story, had I known or approached her earlier she would have filled the place up with her sculptures, so excited was she to work on this theme.

These three pieces by her are a total departure from her normal work, and I absolutely love them. To me they are the old Gustav Dore engravings brought to life.
When I first received her pictures of "the work in progress" I was so excited that I wanted to share them with someone so I sent them on to sculptor John Maltby.
He came back with the response.
"the best work I have seen in many a year".

So eventually they were fired [they are ceramic with copper] and were delivered.
After seeing them I called Eve to say you "will never see these again because at least one is coming home with me".
But I have said that many times about lots of different art that passes though our hands and
unfortunately I recognize that we are just temporary caretakers of these lovely objects.

So above we have three different sections of the story as perceived by Eve Shepherd.
I will add that in the first picture 'Merciful Spirit' the sculpture is mounted on a piece of the old Brighton Pier.
I asked her could I name it "Mariner's Day Out at the Seaside".

Wednesday 25 May 2011

I have been thinking that I should be showing pictures of the different works in the order that they arrived here, but I'm afraid that I can't, as the temptation to show the work of one lady was just too much to resist.
There are different reasons for this, one being that it was the last piece to arrive from America
although there is still a lot missing
or being dissected in customs that we are waiting for.

[Now that's got to be a good job, opening other peoples things, re-packing them badly, and then charging them for the privilege. Of course interspersed with lots of tea breaks].
But someone has got to do it.

I have gone off the track a little as I do.

The main reason that I am showing this piece of work is because the artist is the first person that I approached sometime about a year ago.
Well in fact she was the second person as originally it was intended as a solo exhibition by the sculptor John Maltby, but after a few weeks into the planning he wrote to me and said that he
didn't need the pressure of another solo exhibition as his health was too bad, he explained that he needed less stress and pressure, so urged me to make it a group exhibition.
So after sulking for a while I realised that he was right and in fact it would be much more interesting showing the interpretations of various artists, not just one.

So where should I start and who should I ask? I wasn't sure.
One week later I met a woman from Washington, who just happened to be showing
a few sculptures in the Lake District [like they do].
I was totally smitten by her work and was determined that I wasn't coming back to the gallery without some, which was lucky as she was equally determined that I should take
some with me.

So that is how I met Novie Trump.
The first person to agree to participate in this exhibition.

A year later in honour of our meeting her contribution became the cover for the invitation.
In fact she had made three sculptures but only this one survived the making process, she did describe the others to me but it only depressed me to know that I [not anyone] would never see them.
However, I might prevail upon her to re-visit the theme and try again.
But there I go being really presumptuous as usual.

The sculpture she made is beautiful, it is a 'Reliquary', almost a Tomb made from ceramic and shows the dead Albatross sealed behind a glass panel.
What is more amazing is that the glass panel is engraved with script from the story.
Underneath this there is an antique compass inset into the ceramic.
It was just the sort of mad, unusual, exciting and beautiful piece I knew she could and would create.
So when long ago she sent me a photograph of it I decided that it would be the invitation cover,
as my mind went back to when we stood in a field discussing what things could be made, conversations like "you know what would be really good"?
We have all had them at some time, and it is from these sort of chats that beautiful things
become a reality.
So, as she was the first I am letting her jump the queue of whose work I am showing.

Another nice thing is that not only did she send this piece
but she also included a couple of smaller sculptures for our "next" exhibition.
Even better still she included a small sculpture as a gift for me.
I don't know what I have ever done to deserve it, but I love it.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

I'm in a bit of a "dither" about what I should show you next,
especially as something long awaited and eagerly anticipated arrived this morning from America and I want to show that but I'm not sure that it will work if I "mix & match" different types of work so I have decided to go with what I had intended, especially as this will take four pictures to show.

It is a very large 'Harvest Jug' by the Devonshire potter Doug Fitch.
It is strange that Doug is someone who seems addicted to modern day technology but when it
comes to his art he is firmly rooted in the past.
Making terracotta ceramics in the style of the old country potters.
He is a strange man, in as much as he seems to worry and be unsure about his own work but is always first to spot the talent of others and to promote them and their work.
I somehow think that with his own pots they will never be good enough for him,
but the next one he makes might be.
So he always strives to achieve perfection.
It is funny to think that this country potter who works from a small workshop hidden away in a remote part of Devon
[and let's be realistic all of Devon is remote if you live near London]
is known of and admired around the world.

This offering by Doug is a little bit of a departure from his "normal" work as he didn't decorate the jug himself.
He conceived it, threw it in two parts, dipped it in slip [white clay] the handed it to a good friend of his. Andrew Grundon.
[Like I say he is ready to promote the talent of others].

Not exactly another potter as Andrew is a Sign writer.
Well at least I think that is the official description for his amazing works of art.

Treating the [then] white pot as a blank canvas he drew and scratched through the surface
of the slip to reveal the red clay beneath.
This offers a very simple explanation to what is incredibly skillful, or it certainly is in the case of this jug.
He has chosen a section of the story that is perhaps less known and certainly not an
immediate choice. For this I like it even more as he obviously studied or knows the poem well.

I have tried to photograph it but nothing gave an impression of how it really looks, so I have shown four different aspects so that you can gain an understanding of how it is to look at and hold.
The jug is large, strong and well crafted, coupled with the incredible decoration it really is an object of great beauty.
What is strange is that although it is less than a week old it really does look ancient.

Monday 23 May 2011

After the "Ancient Mariner" opening yesterday there is nothing I would have liked more than to take the day off, to gather my thoughts and reflect on events.
But there is certainly no time for that, there are still a lot of exhibits that are missing so I thought it best to spend the day trying to track those down and find when [if ever] they might arrive.
Come this evening I am no further forward and still have no idea of where things are, or when
they might reach us, but on the positive side I did have a curt email from one international courier demanding to know our "company" details.

In real language it means
"we intend to send a big bill before you get anything".
So perhaps wheels are turning, and who knows?
Maybe one day they might find the time to deliver something.
If they do I must remember to mail and thank them for their efforts.

Having no luck with couriers I spent the remainder of the day photographing different things
that have arrived, with the intention of putting them on the web site.
This is always something that seems to take so long.
I am never happy with the pictures that I take and I really feel that if I can't "do justice"
to the work then it is better to show nothing rather than portray something indifferently.
Maybe [most likely] I'm wrong, as perhaps people only need to get an idea of how something looks, who knows?
I have managed to get some things photographed, but unfortunately this had to be done outside in bright sunlight as my "remote flash" has decided that it doesn't recognize the camera anymore.
Which is odd, as they have been good mates for a couple of years.
Still, that's relationships for you.

So here are a very few of one mans work.
These are of the leather 'Ancient Mariner' journal by Mark Rowney.
The pictures "really" don't do justice to the work, but I wanted to show it anyway.
It is covered with text and pictures from the poem and is stunning.

Mark is such a very clever and most unusual artist.
If he is not painting incredible pictures on wood then he is creating something equally as unusual from leather. I'm not sure how to describe his leather work as it is somewhere between art and sculpture, but I do know that it is very, very clever and beautiful.
How many hours went into the making of this piece of work I couldn't guess at, and I am very
grateful and moved that he went to so much trouble for a group exhibition.

Incredible art and no ego involved.

So Yes,
I will mention it, after great deliberation,
this was such a contrast from one artist who had asked for a solo "show" with us and who had agreed to be part in this exhibition to "test the water" with her work.
Who even after being given a gentle "nudge" even a week ago,

"I'm still working on it".

Decided to send nothing.
Her name was on the invitation, but we received nothing, not even a courtesy call.
Let's face the fact, group shows are about good work not individual ego's.
With some people it is all about "Look at me".

For this reason I intend to show you a lot of the work by the very talented people who became excited about the "theme" and were happy to be part of the whole, to create good work and to exhibit alongside other artists they admire, with no thought of personal recognition.

There are a lot of very nice artists out there.
When it comes to ego's?
Blimey! After fitting mine in there is no room left for others.

Saturday 21 May 2011

I should have understood that when I decided to hold an exhibition upon a theme which was based on a tragic tale it was going to be fraught with problems.
Especially when it was showing the work of twenty five artists.
But I didn't, which says a lot about me. "Hey," that might not be all bad, maybe it shows determination, or perhaps just plain stupidity.
It has certainly taught me a lot about the nature, and generosity of some "artists".

There were four American artist/potter/sculptors involved in this themed show.
Each one of them has produced exceptional unique pieces, for which I am so very grateful.
For them to take such a "leap of faith" was a very kind thing to do, and I have been really excited in the anticipation of seeing and showing their art.
Alas, we have all been victims of the various couriers and the 'customs'.

Only a fraction of what was anticipated has arrived.
Of course I am disappointed, but even more I feel very upset for these people who have taken a chance on "this gallery" in England but who will be unable to have their work on display at the opening.
In reality I suppose that it is not too important, as long as things arrive in the next few days
because the show is on for a month, but it is a great shame as these people deserve to have their work seen by the greatest audience possible.

Whatever, I know that you mustn't advertise on blogs so I suppose you mustn't bad mouth either which is a shame because I would love to bad mouth and ask people to avoid a certain shipper who in my experience is the worlds worst.

So this has made all of the pre-exhibition concerns even more worrying than usual.
I just haven't known what to do.
Do I take a gamble or do I resort to 'Plan B'.
Trouble is there never was a Plan B.
I assumed couriers would deliver, and perhaps that was a silly thing.

So faced with a few gaps to fill, and in anticipation of work not being cleared by customs or delivered on time by couriers
I started to give serious thought to who might be able to help.
That help came from a very lovely man named Stephen Henderson, who lives not that far away on the Essex coast.
He was contributing a few sculptures to the exhibition but I had never met him until a week ago. It's strange how some people who you haven't met seem to be the people that you have known for years. This was the case with Stephen, I felt very comfortable with him, and coming from a shy person that is saying a lot.
I will have to devote a whole post to his life, home and studio, but I certainly haven't that time tonight, but I will because I want to share the magic of it all.

I had already collected Stephens sculptures and whilst collecting them saw many, many others
that my heart ached to bring back to the gallery.
So, in a spot I took a gamble and called him and in my Oliver Twist voice asked
"Not a problem, of course, come and take what you need".

I did, and now in our main window we have a seven foot wide fantastic sculpture.

Don't get me wrong here, this wasn't what I had intended to show in the window, in fact the front cover of the invitation shows the sculpture that would have been there, couriers permitting.
But if you were going to have a replacement than it doesn't get better than this.

All this aside, a few exceptional pieces have arrived "at the last minute
[or in the last possible post]
two of these are by Mark Rowney, who is by any ones interpretation a very talented man.
He knew I needed help, so he helped.
He sent a painting on wood, and an incredible book.
The book I will talk about later as I have never seen anything like it and it really deserves a showcase.

Thinking about it, there are lots of things that I want to show, but for now I suppose this is just a last minute thank you to Stephen and Mark.

So above are Stephens seven foot wide "Marlin chasing Flying Fish".
His small [only three feet wide] "Sea Trout & Fry", and Mark Rowney's painting of the Albatross.

But, I would like to thank everyone who has participated and I promise that once I have recovered from the stress I will show your various works.
Thanks to all of you.

Thursday 12 May 2011

It didn't take me long to lapse back into old ways.
I was going to post pictures of new work each day until the next exhibition.
Well at least I had the good intentions, but we all know sometimes having a life stops you blogging about it.
Mind you, at the moment I don't seem to have much time for a life as I seem to spend all my time here "putting out fires".
Or at least, writing to magazines, reminding artist's of a deadline, chasing for photographs, arranging trips and deliveries and I suppose just the everyday stuff that goes with running a gallery.
Last night I left here at 11.00pm which is not that too unusual as there always seems to be
"just one" unattended thing to sort out before I leave.
I know that many artists don't believe it, but running a gallery can be a full time job,
"if you are interested enough".
I suppose that's my problem, perhaps I get just a little bit too interested sometimes,
but that's a silly thing to say, as how can you not get too interested when you are seeing new creations and talking to different creators each day?

As a perfect example, I had a call yesterday from Ed Prybyl, the sculptor who lives in America.
He is sending a piece that he has crafted especially for our new exhibition.
It was so nice to hear his voice and to be able to put a personality to the person that I have only corresponded with by mail.
He told me that he had enjoyed the challenge of creating something that had such an interesting theme, and that it had made him stretch himself.
It was obvious that he had put a great deal of thought, effort and research into his sculpture.

To hear something like that, and to realise that it had been nurtured by your own imagination
was an absolute thrill, it must be the next best thing to being an artist.
It was very humbling, and it is the comments that he made that makes me feel that
"I must try harder, I must give all of my time and attention to this", because when you think of it, it is not a lot in return for all the work and effort put in by so many people who are just
trying to help my own dreams and imagination become a reality.

So, this gives me the perfect excuse to show pictures of Ed's sculpture, [which I hope is now somewhere over the Atlantic between him and us].
It is a very unusual piece of sculpture and certainly different to anything we have had before,
but the whole feeling of it is very close to my heart.
I love the "new, yet antique" feel about it, and it is the sort of thing I would love to have shown in the past. Had I known of someone like Ed Prybyl.

Unfortunately I have only recently "discovered" Ed.
It is nothing short of a miracle that he, listened to me, took me seriously, agreed to take part, and then spent the next three weeks making this especially for us.

He has chose to interpret a piece of the story that I really like.
The Mariner stopping and telling the Wedding guest his tale of woe.
Such an undramatic part in the poem of "The Ancient Mariner", but such an important part.
A simple piece of the story concentrating on people, and at least for me the most moving part
of this sad tale.
I just love the way that Ed has captured the "cynical" expression on the face of the young man,
and then also the "earnest and honest" expression of the mariner.
I can imagine the conversation,
"no listen to me boy, it's the truth".
"Yeah, OK Grandad".
It could be anytime in history.
The old trying to communicate with the young.
A problem I have, because I never go home.

Which reminds me I had better leave now, I have to be in early tomorrow as there are more exhibits arriving from Ireland.

Thanks Ed, I really appreciate your thought, hard work and imagination.

Monday 9 May 2011

Things seem to be pretty hectic at the moment, it seems to me that this years exhibitions are almost going 'back to back'.
Which they are not, but that is how it feels.
Normally each years exhibitions are scheduled way ahead and are given plenty of space in between.
But this year isn't normal, or maybe I am the only person who has recognised that there is a recession going on [or at least has the nerve to mention the subject].
It has been a strange year for art, it would seem that people are now purchasing with serious intent, or at least being very selective with their purchases.
It seems to be a good time for good artists, the public now more than ever are after quality.
After all, if they haven't as much to spend, then they want to know what they are buying is the very best.
So as a result we have had some of our most exiting artist's selling really well.
Which has been such a confidence boost for myself as time and time again I have told people
"I don't care how well it sells elsewhere, if I don't love it then I don't want to show it here".

This is something that sounds pretty bad, mad and very "snotty" especially when at the end of the day I am supposed to be running a business.
But, like any business running a gallery is not all pleasure, in fact only a little of it is, for me that pleasure comes from looking at the work we show and as I have said many times
"I have to pinch myself for being this lucky", and I remind myself of that fact each day when I look at the many things that I cherish and would love to own and take home, so those are the works I choose to sell.

In conversation with artist's all of the time I am asked,
"what is selling at the moment"?
Or even as I was asked today by a very talented sculptor "am I good enough at the moment".
To anyone who could ask that question the only answer is "yes", any artist who is questioning there work can only be a good artist.
So what is selling ?
I couldn't tell you what will sell next, the only thing that I am sure of is that it will be something of the best quality in its chosen genre.
So with all of this in mind I decided that I wanted to keep this year "very open" when it came to exhibitions and look for the very best people. So many times in the past I have missed unknown and emerging artist's because of previous commitments, so this year I decided to gamble and to ask the artist's I would like to exhibit as the year unfolded, but all the time with the focus on what I thought was the very best work to be shown.
As by now I'm sure everyone [who reads this blog] knows that my taste's are "all over the place", or so it seems to some people.
I feel that all of us have so many facets to our personalities so why shouldn't we all like many various kinds of art?
Anyway, that's my excuse to indulge myself wherever my heart and desires take me.
And sure this has all added to a lot of timetable problems
as my desires don't always fit with others schedules.

In contrast to everything I have just said [yes, I am a mixed up person]
our next exhibition has been planned for a year, though it seems so much longer as there isn't a day pass when it's not on my mind. The people involved have been added as that year progressed, and I am so pleased that I decided to keep it open to constant additions.

'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner".

I have mentioned it before many times, and will do again each day for a couple of weeks.
At the moment it has a "cast" of 24 different Worldwide artist/sculptors/potters involved.
Even with just a couple of weeks to go until the opening I wouldn't be surprised if more weren't added as we have never had such a great response to any exhibition, and I had never understood just how many different [various mediums] artists were fans of the story.

So leading up to the opening I intend to show different work as it arrives, some of that I know is going to be "very close to the wire" as a couple of American sculptors are still working on things, but this just makes it that little more exciting [nerve wracking].

Exactly what we are going to have on show I still only have a vague idea about.
As an example one potter [Doug Fitch] has told me he is "leaving it as a surprise".
Like any child I love surprises but "hey! Doug I'm getting too old for this much excitement".

But seriously, the anticipation is all of the fun.
"When" it arrives "I" then have to start work so that everything looks at its best.

But like I said "sometimes I have to pinch myself"

The first offerings that I am showing is a series from an incredible lady named
Eleanor Bartleman, made from ceramic but resembling old stained glass windows.
What is interesting is the way she has depicted the Albatross as a person, maybe a lover.
Like the original tale, there are so many interpretations to be made from her art.
She tells me that there are more to be seen, which at the moment are still being fired in the kiln.
I cant wait.