Galleries that have gone, artists from the Open Studios and new exhibitions feature in Jayne Dwyer’s May art diary
April was a prolific month for art, just as I anticipated in my last blog. There has been so much frivolity and chinking of wine glasses that it would be tempting to bury the bad news and only report on the cheery stuff. However, it would be disrespectful not to mention the sad loss of both Bar Lane Studios (the gallery space) and Space 109.
Goodbye and thank you
I remember Bar Lane opening its doors. It brought hope to a corner of the city that had been struggling for a few years. My dad used to run Micklegate Bar Museum (which if you didn’t know, is snuggled into the walls above the bar).
My dad used to get frustrated because his little museum was quite often left off the tourist maps, and though Micklegate is the official gateway to the city people had a tendency to pass through it, either on a mission to get to York’s centre, or on their way home, jaded and too tired to climb the steps.
In a short space of time, Micklegate had also lost the wonderful Blake Head, and a popular deli. The street seemed to be losing it heartbeat and my dad literally gave up the ghosts and handed the museum over to York Archaeological Trust.
Bar Lane had a very promising start with Dali and Matisse exhibitions, and had really started to draw the community back with open shows and a chance to exhibit local art, and by providing workshops for budding and established artists alike.
At the opposite side of town, Space 109 announced it too would be closing its doors, for similar issues regarding funding. I have to admit, I didn’t visit Space 109 as often as I should have, being quite simply at “the wrong side of town”. I wish I had. It is true the saying that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. One of the highlights of this year’s Open Studios for me has been an exhibition in here.
York Open Studios review
And so my blog, which is more of a review this month, starts with the discovery of a new artist in a gallery space which is due to close. Hannah Ostapjuk’s oils need a space like Space 109 (or Bar Lane). They need big walls and big windows. Hannah is new to Open Studios and told me that this was her first solo exhibition in a gallery space and that she has enjoyed having the freedom to hang her pieces herself.
Hannah’s oils are impressive in their scale. There is something brave about tackling a portrait that is larger than life. Hannah is a personable young woman and it is not difficult to imagine how she captured the personality of her subjects in the exhibition.
She explained most of her models are family members, people that she has a natural bond with. More recently she has a new model – a young girl she “found” in Whistles and was inspired to paint because of the girl’s vibrant personality.
I was feeling rather smug with myself for not over indulging the night before at the opening of York Open Studios at Rogues Atelier and the School House Gallery (both of which were positively buzzing). I had been up with the larks and was probably the first person to visit Catherine Boyne Whitelegg’s quirky little birds (as I promised myself I would) to find that she now has some rather large beasts in her repertoire.
In the next room, I found Sally Clarke and her endearing, whimsical prints (collages and collagraphs). Sally was one of several artists that took the time to talk about the process of how she creates her pictures and this felt like a real privilege.
I sat on the sofa of this home-come-studio looking through her portfolio of prints like you would a new friend’s family album, though Sally told me that her prints are not necessarily autobiographical and that her main intention is usually to perfect and develop the process.
Another real highlight for me was Stefan Philips. Stefan’s collages and his installations are about decay and created by decay. His collages are created using a process of rusting papers and his installations, by and large, feature bones.
However, the vibrant yellows and ochre in his collages, the accents of red are uplifting and beautiful. His installations made me smile. I am hoping to move house soon (if my little compact and bijou ever sells). When I do (trying to keep with the positive stance here) Stefan’s collages are the sort of thing I want on my walls, the sort of art I want to wake up to – and luckily Ed liked them as much as I did. The caged chicken installation in his front room might not quite work with our furniture, but it was appreciated on the day.
I think that my son, had he managed to wake early enough for my crusade, would have enjoyed Andrew Dale’s steam punk pieces. Think Back to the Future meets Mad Max. He would have enjoyed it if he hadn’t decided last week that “he didn’t like art anymore”. I wish I could have coaxed him to see these mad concoctions of old hats and goggles, barometers and timepieces.
It may sound as though I have written about everything I saw at Open Studios; I haven’t. I haven’t written about the little box my friend spent almost £100 on; the textiles that I can appreciate for the time I know they must have taken to create, but fail to move me or the stunning ceramics that simply left me speechless and need no publicity from me.
But before I move on from YOS, I need to mention Ray Fearn, who I saw on the last weekend on our way home. Ray told us that unlike the other artists we visited during YOS, it had generally been “a little bit quiet”. When I asked him where he sold his paintings, he told me “well, I don’t really”. Ray was exhibiting in his home and it is a little off the beaten track. It is a shame that people may have driven past because it is not obvious if the road he lives in is accessible, and if we hadn’t been lucky with the lull in traffic, we may have missed him too.
I was drawn to go and visit him by the little image in the YOS booklet, which he told me was one of the few figurative pieces in his collection. Ray usually paints landscapes but painted this particular piece because he fancied a change. He chose the subject of the horn dance as he wanted to experiment more and paint movement. He told us that the bright orange sky was still wet when he took it the framers.
The colours in this and all his work are spectacular. Everybody will recognise at least some of the settings of Ray’s paintings, but I particularly loved Malham Cove.
Mermaid and Miller
So, with YOS behind us, and the loss of gallery space, will York have much to offer this month? Well, yes it does, actually.
Mermaid and Miller, managed by Paul Jones (originally from Your Emporium), and one of the initiatives of the Blueberry Academy, recently opened its own art space. If you have not ventured into Mermaid and Miller yet, you will find it in the old Future Prospects building in Swinegate. The shop itself sells a range of gifts and artwork, and photographic prints made by David Kenward. The arts and crafts are made by artists with learning difficulties and the shop itself offers training opportunities.
Paul and Angela Taylor planned the art space opening night in a bid to promote the opportunity for artists, but found that before the night they had managed to get bookings right up until February next year.
I spoke to Jenny Eden, one of the artists currently exhibiting at Mermaid and Miller. Jenny makes boxed collages from original books and papers and her work conjures up a strange nostalgia. When I looked at them I didn’t recognise any books or images from my own past but was left with that sense of having seen the images fleetingly in other people’s homes, in other lives.
Jenny told me that she had chosen to exhibit there as the space offers her the opportunity to draw in passers-by, being in a prime position in the city and that she likes the fact that there are so many beautiful tactile things in the shop to inspire.
If you are an artist yourself, there will be an opportunity to exhibit in June at their Open Exhibition, for an affordable submission fee of £10 (30 per cent commission on all sales). Submission deadline: Saturday, June 1. Call in to Mermaid and Miller for more details.
Jonathan Newdick at Pyramid
By now, you will have missed some other worthy exhibitions in spaces that you may not know existed or may have forgotten about. I confess, I had forgotten about Pyramid, down Stonegate but was over the moon to catch Jonathan Newdick there last week at the gallery’s Spring Exhibition.
I have seen Jonathan’s wooden sculptures before and particularly love this charred wooden pieces. Anyone who knows me knows I shouldn’t be let loose around things like this. I have a habit of touching things and Jonathan’s work begs to be touched.
Having a clumsy gene (or three) I have stop myself from causing unintentional chaos. Jonathan’s own favourite in the exhibition is Midlife Man, sculpted in stone, and looking up to the heavens in despair. (Perhaps he saw me coming.) You may have missed Jonathan’s work this time, but he is currently working on an exciting project in the Yorkshire Dales, and I aim to stalk him, if only to get my hands on his new work, which will be installed outside and will have the purpose of being “sat on”. I will keep you posted.
What to see in May
And here, just to prove that the feast of April art has not left us in famine this month, here are a few suggestions.
Mermaid and Miller – Shannon Morgan’s impressionistic landscapes and Lin Taylor’s painted bird feathers (throughout May).
Layered at Café 68 in Gillygate – I had a quick peek at these over the heads of customers eating cake and definitely want to return and have a proper look (until June 19).
York College Gallery – a new exhibition of paintings by Bernadette O’Toole called Fold.
Janette Ray Rare and Out of Print Books (located near the York Art Gallery and York Minster) will be hosting a pop up gallery.
Lotte Inch Gallery will be presenting photography of Yorkshire and the Pennines by photographers, Fay Godwin and Anna Lilleengen (from May 17).
University of York’s Norman Rea Gallery: Oil paintings from artist Harvey Taylor. Each painting is a depiction of family photos taken digitally by the artist (weekdays, 9am to 5pm until May 15).
According to McGee: Elementals. Painting by Michael Bilton, Jo Brown, Richard Gray, Ruth Mienczyk and Amrik Varkalis (until 13th May).
The New School House Gallery – John Newling, Stall of the Gathered Things (No 1) (May 1-10).
So, if you are passing through York’s gates and bars, make time and look to the walls of these spaces we shouldn’t take for granted.