With York’s major new locomotive exhibition opening this week, Jayne Dwyer says it’s a good time to get on track with railway art
At the beginning of the month, I thought that I would be using this page as a platform (no pun intended) to stamp my feet over the rumours of the National Railway Museum closure. Thank goodness I don’t have to get on my soap box and that, for now at least, we can continue to enjoy this spectacular museum.
You don’t have to know your Class 37s from you Class 76s or even be into trains to appreciate the NRM.
Some of you may remember the original Railway Museum that hid under the bridge on Station Rise. As children, my brother and I used to love clambering all over the trains, which still smelt of coal and soot.
My dad used to work on the railways, and as a child I pictured him banging rivets into rails until he showed me his offices and sat me on his desk to play with the mechanical pencil sharpener. The railways were a big part of our lives though and our travel pass (which was available to British Rail Employees) meant that we could travel the length and breadth of the country for free. As most of our family were “darn sarth” this was a real bonus.
So what have my ramblings got to do with art? Well, I just want to remind you that the NRM is not just home to Mallard and the Flying Scotsman; it also houses an extensive collection of paintings, drawings, sketches and prints.
A couple of years ago I visited the archive collection, housed in the basement of the museum. It was a real thrill and an experience I will always remember.
I have a little confession… I actually do know my Class 37s from my Class 76s and I was shown the original drawings of several locos, which are stored in huge drawers and rarely see the light of day.
I was astounded by the sheer volume of artefacts and paintings. There is an enormous collection, The Forsyth Collection, which was accumulated by one couple, who had a passion for all forms of transport. They collected everything: tickets, bus time-tables, leaflets and posters. A lot of their collection is still stored in the shoeboxes they kept their memorabilia in, and so their homely mode of storage is also becoming something of a collection.
When I visited the archives, I was told that many of the paintings had never been displayed at the museum as there simply wasn’t the space, but part of the bigger plan was to start exhibiting them in the gallery space upstairs.
Last month, I had a bit of a poster theme to my blog and by coincidence the current exhibition is Quicker By Rail, an exhibition of railway posters advertising the numerous destinations you could reach by rail.
You will no doubt recognise some of the images, which have been printed on mass to make greetings cards, but I am hoping to get a second opportunity to see the poster of Southend, which featured a bathing beauty and the infamous pier in the background. Southend used to be our family’s “darn sarth” summertime haunt in the 70s.
Apart from the gallery space, there are artworks exhibited throughout the museum, such as the magnificent Waterloo Station by Terence Tenison Cureo. It reminds me of bread pudding (not to be confused with bread and butter pudding) which we would be treated to as we waited for our connections to visit aunts and grandparents.
Currently, there is also a stunning set of black and white photographs, illustrating the stories of people who have worked and travelled on the railways.
Check out our gallery of railway posters here.
You can catch more trains at According to McGee this month, who are celebrating the Mallard anniversary with Steam/Speed 13, with paintings from James Green and Colin Smithson. You will need to be quick to catch this as the exhibition is for one week only (July 7 to 14).
By donating £3 you can help choose from fifty masterpieces that will be displayed on billboards across the country for two weeks in August, “putting art into the lives of friends, neighbours and strangers”.
The Secret Art Show
Have you Googled the differences between a Class 76 and a Class 37 yet? While you are there, it is worth Googling the art of Richard Long and Mali Morris.
If you don’t know your Pollocks from your Richter, don’t worry but being able to spot a “Long” may be a bonus this month. The Secret Art Show has posted works of art to raise money for the MS Trust.
The works of art are all 12cm square and available for £45. As the title suggests, the artist’s identity is kept secret until the purchase is made.
This year, you could become the owner of a Richard Long (1989 Turner Prize winner), Mali Morris (Royal Academician Painter), Ishbel Myerscough (recently commissioned to paint Helen Mirren) or Ray Richardson (described as the David Lynch of canvas and paint).
Or you might just become the owner of the next big name.
The Secret Art Show was originally devised in York in 2010 by Jill Holt, a founder of the MS Trust, and Stuart Martin and raised a staggering £20,000. This and subsequent events have helped to fund support for MS nurses and research.
Visit the website to view the pictures and help to make this year a success.
It is no secret that one of my favourite galleries is the New School House Gallery. I know that is a little off the beaten track, but every time I visit I reach a little personal equilibrium, and a calmness I can only find in galleries.
It has been a hectic and challenging month in my real world so a tootle around town and a visit to School House was just the tonic I needed. I was just in time to catch the latest exhibition York Six.
I recognised some pieces I had seen previously: acrylics by Phil Reynolds and the haunting etchings and prints of Catherine Sutcliffe Fuller. Her piece Suburbia depicts a dark corner we all have; a place that is familiar but verging on dangerous.
I couldn’t help, however, but gravitate to the quirky little pieces by Beccy Ridsdel and am consequently now addicted to her website. Beccy’s Cotton evokes memories of favourite aunts and grannies. An “old” flower-patterned plate, peeled back and threaded with cotton, this is the kind of gem that you need to find once in a while as a reprieve from the conventional.
A bridge at the Blue Tree
Another secret to share this month is the Blue Tree Gallery in Bootham. I confess, I have previously walked past it. My excuse is that I am like a bull in a china shop and am usually loaded up with work files when I pass.
The gallery may be small, but I received a warm welcome from Gordon Giarchi, the owner. The current exhibition features lino prints by Hester Cox, Zoe Badger and Guiliana Lazzerini.
Like many lino printers, the three are influenced by nature. Zoe focuses on landscapes, flora and architecture. I particularly enjoyed her prints, which were printed onto linen and embroidered.
My favourite pieces in the gallery, however, are by resident artist, Giuliana Lazzerini. Her York prints are built with simple line and shape and yet evoke a cosmopolitan York, I don’t quite recognise: a holiday destination, rather than the place I have always lived in and worked in.
I am going to leave a little hint here as my birthday is looming – Guiliana’s Ouse Bridge. But don’t forget, I like surprises and I like secrets!
So, as holiday time approaches, next month’s blog may take me further afield. It may still be quicker by rail but I don’t have a rail pass anymore, so Ed and I will pump up the tires on the old Corsa and fill the boot with anoraks.
What to see in July
Steam/Speed 2013 According to McGee, July 7-14
The Art of Printmaking Blue Tree Gallery, ends August 17
Michael Lyons, The Mithras Suite (a new body of work, inspired by ideas surrounding the Roman cult of Mithras) New School House Gallery, July 11 – August 31
The Secret Art Show See the website, throughout July.
Art Fund/ Art Everywhere Project See the website