Tower Street gallery According to McGee reopens tomorrow (Saturday) with the aptly timed exhibition Return of the Painter.
Artists included in the exhibition, featuring primarily seascapes and landscapes, include McGee favourites such as Freya Horsley, David Baumforth, and Amrik Varkalis, and, for the first time in 12 years, gallery director Ails McGee.
It is a move from the gallery to the studio which has excited Ails.
“It’s not an abdication of roles – I am still the gallery director, alongside husband and business partner Greg McGee, but I felt it was time for me to pick up the paint brushes, roll up my sleeves, and get creative,” she said.
“The first job of a gallery is to celebrate creativity, and I find myself in a happy position where I can not only curate the art I love but also add my own art to the collection”.
Muse is a funny thing
Ails studied at the University of Leeds and graduated in textiles and fine art. She has co-directed According to McGee since its launch in 2004.
“I was honoured to exhibit alongside artists who I admire in According to McGee – Jake Attree, Dave Pearson, Freya Horsley, Amrik Varkalis,” Ails said.
She took a break from painting “for a number of reasons, one of which was sleep deprivation.
“At one point we had three children under the age of three, and mixing colours in the studio simply was not an option! “
That wasn’t the only reason. “The muse is a funny thing, and that feeling of frustration when the marks you make as a painter aren’t as intuitive or instinctive as you’d like them to be can disinhibit.
“That came from a mixture of things, some of it a result from business priorities.”
As well as the gallery, Ails has concentrated on offshoots such as McGee Photography and The Artillery, a business enterprise which oversaw the hiring of art to overseas collectors.
She also co-directs charity New Visuality, and its recent projects helped encouraged her to return to the studio.
“We have been working via online sessions with disadvantaged young people from all over the North,” she said.
“Lockdown, when it came, was such a thief and so sudden, that it traumatised everyone. Unlike most of us, the children were never asked what they thought, nor could they voice their stories, even if they wanted to.
“The work we got back was so full of hope, had so much light and was so relentlessly optimistic, that it led me back to the joys of creativity and working on a canvas. This collection is a response to that, the searching for hope on the horizon.”
The collection, ‘Horizons’, will hang alongside the new collections from Freya Horsely, David Baumforth, Amrik Varklais, Georgie Britton, and Julia Poulton, forming Return of the Painter.
It is an exhibition which is keenly anticipated by art lovers and followers alike.
Ails said: “We have made pre-exhibition sales, which is vindication that the appetite for contemporary paintings is in fine fettle, and the exhibition is here to stay, and will evolve as our current artists provide new art, and we welcome new artists.
“If one of the benefits created by lockdown is a renewed determination to make beautiful, collectible paintings, then, for a gallery director and painter, that is a positive amongst many negatives worth holding onto.”
‘Return of the Painter’, an exhibition of paintings from artists across the UK, runs from July 18th until December 24th 2020.