Month: August 2014

Ragley Gallery and Studios’ first Open is a sunny success

Dawn Harris (left) with Janet Rose, highly commended,               Judge George Wagstaffe (left) with winner Brian Cook

Dawn Harris (left) with highly commended Janet Rose and judge George Wagstaffe with winner Brian Cook (right)

If location is everything, then Ragley Gallery and Studios is way ahead of the crowd.

The opening of the first Ragley Open Art Competition began with glasses of chilled Cava on the terrace of Ragley Hall

the beautiful stately home just outside Alcester. The sun shone and there was a brisk breeze but the views across the long path leading into the distance, the woods and big skies was stunning.

Dawn Harris is enjoying her second year as artist in residence at Ragley Hall, and she works alongside four other artists in studios in the lovely old stable block. Earlier this year she announced the first Ragley Open, and it attracted an impressive 209 entries, with 54 artists chosen to exhibit their works in the gallery which is also in the stables.

The theme of the exhibition is Spirit of Place, and Dawn has described this as fitting into three different categories: “all works refer to the tangible physical aspects of place, (monuments, boundaries, rivers, woods, architectural style, rural crafts styles, pathways, views, and so on); to the invisible weave of culture (stories, art, memories, beliefs, histories, etc.) and to the presence of people (the presence of relatives, friends, kindred spirits, and the like)”.

You could say that encapsulates pretty much everything, but while I was looking around the theme slipped from my mind anyway, and I was impressed with the general high standard of works on show.

One of the judges of the Open was Coventry-based artist and sculptor George Wagstaffe, who attended the opening event. He has previously exhibited recent sculpture at Ragley, and at the Michael Heseltine Gallery in Banbury, and is currently working on some paintings which I look forward to seeing in a future exhibition.

Textile artist Michala Gyetvai who works from a studio at Ragley presented the winners with their prizes – though luckily first prize winner Brian Cook was late arriving from his home near Malvern, so gave us a bit more time to enjoy the Cava and the view!

Brian’s winning work was Two Soldiers in a Supportive Conversation, a small abstract sculpture made mostly of concrete, but also including oak showing two shapes leaning in towards each other.

Brian studied as a mature student at Worcester University between 2009-12. He said: “I graduated, and since then I’ve been enjoying making art.

“I came across concrete when I was at uni. I was working in ceramics but I wanted to make things bigger. My pieces were originally a lot heavier – when you are at university you are in this bubble and can create and there’s no worry about transporting things. I won the Foundation final award and since them I have progressed a bit and come into polishing and looking more at the shape.

“This relates to the First World War and it’s something I have been interested in and wanted to make things to do with, and it’s come at the right time.”

There were four highly commended awards.  Denise Startin, who has previously studied at Coventry University and the Royal College of Art in London,  won for Charlotte’s Locks, a very close-up limited-edition screenprint of a key hanging from a lichen-covered wall, and Linda Davies for Bawley Bay, a large mixed media on board showing an industrial scene of cranes, barbed wire, the Thames and a union safety notice.

Contrastingly, also highly commended was Janet Rose for her gentle, colourful textile work, Walled Garden, and Janet Tryner for Field C, a mixed media work which struck a chord with me and any other festival-goers as it included some lovely aquamarine and yellow colours, depicting tents crammed together at a festival with bright lights in the distance, and a muddy ground.

Field C by Janet Tryner, highly commended   Linda Davies, highly commended

Highly commended works Field C by Janet Tryner, and Linda Davies with her work Bawley Bay

Other notable works include Neil Spalding’s Raiw Pottery, small models including some of Cornish mine buildings, Julie Robertson’s photograph at Ragley of flowers in a well-lit window and Sally Larke’s two framed sets of small ceramic pots, each with a different coloured inside to them.

Maureen Grimwade has contributed A Cornish Haven, an oil on board work of a peaceful holiday beach, and Fiona Payne’s Washday is a vivid, bright work showing red and yellow houses against a bright background, and her Vacant is a heavily-worked oil.

Michelle Carruthers is showing an unusual work of lines and shapes made up of tiny pieces of pollen on paper, thankfully behind glass.

Shaun Morris who recently exhibited in Nuneaton’s Museum & Art Gallery is exhibiting Silence, showing the shadows underneath a motorway with the artificial yellow of lights showing in the background. Earth Spirit by Pam White is a watercolour showing a warped person and unnatural vegetation.

Open exhibitions can be very mixed and this has a lot of variety, but a good high standard to the work which combined with the interesting setting, and the possible chance to meet the artists currently working in studios in the same building, makes it well worth the trip out. The exhibition is on until September 7.

Charlotte-sLocks_DStartin 72dpi (2)

Charlotte’s Locks by Denise Startin (highly commended)


Shed show for found art at The Herbert

Shed in the Herbert   Joanna Rucklidge's work

The Shed – Collect – Shed exhibition in The Herbert, and Joanna Rucklidge’s miscellaneous collection

Visitors to the Herbert might wonder why a rather basic-looking shed has suddenly appeared upstairs on the landing.

But it’s a well-travelled shed which has already had several lives as an art gallery, and has re-emerged from artist and curator Lorsen Camps’s Coventry garage for this outing.

The shed is officially known as the Coventry Centre for Contemporary Art, and was taken over by Lorsen after it was used in the Bob and Roberta Smith installation at the Mead Gallery in 2009. Its first appearance was then in the grounds of Earlsdon Primary School, showing an exhibition of found objects by Lorsen, plus Martin Green and Joanna Rucklidge. The three are reunited for this Herbert exhibition.

The show is called Shed – Collect – Shed, playing on the different means of the words, but Lorsen explained the idea is to explore the relationship between their own found objects, and the Herbert’s collection of Coventry-related pieces.

Lorsen said: “We are bringing found objects which are the collection of three artists into the museum setting and starting to play with ideas of what the Herbert specifically does. I met with the Herbert’s collections curator Paul Thompson and he was explaining the Herbert collects Coventry’s identity and that was quite interesting.

The idea is Martin and I collect in Coventry in a different way. Joanna has come down from Sheffield to do a different thing but it’s all related to Coventry.”

Martin and Lorsen also took a trip to one of Coventry’s twin cities, Cork, to create some of the works in the exhibition incorporating photographs and found items, Paradise Disregarded, Paradise Reclaimed, which also uses things found in the Paradise area of Coventry.

They include clips and tiny pens, plus against a Gothic-type image there’s a spooky white eyeless doll, plus a black plastic avenging angel.

Joanna visited Coventry in June and said she ended up with aching thighs after bending down at least 200 times to pick up circular items she wanted to use in this exhibition, noticing a theme from Coventry and its history.

She said: “I was inspired by trying to collect something from the streets of Coventry. The ring road dominates, and there’s the history of Coventry, of clock and watchmaking, cars and cycles and so I thought I’d use all sorts of circular pieces.”

She found all her pieces on four circular walks on one day in June, and has used them in various ways. They are displayed in similar groups, such as clear bottle lids, and metal bottle lids, some just shown and others in colourful screenprints on paper.

Lorsen said about his work: “What I am showing them is an extension of what we showed in the shed. I have played around with the ways the Herbert presents its objects.”

One item, My Fond Knotted Crisp Packet Collection (below), is deliberately like an old-fashioned display board of butterflies pinned to a cork board. A display of Mini Beasts includes plastic animals and toys, a special interest of Lorsen. Standard Triumph uses a row of matchboxes to show small plastic toys. A window frame has been turned into a modern-looking lightbox display with a sea horse air freshener and hairband around it.

My Found Knotted Crisp Packet Collection   Martin Green's City Boxes

Another item is an old found wooden door with small, colourful items stuck neatly to the back of it. Another consists of boxes with bits of jewellery and other sparkly items in them. A found fridge shelf is used to frame a collection of pens and pencils.

Easy to miss, over the door are some trophies, a swan statuette and a plastic flying bat, both in gold-sprayed frames which on closer inspection come from the polystyrene packaging from white goods.

Martin Green’s new work is called City Box (above), and there are 12 boxes, all arranged on some shelves. He said: “It’s based on using boxes as a sculptural form. I was trying to give some sort of personality to the piece so I have collected things to do with travel.”

Each box is held up by a shoe heel found by Martin, or a stand made by a cigarette packet, colourfully wrapped with material from a found umbrella. There are different things in each one. They include wheels from suitcases, zip ties, rucksack buckles, bits of lighters, wheel weights and sunglass lenses.

There is also a DVD slide show with images of 100 items in situ flashing up on the wall outside the shed.

Lorsen admitted he was quite pleased to have the shed out of his garage after three years, and this may be its last outing, at least with him: “We are thinking about what next and we are seeing if other people are interested in taking it over.”

* The exhibition is on until November 2.

Private View II is fresh start for art blog

Welcome to Private View II !

All the articles on this blog from December 2010 to July 2014 have previously appeared on a Private View blog on Trinity Mirror’s Coventry Telegraph website. Trinity Mirror scrapped all their blogs and the copy, so it’s no longer available there – but can all be seen at this new site.

All the articles after July 2014 are new, and will be added to as I get to attend more fun exhibition openings, interview more artists, discover great places for days out and review books.

Julie Chamberlain, August 2014