Leamington offers up nudity and vivid landscapes in night of two art show openings

What a fun night for the art show ligger in Leamington.

On Friday, Arts Trail Gallery in Regent Court, Livery Street, held a private view of a new exhibition entitled Le Maison Bleu, paintings by Bryan B Kelly, curated by Grazia Carano. I was invited to that so decided to visit. At the same time, Gallery 150, which has just moved across the street to different premises in Regent Court, held a opening night for its new exhibition, Human Spaces. I wasn’t invited to that, but as the galleries are only three doors apart, what the hell, I wasn’t going to miss it.

The exhibitions couldn’t be more different. Human Spaces, which I visited first, consists of works by seven artists, plus Kate Spence who gave a live performance in the window space at the opening. The exhibition was described as a figurative exhibition, which doesn’t have to mean naked, but that’s mainly what was on show.

Stand out works for me were Ray Spence’s series of photographs of life models, not in their ‘work’, but posing naked in more domestic situations. Alongside each was a question and answer session with the model. It’s refreshing to see the models have a voice, and also that they’re not all young and slight. Domenica, 58, lays back on a rooftop near a railway line, as the photo is taken from next door where a man cuddles his pet dog.

Anna, 45, lays on her kitchen worksurface, while Kadi, 28, is in two pictures while her partner and young child carry on with life oblivious. Cressida, 44, sits around while a man practises his French horn, and Arthur 79, poses imaginatively while a woman does the housework and makes a phone call around him. Only ‘H’, a heavily tattooed and, er, intimately pierced man doesn’t benefit us with his thoughts.

Ray’s works feel different for giving the models a voice, but there seems little new or different about many of the other works to show the theme of the nude has moved on at all, and some have odd overtones.

There are two paintings of Sophie, by Melvyn Warren-Smith, and the model tells, slightly worryingly, how she was persuaded to pose naked after visiting Melvyn and his wife at their home, but how liberating she found the experience ….

Neil Moore’s Release shows a naked woman with piles of ropes laying around her. It was a relief to see Emma Tooth’s paintings of a muscley breakdancer, complete with trousers.

By this time, at a packed opening, the gallery had run out of wine though there were still plenty of good-quality nibbles around. But there was more wine (and equally good nibbles) available at Arts Trail Gallery, though Gerry Smith who runs it suggested we visit his installation gallery first.

This is an empty shop within sight of the gallery where there’s a large window space. It’s been furnished brightly in a way which fits in with the paintings of Bryan B Kelly, which are all in very vivid colours. There were also some of Bryan’s accomplished pottery pieces on show there too, which were in more earthy colours and were rather stylish.

Paintings included The Little Red Butterfly, with the creature in the bottom left corner of the big, busy work showing purple and green fields. Four Sheep show the animals in one field, amidst a bigger landscape, and Herons Cove shows the bird on an island, again bottom left, on a huge expanse of aquamarine colour surrounded by fields.

The Little Red Butterfly by Bryan B Kelly

The Round Tower shows the uncharacteristically grey tower in a landscape, reminding me of a trip I made many years ago to Bryan’s home country of Ireland. Bryan studied textiles and garment design in the 1960s and has only begun painting in more recent years, and describes his paintings as “naïve with more than a hint of surrealism”. Some of the repetitive dots and patterns also suggest an interest in Aboriginal art too.

Anyway, wine drunk, nibbles eaten it was time to move on from Leamington’s busiest art quarter of the night after what had been an interesting, and certainly varied night.

Bryan and visitor in the installationPictures – The Little Red Butterfly, and Bryan with a visitor in the installation

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