Become a Friend of the Swindon Museumand Art Gallery

For only £15 a year, you can become a Friend and come along to our talks, join us on trips out to places like The Royal Academy and Pallant House Gallery, there's always something going on. To become a Friend or find out more about us, go to the website www.friendsofsmag.org

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Lunchtime talk on Artist and Model exhibition

Or to give the new exhibition in the main gallery its full title:
Artist and Model:Portriats, Self Portraits and Figure Studies form the Swindon Collection.
Last Friday's FREE lunchtime talk by Curator Sophie Cummings gave us an insight into the paintings and drawings selected for this wonderful exhibition.
Here are a few of the works I particularly like from the exhibition that Sophie talked about:
 Above 'Self Portrait with Juliet' 1979 by John Bellany
 Above ''Leon Kossoff with a 'Landscape near Rieti' by John Lessore 1939
 Above 'Self Portrait, Scratching' by William Orpen 1919. There was much discussion about this pen and ink drawing. What's he doing? Have a look and read what he says and see what you think.
 Above 'Nude with Poppies' by Vanessa Bell back in the gallery after a long time visiting other galleries.
 Above and below works by Leslie Cole. There's a very interesting story behind Lelsey Cole's wife told in one of the panels on the wall.
Sophie has increased information in the panels alongside the paintings, they certainly do help give insights for those who didn't attend the talk.
Next lunchtime talks which start at 12.30pm take place as follows:
5 April on the exhibition 'Out of the Box'
26 April on the exhibition 'An Art of the People' with co curator Mike Yates

Ken White and Andy Binks in Conversation

Our March talk proved so popular that it sold out weeks before the event took place. It was a rerun of the life of Ken White first staged at Christ Church on 8 June last year. I went to the talk on 8 June, and was so impressed and keen that it should be shown to the Friends that I asked Andy Binks and Ken White if they would bring it to Swindon MAG. It was agreed they would do so, and the earliest date we could accommodate them was the end of March. Historian Andy Binks has long associations with Swindon including The Swindon Society and the sadly now defunct Swindon Heritage magazine and many more things. Most importantly, Andy and Ken make a wonderful duo, telling the story of Ken's childhood, through to working at GWR, art school, London, murals and much much more. I loved the talk as much the second time as the first.
I took some photos of the screen as a reminder of the evening, there are lots, but I have left out more than I've included I'm sure, they do give an idea of the evening. This first photo was taken at the beginning of the evening, Ken on the left, Andy on the right:
And onto the slides, I have photographed a few, there were many more
 Love this quote from Ken
 We were shown a few childhood photos of Ken and his brother Mike, seen on the left in the photo below

 Onto Ken's time in the boiler shop at the GWR Works
 A couple of Ken's paintings depicting rivet hotting
 and from there onto becoming a sign writer where work was quiet and relaxed
 and then onto Swindon College where Ken studied art
 one of his lecturers was Kenneth Lindley who moved from Swindon to Hereford Art College where he was Principal
After art college, Ken moved to London where he painted the Beatles portraits, a picture still in his possession
 and copied by someone else for an album cover

 The murals were a feature of Swindon life, and much loved by us all
 Ken was also commissioned to paint murals in other places
 and also painted local scenes of Swindon life, here's one of the backsies
 and a haunting one of the much loved diving platform at Coate Water
Angela Atkinson has written a fabulous piece on the diving platform
Ken was spotted by Richard Branson and worked for him for many years. Above is a photo of the 'Scarlet Lady' and below portraits of musicians used by Virgin shops.
Below is a photo of a mural painted by the outdoor pool in Highworth, sadly no longer there.
That's a very brief summary of the talk last Thursday evening.
There will be two more talks during Ken's exhibition in the small gallery at Swindon MAG which runs from 17 September until 30 November, these will be held on 28 and 29 November. Tickets are not on sale yet.

Private View of the New Exhibitions in the Gallery

Swindon Museum and Art Gallery hosted 3 events last week which I'll cover in the blog via separate posts, to find out more information about what's going on at the museum, please click on the link to their website.
The first event was the private view of the opening of the Artist and Model exhibition in the main gallery and the exhibition of David Bent's work in the smaller gallery on the right as you enter the main gallery.
It was a wonderful evening attended by lots of people, here are some photos, I took that night:
 Above and below general views
 Lots of chatting going on
 Some familiar faces even with the poor quality photos
 There were speeches part way through the evening form Curator Sophie Cummings and artist David Bent
 I moved around and got a photo of Sophie in between the crowds, also in the picture you can see the Mayor Cllr Junab Ali in front of me
 And a photo of David Bent talking, with Matt Holland in the foreground
 Information about the 4 main exhibitions, taken from the museum's website, currently running at the moment appears below.
Artist and Model:Portraits, Self- Portraits and Figure Studies from the Swindon Collection
The relationship between artist and model is one of the most powerful dynamics in art. This exhibition explores that relationship through a series of portraits and figure studies, examining both artist and sitter. As well as celebrating the ability of the artist to capture their sitter, this exhibition will reconsider the importance of the sitter as muse, inspiration, antagonist and confidante.
The exhibition includes paintings, drawings and prints by Frank Auerbach, John Bellany, Gwen John and RB Kitaj
Out of the Box: An exhibition of Paintings by David Bent
This exhibition brings together a diverse selection of paintings by the artist David Bent. It includes geometric landscapes, intricate photographic collages, and paintings which tackle major contemporary social issues.
Bent is rightly well known for his ‘art of flight’ paintings and prints, which have been described as “transforming aviation art” and led to Bent being awarded Honorary Companionship of the Royal Aeronautical Society. The exhibition will include examples of his bold and engaging aviation art.
The exhibition also includes elements of his series “Movement 2000”, which explores the major social challenges facing the world at the start of the third millennium. Bent’s art combines dramatic and inventive compositions, a bold use of colour, and a passion for the subject. This exhibition is an opportunity to explore more work by this fascinating Swindon-based artist.
An Art of the People
This special exhibition celebrates our two local potteries, Cricklade and Ramsbury. For many years, Ivan and Kay Martin at Cricklade, and Peter Holdsworth at Ramsbury, oversaw potteries that were innovative, authentic, practical and commercially influential. This exhibition explores their ethos and impact and includes ceramics and photographs from Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and from private collections.
This exhibition is co-curated with Mike Yates, author of recent guides to both potteries.
  Animals:Seven Swindon Stories
Explore Swindon’s history through the lives of seven of the town’s most famous animal inhabitants. From Mr Heginbotham’s snails and Eastcott’s cricket infestation, discover the stories of Swindon’s famous animals for yourself.
There will be a special focus on Bruce the Collecting Dog, the canine hero who raised thousands of pounds for local orphans, the Victoria Hospital and survivors of the Titanic disaster. Bruce wore a special collecting box on his back and barked a thank you for any coins he was given. You can see Bruce’s collecting box, as well as photos of Swindon’s hero dog.
This exhibition features photographs, paintings and objects from Swindon’s collections, including examples from our extensive natural history collection. There will be activities for younger visitors, too!

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Workshops at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

An essential part of running a museum and art gallery is encouraging new audiences, and the Friends are keen to help the museum achieve this goal. One of the ways this can be done is by holding children's workshops, they are not only very popular but also help familiarise children the gallery. We made a donation, along with the Art Society, to help these run last summer, and were very pleased once again this year to make a donation to help these workshops take place. We also paid for the design and printing of the flyer advertising the workshops, which are really family workshops, since the accompanying adults usually enjoy helping their children.
This is what the flyers look like:



The workshops are illustrated on the museum's website if you click on the link, you can see them in more detail. It's also very rewarding and interesting invigilating at the workshops, many of the Friends help with running the workshops.


Latest Plans for Swindon MAG

On the 14 March, we read about the latest plans for the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, in this cabinet paper, on page 35 onwards:
https://ww5.swindon.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/g9398/Public%20reports%20pack%2020th-Mar-2019%2018.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10
 It's interesting how similar they are to the plans proposed in 1968 which resulted in the building of the Wyvern Group, and discussed in the previous blog post after Michael Gray's talk.
The plans were approved by cabinet a week later and goes before the Scrutiny Committee on 25 March for further consideration.
There was a press conference in the gallery at the museum when Cllr Dale Heenan was given a chance to outline the plans, here he is discussing them
 There's a good summary of his ideas/plans on the museum's website and another summary of the plans here:
'As most of you may know, Swindon Borough Council undertook an options appraisal last year to find a new home for the museum and art gallery, but recently it announced that it had not identified an affordable, deliverable option in the immediate term.
In March, the council’s Cabinet agreed:
  • to spend £400,000 on remedial works of the current building in Bath Road
  • to spend £100,000 to take the collections ‘on tour’ to venues around Swindon
  • To use £250,000 grant from the Local Enterprise Partnership to test the viability of a future project to create a combined new Wyvern Theatre, Museum & Art Gallery and ‘Civic quarter’. This quarter may be largely paid for by the sale or redevelopment of the Civic Offices on Euclid Street.'
I  appeared on  Points West the evening of the press conference, here's a photo of me being filmed  talking to Will Glennon about what I think about the proposals. I think the plans are great, but in the interim, it is hard to imagine how cuts can be made the the budget without affecting how the museum operates.
I talked to Tom Seaward, from the Swindon Advertiser about the £20000 cut in the museum's budget this year and how the running costs cannot be considered a subsidy, and the fact that it is hard to imagine how the museum can break even in its present location. Yesterday's piece in the Advertiser is here.
We now have a Plan B and hopefully us oldies will live to see Swindon Museum and Art Gallery being relocated in our lifetime.


Thursday, 21 March 2019

Michael Gray's Talk on the Wyvern Theatre


I first met Michael Gray when he came to talk to the Friends about Swindon's Town Hall, designed by Brightwen Binyon, three years ago. The great advantage of having a blog is that even if not much is written about each talk, at least I can say when the talk was held and there are a few photos taken at the time. Here's the link to that talk. I very much enjoyed the way Michael told the tale of the Town Hall, and was keen to know more about the Wyvern Theatre Group, so invited him to come and tell us what's so good about the Wyvern Theatre. I was also pleased that Michael gave me a short biography, and here's what I said about him:
'I am pleased to welcome back tonight’s speaker Michael Gray who is going to talk to us about Casson Conder’s 1971 Wyvern Theatre Project. 
Michael is a Conservation Architect with over 30 years of experience in historic buildings involving many different projects ranging from medieval churches and barns to a grand historic hotel in Pall Mall and many more.
He is currently Head of Conservation and Building at Oxford University.
He lives in Swindon, not far from the Museum and Art Gallery in the Prospect Place Conservation Area where he is chairman of the local Conservation Trust.
He is actively involved in promoting Lydiard Park an 18th century country house on the edge of Swindon as a Trustee of the Friends of Lydiard Park.
With the passing of time heritage designations are increasing recognising 20th Century architecture as something worthy of preservation under the 30 year rule. Against this background Michael has prepared this talk to inform and promote the debate about the Wyvern Group which is increasingly neglected.  With two major historic public buildings in Swindon in a state of perilous neglect it is hoped that the talk will promote a wider appreciation of the Wyvern Group so that it does not suffer a similar fate to those Victorian buildings.'
 Michael started with the history of architecture, beginning with Corbusier in the 1930s. He had an excellent Power Point presentation to illustrate his talk, I have photographed some of the slides, to show the plans drawn up in 1966 when towns and cities all over the country were encouraged by the Wilson government to foster the arts and were given funding to build the necessary infrastructure to support this. The original plan suggested demolition of the Town Hall and retention of the Tabernacle, in fact as we now know, the Tabernacle was demolished and the Town Hall retained. I have photographed some of the Power Point slides starting with the Civic Centre Master Plan from 1966:

The Civic Hall, at the top of the picture was not built when the Wyvern Theatre was built, it would have provided a larger space that would seat 1000 people, it was going to be built in the second phase of building, but this never happened because of shortage of money.
 Above shows how the Civic Hall would have looked, and below an artist's impression of the Civic Hall from the Wyvern Theatre
 This charming photograph shows the opening in 1971, the Queen has her own umbrella, the Mayor has his umbrella held for him and the Duke of Edinburgh doesn't have an umbrella at all.
 This photograph shows the Wyvern looking rather splendid
I also took a couple of photos of the audience
 and in this one, Michael can just about be seen
 The future of the Wyvern Theatre as we now know from the council's recent announcements, is now uncertain. It was very interesting to find out the history behind the whole area, and why the car park remains a vacant space.







Sunday, 17 February 2019

Wine Tasting at Magnum WineShop

Our first event of the year was held last Friday, it was a wine tasting at Magnum WineShop. The evening started with an Emiliana organic sparkling wine from Chile, followed by three white wines of increasing flavour.
Then came a bit of food in between wines which was really welcome; by 8pm  I was starting to feel hungry. Cornish Brie was served with bread after the white wines, then we tasted 3 red wines with Double Gloucester, Ardenne Pate and Taw Valley Cheddar between them, and the Harros 10 year Tawny Port from Portugal which was served with handmade coffee and walnut cake.
Brian Saunders kept up an informative dialogue about each of the wines, the area they came from and anything else he thought we might need to know about them.
It was a very enjoyable evening, here are a couple of photos of those who attended:

 We held a raffle and overall raised a magnificent £459 for the Friends' projects, thank you to all those who attended and helped make the evening such a fantastic success, and to all those at Magnum Wineshop for hosting so magnificently and helped us raise such a marvellous sum.
Here's the tasting menu: