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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Mike Yates - Timeless Secrets

Last Friday Mike Yates, guest curator of the ceramics exhibition at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery entitled Timeless Secrets: Ceramic Artists in their own words, gave a free lunchtime talk. Mike has loaned many of his own pieces, and had fascinating tales to tell about many of them. In the case on the right as you look down the gallery, there's a painted plate made by an artist who discovered they sold much more successfully than his paintings. In the same case, there's an instantly recognisable pot by Sarah Purvey, one of several small pieces made for a particular gallery which all sold.
The left hand case holds older pieces owned by Mike and the Swindon Collection. Accompanying the collection are comments made the artists themselves, some of the quotes made are fascinating, it's well worth having a look at the laminated booklet that accompanies the exhibition.
This is what the Museum's website says about the exhibition:
'“Pottery has its own language and inherent laws, and words have theirs, and neither can be bound by the other. Nevertheless a certain amount of translation and interpretation is possible.” Bernard Leach
Timeless Secrets is an exhibition celebrating the artistic skills of potters and artists who work with clay. But it is more than that. Accompanying these art-works are comments made by the artists themselves. Over the years some ceramicists have spoken extensively about their work, while others have remained silent, letting their work speak for itself.
This exhibition is guest curated by the ceramics collector and writer Mike Yates, and features work by Charles Bound, Mo Jupp, John Maltby, Ray Finch, Jennifer Lee and Lucie Rie.
Sponsored by Joel and Vanetta Joffe'
 Here's Mike talking to the group:
and here he's referring to the case on the right with the more modern pieces, and Grant Aston's 'Radioactivat' just behind him on the left. Grant has agreed to come and give a talk to the Friends, I'm hoping we might be able to agree a date when he can come in 2019.
Here's Mike talking about the great ceramicists in the left hand case
Also it's great to see a whole page advertisement for this exhibition in the great magazine, Ceramic's Review, not only that, but the magazine gives this exhibition a top show rating for a ceramic's exhibition to visit!!
Above a photo of the advertisement in Ceramic's Review.
I'm also really pleased to say Mike Yates will be coming to talk to the Friends about this exhibition on Thursday 26 July at 7.30pm, and Curator Sophie Cummings has kindly agreed to extend the exhibition until after the talk. So come along to find out more about this beautiful exhibition.

Refurbishment of the Archaeology Gallery

The archaeology gallery at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery has recently been closed for refurbishment, and is now open for visitors again. Last week I went for a quick look round and was very impressed by how aesthetically pleasing it looks. The new cases are delightful, and the signage informative and bold, reminding me how important attention to detail is in creating a pleasantly educational experience. Whereas before the displays were charming, now they're enticing and draw the visitor into the gallery.
This is what I mean:
 These two vessels come from a burial found during excavations at a Romano-British cemetery in Purton, they would look lovely displayed together at home!!
The Highworth Pot looks fabulous, it's now called 'The Highworth Ceramic', I have to keep reminding myself it's from 1st-2nd Century AD, and when it broke, because it was so expensive, it was repaired by drilling holes in it, and holding the broken parts together with staples.
Below these three cases show the lovely interpretation boards and lighting which make the overall effect so good when visiting the gallery. They are showing objects form the Stone Age 6000-2500BC, The Bronze Age 2500-800BC and the Iron Age 800BC-AD43
The model of the Iron Age Roundhouse has pride of place in the centre of the gallery and looks rather good:
The roundhouse was based on those found at Groundwell, St.Andrews, Swindon. People and animals often lived together in these roundhouses making the most of space and warmth.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Jon Ratcliffe's unseen Swindon

Jon's sell out talk was a real success, a professional photographer with a fantastic eye for the unexpectedly interesting, his talk and photos were really fascinating. We're fortunate that Jon sent me some photos and a biography. This is what Jon says about himself:

I am a professional photographer focusing on long-term urban regeneration and infrastructure projects in the UK. I enjoy architecture and landscape photography and qualified in 2012 after studying Professional Photography through the University of Gloucestershire at New College in Swindon. Projects have ranged from photographing artwork on an unopened road in the dead of night in Swindon, to getting the last scenes of dereliction in the old Swindon College at Regent Circus and capturing the building and commissioning of new London Underground trains in Derby and London. The history of our town sometimes seems quite intangible, but there’s far more of it just under the surface if you care to look a bit closer.

Above: Swindon’s David Murray John building on a beautifully clear day
Above: The new upper floor of the old Foundry/Long Shop building as work goes on to convert it into the latest extension of the Outlet Village
This is Aspen House on Temple Street wrapped up and being prepared for demolition
and these are: The tunnels underneath the Health Hydro that supplied hot water and steam to the public baths
and is this one my favourite? I'm not sure, it's The Renault Building, one of the UK’s youngest listed buildings, at Westmead. I'm really glad i asked Jon to let me know about the photos because I didn'r recognise all of them.
After those superb photos, my photo of Jon taken during talk seems very tame and badly composed.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

First Trip of the Year to London

Our first trip of the year on Monday was to London by coach. We were picked up opposite the Co-op in High St, Old Town and dropped off at Tate Britain two hours later after a trouble free trip. Some of the party had booked tickets to see exhibitions, but I went to have a look at the nearby  Garden Museum before going into Tate Britain. The Garden Museum of the art, history and design of gardens  housed in St Marys Church, Lambeth has been spectacularly adapted for its use as a museum, so I thought I'd look up how much funding it has received from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Initially a grant of £3.5 million enabled an increase in the number of galleries and many other improvements, have a look here in 2014, and then in 2017 a further £7.5 million of HLF money was spent on an extension to create a cafe and a garden by Dan Pearson.
I thought the building, a former church, deconsecrated in the 1972 and earmarked for demolition, was fantastic. The atmosphere is wonderful, and there's so much to see. I'll give a brief idea of my favourite parts, I do recommend a visit.
Looking down from the first floor where the permanent displays are held.
The windows are fantastic, including the one below, a John Tradescant window, although I can't find out anything about this particular window. Many of the stained glass windows were damaged and have been replaced by clear glass:
 There's also some great art - gardeners, this one below 'Portrait of a black gardener' c 1905, by Harold Gilman (1876-1919) The information beside the painting says it's one of the most heroic depictions of gardening in art. Gilman was a gardener, and a poineer settler of Letchworth, the world's first garden city. Although there were black gardeners at this time, the figure may have been an artist's model
 and greenhouses and garden produce  painted by Paul Nash c 1930. Nash painted artichokes, apples and figs packed for a billboard commissioned by the Empire Marketing board, set up in 1926 to encourage people to buy products from Britain first and colonies second. The billboard declared that 450,000 tons of fruit grow in British orchards each year.
 From the Garden Museum, I went for lunch at Tate Britain and then had a wander round the galleries. Duncan Grant's 'Bathing' painted in 1911, it's fabulous, and was painted as part of a decorative scheme for the dining room at the Borough Polytechnic, London. The design was inspired by Michelangelo's male nudes and summers spent at the Serpentine in Hyde Park.
The painting attracted a lot of attention, in particular a visitor to Britain loved it and was eagerly anticipating her visit to Charleston.
 Another arresting painting was this one 'The Cholmondeley Ladies' c 1600-10
 It's painted on wood, on what appears to be 3 pieces of wide floorboards. The women were born on the same day, married on the same day and had babies on the same day. They look identical, but there are subtle differences between the women and their babies.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Our March Talk

 Berlin, Beuys and the Bader-Meinhof: A Beginner's Guide to Modern German Art was the title of the March talk by Curator Sophie Cummings.
  Sophie talked about her appreciation of modern German art, and gave examples of work by Gerhart Richter, Anselm Keifer, Josef Beuys and Sigmar Polke.
 Here is Sophie with the new headset type microphone just about visible.
I rather liked this large Gerhart Richter
 The talk was very well attended, photos of the audience are never easy to capture.
Our next talk is Cellars, Towers and Tunnels by Jon Ratcliffe on Thursday 26 April at 7.30pm, tickets available online or from the museum reception during opening hours.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Character Dolls: Swindon's Past and Present

It's hard to keep up with the new exhibitions at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery this one featuring some of Swindon's characters is brilliant. When I heard the Swindon Stitch n Bitch group were having an exhibition of knitted character dolls, it seemed like an unlikely thing to do. However they are fabulous, if you click on their name above, you'll find a list of the 31 characters depicted in wool, in a Swindon Advertiser article.
Here are some of my favourite characters:
 Above from the left Melinda Messenger, Justin Hayward and Lord Joel Joffe. Apparently Rod Hebden contacted Melinda Messenger and asked if she'd like to come and see 'her' doll, and she has done so!
 From the left, Alfred Owen Williams, Diaina Dors and Jahmene Douglas
 Above William Morris, founder of the Swindon Advertiser and below his grandson, Desmond Morris, among many other things, Patron of the Friends

In the photo above, you can see Isambard Brunel, Tony Collins of hospital trolley fame and Fred Ferris, a beautifully turned out Town Crier, and below the case all the figures are displayed in, it's in the downstairs room on the left of the museum as you go in through the front door.
 I went in for another look this morning and took close ups of Lord Joffe
 Justin Hayward
 Diana Dors
 and against the light, a photo of Julian Clary.
If you love the character dolls, then it's possible to own one. Simply give your name, name of the doll you'd like and how much you're prepared to pay for it to the member of staff on reception at the museum. Alternatively email Tracey Major on with the information. The doll goes to the highest bidder after 5 May when the exhibition comes down.
All proceeds go to the charity Swindon Mind

New Acquisitions

In addition to the three main exhibitions in the main gallery at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, there's an interesting corner where new acquisitions are displayed until this Saturday 14 April. It's well worth making a trip there before the change over of exhibitions to see them.
If you are able to come along to the museum on Friday 13th April, there will be a FREE lunchtime talk from 12.30-1.00pm given by Curator Sophie Cummings on the new acquisitions.
Above that's what they look like in the corner of the gallery, and below working clockwise, the picture below is 'Haunted' by Teresa Lawton, it's oil on canvas, a gift in appreciation of Meryl Ainslie's services to the Arts.

 Also part of the gift, June Carey's 'Glorious Crown', a hand coloured etching.
 Above 'Play Dead II' by Eileen Cooper OBE RA Purchased in 2017 with the support of the V&A Purchase Fund, The Friends of SM&AG, the family of the artist and Rabley Contemporary.
 Above Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, 'Catpeople  #2, #3 and #4 on collaged paper. Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 2018
 Above another contemporary Art Society presentation above, Nicola Tyson, 'The Gaze', 'Stoned Rose', 'Getting There' and 'Something in the Air'
and lastly 'Being There' by Denise MacPherson seen below, another acquisition gifted in appreciation of Meryl Ainslie's services to the Arts.