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For only £10 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

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Ceramic Conversations and More

The weekend of 1/2 April saw the opening of the museum for ‘Ceramic Conversations’ delivered as part of the Creative Museums project being led by the Battersea Arts Centre, from 10am-5pm on both Saturday and Sunday. I was able to help on Saturday afternoon, and was rather excited by the first sight of the event from the other side of Bath Road:
 There were lots of people outside, making things with clay, there were lots of conversations going on as people moulded their clay. There had been a potter on a wheel in the morning.
 We were every fortunate with the weather, despite it being the beginning of April, it was possible to stay outside all afternoon, aided by coffee from Matthew Pearce's Coffee Gang
 There was also a Magic Roundabout record player under a gazebo with instructions to help yourself and put whatever music on you wanted.
 With some signage and gold foil
 beside the record player was the museum sign with the new opening hours on it:
 Inside the ceramic displays were big and bold
 In the first cabinet there were our 2 Desmond Morris paintings, on the left, barely visible 'Diana Dors' and on the right 'The Surprise'
 There was also a Ginger Beer bar celebrating the fact there were many companies making ginger beer in opaque beige bottles and ginger ale, a clear substance, in glass bottles. This led to many conversations about how people at home also used to make ginger beer.
 This photo was taken about 4pm when there were still quite a few people around outside, many people had a 'dwell' time of 2 hours which is good.

 Here's an elephant lovingly made by one of the dads attending with his son.
 The person running the show was Amy Pennington on Saturday, here she is running the Swindon quiz
 now Amy seen below negotiating with the teams taking part in the quiz

 A lovely afternoon, many fascinating people came along to chat and share their views, or simply to sample the ginger beer and have a look round the museum.
Over the two days, almost 600 people came along, let's hope this is the first of many weekend events held at the museum.
Meanwhile I'm looking forward to volunteering to help support the new hours of opening, my first shift will be 11am-1pm this Friday, can't wait.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Professor David Ferry's March Talk

We were extremely pleased to welcome the fabulous Professor David Ferry this month, he gave a talk entitled 'London Calling, Punk and the Life Drawing Class.' He gave a fascinating account of the life drawing class through the ages, starting with this really old drawing of a life class.

 He illustrated very well the contrast between what was going on in the class, and happening elsewhere in the country. Things really hotted up during the sixties and seventies when life drawing included artists such as Euan Uglow and there was a miner's strike, punk and very exciting times generally. We were shown some amazing footage of the time. I was very impressed by the people Ferry knew at the time, including Derek Jarman.
David Ferry enjoys the juxtaposition of events and art, and started off his art career in a time of abstraction, and went against the grain with what he was doing.
His work is now largely illustrative, his use of glue and glitter lending a suggestion of the burlesque to his work. It was only at the end of the talk I realised I didn't have a photograph of David, so here's one taken with the 'Thank you' showing in the background.
 We're very grateful to Professor David Ferry for coming to give the talk, and for Ian Wilkins for making it all possible.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Women Artists: Power and Presence at the Otter Gallery

This is a brilliant exhibition at the Otter Gallery situated in the main building at Chichester University
runs until April 16,  for opening hours please check the website.
I took this information about the exhibition from their website:
This major exhibition showcases selected work by women artists from the complementary collections held by the University of Chichester and Swindon Museum and Art Gallery and also features significant loans from private collections across the country. It includes work by Eileen Agar, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Vanessa Bell, Sandra Blow, Prunella Clough, Mary Fedden, Gluck, Maggi Hambling, Gwen John, Alice Kettle, Mali Morris and Lucie Rie, and celebrates their varied contributions to the spirit and practice of British Art.
The title ‘Women Artists’ is intentionally provocative; the term should not be used as a label or box in which to pigeon hole an artist, but rather as means to express the fact that women (like men) have many varying inspirations, aesthetics and ideas. This exhibition seeks to address a certain imbalance in the way genders are represented in art galleries; the variety of styles, subjects and medium in this exhibition highlights the fact that women artists can not be categorised into a singular identity. Some works directly engage with a gendered subject matter and in others gender is subtler perhaps immaterial to the artist or artwork.
The exhibition is curated by Dr Gill Clarke, Visiting Professor at the Otter Gallery, University of Chichester
‘Through over 40 varied works including paintings, ceramics and wall hangings, the exhibition reappraises the work of both distinguished and lesser-known women artists seeking not to create a false homogeneity but rather to explore a range of traditions and styles with which they were involved. Their life stories are as compelling as the diverse work they produced and taken together this enables the revealing of a more complex picture of their contribution to the practice and spirit of British art than might be first thought.’     Gill Clarke
Women Artists: Power and Presence will be accompanied by a varied programme of events for both children and adults.
I've taken photos of the walls and of particularly interesting things. Gill Clarke has written superb notes for each item on display.
You will recognise the Gillian Ayres below and the printing painting above
The third wall:

I loved this painting above, it's by Martina Thomas in 1949, from a private collection, entitled 'Seated Nude'. It's very satisfyingly composed.
And below, this etching by Laura Knight, 1926, is entitled 'Putting on Tights' is exquisite, as is the information about Laura Knight and quotes from her that accompany the picture. Firstly I thought there weren't tights in 1926, then realised they are ballet tights.

This painting was very striking, it's oil on paper by Annie Kevans, called 'Joan of Arc'
In the case there were some charming things like this illustrated letter from Evelyn Dunbar to Jane Carrington who was in hospital at the time.

Above Evelyn Dunbar drawings, and below a photo of a plate someone else I know who visited the exhibition also liked. It says
'Good little Girls eat all their crusts and their hair curls, bad little girls leave crusts on their plate and their hair is straight'. The plate is illustrated by Gladys Peto.
Below, the whole display of Peto's work
Below a Swindon Museum and Art Gallery painting, looking fabulous, it's 'Descent of the Bull's Head' by Maggi Hambling in 1985.

These 2 Vanessa Bell paintings loaned form a private collection don't look anything like as zingy as they do before being reduced in size for the blog. They are tremendously bright.
Above is a Mary Fedden drawing of sunflowers which is lovely, but doesn't look much here, and below a Gillian Waite aquatint from 1982, Tea-table with Flowers.

Alice Kettle's Earth Mother with Child in metallic gold, cotton rayon machine stitch is stunning.
It's well worth a visit if you can do so before the exhibition ends.
The exhibition is sponsored by The Osborne Samuel Gallery
It's also worth visiting Chichester  for the cathedral, Pallant House Gallery and the market place, seen below.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Revised Opening Hours

Exciting news for all those who love visiting Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, opening hours are being more than doubled from 16 hours a week to 35 hours a week.
Specifically, the building will now be open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm with one late night opening per month. Friends have been asked if they can help cover the extra opening hours by volunteering to help, I'm hoping we get lots of volunteers, giving yet another reason to join the Friends.
I'm including a photo of the beautiful ceramic piece made by Sarah Purvey, inspired by Basil Beattie's painting, 'Witness VI' which was such a hit in the last very popular main gallery exhibition, 'From Where I'm Standing' in which 10  West Country ceramicists responded to works in the collection. The reason I'm including it, apart from the fact it's delightful, is that it's a recent purchase made by the Friends for The Swindon Collection.
Also a reminder that the talk on Thursday 16 March is by Professor David Ferry and starts at 7.30pm, doors open at 7pm.
I'll also include the press release about the new opening hours and latest information form the museum:

Swindon Museums and Art Gallery opening hours extended
Swindon Museum and Art Gallery (SM&AG) has announced that from 4th April it is extending its opening times from 16 hours a week to 35. Under the new scheme the current facility, based in Apsley House, Bath Road, will more than double its current opening hours.  
The new opening times will start on Tuesday 4th April.  The venue will be open from Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 10am until 5pm and there will be a late-night Thursday opening once a month.
To celebrate the new opening hours, the Museum and Art Gallery will be hosting a celebration weekend on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd April. Working with Creative Museums, SM&AG will be open from 10am until 5pm on both days and will be offering creative and fun activities for all the family. Information about the event will be available on the SM&AG Facebook page.
The additional opening hours will prepare the venue to not only support the delivery of a new museum and art gallery, but, more importantly, enable the people of Swindon and further afield to access the wonderful collections. Since holding an exhibition in the heart of Mayfair at the Osborne Samuel Gallery earlier this year, interest in the art and museum collections has thrived amongst local visitors as well as those coming from further away.
In order to meet this increasing demand, and working with the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust who are leading on the project for a new museum and art gallery, these additional hours will help raise the profile of one of the best collections of British Modern Art and make the collection much more accessible. 
The additional opening hours will be funded through the museum and art gallery’s existing budgets, while the Friends of SM&AG will be providing volunteers to help with additional staffing.
The collections are displayed at the museum and art gallery through a series of engaging and beautifully presented exhibitions. Over the past three years, 75% of the Modern British Art has been displayed and three galleries within the museum have been refreshed and updated.  A successful Heritage Lottery Funded project, Archaeology Swindon’s Archaeology in Context, will also see the current Archaeology Gallery refreshed.
The team at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery look forward to even more people visiting this excellent FREE museum and art gallery.
Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, Bath Road, Old Town, Swindon SN1 4BA

For further information please contact Nicki Western, or call 01793 466560
Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
The Museum was founded by Charles Gore in 1919 as a place to display his extensive geological collections. Gore was the first curator of the museum and the collections were built up following the fashions of the time, focussing on broad themes rather than local connections. He acquired natural history, egyptological and ethnographic collections, along with archaeological materials. Through time the collections have become more focussed on Swindon and the surrounding areas and we hold objects dating from prehistory to the present showing the development of the area and the people who lived in it.
In 1941 the art collection was established by an impressive donation of 21 works by a local businessman HJP Bomford. This collection has been built on and today Swindon Museum and Art Gallery owns a modern art collection of outstanding quality and importance. In addition we also hold an excellent collection of studio ceramics and a number of local artworks.

Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust
The Trust is managing the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery project which has two key aims: to create a fitting home for Swindon’s museum and art collections, including the nationally significant collection of British 20th Century Modern Art, and use its location to boost regeneration of the economy and attractiveness of the town centre.’
Creative Museums
Creative Museums is a research and development programme. Using a process called Scratch, developed by Battersea Arts Centre, their aim is to build lively programmes which enrich the experience for visitors, directly and creatively involve their audiences, tackle challenges and generate new opportunities

Sunday, 5 March 2017

New exhibitions in the Gallery

The two exhibitions in the main gallery at the museum are 'new' in that they've only been up for over a week, the main exhibition is:
Modern Times: How the School of London changed British Art
Wednesday, 22 February | 11.00 am - Saturday, 1 July | 3.00 pm
During the 1950s and 1960s, a group of painters transformed the British art world. With their connections to the capital, its art schools and galleries, this group were called the School of London and comprise some of Britain’s most significant modern artists. Their bold, representational painting continues to inspire and captivate visitors.
I took the following information from the Tate's website:

Introduction to School of London
In 1976, at the height of minimal art and conceptual art, the American painter R.B. Kitaj, then based in Britain, organised an exhibition titled The Human Clay at the Hayward Gallery in London. It exclusively consisted of figurative drawing and painting, which proved to be highly controversial to an art world which was dominated by abstraction. In his catalogue text, Kitaj used the term School of London loosely to describe the artists he had brought together. The name has stuck to refer to painters at that time who were doggedly pursuing forms of figurative painting.
The chief artists associated with the idea of the School of London, in addition to Kitaj himself, were Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis BaconLucian Freud, David Hockney (although living in the USA), Howard Hodgkin, and Leon Kossoff. The work of these artists was brought into fresh focus and given renewed impetus by the revival of interest in figurative painting by a younger generation that took place in the late 1970s and the 1980s (see neo-expressionism and new spirit painting).

The exhibition includes work by many of these artists, including a self portrait by Lucian Freud on loan from somewhere. 
On Friday 24 February, Curator Sophie Cummings gave her first free lunchtime talk on this fascinating exhibition. I'll include some photos:

As you can see there was quite a crowd at the talk, making it difficult to see Sophie and the particular works she was talking about. In the last photograph, you can 'see' the Lucian Freud self portrait to the left of a photograph of Lucian Freud with Frank Auerbach
The other smaller exhibition displays paintings donated by Jimmy Bomford, between 1943 and 1976, local art collector and landowner HJP (or ‘Jimmy’) Bomford gave 21 works of art to Swindon. These were instrumental in encouraging Swindon to establish a modern art collection for the town, we owe him a huge debt of gratitude, and love to think he would be pleased about the plans to move the collections to a more suitable location in the centre of town, beside the Wyvern Theatre.
 You can see the exhibition Wednesday-Saturday 11am-3pm.
 The next free lunchtime talks, held from 12.30-1pm, are as follows:
24 March The Bomford Gift
28April Modern Times and The Bomford Gift
26 May Ron Sloman Ceramics- a talk about the 50 pieces of ceramics donated by Mark Golder and Brian Thompson in memory of their friend Ron Sloman.
They are well worth attending for a greater insight into the works, the artists and what influenced them.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Christopher Le Brun's Visit to Swindon

Although I was really looking forward to our first talk of the year, I was also apprehensive about the number of things which could potentially go wrong when acting as host to Christopher Le Brun. We were holding the event at Swindon Dance because of the exhibition change over in the art gallery which meant we couldn't hold it there. Luckily Swindon Dance were able to let us use their studio because it was half term, but it meant we had 98 seats to fill; I emailed the Friends, advertised on social media and encouraged as many people as I could to come along.
 It was alright on the night, Christopher's train arrived on time, he was dropped off at Swindon Dance at 6.35pm, giving us chance to have a chat to him beforehand. Lots of people did come along, I took a photo at the end of the evening, quite a good crowd, maybe 70?
We were asked to produce a transcript of the evening, and decided to ask Create Studios, at very short notice, if they could film the event. We were very lucky to have Henry Meredith coming to film the evening, here he is in the photograph below, setting up and checking everything. The video will appear online as soon as we have it, and was a timely reminder that we need to video all our talks and make them available on the website.
 Here are the audience beginning to arrive
 Although Christopher Le Brun was 'in conversation' with our Curator, Sophie Cummings, it was agreed that he would talk for 20 minutes, then have a conversation with Sophie and then take questions.
 At the Slade where his tutor was John Hoyland, and figurative art wasn't favoured at that time, Le Brun went home to work on paintings he was discouraged from working on at college.
 During 1982 when he had finished the magnificent 'Hyperion', seen below, it was in the Nigel Greenwood Gallery  when Richard Morphet encouraged Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to acquire with the help of the V&A fund. Le Brun talked quite a bit about this painting, which coincidentally hung over the stairs in the Town Hall when it was first acquired by Swindon Museum and Art Gallery; the great hooks it hung from are still in the wall!
You will be able to find out exactly what Le Brun said when we have the video on the website, but what did I take away from the evening? I thought he was an inspirational speaker with a tremendous understanding of his life and was able to give us a fascinating insight into some of his personal highlights He has remained true to himself, and feels it's best to produce work from the heart because it shines through, and that's what people want when buying a painting.
I've added a few more photos of paintings, a bit blurry and unclear:
'Dream, Think, Speak' was painted in the same year as 'Hyperion'.
and the 'Three Riders' a bit later.
Le Brun was asked about the horses which have appeared in his paintings over the years and said they are there to represent sentient beings. As you can see the slides of his paintings didn't show  them at all clearly, rather tongue in cheek, Le Brun encouraged us to buy his book, which he agreed to sign for us. Details of this offer when we have them. In the meantime I looked up the book, there are several, this is the latest:
Entitled: Christopher Le Brun: New Paintings
I thought the bit of information with the book was rather good:
'Renowned for his evocative and highly-charged imagery, British artist Christopher Le Brun's new work builds upon a wide cultural literacy, from Virgil and Tennyson to William Walton.Following his appearance in many international group exhibitions - such as the influential Zeitgeist exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (1982) - Le Brun became recognised as one of the leading young European painters, and is currently the President of the Royal Academy, London.New Paintings shows an abundance of energy and Le Brun's renewed pleasure in colour and light.Alongside full-colour illustrations, this volume includes a personal response by artist and writer Edmund de Waal, and an introduction by art historian David Anfam that places the work within the tradition of late twentieth and early twenty-first century modern painting.'

Please let me know if you'd like a copy of the book, we can order them together.