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Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Trip to Urchfont Manor

Last Friday, we were fortunate enough to visit the contemporary sculpture exhibition organised by Friends of the Garden at Urchfont Manor. I was approached by exhibition curator, Lesley Andrews about a year ago, she suggested we arrange a fundraising trip to visit the 2018 exhibition. The Friends of the Garden organisation started in 2007 as a voluntary organisation with two objectives: to foster public appreciation of contemporary sculpture and to fund bursaries for artists has displayed sculpture at Urchfont five times before, this time the difference was that it doesn't any longer belong to Wiltshire County Council, but is now in private ownership. The 5 acre garden consists of fabulous parkland with many mature trees reaching their potential by virtue of being spaced apart from other trees; the part around the vegetable garden has been reconfigured by award winning garden designer DelBuono Gazerwitz.
The garden certainly provides a wonderful backdrop for the works by 21 artists, and although we were at Urchfont for 5 hours, I spent a lot of time looking at some pieces. Lots of information can be found on all the artists taking part by clicking here. I took a few photos, do have a look, they are displayed in the order they were taken:
 The first part of the garden one enters is the formal vegetable garden where there were works by Hayley Jones on display, from the point of view of a gardener, these are perfect because they are ready mounted on old gates, tools and other things!
 Above a blackbird on a watering can, and below a hen sitting in a grass filled trough.
 Then there were some robins dotted around, like this one:
From there I was attracted to some eye catching 'daisies and tulips' by Lynn Baker, these below are made using kiln formed glass in a delicate procedure involving cutting and breaking glass into individual pieces and then reforming it. They are then put into a kiln to fuse and slump each piece.
 Lynn also specialises in working with the graal technique to produce these pieces of blown glass:

Also in the walled garden, we saw Jacquie Primrose's large pieces made especially for this exhibition, here's one below:
 And also the smaller pieces made to complement the white and purple theme in this part of the gravel garden
 Looking as though they are permanent fixtures in the garden, 3 large glazed pots in juxtaposition with the formal layout of the newly planted gravel garden by Taz Pollard
 Lesley Andrews had kindly organised  two of the artists taking part in the exhibition to come and talk to us. The first before lunch was Tom Hiscocks. Below you can see his sculpture 'Many Become One'. Tom is a Wiltshire based figurative artist working mainly in laser cut steel; he talked movingly about inspirations in his life and what his work means to him.
 Here's the group waiting for Tom to start talking,  giving me a good photo opportunity
 After Tom's talk, I wandered around the parkland and was drawn to Giles Penny RWA's bronze entitled 'Man Who Caught the Moon'
 Quite close by, Dominic Clare's 'Knobbly Trunk' demanded more than a second glance
 I rather fancied one of these 'Houses on Stilts' by Alison Berman for the garden
They were situated beneath a catalpa tree, I was keen to get a photograph looking up
 Sara Ingleby-McKenzie showed a series of exotic figures in the beech hedge spiral, this one is called 'Calypso' and would look fantastic in my garden.
 Here are some of Jacquie Primrose's bees and butterflies in the orchard
 I was looking for something to take home from this exhibition, and already having 3 of Jacquie Primrose's mosaics, chose one of these 'Cornflowers' by Ruth Molloy. It looks fabulous in the garden.
 I came across Rosie Musgrave's work across the orchard. She was showing 3 very tactile pieces. Calming, soothing and wonderful to look at. This one is called 'WayMark lll'
 Also in the orchard I came across 'Somerset cranes' also by Hayley Jones
 The gardens and parkland was fabulous, and just look at the stripes on the lawn!!
 Last, but by no means least, Jacquie Primrose talked to us just before we went home about her practice.
It was a perfect day out, do go and have a look at the exhibition before it ends on 8 July. I couldn't include everyone in this blog, but I did appreciate John O'Connor's work and very much liked this quote: 'Our emotional state of being  is reflected in the physical. John's work demonstrates this beautifully'
I've taken this from the website so you know when to visit:

2018 Celebrating Art in the Garden at Urchfont Manor

Our 2018 exhibition is now open at Urchfont Manor, SN10 4RF.
The exhibition will be open until 8 July, 11am – 6pm, Wednesday to Sunday only. Please note that we will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is £5 per adult; accompanied young people under 16 will have free entry.
Only assistance dogs are allowed. Visitors using wheelchairs should note that although the site is flat, access to most parts of the garden is over mown grass paths and these may be difficult for users of push only wheelchairs.
Exhibition entrance is on the western edge of the Urchfont village green. There is NO parking around the green. Visitors should follow "Parking" signs in the village that will take you to a parking area a short walk from the exhibition entrance. Parking for people with a disability and booked coach parties will be available on site, please contact us.
There will be a café in the stable yard serving delicious light lunches, morning coffee and afternoon teas.
A popup shop will be offering work for immediate sale by participating artists.
If you would like to make a booking for an art or garden group or for further information please contact us.
This exhibition forms part of Pound Arts Rural Arts Touring Programme, see

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

50 Finds from Wiltshire

Richard Henry who was Finds Liaison Officer for Wiltshire gave us a very interesting talk in May. He talked about his book which has the same title as his talk, it's great book, available in the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery shop:
 I didn't take many photos, one of the screen when Richard was talking about the Salisbury Hoard. A new word entered my vocabulary that night, detectorists, people who use metal detectors to find metal artefacts.
 I also took a photo of the drinks table before we opened
Richard was kind enough to donate 33% of the cost of his book to the Friends which was very generous, and one of our Friends in the audience subsequently asked at the museum how much the wine strainer would cost to renovate, and on being told £1000, agreed to pay for it to be restored.
So altogether a very positive evening.

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.