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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

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Janet Boulton's Garden

Janet Boulton had a beautiful exhibition in the gallery a couple of years ago, celebrated by an in conversation with Sophie Cummings, organised by the Friends and written up here.  Following that evening, a Friends' visit to Janet's garden was arranged last summer, and postponed because of unfavourable conditions for gardens, and Janet's heavy schedule. When at a recent Private View of 'Touring the Collection: 60 years on', at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, Janet suggested a visit, I jumped at the chance.
It's a wonderful garden, described on Janet's website with an informative and thorough accompanying video, and also in Gardens Illustrated

Janet Boulton’s narrow town garden represents the journey through her life as an artist since coming to live in Abingdon, near Oxford, in 1979. It is adorned with inscribed installations in wood, slate and glass, and other objects with artistic and personal associations. Every day she spends at home, Janet walks up the steps from the kitchen, across a witty chamomile lawn and past ‘flight’ – the word is carved into a slate tablet as a poem to joy – along the winding gravel path to the heart of the garden and through the arch to the studio. “The garden is as much a declaration of my commitment to still life and to Cubism as to the gardens that have inspired my watercolour paintings.”

 Erica Hunningher, Gardens Illustrated, September 2002

 Here's another accolade:
'Janet's house and garden are remarkable. and totally inimitable, almost as individual as Derek Jarman's and probably more approachable than his'.

When I visited Janet, I was encouraged to walk down the garden with my own thoughts, without any explanations. It took me about half an hour to walk down the garden, appreciate the end part of the garden and come back, seeing things very differently than on the way there.
I took a series of photos on my way down the garden:

The clipped box and greenery is often interrupted by bright splashes of colour like these Martagon lilies
This is Hearth, placed at the centre of the garden. Hear. Heart. Earth. Art.
And below this says WILD/NESS
Below is Flower show. Nostalgia. Celebrating a village event.
In this area were these rather amazing Rudbeckia sommerina
This is In memoriam. An old apple picking ladder. A dedication to all lost orchards and Janet's lost apple tree.
I'm not sure what this plant is called, Janet kindly gave me one of hers.
Behind the studio, at the end of the garden is a beautifully laid out very small garden. ML11 8NG is the postcode for Little Sparta- a reminder and an acknowledgement
Beautifully juxtaposed arrangement
Here's the seating area at the end of the garden,
looking at the lavender and postcode for little Sparta
To the left is a shed with the following writing on it: 'Il faut cultiver notre jardin' a quote from Candide. Voltaire's summing up 'After all, the best thing we can do is cultivate our garden'
How true.
Walking back towards the house, the garden looked quite different.
Horizon - a 3 metre horizontal with lettering derived from INFINITE/ INFINITY/ NONFINITO a work evoking the experience of looking at a panorama placed below eye level at a dark part of the garden.
I do know about this, it's 'This is not an Attack' In Ian Hamilton Finlay's Detached sentences on gardening, he writes 'Certain gardens are described as retreats when really they are attacks'. A humorous piece where the spouts of the watering cans could be seen as either trumpets or guns.

This is a Homage to Juan Gris a still life on a table of slightly exaggerated proportions (implying an altar)
A huge Nicotiana sylvestris by the house
The allotment holder depicts a vertical allotment
This was a beautiful geranium with the reddest flowers
And this is a bit hard to see, it's a tribute to Paul Nash, it's a bird's nest
I've included a few of the pieces in the garden, there's lots more in this fabulous garden.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Lunchtime talk about Connections an exhibition by Group 7 exhibition

This group exhibition brings together the artists of group 7, who have a strong commitment to the media of drawing, painting and printmaking.

They share an interest in abstract and expressive painting with a strong use of colour. The exhibition showcases their recent work, allowing visitors to discover this fascinating art ensemble for themselves.
The group comprises Brian Bishop, Fran Donovan, Martyn Brewster, Ursula Leach, Bonnie Brown, Peter Symons and Michelle Griffiths, all of whom are based in the South of England.
Sophie Cummings, curator at the museum recently gave us further insights than provided by the excellent handout into this exhibition by looking at the exhibition as a whole and then discussing artists work in turn.
I took a few photos of Sophie talking about the work and this one below of the audience
Sophie gave an excellent talk on the exhibition
This is a general view, and after writing the blog post the first time, I decided I'd better go round again and take more photos of each artist's work

Going round the exhibition as most people seem to do, in an anticlockwise direction, we start with the work of Brian Bishop, seen below:
 Brian's work is probably the brightest of all the artist's work in the exhibition, this use of colour is explained in detail in the handout accompanying the exhibition, written by Michelle Griffiths
 Above is one of Fran Donovan's landscapes, a screenprint, 'Across the Ridgeway' which I feel conveys textures of the Ridgeway rather well. There are a group of 4 of Fran's landscapes in the exhibition below:
 The next artist featured on the tour round the exhibition in an anticlockwise direction is Bonnie Brown, she is quoted as saying 'Light, its effects and qualities of transience, fragility and hope, inform the work.'
 Above is 'Night Tracks Fragment 4', oil on paper, and below another piece by Bonnie Brown
 The next artist is Ursula Leach whose painting below is titled 'Path', it's carborundum and hand colouring
 This picture below is one by Peter Symons titled 'Jetty series 6 No 29 and is mixed media on paper.
 Here it is with two others.
 We then move round to Michelle Griffiths work, she says 'In my own work, I explore the way colour can contribute to a visual language that works as a metaphor for personal experience of, and observation of personal dispositions, relationships and behaviour.'
 Here's a close up of one of 'What's Next?'
and finally the work of Martyn Brewster
 and the fantastically electric blue painting
This exhibition runs until 7 September, do go and have a look if you can, and make a note of the dates of the
Next lunchtime talks:
20.9.19 Touring the Swindon Collection
11.10.19 Ken White: Railways and Landscapes
18.10.19 Touring the Swindon Collection
22.11.19 Time for tea
20.12.19 Hit Repeat
More details on the website

Friday, 23 August 2019

Children's Summer workshops

It's been really great that the Friends have been able to sponsor and support the fabulous children's workshops. I've called them summer workshops, but in fact they are  holiday workshops, with some during october half term and the Christmas holidays. It's been an absolute pleasure as well to help out at the workshops, and see children and their parents interacting and enjoying the activities. There's a flyer to let you know when the next workshops are being held, and full details are on the museum's website
I'm going to add photos taken at the gargoyle workshop; this was a fantastic event with parents and children often quite reluctant, initially, to really get stuck into the clay, and spending time instead reading the information sheet and discussing where they had seen gargoyles. Everyone did end up with their hands covered in clay, and really enjoyed the experience
I took a few photos of gargoyles made
they were the result of quite a lot of work
as you can see
with some more complicated than others
Yesterday's workshop involved making a model of a volcano, with plenty of opportunities for bright colours and flames coming out of the top. Mostly a cleaner activity, although there was glue available, and the combination of glue and tissue paper can be quite messy.
Here are just some of the resulting volcanoes:
 Some of the volcanoes were decorated as enthusiastically on the outside as on the inside
 with two halves of the inside being a bit different

 this one below had a large structure coming out of the top
This year people have been asked to fill in a feedback sheet, here are some of the lovely things people said about the workshops:

"Excellent again, very friendly and my boy really enjoyed it"
"Good fact sheet"
"We had a lovely time"
" Very pleased children loved it!"
" We had lots of fun and will be back"
"Very good, my three year old really enjoyed it"
"Staff were friendly and helpful"
"Excellent ideas which can also be used at home"
"Would definitely recommend to friends"
''Keep it up, kids loved it''
''Staff were extremely approachable, helpful and friendly, to both adults and children''
''We had a great time, we would really love to see Swindon based history such as the railways''. ''Thanks for a great day''
''This is the second one we have been to, local, value for money, had a lovely time. Will come again''
''Thank you for providing these educational but fun activities for the children during the holidays''. ''Much appreciated''
There are other activities available in the art gallery to encourage children to look out for certain things in the pictures, and then to draw their own picture. There's also a trail of 10 items to find around the museum. Details on the website.