Become a Friend of the Swindon Museumand Art Gallery

For only £15 a year, you can become a Friend and receive links to our Zoom talks. To become a Friend or find out more about us, go to the website

Friday, 30 October 2015

Dr Nick Snashall talking about Archaeology and Avebury Environs

Yesterday 56 of us were privileged to hear Dr Nick Snashall  talking about recent excavations at West Kennet Avenue over the last 3 years in an exercise called Between the Monuments: Investigating landscapes of residence in the Avebury region c 4000 cal BC- c 1500 cal BC
Nick started by talking about Rough Leaze to the east of the Avebury henge was investigated because it has never been ploughed. What were they looking for? The major questions concerned the people who had visited or lived in this area in 400BC, just before Avebury was constructed; were they living there permanently, or returning? What were they doing?
What has been found? Stakeholes were found below auroch horns possibly indicating these people may have farmed in the area, there's evidence of round bottomed pottery and periglacial stripes which extend beyond the edge of ice sheets.
Tools like stone bone scraper and darts were found in threes and fours; apparently people worked on something and then just dropped their tools where they'd been using them. I know the feeling! Arrows left on graves formed part of mortuary activity. Amazingly the stones may have been dragged along using cords made from nettle and honeysuckle stems.
Other people who have excavated the site include Keiller in 1934-35. William Stukeley drew the area in 1720, and noticed many important features.

You can find out much more about the digs via this blog:
and by following Dr Nick Snashall on Twitter 
Other photos- setting up the refreshments
 and the slide show:

 And the audience.
Brilliant evening, hard to stop people asking questions.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Getting in the Mood for Excavations at West Kennet, Avebury

Lots of people are looking forward to Dr Nick Snashall's talk on the recent excavations at West Kennet this Thursday 29 October starting at 7.30pm; doors open at 7pm.

When a friend suggested yesterday that we take advantage of the mild weather and glorious sunshine by taking the bus to Avebury, I thought this was an ideal thing to do, and when we arrived, rather than walking round the stones, I thought we could look for disturbed ground where the dig might have taken place, we walked down the avenue, and finding no excavations, looked at the map kindly provided and thought we'd turn right and walk to the top of the hill on our right so we could see Silbury Hill close up.
 There's a bit of an odd effect, taken into the sun, the sky appears white, although Silbury Hill looks good, below there's another view from the top of the hill.
 From where we stood, we could also see lots of people walking in the distance to what appeared to be a section of raised ground on a hill; we walked over to it, and discovered we'd reached West Kennet Longbarrow which despite visiting Avebury many times, we'd never been to see.
 When you arrive at the long barrow, there are some huge Sarsen stones protecting  the entrance
 which is really spectacular:

 and because skylights have been inserted in the roof of the long barrow, you can walk quite a long way in and see the burial chambers

 and the huge rocks supporting the structure
 The views from the long barrow are wonderful, of Silbury Hill
 and the rest of the long barrow we couldn't enter
 and here's a view towards Marlborough
 We walked back alongside a river bed until we reached the road opposite the National Trust car park entrance, and went to the museum at Avebury Manor to ask about where the 'dig' took place,  and discovered that we must have walked right beside where the excavations took place, there was no sign of soil disturbance, which I'm sure is intentional.

I've included a photograph of this lovely house where you can stay in Avebury because it's so beautifully balanced.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Craigie Aitchison RA: A Colourful Life in Painting

I knew this exhibition was a collaboration between Meryl Ainslie and Sophie Cummings, but didn't realise that some of it is already available to view before the official opening on 30 October.
I've taken the following information from the museum's website :

'This free exhibition will include selected paintings from throughout Craigie Aitchison’s life. He relished colour and is celebrated as one of our most important 20th Century artists for the intensity of his palette, his flat, almost two-dimensional forms and simple icon-like compositions. His distinctive subject matter consisting of still lifes, landscapes, portraits, nudes, Bedlington terriers and crucifixions, are all rendered in vibrant, luminous colour, and powerfully invoke both the early Italian Renaissance as well as the British visionary tradition.
This exhibition has been organised by Meryl Ainslie, owner and director of Rabley Contemporary in collaboration with Sophie Cummings, curator of Swindon Museum and Gallery in consultation with Terry Danziger – Miles, executor of the Craigie Aitchison Estate.
It will accompany our exhibition ‘Going to Town’ which runs from the 30 September 2015 until the 12 March 2016'

What's also very exciting is the new look achieved in the gallery by the addition of a  wall at right angles to the main wall opposite you as you walk into the gallery; it enables seven extra large paintings to be hung.
Here's one side with the Sylvia Gosse painting now moved to the new wall
 And on the other side some of the Craigie Aitchison exhibition
Below 'Goat Farm, Brittany' which I was very drawn to
And below a blue wall showing off more of the paintings to very good effect
Sophie Cummings will be giving a free talk on 30 October at 12.30pm-1.00pm on this exhibition.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Friends' Trip to Rabley Last Week

We were delighted to be able to organise our first Friends' trip to Rabley Drawing Centre which took place last week, it took a lot less time than we'd allowed to get from Swindon, so we spent some time in the car park in  glorious sunshine watching red kites overhead, and enjoying the lushness of the rolling downlands.
 We were warmly welcomed by Meryl Ainslie, director of Rabley and offered tea, coffee and cakes, and wandered round enjoying the gardens between the house and gallery
 which were still looking lovely.
 After the drinks, we settled down for Meryl's introduction to herself and Rabley. I took copious notes, very few of which make much sense now, but I'll add a few bits of information here.
Meryl specialises in drawing, and is glad to see that drawing is once again fashionable. For 20 years, Meryl was a fine art lecturer at Swindon College, then in 2004 thought it's 'now or never' and founded Rabley Drawing Centre with the idea that it would be a contemporary fine art space, specialising in artists with an international reputation, with education running alongside. There is now also a print room.
The international profile is retained by attending art fairs, and if you click on the website link, you can see Meryl will be at Multiplied Art Fair in London from 16th-18th October, featuring work by many artists including Eileen Copper, Prudence Ainslie, Emma Stibbon and more.
Meryl has been working with our curator, Sophie Cummings  to put on a special show entitled 'Craigie Aitchison and his Contemporaries from the Swindon Collection' which runs from November  until January. And next year the aim is to bring Eileen Cooper's touring show to Swindon from the RA.
Above a great shot of Meryl with one of Alan Bond's paintings which manipulate perspective to create an altered environment. We were then introduced to Sara Lee who has been artist in residence at Rabley and showed us some of her prints, some of which are based on techniques used in Japanese print making. I loved her book of prints and was luckily able to buy a signed copy of one of the last of a run of 500. I also noticed this beautiful diamond shape created by light shining through brickwork
And here's Sara Lee talking us through her practice.
From there we went with AJ into the Print Room and saw a fine art print being made on a prepared plate. Here we are being talked through the stages
And then we went over to the part where a roller is passed over the paper and inked board with the image drawn out of it, and where we were excited to see the print wheel like in the Sylvia Gosse painting.
Above Sue waiting to take photos and AJ setting everything up.
Below here are 4 photos sent by Sue which perfectly capture the sequence of events in making a print of Emma Stibbon's work.
Above laying the prepared paper down, below rolling it onto the inked piece
Then peeling it off
and showing it to us.
Great trip, so informative, makes me want to find out more about the courses run there.
We are very much looking forward to welcoming the Rabley Friends to Swindon on 18 November.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Going to Town: Scenes of Urban Life

This fabulous new exhibition opened last week, and runs until 12 March.
From LS Lowry to Swindon artist Walter Poole, urban life and landscapes inspired many modern artists.
This exhibition features interiors, townscapes, factories and ruins depicted by modern British artists. It includes work by Robert Bevan, John Nash, Leon Kossoff and Sylvia Gosse.
It features many works not seen for a long time, as well as old favourites, the works are grouped  together logically making the exhibition flow really well from one area to another.
I went along to the Private View on Tuesday 29 September, and took the following photos:
 Below, appropriately enough, 'The Printer' by Sylvia Gosse takes centre stage under the Work and Industry heading.
 Under the actual title of the exhibition, there's the fantastic 'Tower Bridge, London- A War-time Nocturne by Sir Claude Francis Barry
 Below there's The Urban Interior' and 'Swindon's Street Life' with some great examples of paintings of Swindon streets, including a Harold Dearden painting of the old prefab library.

 I like this painting by Paul Rudall of 'The Pavilion, Old Town Gardens' painted in 1947. Commissioned by Swindon Corporation!
 The painting below has been used to advertise the exhibition
 And here's some information about it:
There are also many more postcards available, so after having a look at the exhibition, you can go and buy postcards of several of your favourite paintings.
 Curator of the exhibition, Sophie Cummings gave an interesting talk on the new exhibition on Friday lunchtime from 12.30pm onwards giving those present a real insight into how she had put the exhibition together, and then focused on a few of the paintings and invited discussion about others.
Sophie's next talk could go in the diary now:

FREE lunch time talk focusing on Craigie Aitchison

Friday, 30 October | 12.30 pm - 1.00 pm
Join our Curator for this FREE lunch time talk focusing on Craigie Aitchison. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Tom Freshwater's talk - Trust New Art

September's talk was by Tom Freshwater is Contemporary Arts Programme Manager for the National Trust, leading a partnership with Arts Council England.
He began his talk by giving us some numerical background to the National Trust; they own over a million artworks, have 6000 staff and 62000 volunteers, 775 miles of coastline and 13000 photos of cake on their data base. The age profile of members was mainly among the greying members of the population, but thanks to many initiatives like music festivals, contemporary art festivals and activities for children, the age profile better reflects a cross section of the population.
Contemporary art has played a large part in reinvigorating interest in many National Trust places, it has been used to help with the continuation of the spirit of a place, captured a national moment, as a campaign aid, helped interpretation, created an event and a momento or souvenir.
I took quite a few photos on the night which I'll run through, here we started with Tracy White setting up the projector for Tom, with Mike Bradley, also NT and committee member assisting
 Here's the opening photo with the Trust new Art logo and other sponsors:
 The drinks ready for the visitors when they arrive
 Below Tom and Mike looking at the ceramics, you can see the Going to Town titles are on the wall, but the pictures have not yet been added.

 Above here's Tom talking, and below a manacled slave from Dyrham Park used to talk about slavery.
Tom then showed us a video of Hew Locke talking about the 12 bronze chairs he was commissioned to make for Runnymede, the chairs look stunnign and i'm looking forward to seeing them in situ.
'Commissioned by Surrey County Council and The National Trust to mark the 800th Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Free to visit at Runnymede, UK.
The Jurors is a permanent artwork designed for this ancient landscape to mark 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta in this place. It is formed of 12 bronze chairs, each decorated with panels of images and symbols relating to past and ongoing struggles for freedom, rule of law and equal rights. The Jurors is not a memorial, but rather an artwork which requires people to complete it.' 
You can see what they look like below:
Tom also talked about the work of Sigrid Holmwood at Upton House, an enactment in which Sigrid dresses up and paints a self portrait in the style of an old master similar to those found in the considerable art collection at Upton house, seen below
Grayson Perry's Vanity of Small Differences is being displayed next May-June 2016 in a National Trust property.
Tom brought Trust New Art alive for us, and inspired lots of us to visit Runnymede and lots of other National Trust places in the near future. So much thought goes into every aspect of how they present their properties to give us all an excellent visitor experience. A really inspiring insight, thnak you Tom.