Repairs to the Hall
I’m pleased to report that the Gallery, in its 7th year as such, has been open and busy for all of the summer. It took some time to get going this year after a winter of momentous interruption. Over the winter 2016/17 the gallery closed completely for the first time and the main work renovating the actual hall came to a conclusion. It required a clear out of all the inner partitions and furniture, the safe removal and storage of all the artwork so that the remaining insulation work on the east wall could match that of the west wall. It also required that the large painting on the north wall (Captives of the Cosmic Web) be taken down and stored, so that an insulated plywood layer could be added. The ceiling was painted white and much electrical rewiring and new lighting was carried out at the same time.
A new innovation this year has been with the panelling that divided the hall into different small galleries. We have introduced some screens mounted on castors, enabling us to quickly rearrange the architecture of the interior space. This is designed to enable us to clear space in the centre of the hall for communal events.
The gallery reopened to the public in May with exhibitions of work by Bernard Barnes, Reyna Rushton, Alyosha Barnes and Sasha Barnes. A video tour of the arrangement of the gallery at that time is available here: https://wp.me/p7yWyk-km
Over the last few years, the Gallery has invited guest artists to exhibit their work alongside that of the resident artists.
Keith Durant’s exhibition of paintings, ‘Times, Places and Dreams’, opened the season in July (you may visit our coverage on the website here https://wp.me/p7yWyk-lA). The opening for this exhibition started the format of combining with the weekly musical evening (see later). It helped to create more of a party atmosphere and swell the numbers and was a success that we repeated with subsequent shows.
Over August, The Mawddach Art Group used the space (photos of the opening evening here: https://wp.me/p7yWyk-nj). Twelve talented amateur local artists who have regularly met together for many years put up a good show of their latest work and attracted many new visitors to the gallery. I am sure that this show began forging valuable links between the gallery and the local art community and I’m pleased to report that the show will be repeated again in 2018. We have also agreed to make a space available for a single painting that will be filled by the Mawddach Art Group on a rotating basis controlled by themselves.
In September, Julia Wilson exhibited her paintings and mixed media work in one of the visitor’s bays, and Richard Morgan exhibited his Paintings, Prints, Photography and Sculpture in the other. Unfortunately we do not have any photographs of the opening event for those exhibitions, but there are links to details of each exhibition and artists’ background in this post: https://wp.me/p7yWyk-nG
Both resident artists, Reyna Rushton and Bernard Barnes displayed examples of their work throughout the summer. Bernard Barnes showed a selection of new work done during the winter entitled ‘Fragments of Devon’. A gallery book edited by Karen Cropper of the same title was also published and is available in the gallery.
Bernard Barnes and Alyosha, his son, worked together on a painted sculptural tower concerned with the refugee crisis that was affecting Europe, and the world. This year, more than any other, the gallery felt politicised. There was a lot of talk about ‘Brexit’ and the plight of the refugees. For about 6 weeks we created ‘Brexit Bay’ in the gallery where a section became a place where people were encouraged to make graffiti and write comment on the matters of the day. The refugee tower, with its scenes of drowning people, still remains a part of the gallery.
Events in the Gallery
Throughout July, Jasper Elgood once again gave his weekly talks on philosophical matters. His idiosyncratic and interesting perspective is complimented by copious scholarship, delivered in a thoughtful and engaging manner. A small group attended each week to hear talks entitled:
- Mysticism and Class
- Environmental Ethics: I’ll fault s’abêtir
- Mysticism and Class part 2: The politics of the contemplative life’
Recordings of the first two of the above are available on the website here: https://wp.me/p7yWyk-mw
Throughout the summer we have continued with our acoustic music nights with a folk bias. Each Monday a small group of local musicians have formed the base of a continuously changing crowd of musicians and listeners, singers and instrumentalists. On one occasion a choir from Finland turned up, with their musician the saxophonist. We have had some fine singing of ballads, opera, comic songs and music hall. Peter, from Salford, played Northern Morris dance on a fine old melodion. Instruments ranged from organ, tuba, concertina, flute, fiddle, whistles, piano, and a fine ensemble of recorders playing medieval music.
This year we introduced a new arrangement of coinciding the music night with the opening of each new exhibition. It has proved to be successful, to swell the numbers as well a giving a pleasant musical ambience to the event.
We have not kept precise records of footfall, but my impression has been that our visitor numbers have increased. Many visitors are by now old friends, and like to sit and talk. During the warmer months the gallery became a popular place for friends to meet and drink coffee. We have long talked of creating a small cafe type area, but still baulk at the ‘health and safety’ hoops that we would be have to jump through.
Sometimes musicians practised during the day, adding to the interest of visitors, some of whom joined in. When visitors come to the gallery they are not greeted by a ‘front of house’ attendant. They are likely to enter into a space that is screened off from the rest of the gallery.
From October the cold weather arrived and much of the communal activity came to an end in the hall. We still have no way of heating the large space, though ideas are in the pipeline. If any of the gallery friends have any ideas to contribute in this respect we would be glad to hear of them. At that time we advertised reduced opening hours of only formally open at the weekends, but if it wasn’t too cold for us to work and the lights were on, we were happy to have visitors.
Work proceeding on the ceiling panels
Since October, I have been working on more large ceiling panels to be fixed to the eight clear spaces on the ceiling, one in each bay of the hall. These works follow the theme of the ‘mythic dreamers’ dreaming the myths of their various cultures, chosen to represent the great variety and complexity of human culture as well as drawing attention to the remarkable repetitive themes that run through the myths of disparate peoples. It is to be a celebration of human imagination as well as a mirror to our more unsavoury elements. To read more about this work, please see my blog.
Plans for the future
The principal restoration work being carried out this winter (2017/18) is concerned with the continued internal decoration of the hall. There are still repairs to be made to the windows in the rooms off the hall at the back where the toilet and kitchen are.
We are now planning the coming season. For the first time we will be having a formal open call inviting artists to propose exhibitions and all the details of this new scheme will be posted on the website. We look forward to another year of steady progress with the hall, to make it a centre of the arts in the area, and a season of good art.
Bernard Barnes, Llanbedr. December 2017