Friday, 10 December 2010
Preview Night at Churchill House
Newcastle, in common with many cities round the country, has innumerable 19th century offices standing empty. Years ago, a group of artists I was associated with tried to negotiate the use of one of these offices as a gallery space, The problem turned out to be that most of them are on the first floor or higher and the fire escapes are inadequate or even non-existent. As a consequence they constitute a hazard for public use and the idea came to nothing.
So when I received this invitation to a private view organised by the Newcastle Artists Society in Churchill House, I was curious to see how they'd arranged things. Churchill House in Mosley Street is a big impressive, listed building fallen on hard times. There's an Italian restaurant on the corner, but not much else that's memorable (and I have doubts about the memorability of the restaurant). The current owners are making efforts to do up the inside and rent out office space. As part of that they've come to an agreement with the NAS which allows them to mount exhibitions on the corridor walls and up the staircase. Artists get exposure (with the potential for sales) and the building gets free decoration: seems to be a reasonable arrangement.
It was a fascinating experience wandering the warren of corridors on three floors (I gather there are plans for a fourth to be opened up) , one of them turning out to be circular and the map I got from the reception room proved very useful! The work comprised paintings, prints and wall-hung sculpture; not all of it to my taste, but I'd have it no other way.
Private views have been disappointing in the last few years. Many of the decent galleries have gone and what we've been left with is the glitzy end of things where pushy salesmen try to sell you crap cartoons dolled up with a bit of "hand embellishment" and passed off as art. Yes, yes, that's a value judgement, but it's my value judgement. What these galleries attract is the type of punter who knows nothing about art, has no wish to talk about it other than to wonder if it will go with the decor. Artists themselves are generally not to be found.
So it was great to walk into Churchill House last night and immediately find myself talking to Richard Dobson over a couple of bottles of pils. I'd never met Richard before, but he works at the framer's I used recently and lives only a short walk away from me. Small world.
It's always good to be able to trade experiences with another artist and it doesn't have to be a painter. When Richard left, I fell straight away into conversation with Glenn Gibson, a photographer from Newcastle whose work graces the entrance lobby. Completely different from Richard, but just as entertaining a conversationalist, I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Glenn.
So, a good night which I wasn't really expecting. I hope I might be able to participate in shows there in the future. As for the title of the show - don't ask me. "Corperation-ism" is neither a word nor a term in my vocabulary, but I suppose it makes a change from "New Paintings".