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".


Anonymous said...

I had missed your rant on reproductions, but I agree with every word, especially this:

"I do think artists are being exploited, but they're colluding in their own exploitation."

All this giclee stuff is being slickly marketed as an investment but it is not of itself art and its existence is polluting the whole idea of art for many people.

There is also some appalling ignorance on this issue on the part of people we think should know better. I went into a local gallery recently and was talking to the owner about my monoprints, only for him to interrupt me and say he 'only had originals'. Another supposedly reputable gallery was selling monoprints in editions of 150! The fact that this was actually a repro was buried on anther page with no direct links from one to the other.

More positively, I like the idea of a display on the staircases in the empty building. Solves the problem of means of escape at a stroke.

JafaBrit's Art said...

I had a lovely lunch in that corner cafe, but a big part of it was the ambience and tile work in there. So lovely so see this building again even just voyeristically. Glenn's photography, oh my gosh, it's gorgeous, so thanks for posting a link.

harry bell said...

Ian -- I had to laugh at your tales of ignorance and duplicity, but really it's rather sad.

harry bell said...

Corrine -- Portofino's wasn't a bad restaurant when it was in Pilgrim Street, but since moving to that corner site, it's suffered. For one thing, it's always *very* cold and the service can leave something to be desired. Maybe you were there on a good day.

Glenn is very good, yes.

Anonymous said...

Hi Harry,

I've just learned what I have it were.. but I'm sure that the galleries were so crowded I'd have been blocked from proper appreciation of your wooden Rainbow a.k.a. ' Wooden Sunset ' which does look interesting ..sorry for any confusion but Microsoft has just updated my " explorer " and all has gone waxommy shaped ..I've lost this response twice but still I will get round to an un-obscured Round Tour of the Exhibition.

Its good to see that our Political Classes , Coalition-Con, CUT backs - also forward and left right and sideways - haven't totally eliminated all of your possibilities for Exhibition Space.

Arnold A.

harry bell said...

As my pictures are in a quiet little corridor to themselves and the attendees were clsutered round the bar in the foyer for most of the time, you'd have had no problem seeing "Wooden Sunset".

On a technical point, I think this isn't where you wanted to leave your comment, but on the post "Opening Tomorrow" dated 7 April 2011.