Musings for March 2018

A warm spring day, I decided to eat my sandwich sitting in the forecourt of the Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield in the company of George Fullard’s wonderful bronze sculptures.

 

George Fullard was a local lad, born and raised in Darnall, he studied at the Sheffield College of Arts and Crafts then later at the Royal College of Art. John Berger rated him in the late 1950’s as one of the most talented and promising sculptors in this country. This is no mean accolade , given the dominance of the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore both who had at this time international reputations.

 

His “ Walking Man “ (1957)  currently sited outside The Winter Gardens, could be described as a fusion of a Giacometti and a Lowry. It is a thin, gaunt figure raincoat collar turned up against the Yorkshire elements  but he strides forwards , going about his business. However, on close inspection this bronze has a universality about it as well. It is a mid C20th hesitation, one foot forward, one step back. At the time of its casting, post - war Europe had to be re-built , the very fabric of communities and cities would have to be restored as much as the men and women who had survived the carnage - be they thin and care-worn - but walking in this cold climate was both a literal and a metaphorical statement.

'Mother and Child'

His other bronze pieces sited at Upper Chapel since 1985,   Mother and Child ,  Angry Woman,  and Running Woman are just as arresting and yet most of the people who visit this space rarely give them a second glance. Why should they ? There is nothing to signpost their presence to visitors but a small slate notice hidden amongst the pelargoniums . No blue plaque here then !


Yet, his “pieta “  a sculpture of a child sat on his mother’s knee may seem ordinary in contrast to Michelangelo’s iconic piece  but the message is personal and touching and just as powerful.


He served in the second world war was badly injured and never really recovered,   his promising career was cut short by an early death ( aged 50 ).  His later work of assemblage pieces showed, often with humour and candour, that he continued to view sculpture as a necessary and  redemptive medium which could enhance and enrich our lives. Is it not a shame then that we should treat one of our own in such a manner ? We  should have ensured a more lasting public and critical legacy for this fascinating sculptor from Darnall.

Denise West, March 2018  

Musings for January 2018

Surrey Sculpture Society's Sculpture Trail 2017

Wisley is the flagship garden of the Royal Horticultural Society and one of the UK’s most visited and best-loved gardens.  It attracts around one million visitors each year and its 240 acres is an amazing experience for visitors.  

 

 

Wisley aims to be an inspirational garden rather than a static display.  It offers a fantastic day out for walks, horticulture and picnics: each year it stages hundreds of events.

 

Last August and September the beautiful gardens hosted the Surrey Sculpture Society's annual Surrey Sculpture Trail.  This was a unique art experience, where visitors discovered over 80 sculptures, located throughout the grounds.  The sculptures were made by 68 local artists, working in stone, metal, bronze, resin, glass, ceramic, wood and found objects.  The gardens provided a perfect setting to showcase the artists’ work.

 

This exhibition was different to, for example, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park because nearly all the exhibits were small scale and suitable for display in a garden, rather than a park.

 

A gauge of the quality of the exhibits, or their value, was the sad fact that several were stolen at night during the term of the exhibition.

 

Here is a sample of what was on display:

 

Robert Scott, January 2018

Musings for December 2017

I miss the Tinsley Cooling Towers - demolished in 2008 - but I’m really looking forward to the sculptor Alex Chinneck’s replacement for them.  He won the commission for this major public art project in the Tinsley Locks and Blackburn Meadows area with his proposal for a group of red brick chimneys.  At 30 metres high and covering a trail a mile long, they will create a playful new landmark at the gateway to the Sheffield City Region.   His plans show that one of the chimneys is tied in a knot, there are two leaning chimneys bridging the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, one chimney has an upper section that - in his trademark urban illusion - appears to float, and one seems to be cracking and will be lit from inside at night.

 

At a meeting in September at the Town Hall Chinneck said that his inspiration was the industrial history and beauty of the Lower Don Valley.  Calling his sculpture ‘Onwards & Upwards’, he said ‘Tinsley has a proud and important industrial heritage and many chimneys once lined the canal. Through a process of architectural re-introduction, sculptural re-imagination and modern manufacturing, we have attempted to create a regionally relevant and nationally significant cultural attraction.  The artwork is being made for Sheffield, by Sheffield, and represents a monumental achievement that is only possible by working in partnership with the unrivalled concentration of world-class companies found in the city.’

 

Chinneck has spent a good deal of time in the area, working with local schools, cultural organisations and businesses to realise his ideas.  The project was initially funded by E.ON, with partners including Sheffield City Council, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Tinsley Forum and Arts Council England - new major sponsors have recently come on board.  Also, an application has been made to the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund for a share of £15million to ‘help build a lasting regional legacy from the Great Exhibition of the North’.

 

The sculpture is planned to be completed in 2019 in time for the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal’s bicentenary.  Chinneck’s intention is to create an immersive sculptural experience, linking Sheffield and Rotherham, that people can approach on foot, and by bike and boat.  I’m hoping the view from the motorway will also provide a spectacle to rival the Angel of the North.

Loveday Herridge  December 2017

Portland Works and The Art House (November 2017)

Through membership of Sheffield Printmakers, I've recently had the pleasure  of exhibiting in  two Sheffield venues - Portland Works and The Art House.

 

Portland Works is a Grade 2 listed building .  In 1879 Robert Mosley brought together individual craftsmen who were self - employed, Little Mesters, and housed them in the complex.  Four years ago there was a community - led rescue of the building, the site of the production of the world's first stainless steel cutlery.  Now the building is home to many small businesses, plus providing studios for artists and craftspeople.  There are plans to organise educational activities in a dedicated space.

 

On Sunday 10th September Portland Works opened its doors to the public as part of the Heritage Open Day's festival.  Some members of  Sheffield Printmakers exhibited recent work in a newly restored room - The Makers Space.  Amongst the exhibits were prints inspired by locations in the works and especially produced for the occasion.  Visitors commented on the quality of the work and volunteer workers particularly appreciated those prints which were based on the environment in which they worked.  I was struck by the fact that several of these volunteers saw the link between what we were trying to do as artists, their own contribution and the labours of the original craftspeople.  We were all seen to be engaged with our hands and minds in creative pursuits.  Of course the conditions of work and motivation might be different but we shared the same creative impetus.  This was particularly apparent in the connections made in terms of use of metal plates and cutting tools but also in the community endeavour.  I, for one, felt very much at home

At Portland Works

The Art House social enterprise is a more recent venture.  Two years ago the building next to St Matthew's Church on Carver Street was renovated to become an arts centre and learning space, with a focus on helping vulnerable people combat physical and mental health issues.  Again there was an element of history repeating itself, the building being initially part of a church dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of inner city families through participation in education and creative activities.  Now the centre offers commercial courses, studio and exhibition space.  Sheffield Printmakers has twice exhibited at The Art House.  We have been warmly welcomed and feel priviliged to be able to make use of such a valuable community resource.  Good, affordable exhibition space is not easy to come by in Sheffield.  A bonus is that The Art House's creative and educative aims chime so well with those of our group.

 

So, in spite of the prevailing climate of austerity, these experiences of  community enterprise,  vision and the boundless energy of volunteers make me hopeful. We're fortunate that  Sheffield is the home of many such pioneering and creative projects.

At The Art House

Jan Beautyman, November 2017

The Value of Art for Children and Young People (October 2017)

The City of Sheffield is bursting with talent in the Arts scene.

I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to, and spread the word about, a series of exhibitions for children and young people which have been on the City’s calendar for thirteen years now. 

 

Sheffield Young Artists Competition and Exhibitions, is a series of events organised by the Rotary Club of Abbeydale.  The main exhibition, opened by the Lord Mayor, is open to all primary, junior, secondary, independent and special schools in the City.  It is an annual event and was first held in 2005.

 

In September each year, all schools in the City are contacted and invited to submit work.  The event has attracted entries from up to 60 schools from whose submissions over 1000 paintings have been selected for display.

 

The Main Exhibition, open for viewing to the Public, is held at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in April or May.  A second exhibition, also open for viewing to all, is held at Sheffield Town Hall and there are a number of spin-off events and representative displays including at ‘Art in The (Botanical) Gardens’ in September and ‘The Great Sheffield Art Show’ (Millennium Gallery 17th - 19th November 2017).

The 2017 Main Exhibition at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre

Award Winners pictured at a Reception at Sheffield Town Hall with the Lord Mayor, Cllr. Denise Fox

A natural progression has been the introduction of a further exhibition, in 2017 with the title 'Arts & Futures', where a selection of paintings produced by senior Sheffield students is displayed in the fine setting of Sheffield Town Hall. 

 

Included are those works which have been submitted to the annual Arts Society (formerly NADFAS) / Royal Society of British Artists competition.

 

As a result of these submissions, in the past 5 years, five of the paintings have featured in their exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London.

A selection of the paintings displayed in Sheffield Town Hall at the exhibition of senior students' work.

A downloadable Programme of Sheffield Young Artists events into 2018 is available below.

SYA A2 Programme 2017-18.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [596.1 KB]

Patrick Smith, October 2017

My Life in Art Exhibitions (September 2017)

Ever since I was a small child I have been going to Art Exhibitions – sometimes  to special temporary shows, and sometimes to Art Galleries - some in other countries but mostly in Britain. Here are a few that have stayed in my mind:

 

The first Art Gallery I went to was when I was about seven; I'm sure my mother would have taken me much earlier, but it was wartime in Kent, and although we were quite near London it was not advisable to venture there earlier in the war. In fact there would have been nothing much to see if we had. When we did eventually take the train to central London in I think 1943, we climbed the steps to the main entrance of the National Gallery and found that part of the ground floor had been turned into a kind of rest centre/meeting-place for members of the armed forces. A room on the right-hand side was adapted as a concert hall, and Moura Lympany was playing the piano when we arrived. We were allowed in, but where were the pictures? We found out much later that Kenneth Clark, the then Director of the National Gallery, had arranged for them all to be transported for safety to underground caves and mines in North Wales. However, there was one picture in the entrance hall  - Renoir's  'Les Parapluies'. Clark felt that it was worth the risk to have one great painting at a time on public view. Renoir's picture (big, and on an easel) was the perfect picture for a small child – there was even a little girl of about my age in the foreground! I've never forgotten it.

 

My second memorable exhibition was at the Edinburgh Festival in 1954 – soon after the Festival was founded. My mother had a friend she worked with in London who came from Wick; she was working in Edinburgh at the time and we stayed in her flat and saw as much as we could. It was before the days of the Fringe, and events – concerts, plays, lectures, exhibitions – were fairly highbrow.  By far the most exciting for me, aged 15, was the Diaghilev exhibition organised and designed by Richard Buckle. It was very unusual at the time, being more like an installation than an art show – perfect for presenting Diaghilev's career, the ballets and his patronage of contemporary artists.

I still have the catalogue and remember the way the costumes were displayed.

 

When I was an art student in South London our painting master, Tom Freeth, would decide on a whim to take us all up to central London to see what was on at the commercial galleries in the Bond Street area. About a dozen of us would trail behind him to any gallery with art in the window which looked as if it might be interesting. It was a good way of developing our taste buds.  Paintings I remember seeing were by Sheila Fell, Anne Redpath (I'd seen her work in Edinburgh as well), Jon Bratby, John Minton, David Bomberg, Josef Herman, Bernard Buffet. Feliks Topolski, whose work took the form of exuberant drawings on a large scale, refused to exhibit in Bond Street and opened his own exhibition space under the railway arches near Waterloo Station.

 

When I started work at the Graves Art Gallery and later at the Mappin Art Gallery (The real entrance to the latter is via the classical columns in Weston Park), the Director, Frank Constantine, produced a constant stream of wonderful exhibitions at both galleries. They included many which made use of the extensive City collection, most of which is now in store. He also acquired many works, memorably several of Augustus and Gwen John's best works from Dorelia, Augustus's wife and Gwen's friend. During my time at the Mappin I assisted in setting up two memorable shows; the first public showing of the work of Edward Burne-Jones since his death (it changed young girls' fashions overnight); and the first over-view of Victorian art in the later 20th century, curated by Michael Diamond. After that I was able to produce my own exhibition, of the work of Edwin Landseer; I still think a much under-rated artist. The 'new' Millenium Gallery has been the scene of some excellent exhibitions; memorable ones for me were of John Martin the Newcastle visionary, and the subsequent exhibitions supported by John Ruskin's Guild of St. George whose small but fascinating gallery is adjacent. 

 

I later took on part-time work with the University Extension classes and the Workers' Educational Association. Classes were held in Art Appreciation, in Barnsley, Penistone, Chesterfield and Sheffield. We ran coach outings to places around Britain and on the continent; it was a way for South Yorkshire people to see what was going on in the art world in other places, plus a pleasant day out. Some places were outstanding; the amazing edifice of Bowes Museum, County Durham, with its magnificent collections; Compton Verney near Stratford with a string of great exhibitions – 'Sculpture by Rodin and Moore' stands out for me. Nearer to home, the Harley Centre near Welbeck, always good and now greatly extended and enhanced; the Yorkshire Sculpture Park -  wonderful and free. Longer tours took us to Scotland - Kirkaldy Art Gallery a favourite  - and to Ireland, especially the art galleries and museums of Dublin. We also took groups abroad. 

Sometimes it was the least likely that were the best; Colmar, home of the disturbing paintings of Mathias Grunewald; the amazing swimming pool converted into an art museum in Roubaix; an exhibition of the work and tragic life of Camille Claudel in Dinar, Brittany.

 

We at SVAG have seen our job, in  changing and sometimes difficult times, as supporting and connecting with Sheffield Art Galleries. We also try to see the wider picture; to make ourselves aware of artists in our city - whatever form they take. It's been along road but worth it all the way.

                                                                                       

 

Judy Hague, September 2017

 

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Cover to Cover (July 2017)

 

 

 

Recently I went to a quiz night and part of the event was naming musical artists and albums from their covers. I didn’t do very well but it reminded me that some of the designs were really effective and that it was art in its own right.

 

In a bygone era, before streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music pushed pop into the realms of data, my pleasure of music was definitely bound up with the art of the album sleeve. 

Later more under-whelmed I still have to admit even the cd cover was a mesmerising square of coloured paper that lured me to pick it up and try to fathom out what the music was all about.

 

The rise of digital music threatened on of the greatest canvases of art seen in the last century. Originally the record sleeve was just a protective cover for the fragile goods beneath but soon evolved into a space for artistic expression it its own right.

 

Now I read that the vinyl revival of recent times has once again given musicians and graphic artists

a sizeable forum to express visual ideas.  But the truth is the Golden Era of album art is long gone and, despite the many benefits of digital music, something important has been lost.

 

The sacred ritual of browsing through crates of vinyl in dingy record shops ( my favourite being in Broomhill )  is by-and-large not available to young people today, and that is such a shame.

 

In those dim and distant days, before the internet free-for-all reliable information on which to base a purchase was at a premium .Limited pocket money made you cautious and you may well have only heard a single on a never-quite-on-the-channel- radio , or read an inky review in a music magazine. So, the album cover was one of the main ways we judged an artist. 

 

Personally, I love busy sleeves something like Quentin Blakes’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which is a portrait gallery in its own right, and incidentally 50 years old in 2017.  Another favourite sleeve is Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti  1975. I love its epic classical proportions, its faded grandeur and the hostile symmetry of the New York city tenement still to be seen today at 97 St. Mark’s Place. The designer Peter Corriston ingeniously used the windows as cut out holes where we can find Neil Armstrong, Lee Harvey Oswald, King Kong, The Virgin Mary, Judy Garland plus full cast of The Wizard of Oz and Charles Atlas to name a few. Another wonderful innovation is the front cover is depicted by day and the back cover by night.

 

 

It falls to the artist to convey something of their essence through their record sleeve. Some used images that evoked an intense mystique. The bold fish head on Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica alerted me to how deeply strange the listening experience would  turn out to be. I still remember how mesmerised I was at first seeing the zig-zag portrait of David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane or Grace Jones’ bold pose on the cover of Nightclubbing. Never the less it is of course crucial that the music inside surpasses the cover design or even the most striking pieces of art will turn into an empty vessel.

 

I must admit that this is the case for me with Anjou - by Anjou.  The cover sang out to me but the music didn’t. Yet still I would defy anyone who ignoring the title would not take this as the style of a post - impressionist artist, the likes of Pierre Bonnard or Alfred Sisley painting their impression of a rainy day in Paris.

 

The finest covers feed off each other something that will feel at home in an art gallery as much as on a turntable.  However, although it is essential these gems are archived to preserve for future generations, it seems many album sleeves are now heading for the museum , and with it not just a powerful form of artistic impression but also an important physical memento of our favourite music and some of the best days of our lives.

 

 

 

Denise West, July 2017

 

General Election 7 June  (June 2017)

If you care about the future of the arts in Sheffield and the UK make sure the candidate you vote for in the 2017 General Election is committed to the arts.

 

Choose a candidate who supports the arts.  Ask them, or scrutinise their manifesto, to find out:

 

What will they do to protect arts funding ?

 

How will they make good arts education available to everyone ?

 

What will they do to ensure that everyone has access to good art wherever they live ?

 

Thanks to the National Campaign for the Arts (http://forthearts.org.uk) whose website I’ve plundered for this timely reminder.

 

Samuel West, Chair of For The Arts, says, ‘Public funding helps to make the UK a world leader in arts and culture. The National Campaign for the Arts wants audiences and candidates to understand and support that.


It is essential for this and for future generations that the arts are not forgotten at this election; successful candidates will realise how important affordable access to art is to the health and wellbeing of their constituents.’

 

 

Loveday Herridge, June 2017

MUSINGS (May 2017)

Why is it that some art works appeal to us and others don’t? Is it just a matter of personal taste or are there other things at play?

My visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park this last weekend brought this question sharply to my mind. Tony Cragg’s enormous and dramatic pieces, both inside and outside, have been admired and acclaimed; clearly a significant part of modern 3D practice. So why do they not appeal to me? 

The children there were clearly engaged, sketching their outlines with materials provided (free of charge by the gallery), tracing the shapes and wondering aloud how they were made.
 

For one of the pieces, what at first glance looked to be made of bits of stone or small pottery tiles turned out to be made of thousands and thousands of dice. (Anecdotally, used after each die had been thrown, and then fixed to show the side that landed uppermost). The work involved must have been enormous. And this observation was confirmed when visiting the workshop room where there was a video of Craggs talking about his work and showing the workplace pratices of himself and his assistants. 

Such enormous effort to produce the pieces! The detail and labour involved! Of course I can see and acknowledge this assiduousness, and can marvel at their dedication. But the next step, of appreciating the outcome, is a different question.

It occurs to me that this concentration on a fantastical amount of minutiae been present in the work of other contemporary artists, some produced with power tools, sometimes all handmade, and I wonder if in an age of instant images, and images that can be adjusted via digital technology including 3-d printing and at the click of a mouse, there is a move back to more laborious production methods, to somehow capture the insight and imagination of the artist.  Hm.. 

At the other side of the valley, at the Longside Gallery, the premier of the exhibition of 1960s op–art works from the Arts Council’s archive (it will be moving elsewhere later in the year) proved more attractive and meaningful to me. Does the fact that it was produced in the days of my youth and in tune with the style and verve of that 60 and 70s era, that I was part of, make it somehow more accessible? Does it mean that in 50 years time, Cragg will have a different impact (if I am still here – impossible!)

The art of different generations does fall in and out of favour, perhaps reflecting changing obsessions and preoccupations.  

Will some work simply reflect its era for the next 100 years or so and then cease to have any popular impact? 

But of course some art works are endlessly meaningful. One has presided over, and graced, the view across to Longside for some years whilst it ownership and future are contested. This is Henry Moore’s seated figure, which It seems that Tower Hamlets local authority has now been persuaded that it is not a good idea to sell to cover the hole in its budget (which would be a relief for just one year and a loss to the public for ever). And an outdoor public space has found to site it. Our loss, their gain.... We have so enjoyed it in Yorkshire but now it seems it is time for Londoners and visitors to the capital to have their turn. Lucky them! 

 

Vicky Seddon,  May 2017

STREET ART AND CREATIVE GRAFFITI IN SHEFFIELD (March 2017)

Sheffield has a huge amount of high quality street art.  There are lots of alley ways and gable walls that provide the canvases.  You might think that street art was most often found on railway lines or derelict factories.  You might be right but most of it is in the city centre or in the roads leading to the most affluent and fashionable areas.

Here's one of the large works in the city centre:

This is by Rocket01 and its in Charles Street near the railway station and on the edge of the Cultural Quarter.  Notice how the work has attracted its own graffiti and comment.  

Just around the corner is this.  A commissioned work?

About a mile away at Sharrow, along the London Road is a Polish bar which has had these images painted along the side wall of its premises.  They tell you lots about the bar and the first image livens up the smoking area.

Nearby, on the edge of Mount Pleasant Park is a handball court.  This has one of the largest wall displays in the city.  Here are three images that show this:

 

Are these commissioned or just permitted?  Notice how the designs blend into each other.

Go further, where London Road becomes Abbeydale Road and there's lots more to see.  Here's a sample:

At the back of this building you will find this amazing work on a car park fence:

And on the other side of the road:

Curiously this one does not seem to get listed on any of the websites or blogs about Sheffield street art and graffiti.  Who is the artist?  Here's another shot of this stunning image:

 

Go back into the city but this time go out along Ecclesall Road.  Right in the middle at Snuff Mill Lane is this huge work by artist Phlegm, completed in October 2016:

Go further out to Endcliffe Park and you get to Sharrow Vale.  Go back along Sharrow Vale Road and see the smaller works on the sides of local shops:

Go further out to Endcliffe Park and you get to Sharrow Vale.  Go back along Sharrow Vale Road and see the smaller works on the sides of local shops:

Lastly, the newest one in Sheffield in Fairfield Way Industrial Estate, near Meadowhall.  It helps to close off the loading bay door of an industrial building that has been converted into a recording studio - Pirate Studios.

Robert Scott, March 2017

THE GRAVES ART GALLERY and the ART DECO Style (Feb. 2017)

Movies – Jazz – cocktails – petrol pumps – swimming baths – Hollywood – cubism – refrigerators – newspaper offices – underground stations – Harry Beck – The Chrysler Building - cars - hotels – Mallard and Nigel Gresley - Clarice Cliff –  Sophie Taeuber-Arp – Frank Lloyd Wright – Gershwin - Sonia Delaunay - Bauhaus Citroen - Kandinski – El Lissitsky – Mondriaan – Scott Joplin - Tutankhamun......

 

After the First World War artists all over Europe wanted to leave the past behind – no more pomp and circumstance, no more meaningless formality, no more class-bound rigidity. From classical music and architecture to grass-roots jazz, commercial art and industrial design, the new challenged the old. Simplify! throw out curves and sentimentality ! Reveal the roots of Art !

 

In 1922 an amazing discovery was made in Egypt. The tomb of the Pharoah Tutankhamun (died c.1340 BC) was found intact with its mummified body, grave furniture, jewellery and paintings. Howard Carter, the Englishman leading the excavation, became instantly famous; breathless accounts appeared in the popular press. My mother, 17 years old, saved up for the cigarette cards, each with a photo in glorious technicolour (goodness knows how many cigarettes were smoked in the process – and, no, I haven't got them now) The effect on the world of art and design was electric. The list at the top of the page is evidence of the spread of Art Deco – but where did it begin?

 

In 1925 France was recovering from the war and justifiably saw Paris as the world leader of Art and Design. The 'Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes' was opened in the fittingly modern Palais de Chaillot. Unlike Impressonism, or Cubism, or even Art Nouveau (the latter had plenty of furniture, glass, textiles and architecture, but its sinuous lines and subtleties were quite unsuited to mass-production), ' Art Deco ' as it came to be called, had limitless applications. The style could enter every home, every town, every country.

 

Which brings us back to home. Where, and how, did Art Deco appear in Sheffield? That dirty, work-obsessed, somewhat philistine town? That was the beauty of Art Deco. New, exciting things were around, even in Sheffield. Going to the cinema was cheap – cheap enough for any wage-earner wanting some family entertainment. New stylish cinemas were built; and it was not only the buildings - it was what could be seen on the screen. Not just cowboys and Indians – but kitchens – cocktail lounges – the American Dream. I'm jumping ahead here – American Art Deco followed hot on the trail of French style.

 

By the early 1930's even Sheffield could contemplate a public building in the Art Deco style, though not without protest. Sheffield needed a decent central library (The suburbs fared better); the Corporation Architect, W.E. Davies set about producing a design with the aid of his job-architect, E.H. Ashburner, who went on to design a similar Public Library and Art Gallery in Huddersfield.

 

Meanwhile, Sheffield's benefactor J.G.Graves, king of the mail-order watch and sewing-machine business, decided to donate a substantial sum, provided that an Art Gallery was built on the Library's top floor (Ample natural light was essential before the days of sophisticated electric lighting). The completed building, housing much of J.G.Graves' impressive art collection, was opened by the Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth, consort of George VI) in 1934.

And now to the building itself. Looking at the outside, there is everywhere evidence of Art Deco style and motifs, plus a dash of Tutankhamun. The main piece, high on the south-west corner, was sculpted by the Tory Brothers, Sheffield's principal stone-carvers; it has a decidedly Egyptian look. Elsewhere, decoration,

albeit restrained, pervades the walls, main entrance, windows, and iron work. Look at the grilles across the basement windows; they are replicated on the inside door  furniture – a typical Art Deco motif. The Portland stone facade is carved with delicate vertical and horizontal lines, together with insignia or crests of arrows and, either side of the entrance, roundels symbolising activities within the building -  writing, science, music, astronomy, painting etc. Inside, the vestibule best preserves the 1930's decoration; it still has the original 'geometric' lighting (In the library itself the lighting was modernised and the original lights acquired by the V & A)

 

The building as a whole has more than a whiff of the classical – not incompatible with Art Deco, with which it shares a love of geometric verticals and horizontals, pillars and capitals. Both styles are the antithesis of Neo-Gothic; until the 1960''s all things Victorian were despised and often destroyed.

 

Fashions come and go. In some quarters Art Deco and the 1920's and '30's are all the rage – look at Clarice Cliff. The Graves Library and Art Gallery is more subtle, but undeniably Art Deco. We need to be very vigilant indeed to ensure that it is properly appreciated in the future.

 

Judy Hague, February 2017

"A Better Sheffield -

Showcasing Sheffield's Creative Response to Tough Times"

In September, I picked up a copy of "Now Then" and was intrigued to read an article by Richard Motley(CIQ Agency) and Julian Dobson entitled "A Better Sheffield - Showcasing Sheffield's Creative Response to tough Times". The article advertised three events in the new Festival of Debate, all of which sounded interesting. "These events will provide an opportunity to hear what's happening, make new connections and raise Sheffield's profile as a place to experiment and innovate". I bought tickets and to date have been to two. They have been inspirational.

 

The first was on the subject of "Sheffield the DIY City",  and included contributions on: impromptu, budget  "happenings"  and entertainment in Attercliffe; the success story that is Strip the Willow community enterprise - not satisfied with up-cycling furniture and now embarking on building affordable homes, the multi-faceted and adventurous Regather project; our home grown and innovative Creative Guild;  and finally the reborn Antiques Quarter of Abbeydale Road. All contributors described the need to "own your idea" and "run with it". There was agreement that there is now some resurgence in research and investment, and that the moment needs to be seized. The overall message was "just do it!"

 

The second event revolved around Sheffield "The Outdoor City". Maxine Gregory (SHU) outlined a recent report's focus on walking, running, cycling and climbing,  and the desirability of branding Sheffield as Outdoor Capital. An active mountain bike campaigner reinforced the message, and the need for collaboration and connection: witness the bikers now talking with the Ramblers Association. Nichola Dempsey from University of Sheffield explained how asset-rich Sheffield was in this area, but that there was scope for more sustainable work. Finally Leigh Bramall, in the context of financial austerity, emphasised Sheffield's skill and experience base in this field. The city, we were told, needs to grow the brand, develop this signature sector and increase already considerable participation. All speakers highlighted the social, health, cultural and economic benefits of developing Sheffield as an Outdoor City, and were agreed that we need to organise, coordinate and connect to build on success.

 

It was noticeable that at both events there were specific references to spin-offs in terms of improved mental health and well-being for citizens. We were exhorted to encourage valuing and the participation of stakeholders. Refreshingly, a joined-up approach was advocated by all contributors, who agreed that Sheffield needs to continue to develop networks and connect diverse groups.

 

I'm now looking forward to the third evening on 16th November (5.30 pm at the Workstation) when the theme is "City of Makers" when there will be in-puts from Professor Vanessa Toulmin and Laura Bennett. Do go along if you feel like celebrating "Sheffield's creative response to tough times"!

Tickets are available from the Showroom Cinema.

 

Jan Beautyman, November 2016

Street Art in the Antiques Quarter (October 2016)

Last month saw an event in the Antiques Quarter in Nether Edge which has left a bright legacy on the walls, shutters and empty spaces of the area.  The people behind it believe that ‘art is the key and the glue to making communities better’, and they brought together some high profile Sheffield street and graffiti artists to create murals across the Quarter.  
Around 40 artworks and murals now colour the streets in the Quarter and an art trail is planned as a resource for local schools and visitors.

The project received financial support from local councillors in Nether Edge and Sharrow, community crowdfunding, and a small amount from the Sustainable Communities fund to tackle antisocial behaviour in the Abbeydale corridor.  I wondered whether some artists might feel that the edginess of street art might be compromised by establishment support, remembering a conversation I’d had with a street artist last year who had dissociated himself from the word ‘art’.  So I asked Hendrika Stephens, organiser of the Street Art day and chair of the Antiques Quarter group.  She said that in fact the many artists in the project were hugely supportive of it and appreciated how it raised the profile of graffiti street art in particular.  

It seems, though, that businesses which had agreed to the use of their premises - shutters, for example - for artworks, had sometimes struggled to understand that the artists would paint what they want, and resist the business’s desire that pieces that essentially served as advertising should be created.  Stephens cited the mural by Rocket on the Pizza Hut by the Abbeydale Picture House which ‘would not get the attention it does if the spacewoman was holding a pizza instead of a badger’.  

And of course the transformation of the environment is a challenge, let alone the style of the art itself, and there has been, according to Stephens, an unwelcome ‘backlash from a very few members of the community who struggle with change’.  She created the hashtag #maybethisonesnotforyou because ‘clearly all art will not appeal to all people’.  And she is certainly critical of ‘unappealing graffiti and tagging that is really only saying something to one person (i.e. the person who painted it) as opposed to art that has a far wider appeal, makes a statement and enhances the environment’.
 
Running through the project is a strong theme of support for young people.  Stephens says, ‘this art in the Quarter we specifically aim at young people and are planning workshops ... We have hoped to appeal to the young people who are feeling disengaged to put their stamp on the area, or a stamp that is likely to appeal to them, and to make them feel more ownership and pride in their community’.

So the event drew hundreds of people from across the city to explore the area and, Stephens hopes, the project will enable new pieces to pop up regularly.  She hopes too that ‘what we are trying to do will catch on throughout the city and show more support and respect for street art projects generally, and for the commissioning of these, as well as for a city wide trail as another potential local and independent stamp on the city. Another reason to visit Sheffield.’

 

Loveday Herridge, October 2016

Potty about Pots ?

Then the “Shaped from the Earth” ceramics show in the Craft Section at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery is well worth a viewing. Open until October  9th,  it showcases the work of local potters with a wide range of different approaches, different techniques and different finishes.  And much of it is for sale. So if you plan to treat someone (maybe yourself) to something very special, or maybe, if you like to get your Christmas shopping done early  and are looking for smaller but no less unique pieces, then this is the place for you. 

If it is sophistication and elegance that you seek, then the work of Hannah Westergaard  (two large wall plates and a deep externally decorated bowl) and Karin Hessenberg’s “The White Spot: Portrait of Brian Holland” (which is a pottery sculpture of the man), might suit.  The multitude of individual petals in the two pieces of Linda Southwell ‘s “Flower Forms” must have taken some labour and demonstrate pleasing delicacy despite the hard form that pottery must take.

“Tapering towers”  (Norman Cherry) and “Dark Freeform” and “Mountain” (Penny Withers) (who also curated the show)  experiment with abstract forms, in shapes which are definite but also, if not ethereal , then certainly products of the imagination. Antonia Salmon has turned the wave variations of “Echo” into a vibrant, almost musical techie piece.

Cats there are aplenty, courtesy of Anna Mercedes Wear who creates affectionate, charming figures.

A more serious topic is John Gibson’s commentary on religion, showing the breadth and complexity of this exhibition  

If decorating a wall is what is in your sights, then Victoria Dawes “Lady Grey” sets of plaques may be worth considering.  And Broomhill residents may be interested in Helen Beam’ s bowl, decorated in and out, with “Broomhill Terrace”. Cannot myself quite work out which terrace it is but it is certainly evocative and very attractive.  Emilie Taylor’s “Raising Cain”, on the other hand, also features a  large vessel, with images, this time of people,  but not so much pretty as strange and even shocking. Grayson Perry’s pots spring to mind

All this and much more: yes there are also teapots, mugs and jugs, as well as many abstract pieces. And some of the same potters showed at the Sheffield Ceramics  Festival  24/25 September at Meersbrook Park. 

If you go see and find yourself disappointed by a little red dot on the piece you have fallen in love with, why not contact the potter, and see what else he or she might have up their sleeve.  This is what I did when that annoying red dot was discovered on the Ken Taylor pieces that I much admired, and this is what eventually ended up in my sitting room.  Too bad that the potters had decided “no photographs” so I cannot show you any of the other pieces there, but I think this one image, very like the works on show, is a pretty good advert for the quality of the pots in the exhibition.   

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 

Vicky Seddon 

 

 

Musing from an Art Loving Grandmother.  (July 2016)

It was with some trepidation that I decided to take my two teenage grandsons to the new Tate Modern , recently re-opened after its £260 million redevelopment.  My intention was met with a sideway glance from inside a hoodie and a raised eyebrow over a smart phone, but that was justification enough to go ahead with the plan.

 

Tate Modern is already the world’s most popular gallery of modern and contemporary art and now has 60% more space in its new galleries. It is still free except for special exhibitions and the blurb told us that they hoped to inspire “ a new generation “. Well, I had brought two.


I have always enjoyed the drama of entering the building down the long ramp into the breathtaking space of the Turbine Hall , it is a secular cathedral from where the visitor is swept up by escalator to the galleries above. This visit demanded a look at the new Switch House and I was impressed.


It has a duality that is hard to make sense of. The wonderful symmetry of the red brick boxes which look  strong and sturdy but also as if they are misshapen and crumbling at the same time. It is a building that in its quirkiness certainly represents the art of our times.

 

This redevelopment has allowed them to completely rehang the collection in a new way. Previously the decision was to look at art for the last hundred years not chronologically as is often the norm but thematically, but to be honest I often could not see the links. Now, they are in slightly unorthodox pairings but I did “ get it “ more often than not.

 

There was so much I hadn’t seen before but also old favourites to add comfort in all this new strangeness. Louise Bourgeois’ spider still has such an impact.The feeling of uneasiness I still get at a  low slung egg caught in the web.  Wei- Wei’s tree , The Tower of Babel, Upturned House 11 by Phyllida Barlow and with so much space to enjoy their three dimensional properties.

 

There were numerous installations including a bed you could lie down on ( no! not Tracey Emin’s ). The piece I remember most clearly was by an Indian female artist Sheela Gowder who had human hair twisted into ropes and attached to car bumpers that were a supposed good luck talisman in her own country. The room had to be set at a very low temperature to keep the bugs out of the hair.

 

There was performance art in the tank space and lots of digital and interactive art , in fact all aspects of our lives were documented by images everywhere. One criticism from the past was there were very few female artists on show. Now I would say it was fifty- fifty with the men.

 

In fact as I looked at my notebook on the train home it was full of women’s names and I will have a busy winter researching their lives and work.

As for the boys . We had only managed about half of the10 floors available because I had flagged, on suggesting we might go again and do the other half there were no moans or groans. It seems to me that young people don’t have prejudices about certain art styles, that is yet come. So why not impose them early to as much art as possible and let’s see what happens. As in all things they are our future and we must educate them to all possibilities.

 

Denise West, July 2016

 

 

 

The Garman-Ryan Collection, Walsall Art Gallery.  (May 2016)

If you haven't been to Walsall (in the Black Country of Staffordshire, 15 miles N of Birmingham) you probably won't know about Walsall Art Gallery. It is one of a clutch of provincial Art Galleries given a modernist makeover in the 1990's (Middlesbrough, Wakefield, Lincoln, Margate, to name a few). But it's not just the building which makes a visit so enjoyable and worthwhile - it's the Art. Walsall was the birthplace of  Kathleen Garman, wife of  the sculptor Jacob Epstein. After Epstein's death in 1959 Kathleen, together with her friend Sally Ryan, assembled a magnificent collection of works of art. Sally Ryan inherited a huge fortune from her American father, enabling the two women to acquire paintings, drawings, and sculpture; not only the classic Impressionists and 20th century masterpieces of Epstein's generation, but pre-historic, mediaeval, European and art from a global range. It has an added flavour from the personal connections with the Epstein family – one of the treasures is the portrait of Kitty, Epstein's daughter, by Lucien Freud, and there are some of Jacob's finest drawings and portrait sculptures here. It is a big collection in every sense of the word, but it doesn't take up a lot of space; even the paintings, and especially the sculpture, are small pieces that repay a long, close look.


As you approach the gallery, alongside the canal, you get very little idea of what it houses. A plain, grey 'biscuit-box' (the local epithet) with no windows; even the entrance door is unmarked. Ultra-modern architecture is fine, but I feel this is a missed opportunity to welcome people in. However, when I visited the interior was full of people, mostly locals I guess, and including many children with their parents. There were plenty of drawing materials and children's books on the sales counter. Noise was at an acceptable level, indicating some serious concentration by both adults and children.

 

This was my second visit, and I found the gallery in better shape than ever. The temporary exhibition was the third annual show of the 'John Ruskin Prize: Recording Britain Now'. Organised by 'The Big Draw' (previously the Campaign for Drawing) and The Guild of St. George, this an impressive show of drawings submitted by artists on the theme of contemporary social issues. Last year's show was exhibited in Sheffield's Millennium Gallery; the exhibition continued at  the London base of The Big Draw at the Electrician's Shop Gallery,Trinity Buoy Wharf London E 14. As with the Sheffield show last year, there is an impressively high standard and some original thinking. Unlike the Garman-Ryan Collection,much of which is enchantingly small, the drawings tend to be big – big and beautiful.

 

Judy Hague, May 2016.

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