Well, 2019 has been a year fraught with political stress and uncertainty, but we'd like to think that the Gallery has offered a little light, colour, and optimism. We've hosted five large exhibitions and one small, taking part in two Art Fairs, and doing something different in the city of Manchester. You can find our year in review below, including an overview of all exhibitions, artist news, and awards.
In reverse order, our five large exhibitions and one small this year have culminated with our Winter Show — an ambitious mixed exhibition over both floors of the Gallery which comes to a close on Christmas Eve. With four new faces and brand new work from a host of Gallery-artists, this is a rich and vibrant exhibition showcasing some of the best talent in the north of England, alongside a handful of artists from further afield. One of these artists takes the shape of one of the most important British abstract painters Sir Terry Frost RA. It is a real privilege to hang two Frost originals in the Winter Show.
In October/November, the visiting artist Richard Clare graced the downstairs space with his dynamic paintings of urban Manchester and colourful landscapes, and in the weeks leading up to his solo exhibition, the Gallery conducted our most ambitious collaboration to date with Colin Taylor and the Royal Exchange Theatre. Exhibited simultaneously at the Gallery and the mezzanine floor at the Theatre, Colin’s 50 paintings depicting the Royal Exchange’s imposing architecture were celebrations of colour, light, and space.
At the end of summer, the face of the Gallery changed entirely as the expressionistic landscapes and interiors of Ian Norris were complemented by the extraordinary ceramics of Ken Matsuzaki. The transition to Matsuzaki’s unique quasi-natural forms began in July with the raw, rhythmic, abstracted landscapes of Matthew Bourne. Though both exhibitions were quite different, each impressed upon our clients the various ways an artist can observe and transform nature, and each garnered many great compliments.
The Northern Boys, a painting collective of nine artists and friends, took over the Gallery in April, each providing a number of paintings “celebrating plein air painting”. Scores of budding and established artists attended the Northern Boys’ Paint Out around Manchester, and the exhibition was documented by a film crew. Find the resulting short film here. Our first exhibition of the year was the smallest — but only in terms of the size of paintings. The popularity of the (then) new Gallery-artist Liam Spencer brought lots of art lovers to the Gallery to see his new collection of miniature paintings. We enjoyed visitors from across the country, and even the lead guitarist from Guns ‘n’ Roses poked his hat in to take a look.
In addition to our roster of brilliant Gallery-artists, we have also introduced a few new faces. The meticulous tempera works of Helen Clapcott have received a great deal of attention in our Winter Show, as have the expertly conceived interiors of the President of the New English Art Club and member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Peter Brown. The abstract paintings of new Gallery-artist Craig Jefferson have been a huge hit, and have found new homes with great regularity since our first meeting. They have also found their way to private collections in the United States. The most notable growth to the Gallery is in our selection of ceramics, which with the pots of Ken Matsuzaki and Phil Rogers has seen us become a venue for ceramic enthusiasts in the north of England. Though not new faces, a mention must be made of the paintings of both Theodore Major and Terry Frost, which have offered to our walls real historical importance as the year has progressed.
In the field
For the first time, Contemporary Six had a stand at the Battersea Affordable Art Fair in London, with thousands of people visiting us over the course of the weekend. Both Michael Ashcroft and Rob Pointon had produced a London series especially for the fair — you can see how it looked in the image pictured above. The Gallery also took a stand at the Manchester Art Fair in the old GMEX.
Working with other local businesses, we have throughout the year put together several series of artworks for offices (for no working wall need remain white for long). And in the same regard, we were proud to provide a series of original paintings for the Chartered Wealth Management networking event held in the centre of Manchester. You can see part of our small exhibition in the photograph below.
Michael Ashcroft has just been elected an associate member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, and after such an impressive and consistent few years, it is an honour much deserved. Additionally, building on last year’s appointment as an associate member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Rob Pointon has this year been elected a fully fledged member. This is a hugely rare accolade for artists in the north of England and one which shows just how respected and venerated Rob’s work has become. Congratulations, both.
And one more thing
Our Gallery-artists have not just provided us wonderful artworks for our space in the city centre, but in many cases, have worked with us when a client has something more tailored in mind to produce commissions of the highest quality. This year we have facilitated a large number of commissions — from busts and sculptures, to paintings for cultural institutions or homes — and in every case the process has been enjoyable and artistically rewarding. Whether the subject is specific, or the dimensions unusual, it is always a way to inspire surprising and stunning results.