London 2020

Over the weekend of the sixth to ninth of March, some thirty of our members enjoyed our annual Gallery Weekend, on this occasion to London. We were safely delivered to the Mercure Bloomsbury Hotel on the Friday lunchtime by our coach, and swiftly set about making the most of our time in the capital.

At dinner on the first night, it was inspiring to hear of people’s individually planned, and completely different, itineraries. Yes, it’s true that there were some exhibitions that seemed especially popular, like David Hockney: Drawing from life at the NPG, and Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk at the V&A, but over the four days I think between us we may have made it to every gallery in London. Tate Modern, Tate Britain and The Mall Galleries were of course popular choices.

As we were just a stone’s throw from the British Museum, many of us spent time there, as well as in the scores of cafes and restaurants nearby. Among the theatre shows, people enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Lion King and Leopoldstadt, Tom Stoppard’s new play. Wicked on the other hand got slighty less rave reviews! Shopping at Cass Art kept some of us busy too.

Naturally we were all aware of the developing situation with COVID-19 and so, people often chose to walk in the fresh air instead of using public transport. From Spitalfields Market through to the East End, to Tower Bridge (some even bravely made it up to the top of its high structure where there was a glass floor!), to the South Bank and the London Eye, we covered the London miles. It was great to catch up each evening on what people had particularly enjoyed.

We all agreed that the location of the hotel was not to be beaten, the staff were kind and professional, and those of us who ate there were happy with both the food and the company. The little Italian restaurant around the corner was also a popular choice with our members.

For a glimpse of the weekend through the eyes of one couple on the trip, Mike White has put together a really great account, in pictures, that he’s happy for us to share. You can see it by clicking HERE.

Some of Mike’s photos are also illustrating this blog post, along with some from Anne Linton and a few from me, Sally. Whatever shapes up in the coming weeks and months, I’m so pleased I was able to join this SAS Gallery Weekend, and spend time with you all.

Thanks must go to Alan Townsend, our organiser, who made sure everything ran without a hitch, to the staff at the hotel, and to Longmynd Travel. Here’s hoping that 2021 will see us all adventuring again.

One January day, two Wirral galleries

The day trip to the Wirral, to the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead and the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight was voted another success, a visit to two very different galleries.

SAS Wirral Gallery Trip 2020 collage 1

The Williamson Art Gallery – like many others – is showing the effects of changed financial circumstances, in contrast to the era when it was built. The information on their website was out-of-date and we arrived to find things we were expecting to see not there at all, and despite some wonderful art in many forms, presentation contrasting with what we then saw at the Lady Lever, where galleries reopened only 4 years ago after a £2.8m major re-development, removing decades of building ‘improvements’ and returning them to the original architectural style of 1922. When we visit galleries and exhibitions, our attention goes first to the art we’re there to see, but the contrasting 21st century situations of these two galleries highlights what goes on behind the scenes to make the art available for us to even look at.

SAS Wirral Gallery Trip 2020 collage 2

The day gave something for everyone, with plenty of contrasts. At the Lady Lever there was the wonderful late Turner, portraits by Reynolds, Pre-Raphaelite paintings by all the big names and then the work made by Matisse in the later stage of his life. At the Williamson, a project developed out of a chance discovery of an old collection of family photos contrasted with the contemporary portrait photography of the women working at the city’s Cammell Laird shipyard. There was the contrast of a very large collection of Wedgewood plus Chinese ceramics at the Lady Lever with the Arts and Crafts ceramics from Birkenhead’s Della Robbia factory.

Both galleries were established by people who believed that making art available for their local community to see was so important that they made major investments into it. The Lever brothers’ 19th century soap business and the development of Port Sunlight – including the art gallery – was part of that. In Birkenhead, the Williamson Art Gallery is named after one of the directors of Cunard, John Williamson. A legacy from him and his son funded its building, which opened in 1928 (six years after the Lady Lever opened). Birkenhead Council had already built up an art collection, believing in the need for this for their city. The number of people wanting to visit art galleries – including us – has grown and grown. A century ago, these key individuals, influencers in their own time, supported a trend still growing and which we are part of.

SAS Wirral Gallery Trip 2020 collage 3
SAS Wirral Gallery Trip 2020 collage 4

The great variety of photos captured by Mike White, Anne Linton and Jennifer Wallace, of which the above are just a sample (thank you all!), show the spirit of our day and how much we enjoyed it. We are also especially grateful to Jennifer and Jillian Wallace for organising the day for us, and to Jennifer for putting together the text of this report.

Inspirational Coventry, Autumn 2019

Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery and Cathedral are next door to each other, giving us more than enough to fill the autumn galleries day trip without going farther afield (unless you wanted to).

SAS collage of Autumn Gallery day trip to Coventry (1 of 2)

Like most city galleries, The Herbert has an art collection which is a reflection of purchases over many years which combine local interests with making a wide range of high quality art available to everyone. Their Peace and Reconciliation gallery, for example includes the painting by John Piper of the Cathedral in flames, his response to seeing the ruins the day after the bombing of the city and it’s no coincidence that the current exhibition, Coventry Biennial – The Twin, shows a range of contemporary international artists’ insights and responses to globalisation, looking in particular at cities Coventry is twinned with.

The Radical Drawing exhibition came out of Coventry’s history with Courtaulds, and their link with the London art gallery. It brings together Courtauld collection drawings and drawings from public collections of West Midlands galleries and was more than food for thought about drawing past and present – something of interest for all of us who make art, regardless of media and genre.

From the 1940 bombing of the old Coventry Cathedral, came a unique collaboration between architect and artists. Sir Basil Spence commissioned artists including Jacob Epsten, Elizabeth Frink, John Hutton, John Piper, and Graham Sutherland – commissions unequalled for the 1950s? Again, no coincidence that as part of the Coventry Biennial, in the Chapter House they were showing Bosnian artist Šejla Kamerić’s video installation, 1395 Days without Red, about 4 years of siege in another of Coventry’s twin cities, Sarajevo.

SAS collage of Autumn Gallery day trip to Coventry (2 of 2)

An unexpected extra was being in the cathedral when the rehearsal for the evening’s performance of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius was on – what a wonderful way to escape all the rain that we might all be remembering this autumn for?

Thank you to our trip organisers Jennifer and Jillian Wallace, and to Jennifer, Anne Linton and Karen Worrall for the photos that give a flavour of all that we saw.

Autumn winners, workshops & spreading the word

SAS collage of Autumn Exhibition 2019, Jason Edwards with his winning painting After the rain, Shrewsbury
Autumn Exhibition 2019, Jason Edwards is our winner! Pictured here at the Exhibition Social with Barry Lowe,our Chair, and Mike Griffiths who presented the Walker Harrison Prize

On Saturday 5th October members and guests assembled for our annual lunchtime Social at the Bear Steps Art Gallery to celebrate our Autumn Exhibition. A warm welcome was extended to all by our Chair, Barry Lowe. He welcomed Mike Griffiths, who had kindly acted as Adjudicator for the awarding of the annual Walker Harrison Prize, given for the picture in the exhibition which ‘best represents the Shropshire landscape’.

On this occasion we were pleased to see the prize go to Jason Edwards, a relatively new member of the Society, who had submitted a particularly stunning painting of a stretch of the river Severn immediately below the station bridge, After the rain, Shrewsbury. Mike congratulated Jason on the outstanding quality of his work and the Society on the excellent quality and range of the work submitted by members.

As the social was in full swing, so was our October Saturday Workshop. This season our Workshops and Classes are very well supported and attended. It’s exciting too, to see some fresh faces among our regulars.

October Saturday Workshop, responses to the work of the Salford artist, Harold Riley

Saturday Workshops, kindly organised for us by Lynne Morgan and Mick Krupa have got off to an excellent start. In the latest of these we were considering and responding to the distinctive work of the Salford artist, Harold Riley.

Thanks go to Anne Linton and Jennifer Wallace for accompanying us with their cameras (images above). Many thanks also to John Willetts, our Exhibitions Secretary, and his team for for their fine and hard work organising our Autumn Exhibition. It’s on until Saturday 12th October at 2.30pm. Come and visit!

Stop press!!!

On the evening of Thursday 10th October, Wilf Langford and Alan Townsend will be appearing on BBC Radio Shropshire at 8pm in Mark Elliott’s Seven O’Clock Show. They will be interviewed about our Autumn Exhibition and the Society’s activities in general. We are grateful to Mark and to Radio Shropshire for giving us occasional opportunities to promote the Society. Listen in!

2019-2020 Workshops and Classes off to a great start

Collage of SAS 2019-2020 Workshops and Classes
Our workshops and classes 2019-2020 are off to a great start!

We are pleased to report that we have enjoyed a lively and well attended start to our programme of Workshops and Classes for the coming season, commencing with our first Saturday Workshop last weekend, organised by our committed and enthusiastic leaders, Lynne Morgan and Mick Krupa. Some 20 members considered the work of a group of artists characterised as “The Print Rebels” before responding in the medium of their choice.

Similarly, our programme of Wednesday Classes got off to an excellent start this week, at the English Bridge Workshop, with a sequence of classes led by Euryl Stevens. We are delighted to have her tutoring us again. It’s exciting that demand to attend these classes this year has been extremely high, with overflow waiting lists in some cases. We are looking forward to welcoming our other tutors Lynne Morgan, Pip Jones, Wilf Langford and Di Purser as the year progresses and in 2020.

The Printing Workshops will also be underway soon, later this month, kindly organised by Suki White.

Thank you to Alan Townsend for organising the programme overall, and to him and Liz Carr for the photos.