VINTAGE posters from a golden age of travel and
tourism will go on display at Woodend, The Crescent, Scarborough, on Saturday.
Dating from the 1910s to the 1960s, the posters
in Scarborough: A Day At The Seaside were issued by the-then
Scarborough Corporation’s tourism department and by rail companies operating in
On show from the coming weekend to April 26, they will
include such nostalgic images as a family of penguins seeking shade under a
parasol on Scarborough’s South Bay beach, alongside other bright and
idyllic scenes from a bygone era.
The prints are all taken from the 200-plus original
posters held in the Scarborough Collections, under the care of Scarborough
Andrew Clay, the trust’s chief executive, says: “This
will be a vibrant and colourful exhibition recalling an age when travelling by
train for a holiday at the seaside was the height of sophistication.”
Limited-edition prints of the posters on display will be available to
buy, all at the actual size.
Woodend is open Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 5pm, and Saturdays and
Sundays, 10am to 4pm. Entry is free.
Hannah’s Songs For Darktown Lovers is the Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields
Forever of exhibitions.
music-inspired Double A-sides show is split between two independent York
businesses: Lotte Inch Gallery, at 14 Bootham, and gallery curator Lotte’s
friends Dan Kentley and Dom White’s FortyFive Vinyl Café in Micklegate.
For Darktown Lovers roots itself in all things music, and of course, love,”
says Lotte. “With Sinatra’s Songs For Swinging Lovers playing in the
background, this exhibition is an alternative Valentine for the creatively
also a love letter to ‘Darktown’, a fictional place that Jonny refers to when
modern life becomes too much, a place with countless retreats, all revealed in
his book Greetings From Darktown, published by Merrell Publishers in 2014.”
Scottish artist, designer, illustrator, lecturer and all-round creative spark
Hannah has exhibited previously at Lotte’s gallery, and she contacted him last
spring with a view to him doing a show for FortyFive.
told me about this vinyl café because I like to go to charity shops and buy old
vinyl albums that I know will be awful but have striking covers, and then I
create my own newly reinterpreted vinyl sleeves from that,” says
culture-vulture Jonny, who attended the exhibition openings at FortyFive, where
he span vintage discs and played an acoustic guitar set with fellow artist Jonathan Gibbs, and at Lotte’s gallery amid the
aroma of morning-after coffee the next day.
been nice with this show is having the chance to do the more informal works for
the café and the formal pieces, such as hand-painted wooden cut-outs, for the
led to the Darktown Lovers theme. “Originally, I was going to do the show
before Christmas but time ran out, and then I thought Valentine’s Day would be
a good setting,” says Jonny.
work is inspired by love songs and songs I love – as they’re not all love
songs. Country rock; a bit of classical; some French chanson; rockabilly. The
café exhibition has become this imagined playlist of vinyl that never will be,
but I’ve made it as the perfect playlist in my head.”
up in Dunfermline, before studying at Cowdenbeath College of Knowledge, Liverpool School of Art and the
Royal College of Art in London, Jonny recalls how he would pick out album
covers such as Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell.
“Everyone had that album in Dunfermline! Then, as I became older, and I
like to think more sophisticated, I was drawn to those wonderful Blue Note jazz
covers. I loved the 12-inch format; going to the record shop on Saturdays with
your pocket money was so exciting,” he says.
“Then it became CDs, and now downloads, but it’s great that vinyl has
made a comeback. My sons play music, but I’ve no idea what, because it’s all on
headphones. In fact, they complain I play my music too loud, which is surely
the wrong way round! But music should be a social thing, bringing you together
to see a band or enjoy a DJ set.
“Music that matters to you is as important as buying clothes or a pair
of shoes or the first time you saw a film like Kes. You remember the mood you
were in when you first heard it.”
graduating in 1998, Jonny has worked both as a commercial designer and an
illustrator and printmaker. He lives by the sea in Southampton, where he
lectures in illustration at Southampton Solent University.
He boasts an impressive list of
exhibitions, advertising projects and clients, such as Royal Mail, the New York
Times, the Guardian and Conde Nast, and he has published a series of
“undeniably Hannah-esque” books with Merrell Publishers, Mainstone Press and
Design For Today.
You may recall his Darktown Turbo
Taxi solo exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, in 2018,
and Darktown lies at the heart of his latest works too, but what is Darktown,
“It started off as my idea that it
was on the edge of any city that had a collection of odd characters, that had
places they frequented, maybe shops too,” he says.
“The inspiration came from Fats
Waller, the jazz singer, singing Darktown Strutter’s Ball, and C W Stoneking
replying Don’t Go Dancin’ Down The Darktown Strutter’s Ball. So, Fats is saying
‘go’; Stoneking is saying ‘don’t go’, and you think, ‘oh god, what should I
“I decided I should go down there and
it’s become my alternative reality to my reality, as opposed to one of my great
hates: Star Wars fantasy.”
Defining that alternative reality,
Jonny says: “It has to be urban, ever since I left home in Dunfermline; it has
to have a lot of concrete, like there is in Southampton, my home now.
“You’re cherry picking from what you
do and don’t want to experience, including shops, characters, streets.”
One street, in particular: Shirley
High Street, where Jonny lives in Southampton. “I take some of the characters
from there and mix them in my head with historical characters,” he says. “But
it all has to have that dollop of reality; if you go too far off on fantastical
bent, it isn’t Darktown.”
How did Jonny develop his distinctive
style? “You have to be patient, to make things work, for your style to appear.
I’d start from other artists and do my own versions, and after a decade, maybe
a couple of decades, I’ve found my own style with life’s experience feeding
into it: who you are, where you live. Whereas if you force it, that’s when it
“The more you do it, the more those
things inside you, what’s internal, becomes external and is expressed in your
art. That’s when you overtake your influences and your voice becomes the
significant voice, not the ones that inspired you.”
Jonny Hannah’s pricing policy is
admirable. “The idea of my work being available potentially to almost anyone is
exciting, so I’ve sold it for as little as £5. I price it for what I think it’s
worth; even if people say I undervalue it, I don’t think I do,” he says.
“I love the idea that my art is
distributed rather than being stuck in my lock-up, so the possibility of it
being someone’s home, office, or place of work, is important to me.
“I also like to think of myself as
being like a medium holding a séance, where my art is telling you about Fats
Waller and Jacques Brel, if you don’t know who Jacques Brel is; I’m contacting
their spirit, so I’m doing my job as a conveyor of popular culture that you can
Jonny acknowledges the significance
of art that provokes and can change opinions in the world, “but I don’t need to
be one of those people”, he says. “I like the idea that art is entertaining.
I’ve always opted for entertainment, for enjoyment, for making people happy
with what I create. I have fun making them, and that notion of enjoyment is so
important to me.”
Jonny’s palette of colours exudes that element of enjoyment and fun too. “I don’t say that it’s specifically down to my colour blindness – I’m colour blind for green and blue – but I did start by using primary colours, then varying their brightness,” he says.
“You can try out endless variations and for me now it’s always blue, red, yellow, black and white and variations on that,” he says. “I’ve tried to be subtle with colour but it just doesn’t work for me!”
His Darktown Turbo Taxi, first exhibited
in his Yorkshire Sculpture Park show, and now acquired by Southampton Solent
University for permanent display there, is a case in point. “It was my agent’s
idea that I should buy this Saab 9-3 Turbo off Gumtree and paint it. Afterwards,
someone said ‘you can’t miss it in a car park’, and he was right! That notion
of not being able to miss it is part of my painting philosophy.”
That said, Jonny reveals: “I don’t
think too much. I say to my students thinking can be a bad thing. If you face a
blank canvas, then start creating, you come up with something better. Drawing
is a form of thinking in itself; you start drawing, you are thinking.
“You find that certain things keep
coming back in your work, and what I know I can be guilty of is laziness, when
I need to find new inspiration or find new ways of expressing things. It’s
always that thing of challenging yourself creatively. There’s nothing worse
After releasing his latest book, A
Confederacy Of Dunces, for The Folio Society, Jonny is now working on a commission
for Museums Northumberland on Northumberland folklore that will run from May to
September at Woodhorn Museum, Ashington, Hexham Old Gaol, Morpeth Chantry
Bagpipe Museum and Berwick Museum and Art Gallery.
He is also creating a set of woodcuts
for The Skids’ frontman Richard Jobson’s book of short stories set in an
imaginary bar in Berlin called The Alabama Song. “Richard lives in Berlin for
half the year now, and the woodcuts will go on show in an exhibition at events where
he’ll sing and I’ll play guitar,” says Jonny.
Also bubbling up is a book on the history
of pop culture, as his prodigious productivity continues unabated, with a
mischievous spirit at play. “When you’re young, you get told to tidy up, but as
you get older, mess is a creative thing,” reckons Jonny.
“If you’re creative, there’s an
immaturity to you that never goes away. You don’t have to tidy up until it really
does become too much!”
Jonny Hannah’s Songs For Darktown Lovers runs until March 7. Lotte
Inch Gallery is open Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, or by appointment
on 01904 848660. FortyFive Vinyl Café’s opening hours are Monday to
Friday, 9am to 6pm; Saturday, 10am to 6pm; Sunday, 10am to 5pm.
YORK artist Lesley Birch will exhibit at Glyndebourne, the Sussex opera house home to the Glyndebourne Festival, from May to December.
“I’m very proud to have been invited,” she says. “It’s a huge privilege
and rather daunting too. I’m working on pieces now.”
Lesley has been chosen for the Forces Of Nature exhibition of paintings,
prints and ceramics in Gallery 94, located by the stalls entrance to the auditorium at the country
house in Lewes, East Sussex.
Curated by Nerissa Taysom,
the exhibition was inspired by the
strong women on stage in this year’s upcoming six festival operas, so all ten
artists will be women.
Exhibiting alongside Lesley will be Michele Fletcher, Tanya Gomez, Rachel Gracey, Kathryn Johnson, Rosie Lascelles, Kathryn Maple, Tania Rutland, Katie Sollohub and Hannah Tounsend.
Of Nature will explore how artists represent their feelings or memories of
natural phenomena, its forms and sounds, while questioning how we confront
nature in an age of climate change.
works out of PICA Studios, the artist collective in Grape Lane, York, and in this
typically busy year, her new Marks & Moments paintings can be savoured at Partisan, the boho
restaurant, café and arts space in Micklegate, York, in a feast of colour and
imagination until March 31.
Filling two floors, more than 50 paintings are on view, ranging from
Lesley’s Musical Abstract Collection – large canvases expressing music and
movement in nature – to little gouache gems created en plein air in the remote
village of Farindola in Abruzzo, Italy.
“Partisan is a sort of emporium full of collectable stuff, such as vintage lamps and the like, and it’s so exciting to see my paintings in this bohemian setting, reflected off the old French mirrors and hung high and low,” says Lesley, whose works are divided into colour and spring moods upstairs and dramatic landscapes downstairs. All paintings are for sale.
Forces Of Nature at Glyndebourne: Artist open houses, Sunday, May 17, 10am to 1pm, open to the public; May 21 to December 13, festival and tour ticket holders only.
PHOTOGRAPHY and dance artist Chin We is the first beneficiary of Foto/Grafic At The Social, a new bi-monthly, dual-venue initiative for emerging talent in York.
“At Fossgate Social, we’ve been supporting local artists for five years with monthly exhibitions, but we’d like to up our game and include our sister venue, the Micklegate Social,” says bar owner, general manager and urban designer Sarah Lakin.
“To this end, we’re developing a programme of exhibitions of original artwork for display and sale.”
Explaining her reasoning, Sarah says: “We live in a society drenched in imagery, but where can we find social spaces to connect and discuss what images are relevant and why?
“There is no dedicated photographic gallery in York since Impressions moved to Bradford in 2007, but we hope to plug that gap with artwork that is strong and meaningful covering graphics, photography, print and electronic art.”
Noting how Micklegate is at present playing host to Chin We’s photos at Micklegate Social, Lesley Birch’s Marks & Moments at Partisan and Jonny Hannah’s Songs For Darktown Lovers at FortyFive Vinyl Café, Sarah continues: “As York develops its contemporary visual art scene, the Social hopes to feed that cultural ecology, helping to raise the bar – pun intended – and encourage cutting-edge contemporary work that explores new narratives, forms and politics.”
First into the spotlight is Chin We, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, who was born in Manchester and spent her formative years in Nsukka, eastern Nigeria, and her adolescence in London, where she started her photography through a lifestyle blog.
“I found a creative outlet to share candid conversations on pop culture, art, fashion, travel, food, sex and lifestyle,” she says. “As the photography requests and referrals grew, I knew straightaway that my passion was photography. That was when I learnt that documentary photography was my calling and leapt fully into documentary photography in January 2018.”
Chin We is “fascinated by portraiture, capturing people’s essence and visual storytelling”, leading to her work exploring themes of identity, culture, representation and heritage.
At Fossgate Social and Micklegate Social, this is represented by her Ife Nkili photographs, Ife Nkili being a phrase from the Igbo tribe in Nigeria that means “Come and see; come and see beauty”.
Her series of portraits was captured during Chin We’s journey through Nigeria in West Africa; they speak to ideas of representation and identity through their unequivocal depiction of her sitters, spanning northern, south-western and south-eastern Nigeria.
Chin We’s photographic style is described as “direct, raw and unique in its all-embracing sweep, from different walks of life and social circles” as she documents her fellow men and women.
“Some live as Christians, others are Muslims or pagans; some are urban socialites, others provincial farmers, traders, warriors and local chiefs,” says her exhibition briefing. “And, of course, there are queens and kings. These compelling portraits betray intimate expressions and tender exchanges. They invariably bring us closer to this diverse culture through their visual storytelling.”
Chin We’s photography has been published widely and she was featured on CNN as a leading African woman photographer to follow. She was nominated for RPS 100 Heroines by the Royal Photographic Society and won an honourable mention award in the People-Portrait Category in the 2018 International Photography Awards.
Later this year, the British Museum, in London, will present her new exhibition celebrating the presence of Nigerians in the UK, marking 60 years of Nigerian independence from Great Britain.
Welcoming Chin We to York, Sarah says: “Still in her twenties, she is a young woman to watch and we’re privileged she has agreed to exhibit with us.
photographic portraiture is strong and meaningful; the portraits are direct and
challenging, covering topics such as religion, class, work and child brides.
the work of Chin We, we want to increase the diversity of artists’ work,
locally and further afield, and provide what we can for arts to gain greater
exposure and engagement in a social setting.”
Chin We’s Ife Nkili exhibition runs at Micklegate Social, Micklegate, and Fossgate Social, Fossgate, York, until March 31.
AS his biggest-ever solo show, Harland Miller: York, So Good They Named It Once, opens in his home city at York Art Gallery, what is Harland saying about York in that picture title on a retro book cover, now replicated on posters, mugs, key rings, fridge magnets and tote bags?
“People have thought ‘York, So Good They Named It Once’ must be satirical, comparing York to New York, whereas I thought I was riffing on York being first; being very important way before New York – and a Roman capital.
“It was also a place of so many firsts for me; where I did my first paper round, and through these streets I can go and remember things that happened to me. Like my first kiss on some old wasteland on Taddy Road [Tadcaster Road], that’s now a Tesco.
“And just round the corner from here, behind the library, I smoked my
first joint. That’s why I got hooked on books…because I was by the library!
“This gallery is where I first saw paintings. Is it a dream to be back
here? The answer is ‘No’, because, as a boy, it would have been foolish to
dream of such a thing.
“But unless I’m about to wake up back behind the library, I sense this is the moment to thank so many people. I certainly wouldn’t be here without my mum [now 95], who’s travelled all the way from Dringhouses to be here tonight, but I want to thank everyone not once, but twice.”
Harland Miller: York, So Good They Named It Once, featuring his Penguin Book Covers, Pelican Bad Weather Paintings and Letter Paintings and Recent Work, runs at York Art Gallery until May 31.
EVER since Harrogate artist Anita Bowerman held an
art class for nuns at a Yorkshire monastery, the Sisters have been vowing to
pay a visit to her Dove Tree studio.
The Sisters come from
a closed order of Benedictine nuns at Stanbrook Abbey in Wass, near The White
Horse at Kilburn.
Rules mean they do not
venture out from the monastery in the North York Moors National Park, unless an
urgent errand calls, and they are allowed only one day’s holiday a year.
The Sisters spend
their time praying and carrying out other religious and household duties within
While visiting one of
the Sisters at a care home in Harrogate, the nuns decided to fulfil their promise
and call in to Anita’s Dove Tree Art Gallery and studio in Back Granville Road, behind the Cardamom Black restaurant.
Anita was delighted
to welcome the excited visitors and show them around. “It’s not every day you
get a visit from two nuns. I was delighted to see Sister Julian and Sister
Agnes and they loved my artwork.
“Sister Julian played
my white mini grand piano, which was said to have been used during the official
opening of the Eiffel Tower.”
at RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate, has visited Stanbrook Abbey three times
in the past few years. The nuns invited her to teach them how to make paper-cut
artworks, so they could revive this ancient art in their spare time.
She is especially
close to Sister Julian, who loves art, and the two have been painting together
just outside the monastery.
“I love visiting
Stanbrook Abbey; it’s so peaceful and fills you with tranquillity and
inspiration,” says Anita. “Sister Julian is working on some amazing gold-leaf
art illustrations and I’ve been able to gather together some art materials for
Sister Julian and Sister Agnes were in raptures
over this part of their day out beyond the monastery walls. Sister Julian says:
“It was a rare opportunity for us to do this and it had to coincide with a
visit to one of our Sisters in a care home nearby.
“As soon as we stepped through the door, large and
small paintings and marvellously intricate cut-out work adorned the walls and a
profusion of colour and variety of scene were a delight to see. Anita welcomed
us warmly and told us about her work as artist-in-residence at the RHS Garden
“Anita’s love of nature and gardens was evident in
the paintings she had of scenes throughout the year, painted ‘en plein air’
using anything she can find, such as twigs, feathers, pebbles, leaves and grass.
“This gives an unusual quality to her work, not
seen elsewhere, and makes her work down to earth and original. It’s a small
gallery but bursting with life and I would recommend a visit if at all
McDonagh cannot recall any past Urban Decay exhibition in the historic city of York.
“So, this show will be quite unique and probably a tad controversial for York,” she says, introducing her Fragments artwork as lead artist in the Urban Decay winter show at Blossom Street Gallery, in the shadow of Micklegate Bar, York.
“With the new development plans being released late last year for Piccadilly and the public view on the design of the new hotel, especially the Banana Warehouse façade, I’m exhibiting my paintings of these buildings, as well as a new one of the lovely derelict ‘Malthouse’ building in The Crescent that was, up until recently, taken over by Space Invaders as a pop-up arts, craft, food and drink space until its demolition.”
drawn to painting the “darker side” to York, in particular to its derelict
buildings, against the backdrop of her high-profile past career as a police
forensic artist. That work required her to draw dead bodies, creating artist’s
impressions of unidentified fatalities from mortuary photographs and crime-scene
information, and you
can make the psychologist’s leap between death and decay if that is your Freudian
“It might seem mad going from being a forensic artist depicting bodies to doing paintings of decay, but I suppose it’s all an organic path of death and destruction,” she says.
a passion for a nostalgia and a fascination with urban decay, the Holgate
artist sees both dereliction in York and now dereliction of duty among the city’s
architects and developers.
if it’s done in the right way, is fine, but I don’t think they’re empathetic
with what the building was originally. They’re too consumed by money, not by aesthetics,
which is ironic when we’re living in a beautiful city like York.”
Sharon took part in York Open Studios for the first time last spring – and will do so again at Venue 57 in April – when her exhibition of derelict buildings had the title of Transition. “What’s been lost in York’s buildings is soul,” she says.
“Like when Space Invaders took over the ‘Malthouse’, different organic communities came together and gave it soul – it was always busy, it had such a good vibe, and because it was off the beaten track, you didn’t get stag and hen party groups going there – and it makes me mad that other places in York are not doing the same.
I saw the plans for Piccadilly, I thought ‘here we go again’. It’s not about
being radical; it’s about being in tune with how York was.
of all of York’s forgotten buildings that people walk past but don’t give a
thought to, but people worked in those buildings, lived in those buildings, had
businesses in them, and we need to utilise what’s been left derelict. But, as I
said before, it seems to be York is becoming soulless.
to make something of York’s old buildings is wasted by lack of creativity and
empathy for what was there before, and I just don’t know what designers,
planners and architects are going to do with the city next.”
You will not be surprised that Sharon is a supporter of the somewhat contentious Spark:York small business enterprise in 23 “upcycled” shipping containers in Piccadilly. “I love it! People who don’t go there are the ones who criticise it, saying it’s an eyesore, but there was nothing there before, and yes, four of the businesses that started there have moved to bigger premises,” she says.
has another reason for “always loving” derelict buildings, she reveals. “I
enjoyed the rave scene of the late Eighties and early Nineties that took over
derelict places, though I was more intent on looking around the buildings than
dancing!” she says. “I know it was illegal, but you could walk around these
amazing old buildings, which was fantastic.”
Fragments show, she has complemented her 2019 Transition buildings with new paintings
inspired by her work in end-of-life care, personal experience and working with
“The Fragments series is an exploration into the fragility of life,” she says of her tactile paintings that evoke emotion, nostalgia and intrigue. “The vintage light switches and sockets symbolise the person, while their last moments and memories are represented by the fragments of wallpaper and tiles. The last glimpses of life, the last remaining fragments before they die.
“I thought of light switches and sockets, because of the act of switching on and off lights and then life finally being switched off.”
In her artwork, she creates highly textured acrylic and multi-media paintings that examine “the beauty that nature makes through decay”. Basing her Fragments designs on vintage wallpaper, she makes and hand paints all the pieces of wallpaper and tiles separately. She then distresses them to look old and decayed before adding them to her paintings.
see a derelict house, there are so many levels of paint and wallpaper, so many
different lives have been lived there, so many layers to those lives, that it’s
akin to your own life, which has many layers,” she says
Analysing her subject matter, Sharon notes: “I always have a bit of a dark side, don’t I? People think I must have a broom and cauldron at home and fly around at night! But I love how natural decay can cause beauty.
about change; urban decay is about natural change, but we don’t like change, or
people or things dying, but we can’t shy away from it.
that simple. We’re here and then we’re gone, but people don’t like to talk about
death – but it’s been in my working life for a long time, first as a police
forensic artist and then at the hospital.”
artistic outpourings have helped Sharon deal with her own grief. “When a parent
goes – my dad had cancer – that grief changes you forever, you feel it every day,
but you grasp at what keeps them alive in your thoughts, you grasp at what
reminds you of them. That’s why there’s nostalgia in my paintings,” she says.
dedicated the painting of a telephone in the Fragments series to my father, so
I’ve called it Miss You, and symbolically the receiver is off the hook to
signify the last missed call.”
paints “from the heart, not from the bank balance”. “That’s the right way. If
someone stands in front of one of my paintings and gets an emotional response,
that means more to me than money in the bank,” she says.
painting, it has to mean something to me, or it won’t mean something to someone
else when they look at it.
“I also like my paintings to be tactile. If you can touch something, it evokes memories, and that’s why I like doing 3D pieces and collages, so you can touch them and all your senses are working at once. I love touching paintings, though I once got chucked out of a gallery for doing that!”
From paintings, to prints and cards, Sharon’s Fragments are in touching distance at Blossom Street Gallery until the end of February. “It’s great to be invited to do an exhibition on Urban Decay, which I don’t think has been done in York before, and it’s been really good to get feedback on it,” she says.
What would York’s planners, designers and architects make of it, you wonder.
Did you know?
FOR many years, Sharon McDonagh created artist’s impressions of unidentified fatalities from mortuary photographs and crime-scene information.
She gained recognition for
her work within this field on television, as well as in the media, on account
of her unusual work and experiences.
She was commissioned as an
artist by the BBC to produce the drawing of a late relative of footballer-turned-television-presenter
Gary Lineker for BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are?.
She has been involved in community art projects with disadvantaged young people and now works with teenagers from challenging backgrounds, promoting art as a way to express themselves.
At York Hospital, she is
delivering a unique project on the dementia ward, using art as a way to
encourage patient interaction and alleviate anxiety.
Sharon McDonagh’s exhibitions
Urban Decay, Blossom Street Gallery, Blossom Street Gallery, York, until February 29. Joint show with Fran Brammer, Linda Harvey, Simon Sugden and Jill Tattersall.
York Open Studios “Taster” Exhibition, Central Methodist Church, St
Saviourgate, York, April 3 (private virew), 4 and 5.
York Open Studios, Venue 57, Holgate, York, April 17, preview evening 7pm to 9pm; April 18, 19, 25 and 26, 10am to 5pm.
City Screen café bar, Coney Street, York, May 19 to June 15, featuring
six Piccadilly paintings. “The café has soul,” she says. “The wall is exposed
brickwork, which is a perfect backdrop for my work.”
Resonate solo exhibition, Basement Arts Project, Beeston, Leeds, June 22
to July 21. “It really will be in a basement,” she says.
YORK artist Linda Combi was so struck by a Channel 4 News story on The
Last Gardener Of Aleppo that she has responded with an exhibition of the same
“This work is a new departure for me and it’s taken some time to complete, but at last it’s nearly ready,” she says.
Linda’s artwork will be on show from February 25 to April 6 at The Angel on the Green café bar – “where the footfall is huge,” she says – in Bishopthorpe Road, York.
“The news story featured Abu Waad, who ran a garden centre in the
besieged city Syrian city of Aleppo, assisted by his 12-year-old son Ibrahim,” she
“Throughout the film, Abu Waad – his name means ‘Father of the Flowers’ –
described his love and admiration for flowers and plants. This last remaining
garden centre was an oasis of calm and beauty for the citizens of Aleppo, who
were experiencing death and destruction all around them.”
Not long after the film was made in 2016, Abu Waad was tragically killed by a bomb that fell nearby.
“His garden centre was closed and his son Ibrahim was left fatherless. I wanted to commemorate Abu Waad’s life and work through art and decided to hold an exhibition where 80 per cent of any proceeds from the exhibition and card sales would be divided between the charities UNHCR and The Lemon Tree Trust,” says Linda.
“Because of the continuing horrors being endured by the Syrian people, it feels important to celebrate life and beauty at this time.”
Many of Linda’s pieces in the exhibition are illustrations inspired by the words of Abu Waad and based on Syrian carpet designs found in her research. All the work is mixed media, incorporating painted papers, drawing, and stencil.
As well as work directly relating to the story of Abu Waad, further
pieces take the theme of The Oasis in celebration of secure and beautiful
places, such as gardens, set in harsh environments.
“The Lemon Tree Trust is involved in helping refugees create gardens in
their strange new surroundings, and so I’ve included an artwork about the
journeys made by refugees who often travel carrying seeds from home,” says
“Both the UNHCR and The Lemon Tree Trust have responded positively to
this exhibition, offering materials for display and distribution. I’m
grateful for the good work that they do.”
Linda’s The Last Gardener Of Aleppo will be launched on February 25 from
Here, Charles Hutchinson interviews Linda Combi ahead of The Last
Gardener Of Aleppo opening.
What form did your research take, Linda?
“I watched the Channel 4 News story The Last
Gardener Of Aleppo over and over again on YouTube, drawing Abu Waad and his son
Ibrahim, and taking down the words of Abu Waad about his love of flowers and
“I then found images of Syrian carpets on the net,
but also visited the Islamic Room of the British Museum to draw from their
“I needed images of drones, of bombers, and of
destruction from bombing, sadly too often available on the news.
“Finally, I downloaded a map of Aleppo, which I then used for my collages. York Central MP Rachael Maskell’s talk at a public meeting a few years ago, about how events in Syria have unfolded, was really informative, and I thank her for that.
If the pen is mightier than the sword, can art be mightier than the bomb (in the long run)?
“I’ve been very inspired by the works of Banksy,
particularly his public art on The Wall in Palestine, and his Bethlehem ‘Walled
“Political cartoons are powerful instruments for
highlighting hypocrisy and dictatorship. Picasso’s Guernica is
horribly relevant today.
“OK, these art forms haven’t stopped the bombing, but they have shone a light on the atrocities. As well as enriching our lives and reminding us of joy, art can be critical and informative and have the power to undermine those in power.
“I’ve been hugely impressed by the creativity shown
in the placards seen on the streets during protests during the past few years.”
Poppies are so evocative of the First World War. Your art is embracing flower power too. What makes them such a potent symbol in the face of human atrocities?
“As a San Francisco hippie who discovered the joys of gardening on
arriving in the UK, I do believe in flower power.
“Abu Waad’s flowers brought moments of joy to the citizens of Aleppo
during the destruction of that city, and who saw death all around them. He
believed that flowers could ‘nourish the soul’.
“I’ve always been impressed by how flowers and their ’seasons’ are so important to the British. The arrival of snowdrops, then the daffodils, followed by bluebells and tulips: all herald the end of a long and dark winter. So, in an extreme situation like war, flowers bring a sense of the life force even more powerfully.”
What work do the charities UNHCR and The Lemon Tree Trust do?
“The UNHCR is the global United Nations Refugee Agency, which aims to
save lives, protect rights and help refugees to work for a peaceful and
“They also help displaced communities and stateless people, and they believe
everybody has the right to seek asylum from violence and persecution, war
or disaster. “Their work is varied, involving education, providing shelter,
protecting migrants at risk, and highlighting the desperate plight of migrants
around the world.
“The Lemon Tree Trust believe that ‘gardening has the power to
positively address issues of isolation and mental health’.
“They help to create community gardens in refugee camps by working with
those refugees who are so very far from home.
“The Refugee Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show was a moving example of how important this can be for refugees. One woman said, ‘We had so many flowers in Syria. This garden makes me happy’.”
What materials have the two charities offered for display and distribution?
“They’ve been very enthusiastic about the exhibition and have offered posters, leaflets, T-shirts and stickers, as well as publicising the exhibition on their social media.”
What are you working on next?
“The next project will be work with Refugee Action York on some teaching
materials. I’d also love to do more T-shirt designs for the Good
Organisation, who work with the homeless in York.
“As for personal work, I’ll be continuing the theme of migration, but
this time the emphasis will be on borders.
“I’ve lived in San Diego for a time and have witnessed migrants being
sent back over the border to Mexico after attempts trying to get into the USA.
“We walked along part of The Wall dividing Mexico and the USA and
talked to border patrol officers there.
“My time in Israel also fed into my preoccupation with walls and
divisiveness. My Sicilian ancestors came to the USA not knowing what the future
held for them, but they were made welcome and did create a good life and a
“I was welcomed to the UK many years ago, and so the issue of immigration has been central to my life.”
Will you be creating one of your humorous York calendars for 2021?
“It’s too late for a 2021 calendar but I’d love to create one for a
“As for the York calendars, I feel that though the tourist boom in York
might have boosted the economy, luxury flats and new cafes and restaurants
aren’t inspiring to draw!
“However, I can imagine being enticed by the prospect of a calendar that
would celebrate quirky, lesser-known pubs hidden away in York.”
Linda Combi: The Last Gardener Of Aleppo exhibition, Angel on the Green, Bishopthorpe Road, York, February 25 to April 6.
LESLEY Birch’s exhibition Marks & Moments at Partisan, the boho restaurant, café and arts space in Micklegate, York, is a feast of colour and imagination.
Filling two floors, more than 50 paintings are on view, from Lesley’s Musical Abstract Collection – large canvases expressing music and movement in nature – to little gouache gems created en plein air in the remote village of Farindola in Abruzzo, Italy.
Lesley’s paintings capture an atmosphere of place and moment with her
own personal language of mark-making, whether on paper or on canvas, and this newly
opened display showcases it all.
“When Florencia Clifford at Partisan invited me to have a show, I
thought it was a grand opportunity to bring a lot of paintings into a buzzy
space, where food and art are key,” says Lesley, who works out of PICA Studios,
an artist collective space in Grape Lane, York.
“Partisan is a sort of emporium full of collectable stuff, such as
vintage lamps and the like, and it’s so exciting to see my paintings in this
bohemian setting, reflected off the old French mirrors and hung high and
Divided into colour and spring moods upstairs and dramatic landscapes
downstairs, the marks and moments of Lesley’s artistic journey can be seen at
Partisan until March 31. All paintings are for sale.
GRAYSON Perry will be Stitching The Past Together with
his tapestries at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley, from February 8.
Out go the National Trust country house’s 17th century
Verdure tapestries for conservation work; in come the Essex transvestite artist,
potter, broadcaster and writer’s typically colourful and thought-provoking pair
of Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015).
Hanging in an historic setting for the first time
in the drawing room, this brace of large-scale, striking works tells the story of Julie
Cope, a fictitious Essex “everywoman” created by the irreverent Chelmsford-born
2003 Turner Prize winner.
The tapestries illustrate the key events in the heroine’s journey from
her birth during the Canvey Island floods of 1953 to her untimely death in a tragic
accident on a Colchester street.
Rich in cultural and architectural details, the tapestries contain a
social history of Essex and modern Britain that “everyone can relate to”.
These artworks represent, in Perry’s words, ‘the trials, tribulations,
celebrations and mistakes of an average life’.
Historically, large-scale tapestry provided insulation for grand
domestic interiors. Perry, by contrast, however, has juxtaposed its
associations of status, wealth and heritage with contemporary concerns of
class, social aspiration and taste.
To write Julie’s biography, he looked to the English ballad and folktale
tradition, narrating a life that conveys the beauty, vibrancy and
contradictions of the ordinary individual.
Laura Kennedy, Nunnington Hall’s visitor experience manager, says: “It’s
extremely exciting to have The Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope
Tapestries on the walls that would usually display the hall’s Verdure
“The tapestries will hang in the drawing room amongst the historic
collection, and nearby to the hall’s remaining 17th century
Flemish tapestries telling the story of Achilles.”
Laura continues: “The genuine and relatable stories told through Grayson
Perry’s artworks are a rich contrast to the demonstration of wealth and status
reflected through many historic tapestries, including our own at Nunnington Hall.
“We’ve worked closely with the Crafts Council to bring the hangings to
Nunnington and observe how these contrasting sets of tapestries are a beautiful
contradiction in design, colour palette, storytelling and manufacture,
illustrating the evolution of tapestries over the past four hundred years. It
will also be the first time that The Essex House Tapestries have been hung in a
Nunnington’s three Verdure tapestries were brought to Nunnington Hall more
than 350 years ago by the 1st Viscount Preston, Richard
Graham, following his time as Charles II’s ambassador at the Court of
Graham was appointed by King James II as the Master of the Royal
Wardrobe because of his style and knowledge of Parisian fashions. He would have
used these tapestries to demonstrate his good taste, wealth and status in
Welcoming Perry’s works to Nunnington Hall, Jonathan Wallis, curator for
the National Trust, says: “It’s great to be able to show these wonderful
tapestries at Nunnington. It continues our aim of bringing thought-provoking
art to rural Yorkshire.
“The Life of Julie Cope is a story that we can all relate to and one
which will delight, surprise and engage people. Digital devises accompany the
tapestries exploring Julie’s life experiences and the reveal much of Perry’s
This is the first of two opportunities to see work by Grayson Perry in North Yorkshire in 2020. His earliest works and “lost pots” will be showcased in Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years from June 12 to September 20 at York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA).
touring exhibition, developed by the Holburne Museum in Bath, is the first to
celebrate Perry’s early forays into the art world and will re-introduce the
explosive and creative works he made between 1982 and 1994.
The 70 works have been
crowd-sourced through a national public appeal, leading to the “lost pots”
being on display together for the first time since they were made.
Pre-Therapy Years exhibition begins with Perry’s early collaged sketchbooks,
experimental films and sculptures, capturing his move into using ceramics as
his primary medium.
his first plate, Kinky Sex (1983),
to his early vases made in the mid-1980s, Perry riffed on British vernacular
traditions to create a language of his own.
themes of his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex,
and the vagaries of the art world – appear in works of kinetic energy.
the majority of his output consisted of vases and plates, Perry’s early
experiments with form demonstrate the variety of shapes he produced: Toby jugs,
perfume bottles, porringers, funeral urns and gargoyle heads.
Perry says: “This show has been such a joy to put together. I am really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties. It is as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe.”
Grayson Perry’s The Essex House Tapestries: Life of Julie Cope (2015)
will be on display at Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, Helmsley, from February 8 to
December 20. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30am to 4pm.
What’s happening to the Nunnington Hall Verdure tapestries?
ALL three tapestries at Nunnington Hall have been taken
off the walls. At various times they were sent to Belgium to be cleaned and
each is being worked on by a selected conservator.
At each studio, the tapestries have been placed on to a frame with a
linen scrim. The conservators are working across each tapestry, undertaking
This includes closing the gaps that have appeared and replacing worn historic
threads and previous conservation repairs. These stiches are placed through
both the tapestry and the linen to provide extra support.
One of the conservators has estimated this work will take 740 hours. The
work should be completed in the middle of 2020 to be placed back on the drawing
room wall in January 2021.
The story behind Grayson Perry’s Essex House Tapestries
THE Essex House Tapestries were made for A House for Essex, designed by
Grayson Perry and FAT Architecture, as featured on the Channel 4 programme Grayson
Perry’s Dream House.
The house was conceived as a mausoleum to Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex
“everywoman”, who was inspired by the people Perry grew up among.
The tapestries are the only pair in a public collection, acquired by the