Grayson Perry’s Covid-crocked “lost pots” exhibition confirmed for May 28 opening in York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art

Kinky Sex: Grayson Perry’s first ceramic plate in 1983

GRAYSON Perry’s lockdown-delayed “lost pots” exhibition at York Art Gallery, The Pre-Therapy Years, will run from May 28 to September 5.

This touring show will be held in the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) in the first celebration of Perry’s earliest forays into the art world.

“This show has been such a joy to put together,” said Perry, when the show was first announced for a June 12 to September 20 run in York in 2020 until the pandemic intervened. “I’m really looking forward to seeing these early works again, many of which I have not seen since the Eighties.

“It’s 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.”

Cocktail Party, 1989, by Grayson Perry-

Developed by the Holburne Museum in Bath, The Pre-Therapy Years re-introduces the explosive and creative works the Chelmsford-born artist made between 1982 and 1994.  

Gathering the 70 works has been facilitated by crowd-sourcing through a national public appeal, resulting in the “lost pots” being put on display together for the first time since they were made. 

Dr Helen Walsh, curator of ceramics at York Art Gallery, says: “We are delighted to be showcasing the ground-breaking early works of such a renowned and influential artist. 

“It is fascinating to see how his craft has progressed and evolved since he began working as an artist. His early ceramic works show that the distinctive style, themes and characters have always been central in his decoration.”

Armageddon Feels So Very Reassuring, 1988, by Grayson Perry

Helen continues: “To be able to bring these works together for public display, many of which are usually hidden away in private collections, is absolutely thrilling.  

“We are very much looking forward to seeing Grayson Perry’s ceramic works displayed in the beautiful Centre of Ceramic Art at York Art Gallery alongside our own collection of British studio ceramics.” 

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years will shine a light on Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories.

The exhibition “represents a unique opportunity to enjoy the artist’s clever, playful and politically-engaged perspective on the world”. Often challenging and explicit, these works reveal the early development of Perry’s distinctive voice that has established him as one of the most compelling commentators on contemporary society. 

Essex, by Grayson Perry

Explaining how The Pre-Therapy Years came together, curator Catrin Jones says: “When we proposed the exhibition, Grayson responded really positively because, he said, ‘no-one knows where those works are’.

“So, we asked the public and were absolutely overwhelmed by the response. What followed was an extraordinary process of rediscovery as we were contacted by collectors, enthusiasts and friends, who collectively held over 150 of his early works.”

The first task was to process photos of the pots, plates and drawings that arrived in the inbox, followed by asking all manner of questions about the works and from where they came.

“We logged all the pottery marks and provenance information, as well as the wonderful stories of how their owner came to have a genuine Grayson Perry,” says Catrin.

Meaningless Symbols, 1993, by Grayson Perry

She and her team next sat down with Perry to look through the extraordinary and varied selection of artworks. During this process, he remarked that seeing the works again was a powerful reminder of his “pre-therapy years”, and an exhibition title was born.

The show begins with Perry’s early collaged sketchbooks, experimental films and sculptures, capturing his move into using ceramics as his primary medium. From 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.

The themes of his later work – fetishism, gender, class, his home county of Essex and the vagaries of the art world – appear in works of explosive energy. Although 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.  

Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years begins in 1982, when Perry was first working as an artist and then charts his progress to the mid-1990s, when he became established in the mainstream London art scene.

“It’s 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,” says Grayson Perry of his exhibition, The Pre-Therapy Years

The exhibition provides a snapshot of a very British time and place, revealing the transition of Grayson’s style, starting out with playful riffs on historic art, such as old Staffordshire pottery, along with crowns (the mixed-media Crown Of Penii, 1982) and thrones (Saint Diana, Let Them Eat S**t, 1984), inspired by his fascination with Princess Diana.

Gradually, he progressed into a style that is patently his own: plates and vases rich with detail that tell tales of our times and experiences, such as 1989’s Cocktail Party.    

Much of the iconography of Perry’s output has an angry, post-punk, deeply ironic leaning, combining cosy imagery with shocking sexual or political content.  

Many of the works displayed in The Pre-Therapy Years tell a very personal story, particularly in the evolution of Claire, who first appeared in the early 1980s, inspired by such powerful women as television newsreaders and Princess Diana, rather than the exuberant child-like figure Perry created after her “coming out” party in 2000.  

The Pre-Therapy Years will shine a light on Grayson Perry’s experimentation and exploration of the potential of pottery to address radical issues and human stories

Accompanying the rediscovery of Perry’s artworks, the Holburne Museum is illustrating the exhibition with photos and snapshots of the era, again sharing hitherto unseen glimpses of Perry as he journeyed from angry, ironic young artist to one of British art’s best-loved figures. 

After completing his art degree in Portsmouth in 1982, Perry moved to London and lived in a Camden squat with the singer Marilyn and Welsh conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans, collectively enjoying creative freedom while sharing limited resources.

During these early years, Perry encountered the Neo Naturists, a group of freewheeling performance artists, whose visual and creative approach would have a profound impact on him.

CoCA first exhibited a Grayson Perry ceramic, Melanie, in July 2015 as its centrepiece talking point after York Art Gallery’s £8 million transformation.

Grayson Perry’s Melanie, first exhibited at York Gallery in July 2015

Melanie is one of three women from his Three Graces work, joined by Georgina and Sarah in the Miss Plus Size Competition.

“First seen in Grayson’s Who Are You? documentary, Melanie is a voluptuous figurative piece with a strong narrative that discusses the changing view of  what constitutes feminine beauty,” said curator of ceramics Helen Walsh on its arrival.

Perry commented on his Three Graces: “In the history of sculpture, female forms such as these were often seen as fertility goddesses to be prayed to for children and plentiful harvests. Nowadays, we are more likely to see a growing health problem.”

Melanie featured subsequently in York Art Gallery’s re-opening exhibition, Your Art Gallery – Paintings Chosen By You, from August 20 last year.

In All Its Familiarity Golden, one of Grayson Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries shown at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley

In May 2014, accompanied by his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles, Perry opened the Meet The Museums Bears special event in the York Museum Gardens in full transvestite regalia as part of York Museums Trust’s contribution to the Connect 10 Museums At Night national celebration.

Last year, from February 8, Perry’s Stitching The Past Together tapestries went on show at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley. Out went the National Trust country house’s 17th century Verdure tapestries for conservation work; in came a pair of Grayson’s typically colourful and thought-provoking Essex House Tapestries: The Life Of Julie Cope (2015).

Hanging in an historic setting for the first time, in the Nunnington Hall 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 Perry.

2003 Turner Prize winner Perry kept himself busy in Lockdown 1 by launching Grayson’s Art Club, his pledge to “battle the boredom” of the lockdown through art, in a six-part series on Channel 4 from April 27 2020 that attracted a million viewers a week.

“You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” promises Grayson Perry, as he looks forward to his 2021 tour, Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People

From his London workshop, the Essex transvestite artist, potter, broadcaster and writer took viewers on a journey of artistic discovery in themed shows designed to “encourage you to make your own work in the new normal of isolation”.

Grayson’s Art Club has returned for an on-going second series, presented by Perry in tandem with his wife, the author, psychotherapist and broadcaster Philippa Perry.

Looking ahead, outré artist and social commentator Perry has a York-bound live show in the late-summer.

In his own words: Despite being an award-winning artist, Bafta-winning TV presenter, Reith lecturer and best-selling author, Grayson Perry is a normal person – and just like other normal people, he is “marginally aware that we’re all going to die”.

Cue Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, booked into York Barbican for September 6 on night number five of this year’s 23-date tour. Sheffield City Hall awaits on September 10; Harrogate Convention Centre on November 27.

The tour poster for Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People

What will be on Perry’s mind?  “Let Grayson take you through an enlightening and eye-watering evening in which this kind of existentialism descends from worthiness to silliness. You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” his show patter promises.

“Join Grayson as he asks, and possibly answers, these big questions in an evening sure to distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can.”

Perry, who turned 61 on March 24, has had an artistic career spanning 40 years, revealing a diverse expertise in “making lemonade out of the mundanity of life”. Such as? In 2015, he designed A House For Essex, a permanent building constructed in the North Essex countryside.

Last autumn, he presented Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip, a three-part documentary travelogue on Channel 4, exploring the meaning of the American Dream in today’s disunited United States of America.

Tickets for Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Let’s leap ahead and hope that Emma Stothard’s 366 Leaping Hares may yet have their day again at Nunnington Hall

Hare, there and everywhere: Whitby sculptor Emma Stothard surrounded by her 366 Leaping Hares at Nunnington Hall. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

WHITBY sculptor Emma Stothard’s wildlife work has come on leaps and bounds over the past year for her latest show at Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near Helmsley.

To mark 2020 being a leap year, she has created a one-off installation of 366 Leaping Hares, one for each day of the year, combining sculptures, illustrations and paintings, all for sale, on display amid the historic collection in the Smoking Room of the National Trust country house.

Alas, Nunnington Hall is now closed with effect from this Wednesday (May 18), in response to Government advice on the Coronavirus pandemic. “The safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors is our priority,” says senior visitor experience officer Laura Kennedy.

Out of the top drawer: four of Emma Stothard’s 366 Leaping Hares emerging from the Smoking Room furniture at Nunnington Hall. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

Let’s take a leap of faith, however, beyond the month of the Mad March Hare and leap ahead to later in the year when hopefully you can still see 366 Leaping Hares. “The idea came first, doing something for 2020, for Leap Year, rather than responding to a particular space, and I thought ‘let’s do 366 hares’,” says Emma. “Given that number, I knew some would need to be small, with some bigger ones for contrast.”

Emma spent the past year creating each work, whether clay, wire or willow sculptures, textiles hangs and cushions, drawings and ceramic tiles.

All have been individually hand-finished and dated by the sculptor, not least a special Leap Day Hare to mark Saturday, February 29. “Each of those 366 days is going to be special for someone – a birthday, an anniversary, maybe even a proposal of marriage on the Leap Day itself!” says Emma.

Emma Stothard working in her studio on her 366 Leaping Hares. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

She has responded too to Nunnington Hall’s “rich sense of history”. “Generations have lived here, and you can feel their presence in the furniture, the wallpaper and the textiles,” she says.

Consequently, Emma’s installation explores the array of materials that embodies the ever-changing architecture and fabric of the historic building, while experimenting with contemporary methods too in her hotchpotch of hares that range from four-foot willow sculptures to four-inch miniature wire and clay collectables.

Placed by Emma amid the historic collection, some are in full view; others are in the Smoking Room’s hidden spaces, nooks and crannies, even emerging from drawers or to be spotted under furniture.

Hare, there, everywhere, yes, Emma loves hares. “They’re just so wonderful to see, aren’t they,” she enthuses. “I see them quite a lot when I’m walking across the fields with my dog.

Going to the wire: A close-up of Emma Stothard’s handiwork as she makes a hare. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

“I love spotting them because they’re so elusive, so quick moving. They’re magical to sculpt, and it’s the same with roe deer. I find them fascinating, beautiful, because you can never get that close to them.

“We’re steeped in their history and it feels a real privilege to be in their presence when they run out of front of me.”

The large number of hares required was the green light for Emma to broaden her working practices. “Like casting in bronze for the first time. I’d been recommended by (the late) Sally Arnup to use Aron McCartney, who has a metal-casting foundry at  Barnard Castle, but there never came a time to be able to cast anything until now,” she says. “Now that I have, hopefully we can continue with the relationship.”

Taking shape: hares lined up for the next stage of sculptor Emma Stothard’s creative process. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

This is not the first time that Nunnington Hall has had an impact on Emma’s work. “I first exhibited here in 2012 on the Rievaulx Terrace, when I was also commissioned to make my first wire sculpture of a horse, which you can still see here,” she says. “They like to move it around the gardens to keep people on their toes.

“The wire horse was the first time I moved away from working in willow and has led me to doing more public commissions in wire and now bronze wire. There are 12 little galvanized ones in the new exhibition, coated in zinc in the galvanizing process.”

Her outdoor willow sculptures, meanwhile, must be treated at regular intervals. “Think of it as a seasonal chore in the garden,” she says. “Four times a year; 50 per cent linseed oil; 50 per cent Turps substitute, which is a traditional way to protect the strength of the willow.

“There’s no reason you can’t get ten years out of them if you look after them properly, as linseed oil builds a layer of varnish, like shellac. So, remember, four times a year, once a season.”

Start counting: 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6….366 Leaping Hares in Nunnington Hall’s Smoking Room. Hope to see them again some time in 2020. Picture: Anthony Chappel-Ross

In Staithes, you can spot Emma’s coral and coronation blue lobsters, her 9ft marine crustaceans first exhibited in the Sculpture By The Sea exhibition at the 2015 Staithes Festival of Arts and Heritage, and now she has made Withernsea Crab, a three metre-high sculpture of a brown crab for the Withernsea Fish Trail.

Emma also had been working on sculptures for Jardin Blanc at May’s now cancelled 2020 Chelsea Flower Show, her fourth such commission for the hospitality area, where Raymond Blanc is the executive chef. More Emma work, by the way, can be found at Blanc’s Oxfordshire restaurant, the Belmond Le Manoir au Quat’Saisons.

At the time of this interview, Emma was on the cusp of signing a contract to create seven life-size sculptures celebrating Whitby’s fishing heritage on the east side of the East Coat harbour. ”I’m hoping to have the first piece installed in time for the Whitby Fish & Ships Festival in May,” she said. The 2020 festival has since been cancelled, but look out for Emma’s sculptures at the 2021 event on May 15 and 16 next spring.

Looking ahead, where would Emma most love to exhibit? “My dream is to do an exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park [at West Bretton, near Wakefield], particularly as I did my teacher-training there at Bretton Hall,” she says.

One final question for Emma: is it true that boxing hares are not male rivals scrapping over a female in hare-to-hare combat but in fact, contrary to myth, jack versus jill (as hares were known). “That’s right: it’s male against female, and in my boxing-hare couples, it’s always a female fending off a male,” she says.

As and when Nunnington Hall re-opens, Emma Stothard’s installation 366 Leaping Hares would then be on view and on sale until November 1.

From Essex house to Nunnington Hall country pile for Grayson Perry’s tapestries

The Essex Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015) , by Grayson Perry, on the drawing room wall of Nunnington Hall from February 8

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’.

In Its Familiarity Golden: a close-up of one of Grayson Perry’s Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015)

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 tapestries.

“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 historic setting.” 

One of the Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015), by Grayson Perry

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 Versailles.

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 society.

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 inspirations.”

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).

The 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.

Cocktail Party, 1989, by Grayson Perry, on show in Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years at CoCA, York Art Gallery, from June 12

The 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.

From 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.

The 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.

Although 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.

Nunnington Hall’s Verdure Tapestries: away for conservation work; back on display from January 2021

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 conservation stitching.

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.

Grayson Perry’s Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015) at Nunnington Hall

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 Craft Council.

York artist Gerard Hobson enjoys winter walk on the wild side at Beningbrough Hall. UPDATED

York artist Gerard Hobson with his wren installation beneath the Clock Tower at Beningbrough Hall, near York. Pictures: Sue Jordan

YORK linocut artist Gerard Hobson is exhibiting for the first time at Beningbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York.

His Winter Wildlife In Print show at the National Trust property combines prints for sale in the Hayloft gallery with 14 sculptural scenes in the outbuildings, gardens, grounds and parkland, inspired by creatures that make Beningbrough their winter home.

Throughout winter until March 1, they can be seen only on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11am to 3.30pm, and additionally during the February half term.

Hedgehog in winter, by Gerard Hobson,

Created out of linoprints, cut out and mounted to make Hobson’s 3D installations, birds are swooping, climbing or nesting among the trees, from owls and robins to cuckoos, wrens and swifts.

Eyes should be kept peeled for the naughty magpies with their stolen ring. Do look out, too, beyond the ha-ha to the parkland to spot a pair of boxing hares, better seen close-up should anyone be carrying binoculars.

Bang goes the common knowledge, by the way, that boxing hares are a brace of males scrapping over a female. Apparently, as a sign reveals, the fights involve a male and a female, not welcoming his persistent attention. Who knew, the lady hares are effectively saying “Do one” or “Get yourself a better chat-up line”!

Hare, by Gerard Hobson, one of the linoprints in the Hayloft gallery at Beningbrough Hall

These outdoor installations are the first time Gerard Hobson has used his work in this way, and in creating the exhibition, he has made many new pieces especially for the Beningbrough garden.

Not only birds, but other animals too make an appearance in unexpected places, searching for food and preparing to hibernate or sleep, whether bats, mice, stoats or a hedgehog.

Make sure to head upstairs in the stables to the Hayloft for an indoor exhibition showcasing more of Gerard’s printed work, all for sale. Visitors also can create a feeder in the bothy and pick up one of the special colouring-in sheets in the walled garden restaurant, while in the laurel den a dawn chorus soundscape is a reminder of warmer days to come.

Here Charles Hutchinson puts the questions on the art of the matter to artist Gerard Hobson.

You have a background as a zoologist and botanist. What draws you to depicting nature and wildlife, Gerard?

“One of my earliest recollections was collecting a set of bird cards given away with PG Tips tea (I would love to do a set for Yorkshire Tea).

“This moved on to sets of animals both native and around the world, which then grew into a love of nature.

A bird collage by Gerard Hobson

“At the age of about 16, I had a ten-minute chat with a careers adviser, who asked me what my interests were. I said ‘nature and art’ and he said ‘there’s no money in art, go down the science route’, hence the zoology.

“My first job after graduating was with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and this is where my knowledge of plants developed.” 

In this age of climate change concern and the extinction of creatures, your art can make a powerful statement …but at the same time, in the short film shown in the Beningbrough Hall bothy, you talk of your art being fun. Discuss…

“People who buy my prints tell me they’re bright and cheerful and have a sense of fun about them. I’m pleased they get that response but I also hope that my images might create a greater interest in wildlife.

“I think most people are aware of the loss of habitat and species and the impact of global warming on our environment, but people feel the problem is so great that their small contribution isn’t going to make any difference.

“I hope my art may stir people to become more interested in the wildlife around them, to feed the birds and join their local wildlife trust. To share this with their children and their children’s children and hopefully generations of young people will become more interested in the birds and woodlands around them. Maybe some will go on to be environmental campaigners – who knows!”

Gerard Hobson at work in his York studio

Your past work often has been of individual creatures. How did you come up with the idea of doing installations and sculptural scenes for the Beningbrough exhibition?

“When I was asked to do an exhibition at Beningbrough, they told me they wanted me to do something outdoors but they wanted me to use my linocuts. However, I knew this was going to create several problems.

“Life-size birds outside would just disappear into the great outdoors, so I had to do everything twice its normal size.

“I wanted the work to be original because somehow, once you reproduce art, it seems to lose its essence, but trying to make my paper linocuts waterproof also proved challenging.

“I felt each installation needed some sort of narrative.  So, my vision for the exhibition was not just about the art but for each one to be linked with some related fact or folklore.”

How does the impact of a group of birds/hibernating animals/etc contrast with those past works?

“I think the outdoor display at Beningbrough challenged me artistically as I have never done an outside exhibition before and I wanted to come up with something a little bit different and quirky: a seek and find concept.

Pheasant, one of the linoprints by Gerard Hobson, at Beningbrough Hall’s Hayloft gallery

“As an artist you are looking at ways to develop, but not lose your style. Before the offer at Beningbrough came about, I’d been considering doing some framed images of my linocuts in naturalistic settings using fake plants, branches, mosses etc.

“When I was about 12, I started collecting taxidermy and had quite a large collection, but over the years it has become less fashionable. However, taxidermy still interests me as an art form, hence the thought of putting my linocuts in cases.”

What influence did the Beningbrough Hall outbuildings and grounds have on your work. Furthermore, did the task of creating work for the outdoors present different challenges?

“When I was asked to do the exhibition, the brief was very broad and they basically gave me carte blanche on the spaces around the grounds, which was fantastic!

“I obviously wanted to do something that was on a circuit so I  around a few times, identifying my favourite trees and possible places to put things.

“Many of the themes for the installations came from the spaces themselves. The stumpery led to the creation of a group of mushrooms and the tool shed looked like a good setting to put animals and birds for sheltering away from the cold winter weather.”

A close-up of the wrens, one of 14 sculptural scenes by Gerard Hobson at Beningbrough Hall this winter

What impact did the winter season have on the work?

“The winter weather has created a few problems. When we were installing the exhibition, it seemed to be constantly raining, which made the installation a very cold and wet experience!

“Once the exhibition was up, we had a couple of weeks where various pieces were coming away from their metal dowel. (I’m not sure if it was the persistent rain or the wrong sort of glue being used.)

“Added to which, very high winds brought down the swallow installation twice and the boxing hares were blown over. There has also been a problem with the thrush installation being attacked by what we think is the resident jackdaw population! “However, through it all, the gardeners and volunteers at Beningbrough have been fantastic at helping put things right.”

What will happen to the installation pieces after the exhibition ends on March 1?

“Good question, no idea. Some of the pieces have weathered, which gives them a look of an old loved toy. I don’t think they’ll last outdoors permanently. I’m open to suggestions.”

Bird And Mistletoe, a winter linoprint by Gerard Hobson

What do you like most about linocuts as an artform?

“I went on a printmaking course at York College about ten years ago and I was particularly taken with producing linocuts.

“Carving away on lino has a very therapeutic feel to it, and it was through this medium that I developed my own style. Prior to this, I’d been quite good at art technically, but didn’t have a particular look to my art, so this technique seemed to release me into something I’d been trying to do for years.

“When you produce a piece of art, you can feel quite attached to it, and it can be quite difficult to part with. With a linocut, because it’s one of a limited edition, you can always hold one back for yourself or a loved one.” 

What are you working on next? York Open Studios 2020 on April 18, 19, 25 and 26, perhaps?

“My exhibition in the Hayloft gallery at Beningbrough is running until the beginning of March, with the sales from this keeping me quite busy at the moment, and I want to keep refreshing this part of the show, so that returning visitors get to see something a little different each time.

“Also, I need to crack on with some new work for York Open Studios, which I’m very excited about this April.” 

Gerard Hobson’s Winter Wildlife In Print exhibition and installations are on show at Beningbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, until March 1. To plan a visit, go to nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough for more information.

Hare leap: one of Gerard Hobson’s linocut prints at Beningbrough Hall

Did you know?

SINCE childhood, Gerard Hobson has had a love for birds, animals and art. His fascination with wildlife saw him qualify as a zoologist from Bangor University in 1984 and he then worked for a couple of years for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust as a botanist. Later he became an illustrator for the trust, working on leaflets and sign boards.

After relocating up north, Gerard worked for Yorkshire Wildlife and continued to develop his work on a freelance basis. In more recent years, he has turned his hand to woodcarving and these days focuses his attentions on print making, having studied the art form in York. 

York artist Gerard Hobson turns Beningbrough Hall into a winter wildlife wonderland

York artist Gerard Hobson with his wren installation beneath the Clock Tower at Beningbrough Hall, near York. Picture: Sue Jordan

YORK artist Gerard Hobson will hold the first of three print-making workshops in the Hayloft gallery at Beningbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, on Saturday to tie in with his Winter Wildlife In Print exhibition and installations at the National Trust property.

Alas all three 10am sessions – using Beningbrough’s garden for inspiration – are fully booked: the first two, this weekend and on February 8, focusing on linoprint making; the third, on February 22, being a family printmaking session.

Hare, by Gerard Hobson, one of the linoprints in the Hayloft gallery at Beningbrough Hall

Hobson’s Hayloft print exhibition and 14 sculptural scenes in the outbuildings, gardens, grounds and parkland are inspired by creatures that make Beningbrough their winter home.

Throughout winter until March 1, they can be seen only on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11am to 3.30pm, and additionally during the February half term. To plan a visit, go to nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough for more information.

A bird collage by Gerard Hobson

Created out of linoprints, cut out and mounted to make Hobson’s 3D installations, birds are swooping, climbing or nesting among the trees, from owls and robins to cuckoos, wrens and swifts.

Eyes should be kept peeled for the naughty magpies with their stolen ring. Do look out, too, beyond the ha-ha to the parkland to spot a pair of boxing hares, better seen close-up should anyone be carrying binoculars.

Gerard Hobson at work in his York studio

Bang goes the common knowledge, by the way, that boxing hares are a brace of males scrapping over a female. Apparently, as a sign reveals, the fights involve a male and a female, not welcoming his persistent attention. Who knew, the lady hares are effectively saying “Do one” or “Get yourself a better chat-up line”!

These installations are the first time Gerard Hobson has used his work in this way, and in creating the exhibition, he has made many new pieces especially for the Beningbrough garden. Not only birds, but other animals too make an appearance in unexpected places, searching for food and preparing to hibernate or sleep, whether bats, mice, stoats or a hedgehog.

Pheasant, one of the linoprints by Gerard Hobson, at Beningbrough Hall’s Hayloft gallery

Helen Osbond, exhibition manager for the National Trust, says: “We’re thrilled to host so much of Gerard’s work at Beningbrough this winter. In working towards the exhibition, it’s been a real insight to see how, as an artist, he draws on his botanist background in his designs, and there’s a short video in the bothy showing the process and steps taken in the intricate art of linoprinting.” 

Make sure to head upstairs in the stables to the Hayloft for an indoor exhibition showcasing more of Gerard’s printed work, all for sale.

A close-up of the wrens, one of 14 sculptural scenes by Gerard Hobson at Beningbrough Hall this winter

“It’s not only the chance to discover the series of sculptural scenes, we want the visit to be an immersive experience,” adds Helen. “Visitors can create a feeder in the bothy and pick up one of the special colouring-in sheets in the walled garden restaurant, while in the laurel den there’s a dawn chorus soundscape; a reminder of warmer days to come.”

Did you know?

SINCE childhood, Gerard Hobson has had a love for birds, animals and art. His fascination with wildlife saw him qualify as a zoologist from Bangor University in 1984 and he then worked for a couple of years for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust as a botanist. Later he became an illustrator for the trust, working on leaflets and sign boards.

Artist Gerard Hobson surveys his wren work at Beningbrough Hall

After relocating up north, Gerard worked for Yorkshire Wildlife and continued to develop his work on a freelance basis.

In more recent years, he has turned his hand to woodcarving and these days focuses his attentions on print making, having studied the art form in York.