Like father, like daughter, as Richard and Chantal Barnes return to York for According To McGee’s farewell to Tower Street show UPDATED 29/07/2022

Golden Memory Of York, by Richard Barnes, at According To McGee

AFTER 17 years, York contemporary gallery According To McGee is to close its Tower Street doors in September.

Acomb husband and wife and business duo Greg and Ails McGee are looking forward to the next stage but in the meantime they are “ready to go out with an incendiary confetti of contemporary collectibles”, as Greg puts it.

“Every chapter comes to an end,” says Ails, “And before we launch Part Two, we thought let’s finish our tenure at Tower Street by going full circle. We started back in 2005 with a Richard Barnes show, and I had just finished teaching his daughter Chantal Barnes as an A-Level student at Huntington School.

“Chantal is now an internationally sought-after artist and has work appearing in Vogue magazine, while Richard has retired from teaching art at Bootham School and is now a full-time painter after moving south from York.” 

Richard Barnes delivers the new Barnes + Barnes collections to the According To McGee curatorial team, Nell Bannister and Rhys Davies Brackett

Barnes at the double opened over the weekend. “This is a victory lap for us,” says Greg. “We are in many ways going back to our source with Richard’s York cityscapes, but the art scene in York has changed so much, and the paintings of both Barneses are now so collectible, that though we’re tipping the hat to our first exhibition, we’re much more excited about the here and now.

“The York that Richard paints feels very contemporary, very now, and the idiosyncratic vigour with which Chantal pushes paint around is a wholly new visual idea.”

Richard moved to “just north of London” a little over a year ago. “Both my daughters had had babies – on the same day in the same hospital! – and we were going up and down the country to see them,” he says, explaining the move south.

“I also think the experience of lockdown made us think about moving, giving me a new challenge of building a studio in the back garden. That’s been an exciting adventure, building it from scratch, with views out over the Chilterns.

“I’ve always thought of York as this incredibly exceptional place, and I’ve tried to make it magical in my paintings,” says Richard Barnes. Witness Magical Monk Bar, one of his new works at According To McGee

“It’s my absolute dream, having had all those experiences of painting for so long. I’ve designed it just right for painting big paintings – it’s like the length of a New York loft, but it’s not a warehouse! – and I’m able to paint paintings up to 16ft by 8ft.”

All Richard’s works on show are being exhibited for the first time, some developed from initial drawings in lockdown, some painted since leaving the city. “During lockdown, I was still in York. When it was completely empty, I’d walk into York city centre in the early morning, around six o’clock, and set up by the Minster,” he says.

“It was the most remarkable experience, where you could even hear the echo from the Minster walls of the birds flying by. It was like walking on an empty beach; a sensation you don’t ever experience in York.

“Painting by the Minster at that time made you much more aware that you were only there in this world for a brief moment, but the Minster had been there forever. That was a big influence on me wanting to do one last York hurrah, even though the paintings are in the same style as before.”

“The idiosyncratic vigour with which Chantal Barnes pushes paint around is a wholly new visual idea,” says According To McGee co-director Greg McGee

Richard still feels the magnetic pull of York. “There’s that yearning for a place when you leave, and I’m like that about York,” he says. “When I go back to do some drawings, I feel so drawn to it, having spent most of my artistic life there.

“I’ve always thought of York as this incredibly exceptional place, and I’ve tried to make it magical in my paintings. Leaving York has made it feel even more so. Getting there takes less than two hours on the train, and it’s now like a place of memory for me.  Because I’ve painted it so often, I wanted to capture that in one last exhibition for Greg and Ails.”

Greg looks back fondly over the McGees’ Tower Street years, not least Richard’s impact. “Richard really helped to galvanise our business plan back in 2005, which was at that point a general desire to exhibit exciting art. He helped distil that down into an irreducible manifesto.

“Go primarily for paintings, paintings that are instantly recognisable as being from the McGee stable. Grab the attention of passers-by, paint the gallery front yellow, which, although a Choir of Vision inception, had its roots in the initial vision Richard helped us shape.

Chantal Barnes at work on a painting

“Since then, we’ve exhibited Elaine Thomas CBE; Dave Pearson; ska legend Horace Panter, of The Specials. We’ve had exhibitions officially opened by Sir Ian Botham, when we launched art from Dubai celebrity artist Jim Wheat; 1960s’ painter and friend of The Beatles Doug Binder has had solo shows here.

“It’s been a wild and fulfilling ride here, opposite York’s most recognisable landmark [Clifford’s Tower], but the time has come to leave the building, and we’re doing it in style with Barnes + Barnes.”

Contemporary Painting: Barnes + Barnes’ straddles According To McGee’s past as gallerists but looks forward too. “As an exhibition, it transcends this building, and so we’ll be ready to run it again in the future,” vows Greg.

“Where that will be, we can’t yet say, but that unpredictability, with the liberty and excitement that come with it, was the reason we got into running an art gallery in the first place. This exhibition reflects that. As soon as Chapter II emerges over the horizon, we’ll let you know.”

In turn keen to praise the McGees – who started their gallery under the name of The ArtSpace – Richard says: “Greg and Ails have made an exceptional contribution to the city’s contemporary art scene.

Greg and Ails McGee: One chapter is closing for According To McGee but another will open

“York is often seen through a traditional lens, but they have taken a bold approach by exhibiting all sorts of artists, and their first reason for exhibiting any artist hasn’t been for commercial potential but because they loved the work.

“They have taken that risk, and for someone to do that, to just say ‘let’s give this a go’, has made a huge impact on York’s art world. They could easily have played to the tourists, but they have steadfastly not done that.

“They’ve given so many artists a show who have gone on to be very successful. They always look to support artists, and because they’re very independent minded they don’t seek Arts Council backing, but artists reciprocate their support by wanting to exhibit there.”

Daughter Chantal is one such artist. Born and bred in York, she attended Huntington School, where her art teacher just happened to be a certain Ails McGee. “She really loved the vibe of the art department,” recalls Richard.

“She then studied Fine Art, Film and Television at Aberystwyth, graduating with a First, and supported her travels around the world with her painting, before becoming a successful television producer.

Artwork from the Barnes + Barnes exhibition by Chantal Barnes

“But during lockdown she realised she wanted to commit more fully to painting, and winning a prize at a North York Moors National Park exhibition [at the Inspired By…Gallery in Danby] encouraged her even more.”

Chantal began to paint abstract works to complement her landscapes and portraiture. “She’s been influenced by her experiences in North Yorkshire, painting the coast, and she’s had plenty of success in London, working with galleries and doing commissions, and in the States too,” says Richard,

“Her studio is very near mine and now our relationship is not just being her dad but being another artist too. The nice thing is that we can go to exhibitions together [in London] and she’s really in tune with much more contemporary work!”

For Barnes + Barnes, they have painted one work together of Wast Water in the Lake District. “The reason we chose there was because we did a joint exhibition with my mother in aid of Water Relief in Africa, and my mother had painted Wast Water for that show,” says Richard.

“As a tribute to her, Chantal and I went back to Wast Water to paint from the same viewpoint. We were hoping for one of those glorious, beautiful, sun-lit Lakes days, but it was one of those equally glorious, dark but spectacularly gloomy days!”

Seek out the resulting painting in Contemporary Painting: Barnes + Barnes, running at According To McGee, Tower Street, York, until Sunday, September 25.

Greg and Ails McGee stand beside the bright yellow facade they introduced to According To McGee in 2018

 

Like father, like daughter, as Richard and Chantal Barnes return to York for According To McGee’s farewell to Tower Street show

Golden Memory Of York, by Richard Barnes

AFTER 17 years, York contemporary gallery According To McGee is to close its Tower Street doors in September.

Acomb husband and wife and business duo Greg and Ails McGee are looking forward to the next stage but in the meantime they are “ready to go out with an incendiary confetti of contemporary collectibles”, as Greg puts it.

“Every chapter comes to an end,” says Ails, “And before we launch Part Two, we thought let’s finish our tenure at Tower Street by going full circle. We started back in 2005 with a Richard Barnes show, and I had just finished teaching his daughter Chantal Barnes as an A-Level student at Huntington School.

“The idiosyncratic vigour with which Chantal Barnes pushes paint around is a wholly new visual idea,” says According To McGee co-director Greg McGee

“Chantal is now an internationally sought-after artist and has work appearing in Vogue magazine, while Richard has retired from teaching at Bootham School and is now a full-time painter after moving south from York.” 

Barnes at the double goes on show at According To McGee today. “This is a victory lap for us,” says Greg. “We are in many ways going back to our source with Richard’s York cityscapes, but the art scene in York has changed so much, and the paintings of both Barneses are now so collectible, that though we’re tipping the hat to our first exhibition, we’re much more excited about the here and now.

“The York that Richard paints feels very contemporary, very now, and the idiosyncratic vigour with which Chantal pushes paint around is a wholly new visual idea.”

Richard Barnes delivers the new Barnes + Barnes collections to the According To McGee curatorial team, Nell Bannister and Rhys Davies Brackett

Greg looks back fondly over the McGees’ Tower Street years. “Richard really helped to galvanise our business plan back in 2005, which was at that point a general desire to exhibit exciting art. He helped distil that down into an irreducible manifesto.

“Go primarily for paintings, paintings that are instantly recognisable as being from the McGee stable. Grab the attention of passers-by, paint the gallery front yellow, which, although a Choir of Vision inception, had its roots in the initial vision Richard helped us shape.

“Since then, we’ve exhibited Elaine Thomas CBE; Dave Pearson; ska legend Horace Panter, of The Specials. We’ve had exhibitions officially opened by Sir Ian Botham, when we launched art from Dubai celebrity artist Jim Wheat; 1960s’ painter and friend of The Beatles Doug Binder has had solo shows here.

Magical Monk Bar, by Richard Barnes

“It’s been a wild and fulfilling ride here, opposite York’s most recognisable landmark [Clifford’s Tower], but the time has come to leave the building, and we’re doing it in style with Barnes + Barnes.”

Contemporary Painting: Barnes + Barnes’ straddles According To McGee’s past as gallerists but also looks forward. “As an exhibition, it transcends this building, and so we’ll be ready to run it again in the future,” vows Greg.

“Where that will be, we can’t yet say, but that unpredictability, with the liberty and excitement that come with it, was the reason we got into running an art gallery in the first place. This exhibition reflects that. As soon as Chapter II emerges over the horizon, we’ll let you know.”

Contemporary Painting: Barnes + Barnes runs from today (23/7/2022) to Sunday, September 25, at According To McGee, Tower Street, York. For more information, visit www.accordingtomcgee.com

Chantal Barnes at work on a painting

McGee responds to Lockdown 2 with Richard Barnes window shopping launch

York artist Richard Barnes making his socially distanced delivery of his new York and North York Moors works to According To McGee. Standing in the doorway is gallery co-director Ails McGee

ACCORDING To McGee is still putting art in the shop window despite the here-we-go-again impact of Lockdown 2.

“Culture is in quarantine, but collecting great art continues,” says Greg McGee, co-director of the distinctive yellow-fronted gallery in Tower Street, York.

”And if the doors have to close then we’ll use our window to sell our paintings. It’s opposite Clifford’s Tower – we get a lot of footfall – and it’s huge.”

Lockdown: The Sequel has prompted Greg and co-director Ails McGee to launch the Window Shopping series of exhibitions, kicking off with According To McGee’s biggest-selling artist, Richard Barnes, former head of art at Bootham School.

York Minster: A perennial subject matter for York artist Richard Barnes, featuring once more in his Window Shopping exhibition

“Famed for his man-sized portraits of York, Richard’s latest collection, York And God’s Own County, has some of the largest cityscapes and landmarks he has ever produced,” says a delighted Greg.

Window Shopping’s modus operandi addresses the necessity of locked-down galleries displaying their wares explicitly in the window space and making as much use of the wall space viewable from that vantage point as possible.

“I don’t think it’s a skill taught in curatorial lessons at art college, but these are strange times. ” says co-director Ails. “I organised with Richard a socially distanced drop-off of 15 new paintings, created at his garden studio.

“I was blown away by the quality of the new collection. He has always had a muscular, mischievous approach to composition and colour schemes, but these are stand-out works that show him at the top of his game.

According To McGee co-director Ails McGee with a panoply of new Richard Barnes paintings on display in the Tower Street gallery window opposite the reflected Clifford’s Tower, York

“I have filled the front gallery with his work, from floor to ceiling, and we have already made pre-exhibition sales. Not very minimal or a traditional art gallery approach, but the energy is unmistakable. Window shopping works.”

Richard, who lives in Huntington Road, had done some “window showmanship” of his own in the lead-up to this show. “The paintings I love most hit me in the gut and hit me in my soul,” he says.

“During [the first] lockdown, I exhibited the paintings I was making on the back of my studio, so people using the river path opposite could see them. Somehow the job of making paintings that might hit someone somewhere, or even just give them a bit of pleasure, seemed very worthwhile.

“The new set of paintings at According To McGee are those that people commented on most during those tense lockdown months.”

York artist Richard Barnes, caught up in a riot of colour in his paintings for an earlier show at According To McGee

Richard also became involved in a project to create a huge painting for the new mental health hospital for York being built a little further along the Foss river path [the now opened Foss Bank Hospital in Haxby Road].

“The smaller landscapes in the new exhibition are experiments with light and space that I used to inspire the largest landscape I have ever painted and am still working on,” he says.

Barnes’s work has been a building block of According To McGee ever since the gallery launched 16 years ago. “It is especially pertinent this winter,” says Greg. “I’m  honoured to act as the art advisor for the internationally well-regarded poetry zine,  Dream Catcher, whose December issue features the art of Richard Barnes exclusively, so this show chimes with that nicely.”

Casting an eye over the new works, Ails says: “Richard has always painted with the risk-taking energy of an excellent painter in his 20s, but there’s a stronger, fiercer element to this collection.

North Yorks Moors, as portrayed by Richard Barnes in his new God’s Own County series

“Maybe he has rediscovered a latent aggression, or mischief, or maybe it’s Lockdown. Either way, these paintings depict York as a modern city and the North York Moors as a location for contemporary landscapes better than any collection on the market. Come look through our gallery window and see for yourself.”

It is no secret that Richard, who has painted ceaselessly since the 1980s, will be bidding farewell York in the months ahead, selling both his studio and house. “Although I am leaving York and Yorkshire, I really hope I will continue my relationship with painting York and According To McGee,” he says.

“I want to thank Greg and Ails for supporting me and many other northern artists. What I have loved most about working with them is their attitude of ‘Why not?’.”

Watch out for news of his York Farewell Show at According To McGee in 2021. In the meantime, whether out exercising or shopping, take a breather in Tower Street to peruse Window Shopping: Richard Barnes, York and God’s Own County; expansive, bold and inviting eye contact behind glass until December 1.

More, more Moor: How do you like it? Another of Richard Barnes’s moorland Yorkshire paintings on sale in According To McGee’s debut Window Shopping show

No York Open Studios this weekend, but all that art still needs a new home, so look here…DAY 25

Land, sea and Freya Horsley

LAST weekend should have been spent visiting other people’s homes, not staying home. This weekend too.

This is not a cabin-fevered call for a foolhardy Trumpian dropping of the guard on Covid-19, but a forlorn wish that York Open Studios 2020 could have been just that: York Open Studios. Instead, they will be York Shut Studios.

Nevertheless, in the absence of the opportunity to meet 144 artists at 100 locations, banished by the  Coronavirus lockdown, CharlesHutchPress is determinedly championing the creativity of York’s artists and makers, who would have been showcasing their ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery, mixed media, painting, print, photography, sculpture and textiles skills.

Each day, in brochure order, a handful of artists who now miss out on the exposure of Open Studios are being given a pen portrait on these pages, because so much art and craft will have been created for the event and still needs a new home. Home and studio addresses will not be included at this lockdown time.

Meanwhile, York Open Studios artists are finding their own way to respond to the shutdown by filling their windows with their work instead. Look for #openwindowsyork2020 to locate them. “If you see one in your area while taking your daily exercise, take a picture and let us know,” they say.

Furthermore, look out for plenty of the 144 artists still showcasing their work over the York Open Studios period online. Visit yorkopenstudios.co.uk to take your own virtual tour.

The website says: “We’re doing a Virtual Open Studios, with artists posting based on a daily theme for the ten days spanning our two weekends. They’ll be showing you their studios and workshops, favourite processes, answering your questions, and of course lots of pictures of their new work!

“Search for #YorkOpenStudios anywhere on social media or follow your favourite artists to see more.”

First, however, here are six more artists and makers for you to discover…

Student artist Monica Marshall

Monica Marshall, mixed media, student

EMERGING artist Monica is a fine art student at York St John University, where her practice centres on coping with life and the psyche, and how this is affected by Asperger Syndrome.

“I explore the complexity of emotion and the subconscious through the use of text and expressionist mark-making in a variety of media, primarily through drawing, painting and printmaking,” she says.

In her experimental art, she plays with scale, distortion and using colour to convey certain emotions. “My work is mostly monochromatic, combining text alongside self-portraits and other characters,” says Monica. “The results communicate a powerful message while retaining elements of humour.”

“The results communicate a powerful message while retaining elements of humour,” says Monica Marshall of her art practice

She takes inspiration from German Expressionism, Surrealism and outsider art. “In regard to media, I am very open-minded and experimental. My preferred medium is usually printmaking, using a colour scheme consisting primarily of red, green, black and white, as well as oil painting on a large scale,” says Monica, who divides her time between York and Brighton.

“When I’m not scribbling, painting and/or hiding in the print room, I enjoy finding and photographing monkey puzzle trees – otherwise known as Araucaria Araucana, penury, Chilean pines and an assortment of other aliases – as well as writing poetry, prose and short stories.”

This was to have been Monica’s first year as a York Open Studios artist. Discover more at monicamarshallblog.wordpress.com.

Past And Present, by Richard Barnes

Richard Barnes, painting

RICHARD’s distinctive, dazzling work in York and London has focused on drawing and photographing the cities as the light fades.

“I record the sounds, movement, architecture and atmosphere of the ancient buildings within a modern context,” he says of his cityscapes. “Our brains are bombarded with digital information; the resultant paintings explore a reality beyond this facade.”

His cityscapes are ever evolving. “I am looking to highlight the sensations of life and light, movement and stillness, the changing and new juxtaposed with the permanent and prevailing history.”

“I am looking to highlight the sensations of life and light,” says Richard Barnes

For contrast, he paints Yorkshire landscapes. “In my landscapes, the idea is to escape the noise and to respond to a natural but often equally dramatic environment,” says Richard.

Living in York since 1984, working as both an artist and art teacher, he completed his PhD in 2006, exploring the use of digital intervention within a traditional, intuitive painting practice.

Now, the development of Richard’s images often involves drawing; photographing; printing; working on top of this print; re-photographing; re-printing; re-working, many times over, “until a final image is arrived at that captures the visual and tactile nature of the experience of being in a particular place, at that particular time.” Visit richardofyork.com for further insights.

Overlapping, by Emily Harper-Gustafsson

Emily Harper-Gustafsson, painting

BOOTHAM School art teacher Emily creates delicate and contemplative paintings that seek to capture small moments in space and time.

“Familiar objects are transformed by the use of negative space and subtle subversions of traditional perspective,” she says.

Emily Harper-Gustafsson: “Subtle subversions of traditional perspective”

“My paintings attempt to render the apparently everyday and mundane a matter for epiphany, contemplation and reflection.”

Emily can be contacted via e.a.harper@hotmail.com.

Glancing Light, mixed media on canvas, by Freya Horsley

Freya Horsley, painting

TAKING landscape and seascape as her starting point, whether in Yorkshire, Europe, the Himalayas or Canada, Freya’s abstract paintings focus on transient effects of light and weather and the changes they bring to the face of land and sea.

Whether drawing on the spot outside in the landscape or painting larger works back in the studio, she uses a wide variety of materials and experimental processes to create her surfaces and atmospheric effects.

“I’m increasingly exploring in greater depth the relationship between what is being painted and how it comes about, how much is real place and how much painted space,” Freya says.

Freya Horsley: Focusing on transient effects of light and weather

“In the first stages of a painting, I pour and drip very liquid paint, manipulating it by tilting and moving the support on the floor and easel. Gradually I refine this process, responding to the marks and to my own sense of the space that emerges.

“I also often use wax, collage and other media, alongside the veils of thin acrylic and oil paint, to explore these different levels of looking and ways of experiencing a place and space.”

Based in York, Freya exhibits in Yorkshire, London, the North West, Lancaster and Cornwall. She was to have shown her work at Bootham School, as usual, at York Open Studios, and still in her diary is Coast, at Porthminster Gallery, St Ives, Cornwall, from June 13 to September 5. Take a look at freyahorsley.com.

“I aim to push ideas through a range of unorthodox methods to create a new body of work,” says Benn Jackson

Benn Jackson, painting

BENN’S practice involves experimenting with a range of processes that never end or finish, pushed through different methods to create something different.

“The ‘process’ refers to the process of the formation of art: the gathering, sorting, collating, associating, patterning, and moreover the initiation of actions,” says Benn.

Benn Jackson at work on his process

“’Process’ explores the way the artist forms decisions. With my practice, I aim to push ideas through a range of unorthodox methods to create a new body of work.”

That work, spanning print, collage and painting, would have been exhibited at York Open Studios for the first time. Check him out at instagram.com/jelly-benn.

Jelena Lunge: Drawing inspiration from people, emotion and nature

Jelena Lunge, drawing

JELENA’s work is concept and progress driven. “Using pen and ink, I draw inspiration from people, emotion and nature,” she says. “Mostly I create drawings that are thought provoking and illusory.”

Jelena graduated from Vilnius Academy of Arts, in Lithuania, with a BA in sculpture and qualified as an art teacher. Her drawings have been shown at international exhibitions in the Baltic States, Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Germany, the USA and the UK.

Jelena Lunge at one of her many York exhibitions in 2019

“I now live and work in York, where I display and sell my work from creative spaces and galleries,” says Jelena, who last year exhibited at City Screen; York Explore library; Angel on the Green; Naburn Lock; Spark: York; Clements Hall and the Golden Ball pub.

“My drawing combines portrait form with the abstract, incorporating symbolism with touches of fantasy,” she says. More info at jelenalunge.com.

TOMORROW: Sarah Raphael-Balme; Lesley Seeger; Evie Leach; Ric Liptrot; Katrina Mansfield and Kitty Pennybacker.