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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
#YorkOpenStudios anywhere on social media or follow your favourite artists to
First, however, here are six more artists and makers for you to discover…
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,”
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.”
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.
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
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
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.
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.
“My paintings attempt to
render the apparently everyday and mundane a matter for epiphany, contemplation
Emily can be contacted via email@example.com.
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.
“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
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.
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.
“’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
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.
“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.