“AT last the gallery is able to re-open,” says a relieved Kentmere House owner and curator Ann Petherick as she marks its 30th year in business by launching Jack’s Travels, her latest Jack Hellewell exhibition in York, on April 12.
“One of the gallery’s best-loved artists, the late Jack also had an anniversary to be celebrated last year: he would have been 100 in 2020,” says Ann, who first exhibited Hellewell’s work at her original gallery in Grape Lane before moving home and gallery to a Victorian former Methodist minister’s house at the bottom of Scarcroft Hill, overlooking Knavesmire, in 1991.
“Jack first showed with the Grape Lane Gallery in the 1980s and we’ve continued to present his artworks ever since. We had planned a series of exhibitions in celebration of his centenary but had hardly started on them when all had to stop because of the pandemic.
“They will now take place this year: the first, Jack’s Travels, will open next Monday and will include many paintings that have never before been shown.”
Yorkshireman Jack Hellewell (1920-20000) not only travelled widely but he also lived in Australia. “All his experiences provided inspiration for his painting,” says Ann.
Born in Bradford, Jack trained as a painter at Bradford College of Art from 1949-1952 and lived in Menston and latterly in Ilkley. He saw war service in Egypt, North Africa and Italy and then worked as a graphic designer
His travels with his family took him to Australia, New Zealand, the South Seas, Austria and frequently to Scotland. In 1976 he gave up his design work to become a full-time painter and returned to West Yorkshire.
“All his paintings were executed entirely from memory,” says Ann. “He always refused to sketch on site, believing that ‘it ties you down’, and everything was derived from personal experiences.
“His travels and encounters had a dramatic impact on his painting and he had the ability to retain the essence of a place, so that years – or even decades later – he could produce a painting from it.
Much of his work used the visual experience of intense light in warmer climates, as compared with the more subtle light to be found in Britain.”
Jack always worked in acrylic, enjoying the contrasts it offered between strong and subtle colours and the feeling of movement that became such a feature in his work. “He had the ability both to use the medium ‘neat’ on canvas, or to use it diluted on paper to give the effect of the most delicate watercolour,” says Ann.
Jack exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, in London, on several occasions in the 1990s and his work is in the collections of British Rail, the National Power Company, Rochdale Art Gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery and Provident Financial, Bradford, among others.
To mark next week’s socially distanced reopening, under Step 2 of the Government’s roadmap to recovery, the Covid-secure Kentmere House Gallery will be open every day for the initial week, Monday to Saturday, April 12 to 17, 11am to 5pm, with extended opening to 9pm on the Thursday.
The gallery then will revert to its usual pattern: opening on the first weekend of the month, from 11am to 5pm each Saturday and Sunday, complemented by late evenings from 6pm to 9pm every Thursday. “As always, visitors are welcome at any other time by ringing ahead or just taking pot luck by ringing the bell,” advises Ann, who can be contacted on 01904 656507 or 07710 810825.
Having founded Grape Lane Gallery in 1984, Ann and David Petherick bought Kentmere House in 1991 to combine a home with an art gallery. “Having seen galleries in homes in London, we could see the benefits for buyers of viewing paintings in a home setting and browsing in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere,” reasons Ann.
“For 30 years, we have searched out talented artists from throughout the UK and have thoroughly enjoyed doing so, meeting artists in their homes and studios, many of whom have become friends.
“It has, of course, made the lockdown period more than ever frustrating, but we managed to fit in a few days in Edinburgh last September, after a brief trip to the Lake District earlier in 2020, and we’re eagerly planning visits to Oxford, Kent, Suffolk and Scotland in the near future.”
Many of the artists exhibited by Ann are nationally known names and members of national societies, specialising in semi-figurative work, with a gallery policy of combining regular exhibitors, such as Susan Bower, John Brunsden and Michael Ewart, with artists not yet known in the north or newcomers.
“All are unique to Kentmere House,” she says, eschewing the term “contemporary” to describe her stable of artistic talent. “The word ‘contemporary’ has been hijacked and is now used almost entirely to refer to abstract and conceptual work, when in fact it simply means being produced at this time.
“The result can be that many potential buyers find the art market confusing and intimidating and don’t know where to start.”
In other words, as the ever-forthright Ann would put it, Kentmere House Gallery would make a good start from April 12.