Why York art is the best response to sarcasm aimed at travellers

YorkMix art editor Jayne Shipley finds an antidote at the Eye of York to a recent news story

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Robert Teed outside Grace In Thy Site

We were honeymooning in the Scottish Borders in the week leading up the voting, and in Edinburgh on the eve of the voting. It all seems a long time ago now: the honeymoon and the Scottish Referendum.

Had I been Scottish, I think I would have voted ‘no’ with the simplistic argument that there is already too much division in the world; I bought in to the ‘better together’ philosophy.

But who can really say? I wasn’t born in Scotland. I am an occasional tourist with a weak knowledge of Scottish history. Every thought I had about how I would have voted was hypothetical.

We had a fantastic time, however, watching the drama unfold. It really felt like a carnival atmosphere and it would have been impossible to not reflect on my own cultural identity.

Saddened by planning antics

In York, for the next few weeks, questions of cultural identity, belonging, migration and inclusion and exclusion are suggested, with an installation by Les Bas Family, at the Eye of York.

grace-in-thy-siteDelaine, Damian and Damian James Le Bas draw on their Roma Gypsy traveller heritage to engage audiences.

They use immersive installations, performance, poetry, visual and digital art, and good old fashioned discussion.

I was about to submit an earlier draft of this blog, detailing many of the wonderful paintings and artworks I have seen this month, when YorkMix reported on the plans for an alternative traveller site at West Offices, proposed by independent councillor for Osbaldwick, Mark Warters.

In this week, when we could have celebrated the cultural and thought provoking events, Cllr Warters chooses to use divisive language and sarcasm when talking through his proposed plans. You may want to read the article for yourself to get the full gist.

Of course, Cllr Warters will not be alone in his views. I am sure that there will be people that will applaud him and be amused by his antics. We’ve all heard sheep bleating. (I have included this livestock reference just for you, sir.)

I however, am not amused. The whole thing just makes me feel very sad, when earlier that week, I was full of the joys of autumn.

Then I was standing at the Eye of York, on a rather blustery day, talking to Robert Teed, of Schoolhouse Gallery (who co-commissioned the events), sharing our personal experiences of meeting the Les Bas family.

Insight into traveller life

I have met Damian James several times. He is a phenomenal communicator and an engaging public speaker.

If you decide to visit the Eye of York, you will find the artwork easily. It is called Grace In Thy Sight. You are invited to look inside, to read the literature and observe the way the traveller and Roma Gypsy communities have been represented over the decades.

Grace In Thy Sight: Delaine, Damian and Damian James Le Bas

  The Eye of York

  Until October 18, 2014

  More details here

You may also learn something about how the language of the Roma and traveller communities has evolved and changed.

You may get a sense of the realities of living in a confined space, of living exposed to the elements, of the restrictions imposed by the environment and maybe also a sense of some of the freedoms, too.

This piece stems from an earlier project, Safe European Home?, “which has travelled and developed in many places, taking on a different form wherever it may be; always made from existing materials at the locations with the exterior and interior then worked across as one collage canvas”.

We all strive to create, find, keep our personal and cultural identity… but how much of our identity is forced upon us by other people’s perceptions?

Photographs and drawings pinned up inside the erected “shack” lead us to more questions. Who created these images? For what purpose? Are they true portrayals or romantic notions?

Everything about this artwork invites dialogue. I hope that our councillor has time to visit.

The art to see now

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Gold bowl by Elisabeth Bailey, one of the artists exhibiting at Priestley’s

If you’re feeling charitable this month, here are a couple of ways you can improve lives and indulge in a little retail art therapy.

  Lineage – the current exhibition at Priestley’s at No 36 on Bootham features the earthenware pots of Elisabeth Bailey, the landscape prints of Ian Mitchell and the monochrome photographs of Lucy Saggers. On until November 1

  Wilberforce Charity Art Auction, featuring works from professional artists with a local connection and professional artists with sight loss and/or other disabilities. Quad South Hall, York St John University on October 11.

BBC Radio York’s Jonathan Cowap will be MC for the event. There will be an exhibition for viewing from noon on the day of the auction, this being followed by a drinks reception at 7pm.

The auction will begin at 8pm. Tickets for the auction are £10. This includes entry to the afternoon viewing, evening drinks reception and copy of the auction catalogue (a large print version of the catalogue is available on request).

Visit the website to view the artworks, for more info and to find out how to place a bid.

  Art for Youth North 2014: contemporary, affordable art from new and established artists.

Art for Youth North has taken place every two years in Yorkshire and has already raised around £150,000 to help young people across the UK. Show prices range from £45 – £3,000 with artists donating a third of sales to UK Youth. Mystery postcard pictures priced at £45 each are also on sale.

Tickets for the private view – from 6.30 – 9.30pm on Wednesday, October 22 – are £12 in advance and £15 at the door (includes wine and canapés). The exhibition will be open to the general public from 10am – 3.00pm on October 23 to 25.

  Jayne Shipley is the new name of freshly married Jayne Dwyer, whose previous columns can be read here

  More art stories