York art blog: Home is where the art is

Detail from Ian Cameron's Steam Engine. Photograph: Flickr
6 Aug 2013 @ 9.44 am
| News
Detail from Ian Cameron's Steam Engine. Photograph: Flickr
Detail from Ian Cameron’s Steam Engine. Photograph: Flickr

jayne-headshot Jayne Dwyer is disappointed by a Wakefield installation but finds inspiration much closer to home


It’s the holidays! (Well, the smaller version of me is off school.) In my last blog I promised tales of my travels in the little Corsa and art from outside this cultural hub I call my home. It didn’t quite go according to plan.

Our first destination: A Maze For Yorkshire, described as a “fantastical cartoon dry-stone wall by internationally renowned artist Richard Woods”.

In the flyer it is said to be “a gift for Wakefield and the region”. Having visited I get the feeling that some poor cousin, maybe Doncaster, will see this next birthday, carefully re-gifted like a box of cherry liquors.

I was genuinely excited about our daycation to the Orangery in Wakefield to see the maze. I mumsily packed a picnic: home-made bread, the works. The satnav on my phone took us to the gates of HM Prison, Wakefield, which gave us our one giggle of the day.

A Maze For Yorkshire by Richard Woods
A Maze For Yorkshire by Richard Woods

If you do go, then your satnav isn’t exactly wrong as indeed the maze is in a garden next door – but you will have to find a more accommodating car-parking space, and the real maze of the day is getting around the one-way system into the multi-storey.

Realising that the maze was not somewhere we would be able to while away a sunny afternoon, I foolishly suggested we could “do the Hepworth” and was then confronted with my daughter’s tirade of “you’ve tricked me. You didn’t tell me we were doing art things”.

Walking around the Maze For Yorkshire, I started to see her point. Mazes are meant to be a trick of the mind, a challenge, a bit of fun. The aerial picture on the flyer makes the maze look huge and the Orangery look like a country park.

This was the only trick. Richard Woods has missed a trick. We won’t be back.

I’m embarrassed to admit, we also got lost and found ourselves walking down by a dirty canal for half an hour, trying to get to the Hepworth. We gave up. I never give up! It wasn’t a hugely successful day. The most innovative design we saw all day was a ‘SKUBB’ storage box at Ikea on the way home. (By the way, the Hepworth is definitely worth a visit, so please do go.)

Art in Acomb

There is no place like home and maybe York really is a cultural hub and maybe we should all feel very excited about what is under our noses. I really didn’t expect to be writing about Acomb in my blog this month. Acomb is the place I spent my childhood. I have seen it through good times and bad.

The Adam (Acomb Dance and Music) Festival had some brilliant promotion. The programme booklet easily matched more established art events: glossy and well-designed with the promise of great things.

I have to admit here – I was cynical. Firstly, I get a little nervous around churches and two of the main venues were Gateway at one end and the Parish Hall at the other. I was also a little bit sceptical about the promoters’ abilities to get people out of Morrisons.

I was wrong. This was an absolutely fantastic event and a wonderful achievement for all involved. Acomb was truly buzzing. Art aside, I was determined to catch the Grand Old Uke of York, a ukulele band, who have inspired me so much I can now play the chords for Take on Me by Aha. (I can’t sing at the same time and you won’t recognise the tune, but still…)

Jon Starkey exhibition

Vindictive: Pen & Ink, Paint, Digital by Jon Starkey
Vindictive: Pen & Ink, Paint, Digital by Jon Starkey

Unlike Wakefield’s unamazing maze, the ADAM Festival really was an afternoon out: a proper event. We moved from Parish Hall to Acomb Explore to Tea On The Green. Wherever we went, however, one question kept coming up: “Have you seen the Jon Starkey exhibition?”

In the pop up gallery on Front Street was art from Jon Starkey and contemporaries. This exhibition would have been equally at home in the city centre – any city centre. I later found out that Jon himself had some involvement in inviting the other artists to exhibit, after being asked originally to design the map for the event.

Jon told me that whilst he has exhibited before in Lincoln, he had not been responsible for putting on an exhibition before. In the hope of making a career in graphic design, Jon’s work has lately focused on magazine layout, poster designs and web design.

Getting involved with the festival reminded him why he loved creating art for art’s sake: “It reminded me how much I enjoy creating art, not for a business and not to sell this or that, but for no other reason than I want to.”

The ADAM Festival put Acomb on the map for the day, but if it could secure an exhibition space like this with this calibre of work, then perhaps Acomb could attract visitors from outside, which in turn would promote the local economy. I know this is the aim.

Art on the barge

Pextons by Ian Cameron
Pextons by Ian Cameron

Also worth mentioning is Ian Cameron. Ian had an exhibition in Gateway. I have seen his work at Open Studios and have several of his postcards decorating my shed. His scenes of Pexton’s in Bishopthorpe Road are ever popular and I hope that this more cosmopolitan Acomb can entice him back to paint.

Ian had a busy weekend as on the Sunday following ADAM Festival, he was to be found at the Arts Barge event, sharing his book-binding skills, generously explaining some of his paper crafting techniques.

On the river front, Andres from the Corner Gallery on Scarcroft Road had set up an easel and was encouraging passers-by to help him paint the river scene with Skeldergate Bridge as the centre piece.

I keep hearing good things about Andres and I like the simple but technically brilliant lines of his drawings and have taken the plunge (by the river) and booked onto his life drawing class which start next Wednesday, August 14, in Fulford.

Children’s art adventures

As I mentioned earlier, my children are not quite as enthusiastic about art as I am, but if you have a budding little Hockney or Sherman, my lovely friend Lynn has set up Artventurers in York for children aged between 16 months and 4 years.

Every Artventurer’s session has a theme. On Thursday, August 8, Poppleton Road Memorial Hall at 10am will be transformed into an underwater adventure and children will be able to make “fish puppets, sparkly collages and lots more”.

These sessions are proving so popular that this one is already fully booked. Check the website for details of forthcoming events and September classes.

Powerful stuff at St Mary’s

Leaving the Corsa in the capable hands of Dave, who gives her a loving service before an MOT, I headed into York last week. I tried again to convert at least one member of my family to embrace art. With what some people would describe as a bribe, a full English breakfast, I convinced him to visit York St Mary’s to see Bruce Nauman.

Bruce is a big name for York and his work is on tour with Artist Rooms, a partnership with Arts Council and the Art Fund.

The young one will pretend he was not impressed. He is critical by nature, but he stood with me for quite some time, hypnotised by video installation Good Boy Bad Boy. A hundred phrases are repeated by a woman on one monitor and man on another. The same phrases are delivered enthusiastically and aggressively and it is powerful stuff.

They are somehow monotonous but thoroughly engaging and disturbing. I love how Nauman’s pieces play with language. His work is conceptual and after Wakefield, it felt liberating to feel some sort of response. You have until November. Go! Be amazed.

What to see in August and beyond

Bruce Nauman York St Mary’s, until November 10. Lunchtime talk by Claire McDonald, Wednesday, August 7, 12.30pm

Find details of lots of family events at St Mary’s throughout August by visiting York Art Gallery on Facebook.

David Hockney and Giuliana Lazzerini Gallery Forty-Nine, Bridlington, August 3 to 31

Life drawing classes, Andres Jaroslavsky from Corner Gallery Low Moor Community Centre, Fulford, Wednesday, August 14 7-9pm £10 (including materials). All abilities welcome

The Mithras Suite sculptures by Michael Lyons New School House Gallery, Peasholme Green, York, until August 31

York Remastered Richard Barnes, Kate Young and Tim Morrison According to McGee, until September 30