What a fantastic month to start my blog! I love April. Even this year, despite the weather we’ve endured, Morrison’s are still selling bunches of daffs for a £1, and in April it is socially acceptable for me to eat my weight in chocolate.
However, the main reason I love April is because the wonderful people of Open Studios bring art to the masses in school halls, the back rooms of terraced houses and artists’ studios.
Whilst the young people around me punctuate their year with Leeds fest and the like, every year I wait with painted breath (artistic, see) for the York Open Studios line-up.
I can’t quite remember the year I started following YOS, but I remember the art and I remember the houses. I love the fact that as well as the opportunity to see some wonderful art, you get to snoop around people’s homes. It’s perfect.
A couple of years ago, I took a nostalgic walk down St Swithin’s Walk, the place I grew up, because it is close to where I live, there were two houses exhibiting and a good starting point. If truth be told, it was merely en route to The Mount and art I was familiar with from previous years.
Walking into the back room of one of the houses, I saw the most poignant and evocative paintings I have ever seen, of the girl that had been working behind the bar of The Fox. This is what I love about Open Studios the most: it is full of surprises and you find year in year out that York is blessed with some talented folk.
Last year, we took my soon-to-be-brother-in-law. He is a talented artist himself and is not easily impressed by other people’s art, but he enjoyed the walk, the Tunnock biscuits (laid on by an artist in Bootham) and the printmakers, and bumping into his old art teacher, whom he can now call by her first name. There is something for everyone.
It has to be said, (and I will say it now and get it out of the way) some art gatherings feel a tad pretentious, but YOS is not. It is a real social event. I feel as happy and comfortable visiting the exhibitions with friends or tootling around on my own and chatting to strangers. I prefer to go with friends as I am a bit of list maker, a planner. The general protocol is that everyone puts an asterix alongside their preferred destinations; their top five for the day, and then you compare notes and vote. Then you plan a route via lots of coffee shops (you will need rest breaks).
You would have to have some stamina to see everything that is on over the two weekends – Friday, April 12 to Sunday, April 14, and Saturday, April 20 to Sunday, April 21. This year’s catalogue is bulging and if the biographies and pictures on the website still leave you a little bit fazed as to where to start, here are a few suggestions.
Mark Hearld because his rising fame means that we will no doubt be claiming him as our own, as we have done Auden and Dick Turpin: a York treasure. If you are not yet familiar with his work, you will see it everywhere now I’ve mentioned him. Mark has recently exhibited his prints and collages, inspired by nature, at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and has recently illustrated a children’s book, A First Book of Nature.
David Patrick because he is brilliant. Simple. He draws York from a vantage point few of us will ever be privy to and can only guess at, whilst we are familiar with the landmarks within the picture.
Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg. I just like Catherine’s work. It is a little bit quirky and it will make you smile. I am the proud owner of a pair of her ceramic birds. I think they will follow me throughout my life and become heirlooms for my children to fight over when I’m gone.
These are the people I make it my duty to see, but I’m really looking forward to discovering something new this year and will be frogmarching my entourage to see Hannah Ostapjuk, who is exhibiting her figurative paintings for the first year.
You can find info about all the artists exhibiting this April, maps and directions, and about workshops running throughout the year on the York Open Studios website. Or pick up the catalogue (I found mine in City Screen).
If you are unfortunate and can’t make either of the weekends of YOS – April 12-14 and April 20-21 –there are still some rich pickings for the month of April.
I will be heading down to the Elementals show which continues at According to McGee (opposite Clifford’s Tower) with oil paintings by Michael Bilton, Jo Brown, Amrik Varkalis, Lesley Seeger and Richard Gray. Gallery co-founder Greg McGee says that the works in the show are focused on “finding the joy and darkness of our experience through the sumptuous filter of succulent colour”, which sounds just the tonic for these eternal winter days.
A little off the beaten track, and a gallery I will be championing in my blog, is the New School House Gallery. If you haven’t yet discovered it, you have already missed some real treats. What I appreciate about this gallery is its ability to display art, which should sound obvious but isn’t. If you have an hour to spare, you can park in Sainsbury’s for free and you are beautifully-carved stone’s throw away. The gallery has featured larger pieces of sculpture as well as ceramics, prints and paintings. Currently it is featuring Kelly Jayne’s Intimate Realities, which runs until April 13th.
And, if you find yourself inspired by this month’s abundance of art events, there are several places left on York Adult Education’s creative courses, from the Inspire programme.
- Crochenit (mixture of crochet & knitting): Sat 27th April, Joseph Rowntree School. £30
- Fused Glass jewellery (all materials included): Mondays, 7-9pm, 5 weeks, starts 15th April. £65/£55/£20.
- Willow Weaving, summer fruit basket: Sat 27th April, Castle Museum, £30.
- Chinese brush painting: Weds 17th April, 1-4pm, for 4 weeks. Copmanthorpe WI. £50/£40/£20 (there’s also a one-dayer as part of Inspirations).
- Painting & Drawing – develop abstract work Tues, 7-9pm, Huntington School, £55/£45/£20.
So, a busy month in this creative city of ours! I personally will miss wandering around York Art Gallery, whilst it goes through its restoration, but I am excited about the prospect of the smaller galleries and studios taking centre stage for a while. If a random stranger starts talking to you as you explore York Open Studios, say hello – it might be me.
Meanwhile, if there is art occurring on a doorstep near you, contact me at: [email protected].