“Bringing internationally recognised artists like Grayson Perry to the county is hugely important for our arts scene”

grayson perry portrait, © katie hyams and living architecture
Grayson Perry portrait, © Katie Hyams and Living Architecture

Visitors to Abbot Hall Art Gallery have gone giddy for Grayson Perry’s tapestries.

Julie Cope’s Grand Tour: The Story of a Life by Grayson Perry opened in November and runs until Saturday 16 February.

Exhibition sponsor Rathbones Kendal has continued its longstanding support for Abbot Hall to help bring the exhibition to Cumbria.

Rathbones Director Richard Dawson reflects on the exhibition and on the importance of supporting the arts locally:

“Congratulations to Abbot Hall and Lakeland Arts on another brilliant display. We’ve been pleased to support world-class exhibitions at Abbot Hall since 2011 – bringing the work of internationally recognised artists like Grayson Perry to the county is hugely important for our arts and cultural scene and we are proud to invest in our community this way.

“We’re big admirers of Grayson Perry’s profound and touching works, especially his outstanding documentary series Rites of Passage on Channel 4. This is the first time the Julie Cope tapestries have been exhibited outside House for Essex and it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to see the work of this Turner-award-winning artist locally. I really enjoyed hearing the artist’s own recording of The Ballad of Julie Cope and viewing the tapestries.

“Abbot Hall makes a major contribution to Kendal’s dynamism and vibrancy with one of the best programmes of exhibitions outside London. We also recently had the chance to tour the exciting new Windermere Jetty with Gordon Watson and the team at Lakeland Arts, which is an outstanding addition to the organisation’s offering.

“It’s such an exciting time for Lakeland Arts who are also adding over 30 new staff, with many in post already – we’re looking forward to seeing everything they have in store this year and beyond.

“It’s so important to us in all our sponsorships and community partnerships to help nurture and retain the new generation of talent locally. Lakeland Arts’ educational programme and engagement with schools, colleges and the wider community provides invaluable well-rounded education for young people, ensuring that the local community is engaged with the artwork available on their doorstep.

“This year at Rathbones Kendal we’re also proud sponsors of the Institute of Directors’ programme of educational and networking events, and we have contributed to the Brathay Trust’s Aspiring Leaders programme and supported Lancashire’s Haffner Orchestra. 

“Our company has a long legacy of contributing to our community, especially in education and the arts. Rathbone Brothers sponsors the Rathbones Folio Prize every year to support literary talent, and locally we will support an event at Words by the Water on 15 March with John Simpson.

“Our investment managers across the country run ‘Your Money – Your Future’ Financial Awareness seminars for young people aged 16-25, to help promote financial literacy and empower them to make solid plans for the coming decade.

“I’d like to congratulate Lakeland Arts and Abbot Hall once more on bringing this outstanding exhibition to Kendal and we hope it continues to be a big success as it enters its final month.”

Julie Cope’s Grand Tour: The Story of a Life by Grayson Perry involves two giant tapestries on display at Abbot Hall. Crafts Council acquired the tapestries with Art Fund support (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation).

Julie Cope is a fictional character created by Perry.  She is an Essex everywoman whose story he has told through the two tapestries and extended ballad presented in this Crafts Council touring exhibition.

You can view the Grayson Perry tapestries at Abbot Hall until Saturday 16 February 2019.

Find out more about Rathbones Kendal.

 

 

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“Once paintings leave the studio they take on their own life…” Alison Watt

Visitors to Abbot Hall Art Gallery have found spiritual and calming qualities in works by Alison Watt.  Her painting exhibition A Shadow on The Blind has wowed art critics and visitors alike.

With one month to go before the exhibition closes, Alison took time out to speak about the show, the relationship she has with her paintings, the importance of light and shadow and how there is never enough time…

We have had some beautiful autumn and winter days when the light streams in from outside into your exhibition. Is there ever an ideal time to see A Shadow on The Blind?

Natural light is always changing and it is beautiful to witness those changes. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to uncover the windows at Abbot Hall. Depending on the light, the physicality of the paintings becomes more evident, they almost seem to vibrate. My studio in Edinburgh is flooded with light and this has an affect on my paintings as they appear to take on their own life as I work on them. Depending on the light in the room, their character can change and I love that; the fact that they can’t be controlled. I am fascinated by light and by how it is determined by darkness. A painting lives out its life in the light but without light, there is no shadow and without shadow there is no form. Light is part of a painting’s very substance.

Your paintings have been on show at Abbot Hall since October. Does your relationship with the works change over time?

One’s relationship with a painting is constantly changing. When you create a body of work in the studio, the paintings will form relationships with each other. It’s a strange experience to be surrounded by the physical manifestations of your ideas. Once they leave the studio, they begin to take on their own life. A life that is quite separate from you. There is a sadness in that because part of you exists within the paintings, so you lose something of yourself when they go. I always feel bereft when my paintings leave the studio. But then the idea that someone, often someone you have never met, might engage with something you have made is an extraordinary thing. I am always amazed by that.

Have you had any interaction with visitors on gallery, what reactions have you had to the works?

I have visited Abbot Hall several times since my work was installed and each time I’ve been approached by visitors to the exhibition. The wonderful thing about painting is that every painting has a different meaning to the person who looks at it. I think we all have something within us – an urge to search for recognition within art and then follow that up with our own interpretation. It’s part of the human condition I think. I’ve had some fascinating conversations. Conversations which start off being about my paintings, but become conversations about us. I think we love looking at paintings because we love looking at ourselves.

Alison Watt in her studio
Alison Watt in her Studio. Courtesy of the artist and Parafin, London. Photo by John McKenzie.

One visitor wrote that the paintings have a ‘calming, spiritual quality’. Do you feel that way when you paint them?

Making a painting has both conscious and unconscious elements to it. You become lost in the process itself, with your conscious thinking surrounding that. You often make a painting in order to understand why you wanted to make it. I can look at a painting I made 30-years-ago and still wonder about it. Making (and looking at) a painting is like having a conversation. It’s something that passes back and forth. It doesn’t settle. My paintings come from inside. Part of me doesn’t want to describe that feeling, and part of me doesn’t know how to. I feel very strongly that painting is unique as a medium. It appeals directly to the senses, possessing an irresistible quality that can’t be replicated by any other means. And that is what gives it its power.

Do you get ever feel sad towards the end of a show. Or is it on to the next exhibition…

Yes I do feel sad because a body of work encapsulates a particular time. I had a retrospective a few years ago. I saw paintings that I hadn’t seen for decades and the experience was not dissimilar to listening to a piece of music you haven’t heard for a long time: you are taken back to a particular time and a particular place and you remember how you felt. Increasingly, as I get older, I feel there is never enough time- there’s always a sense of urgency about making work. I’m always pushing on to the next thing. I feel I am always seeking something that is just out of my reach. That is the driver, to make better work.

Alison Watt: A Shadow on the Blind is on at Abbot Hall Art Gallery until 2 February 2019.

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Head of Learning Jennie explains how to create inspirational learning events through art…

img_6146At Lakeland Arts we have a team brimming with ideas, enthusiasm who are willing to try new things to engage new visitors. When it comes to developing learning activity for families and schools, we trial ideas, we carry out research to see what other galleries are doing. We even find inspiration on Pinterest!

We want children and young people to engage in creative experiences in galleries. That’s really important to us because we deliver activity that can’t be replicated elsewhere – not in a classroom or soft play centre or IKEA showroom.

The learning team at Lakeland Arts has been involved with developing the George Shaw: My Back to Nature exhibition. Shaw was nominated for the Turner Art Prize in 2011, so we got the idea to stage an art prize for young artists in Cumbria between the ages of 16 – 22. We named it the Romney Art Prize after George Romney, the famous portrait painter who lived in Kendal. We want young artists to get inspired by the themes that George Shaw explores in his paintings and the art in our collection. Entries close on 30 April 2017 and the winner gets their work hung at Abbot Hall. That’s a pretty amazing opportunity for a budding young artist to highlight on an application to art school or college.

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More and more, we incorporate digital and creative media activity in the learning programme. Digital workshops allow visitors to experience art in new ways, to learn new skills and to share their experiences with others on social media. The latter helps us promote our work and reach more people.

We identify trends in new media that put a twist on the artwork. Our Gif Gallery workshops at Abbot Hall (18-25 February) are inspired by video games and social media trends. The characters in our paintings have already mastered the Mannequin Challenge – they are static but they all have a story to tell. We want visitors to get inspired by the paintings and use digital technology to bring the characters to life; dancing or playing air guitar.

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Lights Fantastic! at Blackwell runs alongside the Light Within exhibition (18-25 February Easter holidays and May half-term). The exhibition is a collaboration between a digital sound artist called Paul Miller, who maps digital projections onto delicate glass sculpture by his collaborator, Greit Beyaert. High tech, right? Linked to this stunning exhibition, we have transforming our learning space into a giant magic lantern for families to experiment with light, colour and reflection. Families are invited to be creative and express themselves in ways that will radiate around the space.

As well as delivering activity that is deliberately site specific and encourages creativity, we encourage families to learn together. We create experiences where people feel safe, can express themselves, form memories, and at the end of the day, have fun together.

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Our schools programme is also linked to collections and exhibitions. To make school sessions relevant, we work directly with teachers so that the content is relevant to them and the National Curriculum. This is a new approach for us but we have found it hugely beneficial and liberating to collaborate with schools. It means we develop relationships with teachers and schools and means we are meeting demand from pupil learning needs. In June we are piloting two new initiatives. The first is a week of special events for primary schools exploring portraiture and landscape at Abbot Hall linked to our significant collection of portraiture and the Julian Cooper exhibition. The second is a digital art project at Blackwell where secondary pupils will work directly with Paul Millar and Greit Beyaert to create digital art that will be projected on the façade of Blackwell on 17 June 2017.

Constable’s “Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds”

john-constable-cenotaph-to-the-memory-of-sir-joshua-reynolds-1833-6-n-1272-00-000029-a6We’re absolutely thrilled that as part of George Shaw’s exhibition, My Back to Nature currently on view at Abbot Hall until 11 March, we are also providing a temporary home to a Constable!

The National Gallery generously lent us three paintings that inspired George during his residency with the Gallery – one of them being Constable’s “Cenotaph to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds”.

This painting depicts the memorial to Sir Joshua Reynolds erected by Sir George Beaumont in the grounds of his home at Coleorton, Leicestershire; the first stone was laid on 30 October 1812. The cenotaph has inscribed on it some lines of poetry by Wordsworth, specially composed in 1811. Reynolds’ name is legible on the cenotaph; busts of Raphael and Michelangelo are at either side.

Constable visited Coleorton and remarked on the cenotaph in October/November, 1823. He executed a pencil drawing of it, and this is presumed to have formed the general basis for the painting although the two are not close in detail.

The Constable will be on display  until 11 March alongside two other works by Piero del Pollaiuolo and Nicolas Poussin. Don’t miss it!

Curator Kerri explains why ‘Walking Tours’ are a wonderful way to get closer to art

“For me, this is an opportunity to find out what George got up to in his studio – what makes him tick and do what he does. And I want to know what it was like for Colin, working with a living artist in a gallery known for its old masters who died centuries ago.”

george-shaw-blog“For me, this is an opportunity to find out what George got up to in his studio – what makes him tick and do what he does. And I want to know what it was like for Colin, working with a living artist in a gallery known for its old masters who died centuries ago.”

Working with artists is an exciting opportunity for any arts organisation. It’s an opportunity to learn about their working practice and connect more with their work. You get to find out about their time in the studio, some of the frustrations, moments of insecurity, and the moments of inspiration and joy.

This year at Abbot Hall we are lucky enough to be working with two artists. The first, George Shaw, has an exhibition with us that’s open until Saturday 11 March. The second is Julian Cooper, whose exhibition, celebrating his seventieth year, opens on Friday 7 April.

Through working with artists, curators are able gain an insight into a working practice and a rational that may not be seen by simply looking at an artwork. By going to an artist’s studio, by helping them shape an exhibition, they can create a bond with the artist and gain a deeper understanding of their work.

This week we are fortunate enough to welcome Colin Wiggins, Special Projects Curator at the National Gallery, who will be giving two talks at Abbot Hall. George Shaw describes Colin as his “handler”, who guided him through the duration of his two-and-a-half-year residency at the National Gallery. When George panicked six months in, realising that he’d lost his way under the pressure, Colin was there to reassure him it had happened to those who had gone before him, including Paula Rego and Peter Blake.

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Colin worked closely with George, as his main point of contact during his residency, and to help shape the outcome – the exhibition George Shaw: My back to nature, which is now at Abbot Hall, and the subsequent exhibition catalogue.

Lost and Found: Into the woods with George Shaw is a tour by Colin of George’s exhibition at Abbot Hall. It will shed light on the relationship between artist and curator, the way in which George responded to the National Gallery’s collection and the work he produced. It promises to be an interesting tour, full of personal insights and anecdotes.

Colin will also be giving a breakfast talk, Carry on Constable: Three National Gallery masterpieces reinterpreted, which will look at the three works on loan to Abbot Hall from the National Gallery. These works, by Piero del Pollaiuolo, Nicholas Poussin and John Constable, influenced and inspired George. Colin will discuss how George tackled the pressure of taking on the Masters, and how he found new meaning in the National Gallery’s collection to create new and poignant work.

These talks will open up George’s works, taking them from the walls and transporting them back to the studio at the National Gallery, revisiting the process of their creation and exploring the works that inspired their creation through Colin’s personal experience with George.

To book for either or both of these tours, please call 01539 722464.

 

 

Nostalgia: Farming Life

We have many beautiful images of farming life through the years in the collection at MOLLI. Many of these images were kindly donated by members of the public. These 9 images are just one example of the intriguing images that are sent to us. These pictures show farming with horse-drawn machinery at Howestone. The photographs were taken in the summers between 1947 and the early 1950s and show essential work being undertaken in a traditional way, as well as the farm’s faithful horse Dobbin. They give a wonderful insight into farming at this time and the importance of the horse before the tractor became as prevalent as it is today.

Lakeland Arts 2016 and beyond…

Busy times are ahead for Lakeland Arts in Cumbria, one of the leading Arts and Heritage Organisations in the North West. Originally Founded in 1957, it has since developed a hugely successful artistic programme, which repeatedly brings the best contemporary and historical artists to the area. On an annual basis, thousands of visitors come to indulge themselves in visual feasts of consistently high quality exhibitions, held at inspiring settings throughout the Lake District and just outside. Yet this is only part of the story. For over the next few years, there are plans to raise the stakes even higher, with an ambitious strategy to significantly grow a diverse selection of attractions. Notwithstanding the realisation of an ambitious new Windermere Jetty project or the completion of new period rooms at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House in Bowness.

Since opening Abbot Hall Art Gallery in 1962, the former Georgian town house has gained a national and international reputation for the excellence of its collections and programming. A wide-ranging collection boasts something for everyone, from iconic works such as the huge 16th Century triptych portrait of Lady Anne Clifford, to Cumbrian born George Romney’s finest society portraits from the 18th Century. Hung in elegant period rooms these magnificent works rub shoulders with a fine set of 18th & 19th Century watercolours from the likes of J.M.W. Turner, John Constable and Edward Lear. Highlights of a strong modern and contemporary collection include paintings by the St. Ives School, Graham Sutherland, L. S. Lowry and Ivon Hitchens, with three-dimensional pieces by Barbara Hepworth and Jean Arp. You can also find an important selection of works by German refugee Kurt Schwitters, who spent the last few years of his life in the Lake District, after fleeing to England in 1940. From its early days, Abbot Hall has regularly brought some of the most celebrated names in the art world to Cumbria, from: Bridget Riley, Lucien Freud and Patrick Caulfield to name only a few. The current highly acclaimed exhibition ‘Canaletto: Celebrating Britain’ is on the last leg of a hugely successful tour, which has already taken in the Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire and Holburne Museum in Bath. It offers a Northwest audience the unique chance to see a large grouping of drawings and paintings by the illustrious 18th century Italian artist. The works have been brought together from major collections including: the Royal Collection, British Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery, along with a number of private lenders.

Lakeland Arts have also developed an extensive learning and activities programme of events, lectures, workshops, films and concerts across all of their sites. Giving invaluable access to their collections for families, schools, colleges and community groups. All galleries are free for children up to the age of sixteen, and young people receive further support with a variety of cross-curricula opportunities, predominantly in Art and Design and History. Engaging the local community is also another top priority. A series of projects aimed at meeting the needs and interests of individual groups include a programme entitled, Enriched by Moments, which delivers activities and events designed to engage people living with dementia along with their carers. These informal sessions often stimulate lively discussion, generating creative ideas and enhancing feelings of well-being. They have also established partnerships with organisations such as: Young Cumbria, the Leonard Cheshire Disability Trust, Riverview Day Centre in Kendal and residents and staff at the Leonard Cheshire Home at Holehird, Windermere.

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From March this year, Abbot Hall will become one of only three host venues selected to display a Masterpiece from the National Gallery Collection. Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63 will arrive during a UK tour from January to July 2016. This late contemplative self-portrait by one of the world’s most revered artists represents another major coup for the gallery. Helen Watson, Director of Exhibitions and Collections is obviously thrilled, “We are excited about bringing one of the greatest works of art in the UK to Kendal. Visitors will have a unique opportunity to spend time with this magnificent painting, study it in detail and learn about Rembrandt and his self-portraits.” Keeping a close eye on the Dutch master will be Lady Anne Clifford’s barn door-sized triptych from the same period, which is to be shown in an adjacent gallery. Looking forward to the pair meeting one another, Anne-Marie Quinn, Learning and Engagement Officer at Abbot Hall reveals, “We have designed a programme of talks and activities to encourage all our visitors to spend time with Rembrandt and Lady Anne. They are remarkable characters in their own right and both have used portraiture in very different ways to describe moments throughout their lives. Lady Anne’s portraits create a narrative about her status and power, while Rembrandt’s self-portrait is the intense almost spiritual scrutiny of an older man, reflecting on his image, and perhaps his whole life.

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Housed nearby in the old coach house and stable block at Abbot Hall, The Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry displays a significant and widespread collection relating to the social and industrial history of the Lake District and Kendal. This year visitors will be treated to a new layout with more interactive displays. Exhibits not to miss include the original sketches, drawings, photographs, mementoes and a pair of slippers once belonging to Arthur Ransome, author of the enduring children’s classic, Swallows and Amazons. Whilst there are further opportunities to step back in time with the Victorian photographs of the Lake District by Joseph Hardman, or by tracing the local development of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

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When architect MH Baillie Scott completed Blackwell in 1901, he built a beautiful holiday home overlooking Windermere for his client, Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy industrialist. Exactly one hundred years later, Lakeland Arts opened the house to the public in 2001, after stepping in to save it from an uncertain future. Initially securing a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a restoration project, this masterpiece of twentieth-century design now continues to present a rare opportunity for visitors to experience a breath-taking example of the Arts & Crafts Movement today. At the moment, plans to bring the Blackwell Project: An Arts and Crafts Story are close to fruition. This two-year project will eventually introduce new Arts and Crafts furnishings, objects and textiles to further enhance the period rooms, whilst telling the stories of some of the people who lived and worked at Blackwell.

Unquestionably, one of the most exciting future additions for the Lakeland Arts portfolio is the realisation of the new Windermere Jetty, Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories. Which replaces the former Windermere Steamboat Museum that opened in 1977. Thanks again to significant support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, an eighteen month build and fit-out programme started in a special Ground-breaking ceremony on November 20th 2015. Once opened, the new Museum will add a further dimension to Cumbria’s rich heritage and cultural offer. Windermere’s lakeshore history will come alive as it is combined with displays of steam launches, motorboats, yachts and other vessels. A new learning centre is a key feature of the design, whilst a new café will provide stunning views over the length of Windermere. Martin Ainscough, Chairman of Lakeland Arts is clearly delighted; “This is a major step towards opening the Museum to the public so that everyone can enjoy seeing the historic boats on display in the exhibition galleries and on the lake”. Local MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale (and leader of the Liberal Democrats) Tim Farron, also welcomes the latest addition to the shoreline, stating; “I cannot wait for the new building to open so I can have a look at Lakeland Arts’ fantastic collection of historic boats. I am grateful for the support the Heritage Lottery Fund continues to give to Cumbria”.

With the completion of the Windermere Jetty project expected in 2017, Lakeland Arts will grow significantly and boast one of the most far-reaching and diverse set of attractions. Incorporating a wide variety of collections with the potential to rival anywhere else in the UK. For nearly sixty years, they have cultivated an enviable reputation for exhibiting art of the highest quality. This has been achieved alongside the creation of inspiring spaces for the understanding and enjoyment of artists, the collections and buildings. Whilst the exhibition programme continues to celebrate artistic endeavour and imagination, it also engages and challenges audiences to fully experience all forms of art.

David Banning
Visitor Experience Coordinator, Lakeland Arts