Curator and Creator: Locals Exhibitions

The Local Exhibition (1-5 May 2017) attracted one of the best crowds the Norman Rea Gallery had ever seen on the night of its private view. It featured the works of local practising artists Greg Farndon, Sophie Lincoln, Malcolm Ludvigsen, Bridlington Pottery and Gareth Griffiths as well as students of the University of York; Minnie Peck and Christian Jackson. The art featured covered a range of media, including sculpture, ceramics, textile-art, photography and painting, but the entertainment was not strictly limited to the visual, as there were also performances from local musicians Ilana May and Camel Cocktail.

In these two interviews, we hope to gain a little more insight into one of the artists displayed in the exhibition, student of the University and recent winner of the Langwith Scott Award Minnie Peck, and the head curator involved in its organisation, Devon Hedley, who has just been appointed next year's director of the Gallery.


So Minnie, at what point in your life did you start producing art? Has it been a lifelong passion?

Minnie: I've always been drawing and scribbling from as long as I can remember. I always loved art at school and my mum used to take me to lots of exhibitions so I would say I've always been passionate. However my style was always a bit abstract so it wasn't till A- Level art where I really started to create and enjoy it.

I noticed in the exhibition that your wire sculptures strongly resemble your drawings. Do you take inspiration from the wire forms in your portraits or are the two independent? If not, what is the primary inspiration for your distinctive style?

M: Ever since I was 18 I've had this way of drawing faces and it's stuck. I draw them everywhere and I'm not really sure why; it seems to be engrained in me. I bent the wire to create that form to add another dimension: I thought it was like drawing in three dimensions so it seemed a natural route to follow. I'd love to work with wire more because the shadows are wonderful. The faces that are generally the most effective are the ones I draw very quickly which is why I try not to slave away too much. Creativity comes in waves.

You make wonderful t-shirt designs! What do you think is or should be the relationship between art and fashion? How do you think this was expressed in the Local Exhibition at the Norman Rea Gallery?

M: Thank you! I saw an exhibition at the Hepworth Wakefield with JW Anderson curating [Disobedient Bodies 18 March– 18 June 2017] and it made me realise how interlinked fashion and art are. Predominantly, sculptures were juxtaposed with clothes in a way that exaggerated certain features of each work; creating new associations and explorations of human form. It made me see that both abstract the body in different ways, where fashion can start from the body, art may start from within our own bodies. The Local Exhibition also played with this idea of juxtaposition; there's an image of a ceramic pot with a simple line drawing in black of a bird that engages with black my t- shirt on show behind it bringing out the forms of both. The way Sophie's clothes were hung as if they were floating sculptures was great as well because it gave them another dimension; the chiffon dress particularly as it played on the idea of the absent body.

All the work that I've seen of yours are figurative; are you ever tempted to delve into abstraction or are you more interested in pursuing figurative forms through unusual means?

M: I would love to! I think starting from the figure is the easiest thing to do as I think abstraction stems from continuous simplifications until the thing you started with is no longer present in form. I do love working with the figure though; but I'd like to think some of my drawings play on the idea of hanging between abstraction and figuration. I believe this is because they are mainly one line and thus have little detail apart from the essential form of something. That's why I believe Matisse is so great; he makes the most with so little.

Do you have any new projects that you're working on?

M: I don't have anything planned at the minute as I'm busy working for my exams unfortunately. I'd love to try out ceramics or sculpture; working in 3D is something that I'd definitely be keen on doing.


Hi Devon! There was a great range of work on display in the exhibition, especially in terms of the variety of media. How did you go about selecting the works to be displayed?

Devon: As a group we sort of approached the exhibition as a challenge to find artworks that demonstrated a variety of techniques. This choice was made because we wanted to improve how people engage with art and felt like that was something the Norman Rea hasn't necessarily tuned in on in previous exhibitions. Surprisingly all the pieces incorporated similar colour schemes and motifs which helped immensely whilst curating the space as the they became somewhat symbiotic with each other. This made our job much easier!

Did you experience any difficulties during the planning or running of the exhibition?

D: There were a few issues in terms of hanging because the works arrived at different times so we couldn't plan the arrangement with all the works together, which made things fairly last minute! There were also a few works we couldn't access because the exhibition coincided with York Open Studios. But surprisingly there were no difficulties that couldn't be resolved. I would say every exhibition faces its own challenges but if you have a great team working closely with each other everything manages to sort itself out pretty quickly!

Do you think it important that the Norman Rea Gallery presents the work of local artists and why?

D: Yes, definitely. Galleries working within a particular community need to celebrate the talent of the locality. Local art isn't always accessible to a wide audience so I think opportunities like this annual Local Art exhibition at the Norman Rea Gallery and the York Open Studios are really important.

Did you learn any new skills through helping to curate the exhibition?

D: As a long-term member of the Norman Rea Gallery committee, a lot of the experience was familiar. However it did test my leadership skills as it was the first time I've acted as head curator. The challenge here was bringing everyone's visions together. I had to use my experience to guide them, as many members of the team were new to curating, but also recognise that it wasn't my exhibition but theirs.

In particular, there were contributions of a number of students, both artistic and musical. Do you think the Norman Rea Gallery has a responsibility to provide a space to showcase student talent?

D: Yes. This was the first time the Norman Rea Gallery had incorporated live music and this definitely drew more people. It was the most successful exhibition at the Gallery in four years! I think it's great to celebrate both native locals and newcomers to York and we can certainly do this successfully through opening our eyes to a wider range of art forms!

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