Sunday, 27 June 2010

New Dawn

There is a woman lying face down in the gallery garden. She is trussed up in bubble wrap and blue strapping. Her feet are encased in concrete. It is like the scene from the Hammer House of Horror.
Yes, the new bronze sculpture New Dawn arrived on Wednesday and four blokes are now nursing hernias and wobbly knees. The bronze casting was heavy enough by herself but she had been screwed and cemented into a large rock plinth from which it was impossible to detach her. On top of this indignity at some time in her past, she had been lowered into a hole filled with wet concrete which, when dry, doubled her weight at the most modest estimate. Michael spent Friday sitting on the lawn chipping off the concrete and is now working on a cunning plan to hoist her upright and drop her into the hole he will have dug by then. Nobody is going to lift her manually again. He with the help of his engineering friend Brian will employ Stonehenge type technology to manipulate her. Pictures will be posted when she is upright and in place.
We had a great day yesterday. We were part of the Cockermouth art trail. The town was heaving with lively people. There were events happening everywhere in the most unexpected places. It was great. I did several 'Secret life of an art gallery' tours which everyone appeared to enjoy. Even some long standing visitors had no idea what happened behind the scenes at Castlegate House and nobody had been upstairs before. I did a tour of the garden, the kitchen and the store room / viewing room where we keep some of our treasures, telling stories as we went.
I am thinking about making this a regular thing - maybe every Saturday when I am around and have the (wo)man power back up.
And now we are getting ready for London tomorrow and the Henry Moore exhibition at the Tate, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition as well as seeing people and other exhibitions - we have a long list of things to do. The weather is forecast very hot which is enervating - and we aren't used to it - so we'll probably melt! I am off to India in 2 weeks so I shall regard it as training and acclimatisation.

Water works

Now look here all you people in Manchester, stop taking baths immediately and drink wine instead of water and tea - you are pinching our water big time! On the way to see the new William Morris exhibition at Blackwell we were startled to see how low the water in Thirlmere has become. The islands are islands no longer. I have never seen it so low and made a diversion down the tiny road at the back of the lake to record it. It is ironic when you think last November we had unrelenting rain for more than a month, the water board were having to open the sluices to ease the pressure of water and we experienced the worst floods ever.
We are very conscious at all times of our water consumption. Our house in the fells has no mains water so we rely on the rainfall to supply us much more directly. Our supply comes from a spring up the hill and we gather it in a holding tank which sends it down to a big tank buried close to the house from which it is pumped into the house via a 'zapper'which kills all known living nasties before it comes out of our taps.
It tastes like Nectar. When I taste mains water I am now over-sensitive to the chemicals that are added. There is nothing like spring water to make the best pot of tea ever.
But when we have a period of drought we watch the weather anxiously. It has never dried up but we have run close to empty on a couple of occasions and went without washing as well as weeing in the woods. Needs must. I don't think I will ever be able to use water wantonly again.
Oh and by the way - the William Morris exhibition is beautiful. Blackwell is an Arts and Crafts house overlooking Windermere which has been beautifully restored and is the perfect place to show his legacy; especially on a perfect summer evening with a glass of champagne and a stroll on the terrace.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Midsummer madness

It's midsummer day tomorrow in case you hadn't realised and the weather is stepping up to the mark. We have been 'playing' in the garden - well weeding and falling in the stream and such - all day and now need a good bonfire an bath in that order which is allowed up here in the middle of nowhere.
Here Up North it hardly goes dark at the moment so we get a lot more done - no slouching in the evening in front of the telly with a glass of red!
I got the first draft of the next book off to the publishers last week before the onslaught of builders, water diviners, computer folk, BT, Open reach, moth man (yes, a moth eradicator) and a whole continouos procession of helpful people. Phew! Tomorrow it will be the electricity people who will cut us off and lop the branches of the trees which impede the wires - yes we are still overhead people here.
Meanwhile back at the gallery we will be taking delivery of a beautiful bronze sculpture mid week. I have had to muster a body of strapping blokes to help unload it. I will post a photograph in due course after administering physio, gratitude and drinks.
Cockermouth deserves to survive and prosper. Everyone is making such a big effort. We launched our Midsummer Festival yesterday with great aplomb. The town seemed really alive again with lots of colour and noise. The Trout Hotel reopened this weekend after a multi million pound, eight month, restoration job. That's a big boost to the town's economy.
June and Michael Bennett spent the day at the gallery talking about their work which is selling fast. Next saturday is our Art Trail with workshops and events throughout the town. We will be presenting a mini tour - BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE GALLERY - and explain and recount some of the things that go on when nobody's looking! There will be stories in the Georgian kitchen, upstairs in our storeroom/viewing room where we keep very special pieces and also of the garden and sculpture. We sometimes have volunteers to help us and they always express surprise at what their day involves - and it is always different.

Friday, 4 June 2010

A brighter blog

We have just hung an uplifting exhibition which opens tomorrow - and heaven knows we need something uplifting.

June and Michael Bennett are husband and wife.I’ve been exhibiting their work seperately for well over twenty years. They have only had one joint exhibition during that time and I, and they, survived - so here we go.
They are both Cumbrian born; Michael in Windermere and June in Grange over Sands . They met at art college in Lancaster and then went on to Leicester. College of Art. Michael exhibited widely building up an impressive reputation and became a senior lecturer in art at Bretton Hall, Wakefield. June brought up their two boys and made exquisite silver jewellery. They returned to Cumbria many years ago, living first at Seascale and then on the Solway coast.
June took up painting again in 1987 just as I was opening Castlegate House as a gallery and she exhibited some oil paintings in the opening exhibition and went on to have many successful solo shows at Castlegate House..
It is inevitable that two artists living in close proximity should influence each other though each has a seperate studio! However their work is very different. June paints lively exuberant oils with a refreshing immediacy drawing on the landscape around her, the sea, cornfields, her garden.
Michael’s works are introspective and thought provoking. A painting can take years to evolve. His layered and textures surfaces give a mysterious and subtle depth. He is constantly reaching out, like the figures in his paintings, for the muse often exemplified in a bird or birds. It is usually just beyond his grasp. The moon is another unreachable symbol hovering above mystically. His palette is subtle, muted in soft greens, ochres, blue/greys and browns. These paintings transmit an elusive magic.
The team will be there tomorrow as well as June and Michael to launch the show. It will be a good day. People are coming from all over the UK for it.

A trilogy of tragedy

This is the most beautiful corner of England; the peaceful Lake District. Life is slow. Not a lot happens. The sheep graze, the new lambs jump about a lot and the high fells preside over us all. But that isn't insurance against anything bad happening - we are not immune. But in the beautiful North West corner of the County we have had one tragedy after another; first the floods last November which rendered hundreds of people homeless, a policeman dead and dozens of town centre businesses unable to trade. With most of our bridges broken we were tested to the limit but got on with it cheerfully and made the best of it. We are feisty northerners and we don't give up. Bit by bit we are recovering with businesses slowly moving back into their renovated premises and the town is looking bright and optimistic. We've got plans and ambitions. Our town is going to be better than ever and scrub up very nicely. The unprecedented long winter of ice and snow hampered recovery but we looked on the bright side ( a la Monty Python!) and looked forward to spring. We have a future to look forward to.
Then last week we were disturbed to hear helicopters and then an air ambulance overhead followed by the news of the collision of a school bus and a car just a few miles away between Cockermouth and Keswick with three fatalities - one of them a young promising lass celebrating her sixteenth birthday that day and a fourteen year old boy. The driver of the car who is thought to have passed out or died at the wheel causing him to run unwittingly head-on into the bus was a long standing friend of the gallery. His whole family have been known to us since 1988 and have visited regularly. Patrick Short was a lovely man who collected Percy Kelly paintings, played a great part in community affairs,actively supported many charities , sang in the local choir and enjoyed all the arts and culture the county had to offer. He will be sadly missed.
On Tuesday I was writing away in the Egg when a London friend rang to see if we were alright. 'Why shouldn't we be?' I asked. He then told me about the shootings that were going on right now. No one knew where the gunman was. He was firing indiscriminately and moving swiftly on. I rushed to the house and listened to the news and couldn't believe what was happening just a few miles away. My daughter in law teaches in Egremont, my granddaughter goes to school there. We have many friends in the area. Then I remembered it was half term. Sylvia and Janet might be shopping in Whitehaven. My heart turned over. I rang and found they were safe upstairs in their house with all the doors locked. It must have been terrifying. Because the gunman was a cab driver, he knew all the back ways and short cuts and covered a lot of distance befoe shooting himself after killing 12 innocent people and injuring many more.
Let's hope this is the end of tragedy in the area. Life is hazardous and tenuous and none of us is immortal but this is unbelievable.
We will all now get on with our lives with an extra consciousness of how precious life is and how easily it is lost. My old college motto is LIVE TODAY and that what we should do. There's no future in worrying about what might happen if...... Let's just live to the full and help and enjoy others along the way.
Here endeth the first lesson ... sorry to be sactimonious - not like me at all - but heartfelt. It's an emotional time for all of us up here.