Art is never static. It pulses and shifts with new materials, the resurgence of traditional materials and moves on a whim and a prayer. Likewise, the spaces where practitioners work on the alchemy of art shift over time.
The current exhibition Sculptors at Work, photographs by Anne-Katrin Purkiss, at the FE McWilliam Gallery in Banbridge gives a window into this world. Anne-Katrin captured FE McWilliam in 1978 with his hand over a sculpture which was soon to be acquired by Banbridge District Council.
The executors donated his studio when he died in 1992 to Banbridge Council. It took 16 years to bring the idea of a destination gallery and studio into fruition.
The photographs with some accompanying sculptures capture the photographer's life-long love of capturing sculptors edited into three sections: domestic spaces, industrial spaces and beyond the studio. Furnaces, communal art making, Antony Gormley with plaster in hand, light boxes, three members of the Clarke family, Rachel Whitehead in the street, quarries and more all feature.
If you have ever been wowed by to large scale pieces this is an insight into that world. Elizabeth Frink is captured at a stage in life when may humans become more sculptural themselves.
Also showing in their sculpture garden and surrounds are works by three artists. Eillie Niblock, whose joyful madness of abstract colourfulness represents the 174 vessels built for the Royal Navy in Belfast Yard between 1868 and 1969. The resin-covered brightness scales up really nicely from her earlier work without losing their individuality. All seem to be about to crawl around the wall or perhaps burst into song.
Seeing images of the peace walls in this outdoors art space gives people a different perspective to think about them. You can walk through the sculpture (which has an app) and get longer videos of each person featured in the piece, simply talking about everyday life occurrences.
Paddy Bloomer, who I first came across on Culture Night where he had made a candy floss machine powered by a bicycle, has made many fantastical sculptural contraptions since. This time he has made a kind of Mad Max fountain: "A kinetic sculpture with a mechanism inspired by the flying pendulum clock invented in 1883. An illuminated sphere traces out a path reminiscent of the triskelion spiral above the ground” to create an ancient Celtic triple spiral.
The sculpture’s moving parts have a guard rail around them to stop adventurous paddlers who might be tempted to dip their feet in the rusty water — an appealing attraction in this scorching weather.
The third sculpture is by Stephen Wilson and is called Peace Walls. What I looked at it first, I thought how inelegant it is but then so are the Peace walls. When the attendant told me about it, she was almost speaking in hushed tones — not knowing that I had spent 13 years of my life working in their shadow.
🙌 We are so excited to be open again!— FE McWilliam Gallery (@FEGALLERY) May 24, 2021
We have a new exhibition, 'Sculptors at Work' by Anne-Katrin Purkiss. Our sculpture garden, studio & Quails Café are also open.
🎨 Gallery opening times: Mon – Sat 10am– pm
☕ Quails Café opening times: Mon – Sat 9am–5pm pic.twitter.com/wuwf2L45LW
Seeing images of the walls in this outdoors art space gives people a different perspective to think about them. You can walk through the sculpture (which has an app) and get longer videos of each person featured in the piece, simply talking about everyday life occurrences. The sculpture might give some people an insight into a world that might feel very far away from them. I think we all have a responsibility around the issue.
Sculptors at work FE McWilliams gallery and Studio 200 Newry Road Banbridge BT323NB (just off the Motorway ) open Monday – Saturday 10-5pm Sunday 1-5pm and not forgetting the lovely cafe they have.
AL FRESCO ART
Craft NI's August Craft Month will, for the first time, link up with craft-makers across the Island of Ireland. Event listings are all online and feature everything from rare open studios, workshops, and exhibitions and give an opportunity to connect with makers, their skills and product.
How about some al fresco art with demonstrations and lots of opportunities to meet the makers in North Down Museum Courtyard on the 1st August
There's also an opportunity to visit Benefield Spencer Glass, the glass blowing duo based in Ballintoy on the 28 August. There you can see the thousand-year-old technique Scott Benefield uses or the flame-working that Andrea Spencer has perfected.
One interesting film to be launched during the month is about the women of the Ulster Unit, a collective that was developed in 1934 which included John Luke, Colin Middleton and George McCann. But what became of the women? Writers Laura Morgan & Maeve O’Lynn have attempted to track down and research the life and work of these elusive female artists: Mabel Annesley, Kathleen Bridle, Elizabeth Clements, Jean McGregor, Anne Workman Yeames and Margaret Yeames. It will be interesting to see what they found. The website goes live on 29 July.