Celebrating the world of modern British art...
2nd December 2011
An exhibition celebrating the world of modern British art brings a splash of colour to Yorkshire. Chris Bond reports
SINCE opening its doors in August last year, RedHouse Originals has exhibited work by some of the biggest names in modern art, including Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Banksy.
Now, the Harrogate gallery is bringing 2011 to a close with one of its most exciting and eclectic exhibitions yet. The Time is Now – 21st Century Pop, Modern & Urban Contemporary Art, features recent work by artists including Sir Peter Blake, Terry Cryer, Pete McKee, Replete, Rourke VanDal and David Rusbatch.
The exhibition, which runs until the end of January, includes more than 60 pictures incorporating original canvas paintings, photographs and limited edition prints, as well as more than 20 ceramic and resin sculptures. The “Godfather of Pop Art” Sir Peter Blake is showing recent work from The Butterfly Man: Homage to Damien Hirst. “Damien has used butterflies a lot in his work and it was pointed out that ‘the Butterfly Man’ owes more than a little to his work, so I was happy to dedicate him in homage to Damien,” Sir Peter explains.
Leeds-born photographer Terry Cryer also makes a welcome return to the gallery with his stunning portrait of Peter O’Toole, taken in a Mayfair Hotel in 1963 as the pair waited to meet Ed Sullivan. O’Toole and Cryer grew up round the corner from each other in the Saville Green area of Leeds and had not met since an encounter during an inter-school football match in the late 1940s. “We met at the bar and discussed growing up in Leeds and the football match,” remembers Cryer. “He was tremendous company and a true gentleman.”
For Richard McTague, who runs RedHouse, the exhibition is a chance to showcase some of the gallery’s favourite artists. “We were keen to exhibit a revue of the year and bring back names who’ve been here before like Sir Peter Blake and Terry Cryer.
“It’s really nice because we discovered that quite a few of the artists have a link to Yorkshire because as well as Terry Cryer, David Rusbatch is from Leeds and Rourke Van Dal has a studio outside Bradford. It’s also great to have Pete McKee here because his work gives the show a different flavour.”
Sheffield-born McKee is exhibiting his work at the gallery for the first time. His distinctive illustrative style is a homage to Northern working-class life. He depicts a vanishing world of pubs and clubs where people smoked, a time when holidays meant trips to the Yorkshire seaside and teenagers still listened to vinyl in their bedrooms.
Brought up on a Sheffield council estate during the 70s, McKee is a self-taught artist whose acute social observations were honed during his time spent working as a jobbing cartoonist. He started out doing bits and pieces for a Sheffield Wednesday fanzine and for the past 18 years has been a sports cartoonist at the Sheffield Telegraph.
In the early days he did stints working in supermarkets and as a postman to supplement his income but is now a successful full-time artist.
“The titles and the stories behind the pictures tend to be on the humorous side while the paintings themselves can be quite melancholy,” he says. “I was raised in Sheffield so there’s a very northern sense of humour that’s quite knowing and hopefully people can relate to that. Overall, the pictures tend to be a bit whimsical – it just depends how the mood takes me.”
Among his works being shown in Harrogate are How We Listened To John Peel and the brilliant Batley Women’s Guild Battle Recreation Society Present Blur v Oasis.
“I was lying awake one night thinking about the so-called battle of the bands between Blur and Oasis back in the mid-90s. At the time it seemed a really important moment in pop music history, although I think in reality it only lasted a couple of months, and I wanted to do some kind of representation and initially I thought about the Cavaliers and the Roundheads.
“But then I remembered a Monty Python sketch where the Women’s Guild re-enact Pearl Harbour by hitting each other with handbags. That tickled me, so I came up with the idea of the Batley Women’s Guild doing the battle of the bands. It’s utter nonsense as a picture but it made me laugh and hopefully other people will find it amusing, too.”
The Time Is Now, RedHouse Originals, Harrogate, to January 30. 01423 884400,
Pete McKee – Sheffield’s finest
Born in Sheffield, his work has a distinctive, often humorous, northern sensibility.
His pictures, which capture a world of working men’s clubs and trips to the seaside, have caught the imagination. Collectors of his work include Noel Gallagher, Damien Hirst, The Arctic Monkeys and Paul Smith.
His growing international reputation has led to shows in New York, Paul Smith’s Tokyo gallery and his first London exhibition at Snap Galleries.
In June 2010, he opened his first gallery A Month of Sundays, in Sheffield.