There is something quite inspiring about an open art exhibition. Anyone who wants to can pitch up with their work, pay a fee, and know that their work will be seen and judged whether they have any kind of reputation or not, even if it is at the Royal Academy. It’s all very democratic and even though it inevitably ends in disappointment for the majority of the hopeful artists there is still something romantic about it. It is a potential fairy tale ending waiting to happen. Scarborough Art Gallery is host this winter to the East Coast Open, a biennial open art exhibition showing a range of sculpture, painting, mixed media work and photography. The exhibition has four themes in four spaces, each with a different curator, People, Pleasure, Poetry and Place. Each of them has chosen a work from Scarborough Art Gallery’s permanent collection to complement the new work on show. The work which has been chosen is varied and interesting, the result of a careful and exhaustive selection process. A few pieces didn’t really work for me, while some pieces almost worked, ones where I felt that I could see the intention of the artist even if they didn’t quite pull it off, but the exhibits which I liked best gave me a lot of pleasure. Since it was all chosen by people who know much more about being an artist than I do my opinions are to be taken with a pinch of salt, but I am still allowed them. In this kind of exhibition there really is something for everyone. That’s the joy of it. I am going to pass by the things that didn’t appeal to me so much and remember the work in each room which I liked most. Your choice might well have been different, you would need to see for yourself.
Poetry. Curated by Stuart Cameron. Director of Crescent Arts.
The work which took my eye in this section was an painting in acrylic by Peter Watson. Ploughed fields recede into the distance in undulating curving patterns. There is a suitably rich earthy quality to the keynote brown and pale blue colours and the repeating patterns are satisfying to look at. It is meticulously painted too, with a real eye for detail.
Pleasure. Curated by Andy Dalton. The curator of Ryedale Folk museum Gallery.
For me the stand out piece in this room was a large acrylic painting of a group of Marguerites by Alice Beavis. It is a simple appreciation of the beauty of the flowers, very well painted indeed with a clever use of light and shade to dramatise the blooms and make them leap out from the canvas. There is a nice sense of movement in the composition as the placement of the flowers draws your eye downwards through the canvas. It seems to have been painted with real joy in the beauty of the flowers and I certainly got pleasure from looking at it.
I also liked a simple little still life of some oranges in a white bowl by Jessica Cathcart, it is a still, contemplative image which suggests a quiet, calm, contentment.
People. Curated by Sally Taylor, a Ryedale artist who was shortlisted for the 2011 Jerwood drawing prize.
Another small, simple, beautifully painted and richly coloured oil was my favourite piece in this room. The Matriarch by Bridget Garvey-Winship. An older woman sits on a slatted bench in a shaft of sunlight. Her expression is enigmatic. There seemed to me to be a calm still strength of character there in her face, hiding deep feelings.
Another work in this room which was full of life was a large photograph by David Annison, Watching The World Go By. Technically it is a lovely image with good strong contrast but the real joy of it is the man himself. He is sitting on a metal bench next to a bike and some fancy railings with his arms folded. There is great character and humour in his face as he sits contentedly, waiting for something to interest him. You can be sure that when it does he will have something to say about it.
Place. Curated by Jan Bee Brown. Freelance curator, artist and designer.
Here it was Marion Atkinson’s mixed media work, Surface Tension, which stood out for me. Richly coloured fabric in reds purples and blues was enhanced and stiffened by embroidery, seeming to float in mid air over a white background, threaded by thin straight rods. The soft curves and folds of the fabric were quite beautiful, held still in space, almost magical.
I really enjoyed looking at such a wide variety of work in a single space and I enjoyed the themes which pulled them together. The child in me would have liked to show you the ones that I have described but sadly there were no photographs allowed. There is one that I can let you see though, my own photograph, Ice On the Beach, which formed part of the poetry section.