Friday 13th saw the launch of two fantastic exhibitions at Barnsley’s The Civic. First up is the Royal Photographic Society’s 156th International Print Exhibition. Photography shows always get a good turn out and this was no different. I felt that this year’s instalment was a big improvement on last years. The uniform presentation of the photographs satisfied my OCD streak and the quality of this year’s exhibitors was miles ahead of last year’s. The 2013 show contained quite a bit of bad photo-shopping and although each year, the society invites submissions from professional, student and amateur photographers alike, the quality of the work paled in comparison to this year’s wonderful entrants and prize winners. There is literally something for everybody in this exhibition.
And rather than reviewing the entire thing, I’ve just picked out a few favourites.
And as good as the photography exhibition was, the real highlight of the evening was the exhibition on the Panorama by local artist Michelle Clarke-Stables. The private view of her latest project ‘Snapshots of Familial Gazes’ was the busiest opening by a local artist in such a long time at The Civic. To many of the attendees, Michelle had been a tutor at Barnsley College over the last year before she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time professional artist. The Panorama was full of many familiar faces. Many art lovers, local artists and celebrities were in attendance. Some of which were actually involved in the project.
Familial Gazes is a project about the inspirational women in our lives. The project started with Michelle asking for people to send her photographs and stories of the inspirational women in their lives. Michelle would then paint a portrait of that nominated person. The project has grown over the last year and this show, a preview of what will be a much larger show next year, includes contributions from Michele’s friends, family, colleagues, local and even international celebrities such as American Poet, Author and Civil rights activist Dr Maya Angelou, Sir Michael Parkinson, academic writer and Journalist Dr Germaine Greer, British Comedian, writer and Actress Jo Brand, British film, stage and television actress Dame Judy Dench, British Wildlife television presenter Michaela Strachan and British Actress, Model and Author Joanna Lumley. The project continues to grow, and despite the obvious links that Michelle has with many of the people in the crowd, even just a glimpse of her paintings shows the really reason why people have flocked.
The vibrancy and texture in each portrait carries the personality and character of the sitter perfectly. These paintings are really good.
Michelle talked to me briefly about one of her paintings during the preview, walking me over to painting of an elderly woman with black hair tied in a bun, wearing a pink cardy and lovingly holding a small dog. The painting is half bald, raw and graphic in style, with heavy block colours and the other half has Basquiat-like scrawls and heart symbols. And despite the style, the painting is totally human and full of life.
‘It’s probably my favourite painting at the moment. And even though I have around another twenty to paint, it felt like the pressure had been lifted in some way. There is something about the depth in this one and the pose that I like.’
The painting is of Rachel Wilson, who is the grandmother of Rita Briton, fashion label owner and the woman behind Barnsley premier designer fashion store, Pollyanna.
Michelle explains that the final full exhibition, showcasing the entire collection of paintings will be held at January at The Point in Doncaster next year.
Keep up to date with Michelle Clarke-Stables work by visiting her blog michelleclarke-stables.blogspot.co.uk
Both Snapshots of Familial Gazes and Royal Photographic Society’s 156th International Print Exhibition run from Saturday 14th September – Friday 1st November at The Civic. Both exhibitions are free entry.