EXHIBITION REVIEW: THE HIDDEN ART OF BARNSLEY @ THE COOPER GALLERY

Throughout June, students of Barnsley College’s Level 1 and 2 Art and Design First Diploma have been exploring four different exhibitions in Barnsley central, each of them reviewing what they saw. I have had the pleasure of picking my favourites.

Here are four reviews of THE HIDDEN ART OF BARNSLEY @ The COOPER GALLERY.
Saturday 7th June – Saturday 30th August, Mon-Fri 10am–4pm, Sat 10am-3pm. Free admission.
www.cooper-gallery.com
www.barnsleyartonyourdoorstep.org.uk

The Gallery is a brilliant creative art space in Barnsley town centre, it has contempary touring exhibitions and exciting events, and they have recently revealed the hidden history and work of over twenty artists born in or closely connected to Barnsley, including the artwork of film and theatre costume designer, Sheila Graham, and the works of William James Neatby, ceramicist, illustrator, sculptor and designer.

With Sheila’s son, Graham Mclusky’s permission, The Cooper Gallery has selected some of her drawings for their exhibition. Sheila Graham inspired me because her passion was for ballet and there are some attractive sketches of famous dancers such as Margot Fonteyn, Robert Helpmann and Moira Shearer made during rehearsals of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company in the 1940s. Also what interested me was the fact that she designed costumes for many famous plays and film, sketching portraits of Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Laurence Olivier, and Celia Johnson. Her costume designs are quite stunning.

William James Neatby drew my attention because of his amazing collection of work. The paintings where perfect and very good quality. I loved the beautiful painting illustrating the poem The Beautiful Lady Without Pity by John Keats. In full Colour, this lovely painting of a lady wandering through the woods surrounded by flowers is certainly one of the best paintings I have recently seen. I loved the use of colour and texture. There is so much going on in the picture. A child would love to sit and talk about it. The colours reminded me of Christmas.

The Cooper Gallery is free of charge and is located in one of my favourite towns. The atmosphere inside was amazing, with a real vintage feel. I enjoyed looking at different painting’s and finding out information about a few artists. I love this place as it has the most amazing heritage.
JODIE LEE WEBB

This exhibition revealed and celebrated the hidden history and work of over twenty artists born in or closely linked to Barnsley. The exhibition included fine traditional portraits and landscapes by Archibald Wortley, Abel Hold, William Tate, the Mellor family and John Spence Ingall and Modernist works by Barker Fairley and John Wood Shortridge, never before exhibited in the UK. The exhibition will tell the story of the extraordinary Thomas Witlam Atkinson, painter, architect, writer and traveller.
The nostalgic works of Kenneth Leslie Graham will contrast with the stark underground scenes of miner and artist Gilbert Daykin, he artwork of film and theatre costume designer, Sheila Graham, is shown in Barnsley for the first time and the diversity of the works of William James Neatby, ceramicist, illustrator, sculptor and designer are also unveiled.

Upon entering the Cooper Gallery we were confronted by a guide who showed us through the exhibition and went through all the artwork in thorough detail. This was a great deal of help for us as she gave us detailed information on the art as opposed to just reading the information already displayed.

I really liked Sheila Graham’s fashion illustrations which tended to look really abstract compared to real people. One of the artists that really struck me was Thomas Witlam Atkinson. What made this man interesting was that he travelled the world painting and drawing what saw, rather than taking picture. He found some really nice landscapes and drew them in great detail. He also was apparently working for the government and was assigned to take photos of certain countries so that England knew what they looked like before planning and invasion.

Another artist that caught my eye was Gilbert Daykin, who was a miner before becoming an artist. Daykin really wanted to show how bad conditions were down in the pits and he expressed this by painting them in great detail by the death and the suffering of miners.
One of the main artists in the exhibition was Kenneth Graham. Barnsley looked very different when Graham sketched the quaint alleyways, public houses and landmarks in 1932. He wanted to capture the old Barnsley before it came into the new, that is why a lot of his work on buildings seem very dark and depressing.
The exhibition includes special loans from the family of Kenneth Graham, including a self- portrait and paintings of Silkstone Church, Round Green Farm and an image of a Wood Brothers glass blower.

Overall, I thought The Cooper Gallery was quite interesting as it showed off the hidden talent of many of Barnsley’s artists that I think many people may never have heard of.
JORDAN BRUNT

In my opinion Cooper gallery has to be one of my top three gallery experiences yet! This is because I found something that truly inspired me and made me want to stay there and look at the work all day long. Even though it’s a small exhibition, don’t underestimate it. The place was filled with lovely people which made me feel very welcome and most importantly to me, it was the place of true art.

The thing that really captured my eye was the sensational fashion illustration that was hanging on the wall waiting for it to be seen by me and that very moment it was the most powerful thing I have ever seen. I can just sit there and stare at it all day, it sounds exaggerated but it’s true!

As I was looking at the artwork of many different artists, a lady in the exhibition came over to me and said “if you want to ask any question feel free to ask”, so I did straight away. I asked about the fashion piece; who it was by and what inspired her. Her name was Shelia Graham. One of her paintings includes a ballerina dressed in a pink tutu. She told me her inspiration was visiting the Royal Ballet rehearsal and someone asked her if she would draw something. Using the experience that she had she translated it into a painting and the result was perfect. Another piece I also liked had three small different fabric swatches which really showed how they wanted to represent their work, what the design would look or feel like.

Finally, I would definitely recommend this gallery to everyone as I feel that it would be nice to explore something new and different and if you ever need to be inspired The Cooper galley is the place!
KAMOL MEESRI

When we visited the Cooper Gallery, a guide told us what was going on and she gave us a tour of the exhibition. It was very helpful and made things easier for us to understand. We looked at different types of work including, portraiture, the outdoors and fashion illustrations and designs for plays and musicals.

The amazing thing about this exhibition is that every one of the artists was from Barnsley. It made it a lot more impressive, and I learned more about Barnsley and its culture.
There was this artist that did landscape drawings of streets and buildings before all the old buildings got knocked down and modernised. He put in great amounts of detail and it looked like a picture.

There was this really interesting artist what went traveling round the world and painted landscape pictures. He apparently did it for the government because they wanted to know what those countries looked like before they invaded them. This really interested me because he was like a government spy but instead of taking photos with a camera he painted them.

There was a section based on miners as well. It consisted of pictures showing how bad the conditions actually was. On one occasion he drew a portrait of a miner in the smiling, but the reason he was smiling was because it was an advertisement encouraging people to become a miner. This artist also did drew pictures of dead people in the mines.

Overall, I did like the Cooper Gallery exhibition because it showed me there was talent in Barnsley and it showed me that it is a very interesting place. It also taught me a lot about the history and what it looked like for the artist’s perspective.
OMAR FIELD

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