Love Art For Free At The Mercer Art Gallery
Victoria Benn, Features Writer
Harrogate’s Mercer Art Gallery is a gem of a building, housed in the former Promenade Rooms – an elegant light filled space just a stone’s throw from the Valley Gardens, where the who’s who of fashionable society once rubbed shoulders. It is also an absolute treasure of an art gallery – and free to enter too.
Hosting a year round programme of events that dexterously intertwines ‘must see’ blockbuster exhibitions from some of the biggest names in the art world (coming up: William Powell Frith and JMW Turner), it also aims to stage contemporary art, regional art and quite frankly, art from artists that truly deserve an audience, irrespective of their media profile. And, for those that like to simultaneously consume as they intellectually absorb, the Mercer has its own shop that showcases work by some of the region’s best makers and crafts’ people.
The exhibitions currently presented within the Mercer’s two permanent galleries; Linescapes by Ian Mitchell and Views of Harrogate, have just a few weeks left to run and are both well worth a visit, offering a quiet, reflective and enriching contrast to hustle and bustle of Harrogate’s lively streets and green spaces.
Linescapes by Ian Mitchell
This exhibition – all of which can be purchased as limited edition prints – takes is inspiration from the beauty and diversity of the Yorkshire Landscape. From the huge stretching panoramas of the coastline at Sandsend, Saltburn and Runswick Bay, to some of the Dales’ and North Yorkshire Moors’ most iconic scenery such as Gordale Scar and the Hole of Horcum, this is an exhibition which captures some of the county’s best loved scenes and views, but does so in Mitchell’s inimitable minimalist style, where line and shape dominate.
A reoccurring theme within Mitchell’s work is man’s interaction with the natural landscape, an influence which has been the inspiration for his Reservoir Series which he created especially for Linescapes.
“Over the last 20 years I have gradually become much more interested in the
human-made within nature,” he explains. “Initially it might just have been a little cottage, a path or a groyne on the sea shore that I would reference, but now I find myself increasingly drawn to the contemporary man-made landscapes and the concrete modernism of architecture, bridges and sea defences.
“The reservoirs and dams around Harrogate, such as Swinsty, Fewston and Thruscross are impressive but also very at ease and picturesque within the landscape – a tension I have explored in my style and from my viewpoint which I hope will resonate with the visitors to the exhibition.”
Linescapes runs until June 2: www.harrogate.gov.uk/museums
Views of Harrogate
This exhibition showcases some of the most iconic Harrogate landscapes and scenes, such as Anna Zinkeisen’s contemporary society portrait of the Valley Gardens in c1935, which became one of the most recognisable LNER posters of its day. Rare collectibles from the Mercer’s social history collection also feature, including an original poster advertising The Beatles performance at the Royal Hall in 1963 along with photographic memorabilia of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1982.
Views of Harrogate also includes many previously unseen and little seen images of the town, which bring new perspectives and fresh insight. One such series are the emotive documentary photographs by Peter Mitchell created whilst The Hydro was under construction in 2002. Most famous for his 1990 body of work, entitled Memento Mori, which explored the dramatic impact of the Quarry Hill redevelopment in Leeds, Mitchell worked alongside the builders for several weeks capturing ephemeral moments, such as the completed – but as yet unfilled – swimming pool, when its eerie depths were just covered loosely with a tarpaulin… a moment none of us will ever see again.
Another high point of the exhibition is the work of contemporary artist, Serena Partridge. Garnering national interest for her artistic response to the tension between Charlotte Bronte’s constricted life and huge ambition – created for the bicentenary exhibition about her life at the Bronte Parsonage in 2016, Serena is now well known for her reinterpretation of historic costume on a miniature scale.
“We are delighted to hold several pieces by Serena in our collection,” explains Karen Southworth, curator of the Mercer Art Gallery. “Her Souvenir Evening Glove c. 1888 takes its inspiration from Harrogate’s rich history to represent the town’s iconic landmarks but in her own inimitable, divine and meticulous way. Another of her pieces, entitled Evening Shoes is a pair of tiny black satin evening shoes embroidered with fluorescent thread which portrays Serena’s interpretation of an evening journey through Harrogate.”
Views of Harrogate runs until June 1: www.harrogate.gov.uk/museums
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Love Art For Free At The Mercer Art Gallery, 14th May 2019, 18:13 PM