Off The Wall!
The Short Version!
Off The Wall is a gallery/shop in Halifax’s Piece Hall selling pictures Originals and prints) with a humorous twist that reflect my 40 years of collecting! Upwards of 150 pictures (and some 3 dimensional pieces as well) are always on show.
While I buy what I like myselfI know that most of my customers are buying with someone else in mind – find the right image or joke to make unusual and personal presents.
(A word of advice – most of my pictures benefit from close attention to appreciate them fully. So if you’re planning to come and have a look be prepared to stay a while! You’ll enjoy it! 0h, and bring your glasses!)
The Longer version!
I started collecting over 40 years ago with a caricature ceramic head of Jeremy Thorpe (following his fall from grace after Rinkagate!) followed by Chris Orr, Glen Baxter, Jean Auscher *see lower down (which, on one occasion, involved a Eurostar day trip to Paris when a French auction house’s response to an enquiry about sending on the La Faune des Dancings Folio I had successfully bid on, was the email equivalent of a Gallic shrug!), Nick Newman, Larry……..
Having built up a collection that had outgrown the house and wanting to be able to continue collecting I decided to explore the possibility of turning my hobby into a business. The 1st step was taking a stall at the Piece Hall 2017 Christmas Market and then renting a couple of square metres of wallspace from Alan and Andrew at Carlton Antiques Centre (www.carlton-art-antiques.co.uk) at Saltsmill for a “micro-gallery”. The success of the reopening and reenergising of the Piece Hall and the availability of the “unit” seemed to provide the ideal next step! Giving me more opportunity to explore more artists and share my finds.
So Off The Wall was born and the Piece Hall Gallery/Shop opened on July 1st 2018 on the South Wall Colonnade, selling an eclectic mix of prints, illustrations and original artwork – pictures that add humour and spice to our view of the world! And make individual, unusual and entertaining presents!
Starting with James Gillray in the 18th Century (during the Heyday of the Piece Hall’s life as a wool trading hall), taking in household names like William Heath Robinson, EH Shepard, Ronald Searle, HM Bateman, Mel Calman, Larry, Gerald Scarfe and Glen Baxter and lesser known (at least nowadays) names like David Low, Casque (SCH Davis), Tom Browne, Max Beerbohm, Frank Reynolds, Bert Thomas, Lewis Baumer and Hugh Dodd.
Although illustration, caricatures and cartoons were, and continue to be, things that the British excel at and the collection has a focus on taking a wry, irreverent and sometimes disrespectful look at British life, there are also some “continental” contributors- Jean Auscher, Frans Masereel, Goya, Grosz, Van Elsen and Toulouse Lautrec – bringing their own flavour and preoccupations!
As well as pictures I’ve got Glen Baxter “collectibles” – books (including an uncut copy of Ominous Stains as a full sheet screen print); boxed sets of cards and uncut decks of playing cards featuring political caricatures; Mounted and framed postage stamps presented as miniature works of art (“Stampart”) including some by Gerald Scarfe, Ralph Steadman and Mel Calman.
I’ve also taken increasing satisfaction from finding examples of well known artists’ work that doesn’t fit the preconceived idea that most of us have of them. Ronald Searle’s record of his visit to the Berlin Wall, Heath Robinson’s illustrations for Rabelais (their gothic grotesque style predating Mervyn Peake’s illustrations for Gormenghast by 40 years), David Low’s caricatures of political and cultural figures that are very different from his appeasement bashing 1930s cartoons and EH Shepard’s take on the French/English wartime entente (not a Pooh in sight!)……
More recently I’ve come upon the wonderful silhouette illustrations created by Don Blanding for his books of poetry. I’ve also included some of the iconic 1st world war cartoons by Bruce Bairnsfather, and most excitingly I met Louis Benoit a local artist/illustrator who has a unique and idiosyncratic take on the world.
I have expanded the range of prints by Jean Auscher to include Off The Wall in-house reprints which are available in several sizes (framed and unframed).
During Lockdown I discovered English Woodblock etchings. Miriam Macgregor, Clare Leighton, George Mackley, Peter Forster, Tirzah (and Eric) Ravilious….. the list grows week by week!
I have a wonderful set of prints of William Nicholson‘s Alphabet, London Types and Sports series. All printed by Whittington Press in 1978/80 from the oroginal 1890s woodblocks.
And most recently of all HENRY MOORE – A limited edition folio of 80 prints (I have no 131 of 180) produced under Moore’s supervision in 1967 from the Shelter Sketchbooks, showing the below ground life of Londoners sheltering from the blitz in tube stations, produced as preparatory studies for the pictures he produced for the War Artists Commission during WW2.