Off The Wall!
The Short Version
The Off The Wall Gallery/shop opened in the Piece Hall on July 1st 2018 and is the culmination of my 40 year collecting journey!
There are always upwards of 150 pieces of humorous and evocative art on the walls – it takes time to properly look at them all. So if you’re planning a visit bear that in mind!
Although I buy for myself I recognise that many of my customers are buying for other people – find the right image or joke and they make unusual and personal presents (and affordable – starting at less than £20 with many under £50).
14 months after opening there are already enough likeminded people finding their way to Off The Wall to make it work. If you’re one of them – Thankyou!
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!) bought at Tony Gordon’s Portman Gallery in Manchester, followed by Chris Orr, Glen Baxter, Jean Auscher (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……..
With walls full and the house overflowing I needed to find a way of “rationalising” my collection, making space to enable me to carry on collecting and hopefully providing the resources to be able to afford to! The 1st step was a year 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”. Then the reopening and reenergising of the Piece Hall provided the ideal way of properly turning a hobby/obsession into a business! 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 on the South Wall Colonnade (Top floor above the South Gate), selling an eclectic mix of prints, illustrations and original artwork – pictures that add humour and spice to our view of the world!
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 andGlen 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 illustrations 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, George Grosz, Theodore Van Elsen, Claude Weisbuch, Antonis Kyriakoulis and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec – bringing their own flavour and preoccupations!
As well as pictures I’ve included the 3 dimensional “cartoons” of Argentinian artist Guillermo Forchino (his bumper car occupants are particularly engaging); 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 Scarfe, Steadman and 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!)……
I’ve added Don Blanding‘s wonderful silhouette illustrations for his poems, examples of Bruce Bairnsfather‘s WW1 cartoons, the work of local artist Louis Benoit who has a unique, idiosyncratic take on the world, pen and ink studies by Greek Artist Antonis Kyriakoulis, Lithographs by Claude Weisbuch and Phil May‘s 1890s cartoons of London street urchins, Cyril Bouda‘s illustrations of Prague legends and Noel Pocock‘s 1911 winter sports disasters and Claude Serre’s unique take on French life………….!
Most Recently I have acquired a growing number of wonderful prints from Feliks Topolski‘s Chronicles from the 1950s and 60s – Nye Bevan captured at the 1954 Labour Party Conference, a portrait of a towering Augustus John, GB Shaw, Einstein, John Betjeman and Bob Dylan!
But its not just about the artists, its more than anything about humour – Cricket, politics and public life, winter sports, schooldays, racing, motoring, love, courtship and marriage, golf, railway travel – in fact all parts of human life and the human condition ripe for ridicule!