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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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exhibition

Catch him while you can!

Last week I finally visited the ‘Leonardo da Vinci: A life in Drawing’ exhibition at the National Museum & Art Gallery in Cardiff and it just so happened I was visiting on the actual day of the 500th anniversary of his death.

To mark the anniversary art galleries across the UK from Cardiff to Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester (just to name a few) held a simultaneous exhibition of some of his fascinating work.

As I walked into the building I was met straight away with the sight of a large banner advertising the exhibition, showing just a glimpse of one of the pieces that I soon found out was on display. What became evident to me almost immediately was that our native language was also used (and I’d soon see more of this throughout the entire exhibition). I feel the National Museum & Art Gallery value heritage and encourage visitors to be curious about our past culture. In the gift shop you’ll find a host of treasures giving a nod to Wales, from traditional gifts such as Welsh love spoons, to Welsh language books.

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The exhibition itself was situated in a somewhat small room off from the main gallery and was guarded carefully by a member of staff. Tickets had to be bought before-hand in the gift shop and punched before you could enter (adult tickets £5, £4 concession, children free). Although I’m personally happy to support educational public spaces such as libraries, museums and art galleries, I wondered if some people may be put off by the price, particularly given the fact that we were given a limit of half an hour to view the pieces. That being said, I feel the majority of the visitors to this exhibition understood that to see first-hand some of da Vinci’s work is a rare opportunity. I should also mention that purchasing a ticket in Cardiff meant half price off your ticket if you visited Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

The layout of the exhibition was fairly well thought-out given the slightly cramped space and it was nice to see ‘extras’ such as a corner dedicated to books on da Vinci, an interactive board and activity booklets for children (or big kids like me!). I feel like the exhibition was curated for a wide range of ages, though perhaps not very young children.

Whilst we were there we encountered a group of school children enthusiastically trying to re-create some of da Vinci’s pieces in their sketchbooks and I liked the fact that they were free to pick up magnifiers and activity booklets (though the magnifiers were so badly scratched it did very little to help see the pieces clearer). However, as there were a lot of people in the room it was very crowded and small queues had begun to form around paintings. I feel it would have been better for large groups to have been able to book in advance to avoid this.

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The free booklet managed to pack in several suggested activities, whilst also revealing a bit about da Vinci and the way in which he worked. I felt this was a good way to get children participating in art and engaging with the exhibition. The reverse side of the booklet was in Welsh.

In addition to the pieces on the walls there were two plinths, one with a piece showing a technique da Vinci used, which was described in the information board below. I feel there was the right amount of information throughout the exhibition, with small descriptions next to each piece, but larger boards giving more in-depth details, such as da Vinci’s background and most interesting to me, the materials he used.

Although the 12 nationwide exhibitions have now finished it’s not too late to see da Vinci’s precious works. From the 24th of May to the 13th of October over 200 of da Vinci’s drawings will go on display at The Queens Gallery (link).

Overall, whilst things were a little cramped, I’m glad I saw this exhibition. I feel as a former art student (though still a student in some ways as we never stop learning) this was one exhibition I shouldn’t miss.

 

 

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Resurrecting the old

Recently my focus has been a bit all over the place when it comes to where to direct my creative energy. I’ve been dipping into my children’s illustration course then reviving old projects and feeling the need to work on those. Over a year ago I started an autobiographical piece that after a bereavement I felt unable to complete. I thought that that would be that, I’d never have the inclination to finish the piece as it reminded me of a difficult time in my life. However, the other day the urge to get back in to some….forgive me for this term….’serious’ art overwhelmed me.

It’s been a little while since I did what people in my life know me for, which is more fine art (not including the still life we had to do for one of the units in my course). As some of you may know over the past year I’ve been turning my focus more to less precise work and embracing the freedom of illustration but I do miss that feeling I get when I get really engrossed in detail. I’m having mixed feelings about beginning work on this piece again but I have this feeling that right now I’m supposed to be out-letting some emotion with it.

The other project I’ve brought out again is one I worked on years ago after the loss of my beautiful Springer Spaniel. Wanting to create something good from something bad I used the box her ashes came in to create a piece of work that had meaning behind it. I called it ‘The Fairy House’, but in a way it’s like a memorial piece. A lot of the materials I used represent something meaningful.

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‘The Fairy House’ by Hanna-Mae Williams

 

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‘The Fairy House’ by Hanna-Mae Williams

In addition to the box that made the main structure of the house I used twigs collected from places I visited regularly with my dog. The field I used to walk in with my Nan (who has also now passed), moss which I dried from places we’d also walked, and even the shells on the roof have their own story. Many years ago on freecycle someone was advertising a box of craft materials that had belonged to their late wife. They wanted them to go to good use as his wife had spent many hours enjoying crafting with them. I promised they would and so they became part of the Fairy House.

Some of the elements are handmade too; I used polymer clay to make tiny mushrooms that are ‘growing’ out of the roof, the blanket in the shell bed was knitted and the little pillow was a section of an old teatowel that I embroidered. A lot of work went into this project, yet for the past year the Fairy House has been sat in a shed. Now feels like the time to tidy it up a bit and decide where it belongs.

I’m enjoying my volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society and am incorporating my love of craft and all things creative into the session I’m doing. I feel like getting creative can have a positive effect on our wellbeing, even if only for the time we’re doing it.

I’m yet to visit the Da Vinci exhibition in Cardiff (I mentioned in my last blog about the nation-wide exhibitions that were being held to mark the 500th anniversary of his death) but as it’s running until the beginning of May there’s still plenty of time to get there. Since I started researching the Italian Renaissance during my A levels (13 years ago) I’ve had an interest in the subject and artists from that time. I love the use of symbolism and considered using this era in my dissertation but opted for the Symbolist Movement (late 19th century)…you can see why.

This week I’m allowing myself to just be creative in whatever way I feel. How much I create and how much I engage with my work is often dependent on how I’m feeling. This week I’m feeling in need of some freedom, to outlet emotions with whatever project feels right at the time.

 

 

 

A fresh start

Moving day has finally arrived and whilst I thought I’d still have the evening to do some artwork after spending the past week moving boxes it turns out I’ve been too knackered to do anything! I’m excited to have a freshly painted home studio to go to though and the lighting is a million times better than my old one, in which I had to have the light on constantly even on sunny days! I’m keen to get my desk and materials set up asap to begin work again as I’ve been missing being engrossed in my work. Unfortunately I won’t have internet for a few weeks so my blog will be a little quiet until September but I’ll still be updating on my facebook and twitter when I get a chance when I’m in the library. If you aren’t already following me, click the icons below to be directed to my accounts (opens in new tab).

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In the chaos of sorting through all my belongings I also realised that last month I posted two reviews. Whilst I’m away, here’s a list of past reviews to take a look at. Click the link to open a new page:

Affordable Gouache

Body-Kun Models For Artists

Grayson Perry Book

Derwent Pastel Pencil Set

Derwent Graphitint Pencils

Derwent Inktense Watercolour Pencils

Creative Paper Cutting Book

An Illustrated Life Book

Handstitching Guide Book

Paintbrush Cleaners

Taking Great Photos Book

You can also read about exhibitions I’ve been to which have now ended:

Quentin Blake Exhibition- Cardiff

‘Your Gallery’ Exhibition- Newport

‘Nature’s Song’ Exhibition- Cardiff

If you feel like getting creative yourself, in September I’ll be resuming my monthly tutorial but in the mean time you can find all my tutorials at the link below, from sewing to painting:

Tutorial archive

Enjoy the last bits of summer and check back in September for updates, tutorials and more reviews!

 

 

Quick Review: Grayson Perry

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Title: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever

Author: Grayson Perry

Price: £9.49 – £17.00 (RRP £16.99)

Thanks to a vibrant red cover and distinctive typography this book won’t go unnoticed on a shelf! The title itself draws interest, and was in fact the title given by Perry to one of his exhibitions, which ran from the 8th June to the 10th of September at the Serpentine Gallery last year. The synopsis on the inner cover expresses Perry’s commendable belief that ‘ art shouldn’t be an exclusive club for people who ‘get’ it, but for everyone’. However, it must be said that in his introduction (which is more a small essay) his references to publications, artists, and exhibitions, would probably bewilder anyone other than those already holding a keen interest in art, rather than your ‘average Joe’, something which Matt Breen of Time Out firmly believes Perry isn’t: ‘What really undermines all his elitism-versus-populism, high-versus-low, posh-versus-common prevaricating is a strong sense that, deep down, he wishes he was still the un-pigeonhole-able outsider’ [Full article] and also:  ‘Perry is now a fully-paid member of the establishment. Power, popularity: whatever you want to call it, he has it’. That may be so, but one thing is undeniable: Perry’s work is full of narrative and symbolism. It’s not only his work that conveys the thought behind his work, but also his very honest, analytical introduction. There is definitely passion fuelling his work.

In addition to an introduction from Perry there’s a contribution from Sandy Toksvig, who appeared on The Graham Norton show with Perry back in 2016. Her contribution further emphasises the political tone of the exhibition/book, delivered in an interesting, story-like narrative.

From the very beginning of the book you feel as though you’re immersed in the sketchbook of Perry, with doodles and illustrations littering the cover. What’s nice is that as well as high quality images of his finished work further in the book, you’re first granted a peek in to Perry’s creative and thought process, with annotations revealing snippets of thoughts. A note of warning to parents though, this book does contain some graphic sketches, so isn’t suitable for children. That being said, Grayson fearlessly and effectively confronts a subject close to his heart: masculinity, just one of the many issues covered in his work.

The book is very image-heavy, which could be argued to be apt as the art takes centre stage to speak for itself.  However, each piece does come with an unassuming commentary, many of which divulge the interesting stories detailing the events/thoughts that lead to their creation.

The pieces themselves are wonderfully diverse, with a variety of mediums, from tapestry and ironwork to more traditional mediums. It’s interesting to see Perry’s sketches coming to life and serving their purpose: to create thought.

Final verdict Obviously a book will never compare to actually attending an exhibition, but I found this interesting, thought-provoking, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Perry, or even just symbolism and politics in art.

You can find this book on Amazon: link

Ebay: link

Book Depository: link

 

Seasons Tweetings!

Seasons Greetings to all my followers! What a year! It’s been a while since I last posted, I’ve been inundated with hospital and clinic appointments, but now thankfully I have some time to myself to ease myself in to a less chaotic time, and just enjoy the season. And I kicked off with trying a craft I’ve had my eye on for quite some time: needle felting. I’ve been saying for years that it’s a craft I’d love to learn, and finally I had an excuse! My friend bought me a needle felting kit for my birthday. Take a look at my sweet little robin, who I will be giving to my Grandmother who is a wonderfully creative and crafty lady and will appreciate the love and effort behind him. If you feel like giving this satisfying craft a go, I’ve managed to find some vegan-friendly, wool-free options too! Heidi Feather’s has a wonderful starter kit which includes all you need to get going, along with a project book full of cute ideas from a robin, elephant, penguin, and even bunting (HeidiFeathers)

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Christmas is always a time when people become a bit more generous, and embrace love for one another more, and lately I’ve been reading some inspiring articles that have really brought in to focus the changes I want to make myself, not just this time of year, but for the year ahead, and hopefully the future. Already I’m laying the foundations for my New Year’s resolutions by making small changes.

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There are two books which I’d recommend if you’re interested in making similar goals. ‘Touching Peace‘ by Buddhist poet, scholar, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh may have an unassuming cover, but inside can be found gems of wisdom on many topics, from relationships to diet and general daily living. The second book I’m going to recommend is ‘Zero Waste Home‘ by Bea Johnson, which is an interesting read for anyone thinking of embarking on a more environmentally-aware lifestyle. This year I’m also pairing up with a resolution buddy! A nice idea as you can encourage one another when your motivation is flagging.

As well as being the start of a hopefully more aware year, I’ll also be kicking off 2018 as I mean to go on – in a creative way. I’m happy to say that this year I’ll once again be taking part in the Y Galeri Caerffili‘s Winter Art Exhibition after my piece ‘The Artistic Autistic’ was chosen to be included. I created this piece with the intention of communicating how it feels to live with autism in our modern world. Many people with autism have sensory issues, which can lead to what’s known as ‘sensory overload’. Whilst most people are able to filter out outside stimulus, this can be difficult for people with autism, meaning we experience a constant flow of sounds, sensations, and sights, which can become overwhelming. I chose the colours carefully to try to communicate the feeling. If you’re interested to know how it feels to experience sensory overload, there are some great autism simulators on the web. If you know someone with autism it’s definitely worth taking a look at these: Sensory overload simulator

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‘The Artistic Autistic’ Oils on canvas board

It’s become somewhat a tradition of mine to have a real sort out of everything at the beginning on December and put my decorations up, and this year I found a stash of artwork that I’ve accumulated over the years, some up to 6 years old. It was interesting to see how my style and the materials I use have changed over the years.

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As promised earlier in the year, I also kept a visual diary of my visits to my hospital/clinic appointments. I took the time I would have spent just sitting waiting to challenge myself and create super quick sketches – something which I find a bit difficult as I’m a stickler for detail! Here are just some of my sketches.

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Hopefully in the new year I’ll be back to my usual weekly posts, with reviews, tutorials, and the occasional vegan recipe thrown in!

Merry Christmas (and a belated Yule to any Pagan followers out there)

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Spring has sprung!

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The days are getting longer, the daffodils are in bloom, and each morning I’m greeted with the sound of a blackbird singing his heart out. It can only mean one thing…spring has sprung! I’ve been celebrating the changing of seasons by capturing the beauty of nature by collecting and pressing interesting leaves and flowers (non-protected species of course) to use in a craft I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time: paper making.

I have a family member who adores card making, and her birthday is coming up in April. I’m always looking for something meaningful that reaches further than just being a mass-produced item, so, in support of recycling and hand made crafts, I’ve decided to make a mini paper stack for her to use in her own craft, with petals and leaves from my mini adventures set in. I’ve been taking photographs of the beauty I’ve witnessed along the way, to share my experience with her, which I’ll put in a miniature handmade album (tutorial to make your own coming later this year!)

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Whilst on the subject of unique and handmade gifts, I’d also like to introduce you to a talented crafter who works with stained glass. Wanting something beautiful to brighten someone’s day I came across Joy’s Folksy shop and found a gorgeous one-of-a-kind sun catcher. I recommend taking a look at the stunning items in her shop. It was so difficult to choose just one!

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Joy’s Folksy shop: link

Joy’s website: link

As my readers will know I’m often working on multiple creative projects, and one I’ve been working on for a good half a year is soon to be revealed! At the beginning of the year I promised to produce a collection of spring/summer eco wear by April, and now April is just around the corner. On the 1st I’ll be posting the first images of my hand-sewn children’s clothing, made almost entirely from recycled/upcycled material. I promise lots of colour, pattern, and of course uniqueness. And just for my blog readers, here’s a little sneak peak of what to expect…

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How do you turn frustration into something productive? How do you share an experience with someone when the moments gone?

Until the end of 2017 I’ll be working on a mini-project (project ‘Speedy Sketch’) where I’ll be documenting the health-related side of my life through quick illustrations. Moments spent in hospital, doctor, and clinic waiting rooms will be put to use to capture my surroundings, and at the end of the year I’ll curate an online exhibition, to share with my readers little glimpses of what I’ve seen along the way.

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nextmonth

1st April – the big eco clothing reveal!

7th April – Easter Inspiration, including alternative (and further-reaching) gift ideas

15th April – Monthly tutorial: The second of 2017’s new content addition: vegan recipes. This one will be how to make a healthier, delicious alternative to Easter eggs for those wanting something a little more nutritious or different; Vegan bunny-shaped savoury oat cakes (and how to present them)

23rd April – The previously promised Graphitint pencils review

Floral inspiration

 

Last week I brought you a review of the wonderful temporary exhibition currently at The National Museum & Art Gallery in Cardiff: ‘Nature’s Song; Chinese Bird and Flower Paintings‘. Feeling inspired by the experience I decided to have a rummage around the internet to find other appreciators of this delicate art genre, who have created work reminiscent of the traditional style. I unearthed some superb examples (please visit artist online gallery for full-size images) here are my top 3…

1‘Chinese Hibiscus’ by Nikole Lowe of Nikole Lowe Paintings on Etsy.

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I love the delicacy of this piece, something which was really evident in the original 16th century work on display at the exhibition. What makes this piece really special is the fact that Nikole has used Chinese paints on rice paper, in a nod to tradition. Her Etsy shop is full of must-see original paintings, mostly dedicated to this particular style. You’ll even find an adult colouring book and an interesting video of Nikole at work.

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2I came across Claudia Hahn’s work on Deviantart and was mesmerised by her bright and soulful depictions of nature. Her gallery is bursting with inspiring artwork, including this Peony painting done entirely with beetroot juice and tea!

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3I love how Etsy shop owner Vartus Varadian has utilised her talent as a form of meditation (she describes how she took up Chinese brush painting in response to illness) as well as making this art form accessible to all. Her work is available in card form, is affordable, and is a joy to look at.

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Recently I joined an art group run by Mind,  and decided it was the perfect opportunity to experiment with my own Chinese art-inspired piece. I often use photographs as a reference, but with such a limited slot of time this proved to be an exercise in improvisation as well as observation. Having completed the base drawing and graphite sections during the session, I applied colour from memory later on, using Inktense watercolour pencils. In my initial review of these pencils I was impressed with the delivery of the promised colour intensity, but it took this small painting to really make me realise that these pencils really come into their own when diluted.

 

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With Mother’s day around the corner, I thought it would be a nice idea to turn my little drawing/painting into a card, and here’s what I came up with…

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A change of schedule. You’ve got to see this…

A bit of a change in schedule with this month’s review! I’ve pushed the promised Graphitint review back until next month (I was surprised by how they handled – more next month) to allow you plenty of time to visit this inspiring exhibition:

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What: Nature’s Song; Chinese Bird and Flower Paintings

Where: National Museum & Art Gallery, Cardiff

When: Until 23/04/2017 Tuesday-Sunday 10-5

Admission: Free

About: An exhibition showing and explaining traditional Chinese flower and bird paintings from as far back as the 16th century. 

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What really stuck me about this exhibition was just how thought-out and thorough it was. It was evident from the moment I stepped through the double doors into the space that whoever was behind the curation of this exhibition had passion.

Far from being what most would expect of an exhibition of paintings – walking around a space, looking at pictures on a wall, this exhibition is about becoming part of something. As you step into the space you’re immersed in a culture. You’ll initially be greeted by an information board offering introductory information, behind it a Chinese room divider, with a table offering high quality colour exhibition leaflets.

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Not only are they informative, but also multilingual – another example of thoroughness, which is continued throughout the entire exhibition. Video/audio adds a whole other dimension and interest to the exhibition, with the sound of spoken Chinese and traditional instrumental music wafting through the space, accompanied by English and Welsh subtitles! This exhibition accommodates thoughtfully for their most likely visitors.

I was surprised by the size of the space too. However, the space wasn’t sparse nor jam-packed to the extent of feeling claustrophobic. Visitors could move around comfortably without bothering each other, but never be short of points of interest. A wooden bench in front of the projected video was a sensible touch, and again, a thoughtful one.

In addition to the large screen there was also a small video station situated in front of what I’d describe as an installation, showing a replica work room, displaying traditional-style furniture, paper scrolls, and tools such as brushes and holders (copies of which are available in the gift shop). This allows you to truly appreciate the process and situation in which the surrounding artwork was created, especially as the video demonstrates how the tools would have been used.

notsoIt’s hard to find fault with such a well thought-out and intriguing exhibition, however there was one aspect that I’m still on the fence about: the lighting. Whilst I can appreciate the intention behind the decision to include ambient lighting to create a certain serene atmosphere, I feel that by allowing the lighting to be a form of creativity in itself (there were also lighting effects – patterns on the floor resembling waves) it took focus away from the real beauty – the exquisite art. I feel that this should have been pared back a bit, and I personally felt I wanted to turn the lighting up to properly see the detail in each piece, though some may argue that the dim lighting reflected the delicacy of the work.

concludePersonally speaking, ‘Nature’s Song’ proved to be one of my favourite temporary exhibitions of the past few years, and has real substance to it. For art history fans, cultural studies students, and of course artists and art appreciators, this exhibition offers not only beautiful visual aspects, but also a peek into a whole way of life and working.

In regards to child-friendliness, I feel this exhibition is more for older children, who can appreciate the art as more than just a ‘painting on a wall’. This is an exhibition to take your time in contemplative silence around. With Easter half term around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to keep GCSE and A-level art students immersed (and hopefully inspired) for a while. I may just go back for a second look…

 

 

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Monthly Review: ‘Your Gallery’ Newport

What: ‘Your Gallery’ exhibition

When: Now – 20th January 2017

Where: Newport Museum & Art Gallery 

Admission: Free

About: This summer the public were invited to choose their favourite pieces from the gallery’s stored collection, which is comprised of over 200 pieces of artwork. The choices were put together to create the ‘Your Gallery’ exhibition, including a ‘young choice’ section.

What became blatantly obvious to me was that this was such an eclectic mix of styles! From the more traditional, idyllic scenes by the likes of Stanhope Forbes, to more contemporary and risque pieces such as ‘The Foolish Virgin’ by Gerda Roper, and Mary Fedden’s ‘Maltese Town’ which displays shapes and colours so bold and in contrast with the more reserved offerings. This can only be a good thing, as the collection is not tailored to one specific taste, but offers a plethora of variety, making it appeal to a wider audience.

For those who appreciate technical skill, there are a number of works that demonstrate precision and explore perspective. ‘Newport from George Street Bridge’ by John Meredith is the perfect example of painstaking still life work, with the shapes of the buildings and bridge almost being an homage to architecture, rather than the cityscape. However, one painting which I found myself unsure of was ‘Balloon Barrage’ by George Phillis. This piece in particular fixed my attention. Whilst the shapes boast of accuracy and obvious care, with structures being easily recognisable for what they are, there was something peculiar about the perspective that I couldn’t quite put my finger on; there seemed to be almost a flatness to the lower half of the painting, adding to the slightly surreal angle put on what would ordinarily pass as an ‘ordinary’ scene. The fact that Phillis uses an interesting colour gradient in the sky (orange to yellow, ascending eventually to vibrant blue) combined with a sight we’re not used to in our modern world (Barrage Balloons were commonly seen during the war over cities) makes the painting more than just an observational painting, but conjures some extra depth.

Phillis’s work isn’t the only to make use of colour though, with a particularly striking piece called ‘ Rhondda Sunday’ by Nan Youngman being a prime example of how tone and colour can be used to create an atmosphere. Youngman uses muted tones to convey with perfection the depressing atmosphere of the street. You can almost feel yourself stepping into the soaked street.

In addition to appealing to varied tastes, I also liked the inclusion of explanations on why each piece was chosen. I found it particularly pleasing that one was chosen by someone who had studied at Newport’s old art school, which has now been converted to apartments. I also feel the inclusion of a ‘young people’s’ area was a lovely touch, particularly as I feel art and creativity should feature more in education.

Elsewhere in the gallery (which is limited in space, yet makes the very best of it) there’s the unmissable video/audio space which shows the work of artist David Garner. His exhibition, titled ‘Respond’, was inspired by coins in the museum’s Chartism area. His piece titled ‘Pennies for the People’, which is a chandelier made using two pence coins stamped with words relating to austerity, is shown hanging in the Chartist Cave, Llangyndir, accompanied by admittedly the most unique and offbeat harp music I have heard to date. Rhodri Davies uses music to convey feeling, and I was not surprised to learn that the piece was improvised. Truly from his feelings.

David Garner’s coin chandelier can be viewed downstairs in the museum in the Chartist area, a choice which I feel to be beneficial (as opposed to being on display in the gallery area) as it encourages the viewer to enter into the history of Newport and fully appreciate where Garner is coming from.

Although the exhibition is one of the best I’ve seen in Newport over the years, there were small details that I felt were missing. It would have been valuable to have included the mediums used in each piece (although it’s always fun to look at the textures and make a guess!) and information leaflets like those used to describe David Garner’s work would have been appreciated. However, the desk staff are always more than happy to talk you through the exhibitions and a brief description is displayed on a wall.

Unfortunately if you’d like to purchase a souvenir of the exhibition you won’t find it. As a self-confessed art postcard hoarder, I would love to have been able to bring home a reminder of the wonderful work as I do when visiting any gallery. The exhibition is small and you will only need to put aside an hour to have a real good delve into the art and museum. However, if you’re passing, or visiting the city, it’s worth a look.

 

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