Art comes in many shapes and sizes by Peter Riley
Sharpen your eye. Take time to look at objects, people, landscape… double triple the time deliberately, what can you see? Observe the effect of light and colour. Look through a magnifying glass at an insect. Life is increasingly full of images and as a result we spend shorter briefer periods actually ‘seeing’. To ‘look’ is easy, to ‘see’ takes time. By devoting time to developing this sense you will begin to notice and register something of the language of art.
Think about what really interests you, is it colour, the skill of an artist, the detail, a landscape, still life, oil paint, watercolour? Absorb and soak up any and everything about the subject. There are so many books on art that can help develop confidence and increase knowledge, Visit your local library and see what is available, go online, research is easier than it’s ever been. Watch TV programs and chat with friends and those who are interested in art. Visit Galleries, commercial and public, art has so many facets and there is always the compliment of craft to explore. See your journey as an adventure!
Art comes in many shapes and sizes, some cheap and others more expense. Never rush into a purchase, take your time and enjoy the journey. Attend art trails, artists’ studios and see what’s available. In my experience good auction house specialists can be a mine of useful information and their sales often hold an eclectic mix of works, providing contrast and an indication of what something is worth. Don’t be intimidated by commercial galleries, they can often appear very ‘smart’ and you feel you cannot browse. They are in reality friendly places where people who are passionate about art can provide you with information and introduce you a wide range of artists and works.
Always remember to take your time, remember Art needs a home and you will be more often than not (unless you become an addict!) be buying for an occasion with a specific place or situation in mind. Prints, to me – represent excellent value for money. In fact the Young Gallery specifically collects works on paper. Broadly this includes etchings, lithographs, woodcuts and engravings, silkscreen prints. There are other types of prints, however, they all allow the artist to sell multiples. Smaller runs are preferable and it helps if the work is signed. Condition is all important and I would mention here that conservation work can often be required for older prints that have been affected by paper acidity and high/strong light levels. Watercolours can be badly affected too. Sometimes images from cancelled blocks and plates, by important artists, are re-printed (including cancellation marks), these prints often represent exceptional value.. As a rule of thumb keep all works of art away from strong sources of light and try to maintain even temperatures and humidity levels.
Throughout history prints and drawings have held a special place with art collectors and I am pleased to say that printmaking has seen a resurgence in recent years. For some leading artists printmaking has always held its focus, most notable are Frank Auerbach and David Hockney.
The visual arts consists of more than just 2D works and today more than ever, conventional and unconventional materials are being used in artists work as well as digital media and craft. There is a freedom from convention that is refreshing to see. In the autumn we will be introducing pure craft to the gallery by showing the work of seven contemporary silversmiths. Each maker is taking their craft into untraditional forms, treatments and expressions.
Painting historically has always carried a higher premium than other art forms, although this should be qualified as exceptional work and the crème de la crème can always command significant prices. Buy the best you can afford, which brings us on to art as an investment.
Most of us buy art forms because we love them. If along the way, (and that can be a long way), they increase in value, all well and good; it will probably be our heirs though, that reap the benefit! Remember the Picasso’s ‘Women of Algiers’ that recently sold for $179m at Christie’s. Also recognise that your taste can and will change over the years, your eye will become sharper along with preference. There is no reason to suppose you cannot trade in parts of your collection to acquire new work.
I recently spent just over £200 on pieces for the collection, including: 2 anatomical drawings, 1 formal classical cast drawing, 6 life drawings; all in pencil and from unknown C20th artists.
For me, as curator, it is the quality and content of the drawings that make them relevant, and how they will support and illustrate the story of what ‘makes’ an artist. These drawings represent evidence of a more classical art training which was prevalent until the latter part of the 20th century.
This knowledge of the process is often missing in public collections where people see amazing works of art but know little about how an artist developed their talent. They help fill out the story and it’s good to see evidence that even good and great artists have bad days, doodle and make mistakes.
Salisbury and South Wiltshire has a good complexion of galleries and a bi-annual art trail that provides the opportunity to meet artists in their studios and at participating venues throughout the city. Commercial galleries include Fisherton Mill, Urmson Burnett Gallery Gallery 21, Wiltshire Gallery, Black Sheep Gallery, New Red Studios, The Yard-Salisbury. Public collections are held by Salisbury Museum, Riffles Museum, and Edward Heath’s home, Arundells, (which has a good collection of C20th art). Exhibitions are hosted by Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury Museum, The Arts Centre and Mompesson House. Finally the Young Gallery provides shows featuring pieces from the permanent collections, and an exciting program of temporary contemporary exhibitions throughout the year. We are presently researching the inclusion of work relating to our digital age, having experienced recent success with showing film and installation works.
By far the most important recently acquired acquisition is a John Piper watercolour titled ‘Maen Bras’ (Big Stone and Rain). This important purchase for the gallery has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Art Fund. It forms the catalyst for a community project yet to be revealed.