There was a launch for ‘Surveillance’, a new work by Patrick Lowry, at the HardwIck Gallery in Cheltenham yesterday. There was a great reading by Clare Thornton and talks by Chris Woods, author of Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars and Theo Price of COBRA.
This is the second exhibition I’ve been to see in 2016 (I did sneak in Localism at MIMA on the cusp!). Both have been in Cheltenham – the other was the Artist Rooms on Tour show of three works by Bill Viola at The Wilson, along with the Jerwood Drawing Show.
It’s tempting to present a critical review of these shows, they certainly merit one as they are excellent, but that’s not what motivates me to write today – I’m more interested in the rise of visual arts activity in my county. Gloucestershire has always been a poor neighbour to Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham – stuck in the middle with poor rail networks and bridge crossing charges for the many that have to drive to get here.
So seeing Localism in Middlesbrough (5.5 hours on a train to get there!!!) prompted me to make more effort to see local work – whizzing off to Venice, London, Oxford, Bruton etc. is great, but it is even more special when things locally get exciting. And in the past year there’s definitely been a lift.
Is Gloucestershire finally getting a rich mix of input, layered on top of an already buzzing community of artists that often worked under the radar (probably because there were no places to see work so they show elsewhere- they have to)? Stroud has SVA, and Prema up in the Cotswolds is fab, but Gloucester, Forest of Dean and Cheltenham are poorly served in terms of venues.Last summer Blackrock rolled into town – a Matts Gallery show hosted in Lydney. Bruce Allen from Blakeney has been touring Difference Screen a fantastic mix of international films for 2 years, literally worldwide. There are many more individuals I could mention, this is the tip of the iceberg.
I live here, I want to see things happen within driving distance. Gloucester has always lacked visual arts presence, there are several Open Studios happening around the county too – we need to join forces more, connect up, amplify big time.
So go and see what we have, celebrate it as I am doing , make living here just as exciting as the cities – rural is good too – I’d say better – we don’t need parking permits to visit and we get to breathe fresh air and peacefulness!
It is wonderful to see work that questions drone activity in war zones in the same city as GCHQ – why weren’t there more people there? This art is raising important conversations in a city that employs military specialists – how can we invite them to come?
Local MP’s, Councillors, human rights activists – PLEASE come and see this show.
And add Visual Arts South West (VASW) to your favourite websites, join their mailing list, find out what is happening here on your doorstep.
At 6pm performance artist Clare Thornton will be reading from drone operator transcripts.