Great North Art Show

We take a closer look at the upcoming Great North Art Show and find out how the event began…

You could be born, develop your craft, and draw inspiration from the people, places, history and culture of North of England, but if you’re an artist looking to exhibit your work to any major degree then time was when you’d have to have it shipped down South, where no one in the North could actually view it. Or, as Wendy Orme, trustee and member of the management committee of The Great North Art Show puts it, “The North is absolutely stuffed with great artists, but they have to go South to gain any recognition.”

It was this realisation that, back in 2001, inspired her to put plans for something very special into motion. All too often London galleries wanted to physically see collections before they’d consider them for exhibition, and since their curators couldn’t easily escape the intense gravitational pull of the country’s capital, that meant that artwork had to be wrapped, packed, insured and posted at great expense without there being any guarantee that it would even ever be hung on a distant wall.

Indeed, it was while she was preparing work to be sent to a gallery hundreds of miles away at severe personal cost that the first seeds of The Great North Art Show were sewn. A sizeable, open, regular and above all far more local exhibition dedicated to the promotion of contemporary Northern art was most obviously needed, and it deserved to take place in a significant and impressive space. Since the first event was organised by a small team of four in 2002 that space has been the glorious and airy confines of Ripon Cathedral, and this year, between 29 August and 20 September for seven days a week, more of its Gothic Anglo-Saxon architecture than ever will act as a backdrop for the displays of some truly sublime talent that will attract the attention of art lovers visiting from across the world.

Expect the sheer scale and variety of the show alone to be breathtaking, and for the quality to be exceptional. Over 50 of the UK’s finest painters, photographers and printmakers will have more than 300 examples of their work on display, including pieces by Neil McBride, an artist from North Yorkshire who paints crowds of people amidst often imposing and always epic natural surroundings, and Laney Birkhead, who focuses the attention of her painted and printed pieces on her close relationship with her immediate natural environment. Other artists include Russle Lumb, whose creates drypoint prints of Shakespearean characters that maintain a calm and haunting yet energetic dignity and, Stephanie Archer, who works with shapes and textures from geological formations to magnificent effect.

The majority of the featured artists will only be appearing having submitted their work to be for an exhausting selection process, but there will be exceptions and this year they’ll be two guests that Wendy is particularity excited to see given special space at the show. Everton Wright, so she explains, is “going to be one of the greats” and is “deeply passionate about Northern landscapes.” His work mashes drawing and sculpture together and combines it with digital video to create mesmerising live installation pieces. Walking Drawings: Heavy Horses, for example, uses the British coastline as a canvas, and a team of 15 shire horses as his brush. Then there’s Harold Gosney, a well known and much respected artist from York who has created amazing and alarming large pieces based on the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

The Great North Art Show is open to all, and all work on display will be available for sale. For more information about other artists whose work will be on display check out www.greatnorthartshow.co.uk.