Monday, 14 December 2009

Get folding...

The Christmas 2009 exhibition at New Brewery Arts is Cut & Fold, a fabulous display of what can be created with that often overlooked medium - paper! From big, frilly frocks to tiny, filligree flowers this show demonstrates what CAN be done.

The exhibition includes work by internationally renowned artists from the USA, Japan, Holland and France as well as our own UK talent. On show are two of Susan Stockwell's gorgeous dresses, Clare Brewster's creations from street maps, and intricate pieces by Thurle Wright, to name but three.

Events running in parallel with the exhibition include contemporary bookmaking workshops, an artists' books market, a couture millinery 'paper corsages' workshop, lantern making and very seasonal Christmas card design sessions. As an accessible source of artistic inspiration, New Brewery Arts has brought paper to the attention of the Cotswolds public.

NBA is leading the field in examining the full artistic potential of a particular medium. The sparkling In & Out exhibition of 2008 concentrated our focus on glass - IN at the NBA gallery and OUT in the fabulous gardens at Quenington Old Rectory. Our resident glass-blowers, LoCo Glass, exhibited work at both venues and are happy to demonstrate their art in action at their studio here in Cirencester.

It's fantastic to see the way artists interpret a medium in so many different ways - not to mention inspiring. Any when you can join in, as with the paper exhibition, it makes the experience so much more relevant, personal and enjoyable. Do try to make it to Cut & Fold. It's a Christmas treat.

Image 1: Susan Stockwell's Frill in Cut & Fold at New Brewery Arts
Image 2: Anthony Scala's Annulum IN at New Brewery Arts
Image 3: Neil Wilkin OUT at Quenington Old Rectory

Monday, 21 September 2009

Being a steward has opened up my world

The value of the Gallery Steward has been under debate at New Brewery Arts (NBA). What role does the good old-fashioned gallery steward serve? He or she sits quietly in the corner, trying to look open to questions and discussion without imposing on the visitors’ private contemplation of art. He or she must be more than a security guard, more than a visitor counter, yet both these practicalities are necessary. But the exact definition of how much more he or she must be, and what this ‘more’ consists of can be a grey area.

Volunteer stewards at New Brewery Arts have been asked about their stewarding experiences, what volunteering means to them and the role they feel they serve for the visiting public.

The role of the volunteer can be looked at as one of giving and receiving, a role that is ‘interesting, refreshing and stimulating’ (Anne). For the time and enthusiasm he or she gives the volunteer is not financially rewarded, but the position offers rewards beyond the material.

Though the volunteer is ‘not quite an employee and not quite a visitor’ (as Rachael writes), he or she can still feel very much part of New Brewery Arts and offer a welcome to any visitor to the gallery. For visitors it is pleasant to be greeted by a human face rather than just an introductory panel on a wall. Pauline writes that ‘a smile helps to engage in conversation with folks from all nationalities and walks of life’.

Not only does the volunteer contribute a friendly and helpful face as a gallery steward, but he or she also has so much to offer throughout Brewery Arts. Barbara writes: ‘Doing a rough calculation I have matched the 90 hours stewarding so far this year with 90 hours doing other things at NBA such as painting (walls not pictures), cleaning, doorman and bar in the theatre, hanging and striking exhibitions, organising NBA’s participation in the Plant Fair etc. I hope that this additional work frees up NBA staff to do work more appropriate to their skills’.

In terms of reward, volunteering at NBA offers a rich yield. Terry has found great fulfilment in ‘making a contribution to something both professional and really worthwhile’. Stewarding offers the chance to expand one’s knowledge of contemporary art and craft and to enjoy the exhibitions on display in the gallery, which is a wonderful light and airy environment to work in. ‘It can be anything from a time for quiet contemplation to engaging conversation with like-minded people, but most of all it makes me look at the work in an entirely different way – through other people’s eyes’ (Rachael).

Gaining an understanding of the exhibitions on display in order to communicate this to the public can be one of the most intellectually stimulating parts of the job. Fielding awkward questions about the meaning and value of contemporary arts can be a challenge, but a thought provoking one. Laura writes ‘I enjoy the disciplined sharing of knowledge and learning from visitors and colleagues and thrive on the variety of interactions’.

Above all there is a great community spirit among the volunteers, who find that to take part in the running of their local arts centre means to own it and be fully ‘connected with a wonderful community based centre’.

With a last word from Sheila: ‘Being a steward has opened up my world’.

Ruth Burgon

Image 1 the New Brewery Arts Gallery
Image 2 visitor contemplating an exhibit in the gallery
Image 3 setting out an exhibition
Image 4 anything can happen in the gallery - including spinning!
Image 5 socializing in the café

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Spotlight on: Katherine O'Connell

In a small path behind New Brewery Arts are hidden several studios bursting with life and innovative creations. Completely open to the public, each studio holds something unique as their owners all belong to a different craft. Together with the gallery, shop and café they make up New Brewery Arts.

On the second floor in a quiet room opposite the brewery arts offices Katherine O’Connell creates quirky notebooks and sketchbooks perfect for travel journals, fitness diaries, sketches and Ideas or anything else that your heart desires. Katherine binds new books hardcover and soft cover using a method called ‘upcycling’. Everything inspires her and she is constantly looking for castaway fabrics and papers that can be turned into a vibrant handmade book.

After a hint from her father, Katherine got her start in bookbinding at the London College of communications studying book arts and crafts. After graduating, she took on an apprenticeship where she learned the trade of bookbinding. It was there that she gained confidence in the art and became the wonderful bookbinder that she is today.

Bookbinding is the process of physically assembling a book from a number of folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other material. It also usually involves attaching covers to the resulting text-block.[1] Katherine does everything herself; she folds the pages herself and binds them together, finally covering them with whatever material caught her eye.

Although she does not repair books, she does a huge amount of custom work, so if you have an idea for something, pop by her studio and she might just make it for you! She has tons of readymade stuff sitting in her studio ranging from small journals to photo albums all unique in design. Many of her products have removable pages so if you are journaling and mess up a page, you can just rip it up and not ruin the work!

New Brewery Arts is an exciting place to work, but for Katherine, the sense of community is the best part of working there. There is always someone to talk to and the numerous artists around provide a creative and inspiring environment.

You can contact Katherine O’Connell at 07739 313 348 or . Feel free to pop by her studio during the week: Studio 8, New Brewery Arts, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 1JH. Check out her website at to see some of the wonderful creations yourself!

A close knit group

The first Friday of the month holds a woolly secret at Brewery Arts.

Each month a lively group armed with knitting patterns, wool and needles, ventures into the invigorating atmosphere of the Brewery Arts café.

There they sit, knit and chat, drinking freshly brewed cups of tea and every now and then sampling a tasty treat from the café’s selection of delectable delicacies. For over a year these knitting fanatics, ranging from beginners to 'dyed in the wool' experts, have made the journey to the café, 'adding on' new members every now and then.

If you are interested in joining, yet a little hesitant – 'cast off' your worries. The group is filled with warm people, delighted to accept new recruits into their ‘close knit’ community. Each constituent brings something fresh and intriguing to the group – a few have even teamed together to create several installations celebrating Darwin’s Bicentennial. One woman sat looking at a picture of a bat and started to procure the same animal from her needles - with no need of a pattern!

Come along next time (Friday, 2nd of October) and see for yourself how fun the group is. No experience is necessary, just pop on over to the New Brewery Arts café from 2 – 4 and see what you can bring to the group.

Bethany Haller

Ellie Davies: Winner of the Public Choice Award and the Charmian Adams Award

Sometimes things just stand out. Ellie Davies’s series of three photographs entitled Silent, Dark and Deep, one shown below, certainly did that, so much so that she was chosen both by the public (Public Choice Award) and by the critics (Charmian Adams Award) as the winner of this year’s New Brewery Arts OPEN competition.

Her pictures seem to draw the eye, to lure us in, the very real yet magical space within them receding as if it stretches beyond the surface of the photograph. Each photo seems ‘like a fish tank’ one visitor remarked. Perhaps we are drawn to them in a child-like way, fascinated at what lies behind the glass. Each photo seems beautiful and threatening all at once. It seems we can smell the earth, hear the autumn leaves crunching beneath our feet. Davies has captured our imaginations through the use of this modern medium.

Ellie Davies has enjoyed a flush of success, having been shortlisted for several prestigious international photography awards over recent years. If you would like to know more about her work and career visit

Runners up for the Public Choice Award were Tracey Elphick, with her quirky collaged Scilly Fishing Boats and Jane Hunt with her beautiful small glass sculpture Connection Across the Void. The critics’ shortlist meanwhile consisted of Pauline Solven’s array of colourful glass pieces, Barney and Lucy Heywood’s DVD work The End and Louise Parry’s gem of a clock, Crossing Time.

Thank you to everyone who voted in the Public Choice Award. The interactive element to this exhibition proved enormously successful and with over two thousand of you casting a ballot, every artist in the competition had a healthy sweep of votes.

Ruth Burgon

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Where are today’s artistic manifestos?

The Futurism exhibition currently on at the Tate Modern in London (12 June - 20 September 2009) begins with Marinetti’s vehement 1909 manifesto adulating speed, war and mechanistic progress with unrelenting violence and machismo. From the very beginning we seem repelled by the exhibition’s protagonists. Marinetti calls for the destruction of museums, contempt for women, scorn for the past, militarism.

How then could this movement, so set on an absolute break with the past, turn to such traditional modes of expression as oil painting on canvas and bronze casting? These were the techniques of the Italian Renaissance: Donatello and Verrocchio produced monuments of bronze, while Titian and Veronese put brush to canvas. The Futurists, Italians themselves, had artistic ancestors in the geniuses of the Renaissance. The artistic methods they adopted were steeped in history, the very stuff of the passéisme that the Futurists seemed to abhor. Their style, both in sculpture and in painting is angular and masculine, their subject matter concerned with speed, movement, simultaneity, modern city life, but yet their choice of materials seems at odds with their central ethos. It may be that the Futurists, despite their ambitious manifesto, did not have the imagination to think that artistic expression could be found in anything other than oil paint and bronze. Though perhaps it is more likely that in choosing these materials the Futurists allowed their art to be readily recognised as art by the general public, allowing them to reach an audience who may have dismissed their work before even looking at it had it been expressed in a more ‘futuristic’ medium such as photography.

The Tate exhibition leads one through the spread of the movement from Italy to a wider Europe. One traipses through a succession of ‘isms’, each of which finds its root in Futurism, but takes on a new name and new guise in each country it inhabits: Cubism and Orphism in France, Cubo-Futurism in Russia, Vorticism in England ending on a room that looks at the Futurists’ depictions of war. Even with the outbreak of World War One Marinetti was not disillusioned, though to many it was clear that a utopian worship of war as 'the world's only hygiene' caused blindness to the true tragedy of conflict.

Marinetti’s manifesto therefore seems like a naïve but dangerous rant. Even so, it was the first of a line of similar expressions of belief. For we find the manifesto not only in Futurism, but in Dada, Surrealism, De Stijl and many other movements. The 1900s to the 1930s were rife with them. Though there have been notable revivals of this form, it is certainly not large feature of the artistic landscape of today. Have artists today lost that passion, that desire to rally together, that sharp politics that fuelled the age of the artistic manifesto? The notion of defining one’s artistic aims and one’s politics perhaps seems at odds with the artists of today who prefer their work to speak for itself rather than exist as part of a wider artistic campaign. Perhaps, cynically, they have lost their idealism and desire to conquer, for both the Futurists and the Surrealists certainly had a hungry, almost colonial, need to claim converts and ‘territory’ in their aesthetic quest. Yet, looking at the violent aims of the Futurists, perhaps it is no bad thing that we are not clamouring to copy them.

If you get to this exhibition let us know what you think.

Ruth Burgon
Image 1 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944)
Image 2 Luigi Russolo's The Revolt 1911 (Futurism)
Image 3 David Bomberg's The Mud Bath 1914 (Vorticism)

Friday, 14 August 2009

Art in Convalescence

‘Museums, like asylums and jails, have wards and cells – in other words, neutral rooms called “galleries.” A work of art when placed in a gallery loses its charge, and becomes a portable object or surface disengaged from the outside world. A vacant white room with lights is still a submission to the neutral. Works of art seen in such spaces seem to be going through a kind of convalescence. They are looked upon as so many inanimate invalids, waiting for critics to pronounce them curable or incurable.’

So wrote the land artist Robert Smithson in 1972. These words cause our minds to wander through galleries we have visited, to re-examine mentally works of art we have encountered; were they invalids in a ward? Though he speaks of the galleries or museums that hold historical works of art, his criticism seems to lie in the neutrality of the spaces in which they are displayed.

The convention of a white walled gallery is so prevalent that often we do not question it, or ask ourselves what alternative means might be sought for display. A gallery always seems to be a bubble set apart from life itself, a place of hushed tones and reverence, a place which perhaps dampens the impact of the artworks it seeks to preserve and protect. Do the neutral white walls of the New Brewery Arts gallery suck the life from the pieces currently on display?

Though Smithson makes a valid point, it seems to me that it does not apply to the Brewery Arts gallery which, rather than ‘killing’ its objects with its white walls, seems to bring them to life. Natural light spills in from the windows and allows colours to glow and shapes to be defined.

Unlike many other galleries, it is not entirely cut off from the hustle and bustle of the outside world: the sounds of the café and the shop and the street float through the door. And the gallery is part of a larger complex of active studios inhabited by artists and craftspeople in which we can see works of art and beautiful objects coming into being, having life breathed into them. The works on display are fresh. The surrounding studios remind us of the immediacy of these works’ creation: the paint is almost still wet, the last stitch just done, the last notch just chiselled.

But, if you do think the pieces in the OPEN Competition are ‘inanimate invalids’, it is up to you to come and ‘pronounce them curable’ by voting in the Public Choice Award.

Ruth Burgon

Image 1 the NBA OPEN exhibition
Image 2 Jorgen Rosengaard's Indian Sommer
Image 3 Mary-Anne Morrison's Peelings

A fresh, new, all round 'art experience' for young people

Unfortunately, it seems that art is dwindling away as younger generations immerse themselves less and less into the exploration of art forms. New Brewery Arts opens up a window to an eclectic mix of food, art, and shopping as a way to get the public involved in art all over again.

Sitting at the desk in the gallery, which currently holds the New Brewery Arts OPEN competition, I find that hardly anyone younger than the age of 30 ventures in. I have no idea why, for the exhibit is fresh, explosive, and innovative. The first time I entered the gallery I was taken aback by the exquisite pieces it displayed. The exhibit boasted delicacies ranging from vibrant canvases to deep and penetrating photographs to tapestries. Each one unique in its design, but brought together by the theme of 'Crossings'.

So why should one leave the comfort of a warm bed, or the steady beat of a song resonating in your ears? Art is refreshing. It’s endlessly bursting the barriers of what is considered normal and branching out, eager to divulge a new part of life and bring new ones into existence. One feels a sense of wonder as one gazes upon the various exhibits, keen on exposing the multitude of secrets buried within. The New Brewery Arts OPEN exhibition is open to all and what is more - it’s free, something that I love - being a student and all. You can even interact with the art, as two of the pieces are films. As you meander through, take note of your favourite piece. You can vote for your favourite exhibit and the artist who wins this public choice award will win £500.

The gallery is open to all Monday – Saturday: 9am to 5pm and Sunday 10pm to 4pm. The exhibition ends 23 August, so get in quick before your chance to view these exquisite pieces fades away.

Bethany Haller

Image 1 by Tim Carroll in the NBA OPEN exhibition
Image 2 by Maurice Citron in the NBA OPEN

Thursday, 13 August 2009

What would you choose?

The OPEN exhibition at New Brewery Arts is in full swing, with votes piling in for the Public Choice Award. There is a fantastic diversity of pieces, from glassware to video, from charcoal to plastic, from abstract acrylics to figurative oils like John A Walker's Ferry Across The Mersey (shown).

Which makes us wonder - what do you like to see in a gallery? Outsider Art, Fine Art, light shows or sound? What floats your particular boat?

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Recession is death to celebrity artists - discuss

“Art in Troubled Times”, a two-part examination of how recession affects the arts, was presented by Alan Yentob in Imagine (BBC1, 21 & 28 July 2009).

One premise was that lack of hard cash means that individuals and corporations alike are no longer willing to invest in ‘big name’ artists, who are consequently forced to ‘downsize’. Conversely, bodies such as the Arts Council and the National Lottery are more likely to award funding to previously unknown individual artists and small, local art groups.

Schemes designed to encourage wider, community access to the arts are also more likely to attract the backing of UK and US governments in times of hardship. Access to the arts is seen as a means of raising public morale as well as satisfying demand for affordable entertainment. The result is a move away from elitism towards a more democratic ‘art for the people’.

Yentob asks ‘In times like these, what is art worth? And what is art for?’ Should it be the preserve of the rich, making fortunes for a few household names? Is it devalued if we curate ‘outsider’ art in galleries? Or is art something we should value for its own sake and for our enjoyment - from a child’s scribbling to the Camera Club’s exhibition, from the Amateur Dramatic Club’s play to ballet and the opera? Tell us what you think.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

New autumn 2009 programme published

Our new programme is out and a fabulous one it is too. Mosaics and Paper are the focus of our gallery exhibions, with link events including a weekend devoted to Artists' Books, and weekend workshops on mosaic design for home and garden.
Music is also a feature this autumn, with acoustic, Blues and Folk all on the menu - and a Jump Start Jazz workshop if you fancy having a go yourself.
Visit our website for details of art and crafts courses, events and happenings at New Brewery Arts - or pick up a programme from the shop if you are in Cirencester.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Who we are and what we do

New Brewery Arts is an arts and crafts charity in the heart of the Cotswolds, working with local people, schools and businesses to make contemporary arts and crafts accessible to everyone.

We have a fabulous gallery, theatre, shop and café - and we are one of the few venues in Gloucestershire for art and craft courses including ceramics, sculpture, wood or stone carving, millinery, textiles, stained glass etc.

Why not come and visit us in Cirencester this summer?