Camilla Irvine-Fortescue reflects on the evolution of a small commercial gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne on the occasion of their tenth birthday and the exhibition ‘Ten.’
Ten years is an impressive milestone. Equally impressive is the evolution of Vane Gallery, a small commercial gallery in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne. What began as a volunteer-run organisation in 1997 has become an incredibly successful contemporary art gallery that reflecting the ethos and artistic visions of its’ creative directors Paul Stone and Chris Yeats.
In its early years, Vane was very much a project-based body that would organise annual events as well as a series of exhibitions frequently involving an invited curator or gallery partner. It was around this time that Vane began to work with several of the artists it represents today, the majority of whom were mainly from the North East.
Since 2005 Vane has occupied a permanent gallery space on the first floor of the Commercial Union House, a site that was once an office block in the centre of Newcastle. Now a successful commercial gallery, Vane represents a broad circle of artists based regionally, nationally and internationally.
Vane’s journey has been a remarkable and exciting one. Although being composed of merely two staff members means a lot of work and responsibility, this enables Vane to remain personal. Ten is proof of this. An exhibition named in celebration of Vane’s tenth birthday, it features the work of nineteen artists all represented by the gallery. Viewing the work of nineteen artists all in one gallery space would usually equate to an overwhelming experience. Instead, Ten is tastefully hung and minimal. It showcases Vane’s diversity and dynamism perfectly, teasing the viewer of the potential of each artist; it succeeds in leaving you with the appetite for more.
In an odd equilibrium, Kerstin Drechsel’s explorations of the maternal bond between mother and daughter sit by Michael Mulvihill’s monochrome apocalyptic-styled works. Simon Le Ruez’s fragile sculptures have the appearance of melted glass crumpled and left out to dry yet in actuality they are composed of an assortment of materials and are temptingly tactile. Dodda Maggý’s kaleidoscopic film is both mesmerising and hypnotising. The sense of falling into and being submerged by its symmetrical shapes as they shift across the screen is tantalising. Matthew Smith’s installation is instantly dominant upon entering Vane. Rock sculptures spill across the floor and create a natural barrier for the viewer to remain behind. A film of Smith shows him removing a rock from somewhere in the Lake District and replacing it with one of his sculptures. The audio fills the entirety of the room. Even around the corner as you confront the work of Stephen Palmer, you can still hear the soft lapping of the lake against the shore.
There is an air of calmness throughout Ten. Circulating the gallery feels almost like an art fair. Works have not been curated to sit together; instead they showcase each artist singularly, whether it’s painting, a video or a sculpture. Though collectively, they demonstrate ten years of a gallery, against the odds succeeding economically and a platform that enables artists to live and work.
Camilla Irvine-Fortescue is a third year Fine Art student at Northumbria University.
Images, Featured image: Flora Whiteley, The chorus, 2011, oil on linen, 40x35cm;Simon Le Ruez, Belle Époque, 2015, unfired clay, fluorescent plexiglass, foam, wax, Cromático paper, wire, cellophane, enamel and acrylic paint, acrylic ball, tape, 62x26x26cm. Photo: Colin Davison; Dodda Maggy, DeCore (rosen), 2015, HD video, 10.40min; Narbi Price, Untitled Club Painting, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 122x91cm. Photo: Colin Davison;