Introducing the Irving Gallery: a new art space for East Oxford
Set within an unassuming Victorian terraced house on a quiet side street in East Oxford you will find the Irving Gallery, a new independent space for contemporary art and ceramics. The gallery has just opened its door for the first time and launches onto the Oxford art scene with an exhibition of 18 different artists and ceramicists, carefully curated and shown in an eclectic but coherent way.
The Irving Gallery is a realisation of a long-standing dream for its owner Vanessa Lacey. With a background in art history, after a 15-year career in academic publishing Vanessa decided to return to her long-standing interest in art in order to set up her own gallery space.
Vanessa says: “With commercial rents in Oxford being so high, I had no choice but to set up at home. Locating the gallery within a modest, domestic space has met with a really positive response, and it helps visitors envisage how the art on display will fit within their own homes.”
Vanessa has converted the bay-fronted sitting room of her family house into a well-lit gallery space, in which the art works sing against the lead grey walls, and the wall art is complemented by a lovely display of ceramics.
Julie Leach’s magnificent monochrome screenprint ‘Wind Dance 1’ dominates one wall, the energy of the wind blowing through Pampas grass captured in the tangle and flow of fine white lines against a dense black background.
Kate Shooter’s intriguing mixed-media paintings often dance the line between abstraction and representations. Kate paints instinctively, beginning with fast, intuitive mark making, then building texture and colour, adding and taking away until a composition settles.
A strong interest in mark making and drawing is evident, too, in the slab-built ceramics vessels of renowned ceramicist and painter Craig Underhill, who treats his vessels as forms on which to create paintings. Craig’s visual language in which marks such as crosses and circles frequently recur is informed by his fascination in the landscape and (sometimes imaginary) places.
The gallery is also showing an impressive selection of the majestic etchings by Sarah Duncan, as well as her unique and wonderful pen drawing of a snow-covered Alpine landscape, ‘Ascent’. Sarah’s work, which has been influenced by artist residencies in Finland and Iceland, resonates subtly with her concern about the global scale of climate change: the grandeur of her landscape images celebrates the beauty and hints at the vulnerability of what we stand to lose.
A trio of small paintings of mountains, big skies and clouds by Welsh-Dutch artist Hanneke van Ryswyk who lives in Ireland glow from the wall. Ryswyk’s work focuses on the geological evidence of man’s imprint on land and sea, and the influence of climate change, melting glaciers and coastal erosion. Hanneke’s exquisite paintings conjure up imagined glacial and volcanic forms, islands, mountains and the sea.
Quietly alluring works by painters Anna Morris and Harriet Eagle and printmaker Rachel Wilcox each in their own way tread a fine line between landscape and abstraction, while the abstract monotype prints of Dorothy Hanna embrace the unexpected in her printing process.
A feeling for a particular colour often forms the starting point of the richly coloured screen prints by Chitra Merchant which evoke memories of real places reworked by the artist’s imagination with their multi-layered imagery of Southern Indian ancient architecture and natural forms.
Ceramic buildings by Rowena Brown and Amanda Banham nod to Vanessa’s long-standing interest in architectural form, while the gallery also offers beautiful, functional ceramics by Oxfordshire ceramicists Robyn Hardyman, Leighan Thomas, and Joanna Oliver, as well as by Chloe Charrington from Abergavenny and Alexis Basso from Glasgow. Oxford-based Emily Marston’s stunning marbled porcelain vessels and jewellery sit perfectly within the collection.
The current exhibition will continue through to Christmas. The Irving Gallery (as a family home) is only open on selected days or by appointment: opening hours and location can be found on the gallery website.