MODERN MASTERS: THE CLOSING WEEKEND

October 06, 2016

According to McGee’s ‘Modern Masters’ exhibition comes to a close this weekend after a month showcasing ‘some of the most collectible contemporary painters north of Paris’. Gallery director Greg McGee feels that the show, the first in a series set to launch tri-annually, has helped hammer home the gallery’s continuing mission statement. “It’s all about painting”, says Greg, “and whether or not it hits you in the guts. At art college in the ’90s we were continually told that painting is patriarchal, or bourgeoise, or moribund, and that there were all these other genres that were somehow more exciting and liberating. We’ve dabbled with all that as a gallery and it’s not until you find yourself yawning in puzzlement at an exhibition that you yourself have curated that you realise that Conceptual Art is, at best, a misnomer. So for a few years now we’ve zipped up our boots and gone back to our painterly roots. Never before, however, have we had such gallant company.” Greg is referring to the eponymous exhibitees, a star studded collective of ‘masters’ which makes up the (gender neutral) title of the show. “We’ve acquired from a Private Collector some old school Jake Attree paintings from 1990, 7 foot tall portraits of pedestrians in Manhattan. Alongside there are opulently painted works from Barry De More, figurative work from legendary painter Doug Binder, and depictions of life one mile underground from ex-miner Harry Malkin. And that’s just the front gallery,” enthuses Greg, “The quality hits you as soon as you enter our front room. That is testament to the skills of these painters. I love that feeling when you enter an establishment and the quality found therein endows your first few steps with a real sense of event. The most common response has been a simple ‘wow!’, and so we think we’ve done our job.” Co-director Ails McGee is looking forward to the next few exhibitions, “We’ve got them calendared them until late 2017,” she says, “And they are for the most part the artists you see around you in this group exhibition. There’ll be a duo show for our favourite abstract painter, Jo Brown. Solo shows for the likes of Doug Binder, duo shows with Freya Horsley and David Baumforth, two artists who can harness the elemental magic of the North and its light, its spray, its cold better than any painters we’ve ever worked with.” Baumforth has enjoyed a resurgence lately with his Turnerian seascapes reaching a wider, international circle of collectors, “Not so much to do with us,” says Ails, “We have the clients but Baumforth’s commitment to bottling the beauty of the North Sea is out there on its own. His latest series shows an artist at the top of his game.” Ails points to the work of Dave Pearson in the back gallery, “These were snapped up on the opening event. Dave was an extremely important painter (he died in 2008) and the collection he left behind is carefully managed by The Dave Pearson Trust. The synergy he has with the work of Barry De More can stop you in your tracks. We have a duo exhibition ready to launch on October 11th. What’s great is that with this current show, both artists have been introduced to collectors and followers of art and they’ve gone down a storm. When you get positive comments and positive sales, it’s pretty much a gallerists’ dream come true. The best thing about ‘Modern Masters’ as a group show is that it makes the requisite splash, and all the subsequent shows can easily follow in its wake as the exhibiting artists took part in the group show initially. We’ve really excited about the way it has reached a much bigger audience than previous strategies. I think the title ‘Modern Masters’ might have had something to with it too!”

Greg is unapologetic about the title. “It’s one way of cutting through the noise of modern times. There is so much on offer, not all of it of a high standard, that sometimes you need a battle cry to reach out and grab attention. Every one of these painters are world class, I firmly believe that. And if you can’t shout ‘Modern Masters’ when you’ve called your gallery ‘According to McGee’ then you’re being too modest.”
“We’re looking forward to disseminating all artists into the shows we’ve got lined up for the 14 months,” says Ails, “And we launch the series with Barry De More and Dave Pearson. No invitations necessary. If you like contemporary painting an you’re in York on the 11th October, you’re welcome to come over. We’re sure you’ll agree that the painting scene in the North is in pretty fine fettle.”
Group show ‘Modern Masters’ runs until 08/10/16
‘Barry De More and Dave Pearson: Modern Masters’ starts 11/10/16. All welcome.
Article originally appeared in York Press, October 2016
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