York’s Art Scene: According To Mcgee And One & Other Join Forces


One & Other New Chapter Art prize launch at According to McGee, York, Friday 16th September 2011

According to McGee are looking forward to the launch of the One & Other ‘New Chapter Art Prize’ at their Tower Street gallery.
Says gallery co-director Greg McGee, “One & Other is one of the most exciting projects we’ve seen. It’s exciting to see cultural news treated and disseminated properly. We’re honoured to herald the launch of their competition, and we’re double honoured to be the chosen gallery to showcase the winner’s solo show in early 2012.”
Co-director Ails McGee takes up the point, “The competition is an ideal conduit for new, edgy artists to show where they’re at. What better way to start the show than get on board young, edgy artists to exhibit a deliberately pot pourri show of different approaches?”
One moment, friends. I’ve hear talk of this One & Other business. Their site is, I have to say, a thing of beauty: “One&Other ” (it sez ‘ere) “is a media brand fit for the 21st century. Our platforms will be the home of local news, culture, and conversations that inspire and empower communities for good. Out goes the negative news agenda and in comes more considered reporting, reviews, and experiences, combined with the long-lost art of storytelling and beautiful design.”
The group of artists chosen for the launch night are culled from a fertile field of artists who’d benefit from more exposure, a priority flagged up by the McGee team since they opened in 2005.
Looking at the work lying around their gallery pre-curating, I can’t help but think that despite the wide differences of style and philosophy in the work, there’s enough synergy to really nail a proper Private View. The McGee nights are things of local legend, and I’m really looking forward to getting there and hitting the wine and enjoying the work just the way nature intended: in a white cube room full of art liking hot young punks. That’s the McGee way, old boy, and – by Thor – it seems to be the One & Other way too.
The first artist that catches my eye is from Stephen Aspley. Ails McGee agrees that the man’s flair is old school. She says, “An artist of Ste’s calibre is always going to get exposure. The talent is there, the people skills are there, and the proactivity is there. You can’t fake that hunger to maintain and improve artistic flair: the ‘New Chapter Art Prize’ launch is ideal for this kind of artist. He’s young, has an old school talent and an exciting experimental approach, and crucially he would benefit from more exposure – the world of exhibiting can sometimes seem like a closed club, and hopefully this whole project is here to shake that up a little.”
Greg McGee says, “We’re excited to be bring Ste’s work to more people. He has an impressive resume. Anyone who can exhibit so successfully at Zandra Rhodes in London is welcome here in the centre of York anytime!”
Moving to the window there is a box full of framed, crisply delineated things of mildly astonishing beauty. I gasp, and look twice.
Ails McGee says, “That’s Helen Harrop’s work. We’ve known Helen for years. She came to our legendary Art Jamming sessions – a bottle of wine, a paint brush, and one hour to create a loose masterpiece. Since we moved the studio out of the premises we thought we lost her: until she came and showed Greg the latest works. Greg came back home and said, ‘you have to see this’. It’s a no brainer to get Helen up on these walls to help celebrate the launch of the competition. She’s welcome here any time.”
Greg says, “Anything that straddles the slippery worlds of education and technology is great by me. Helen’s approach is instantly recognisable, with images intriguingly semi-obscured by patient, celtic-esque mark-making. She’s onto something, and it’s especially exciting to see her vision dovetail so easily with the brief of the actual One & Other competition: ‘Hidden’.

Greg ushers me to the Apple Mac to view the work of one his favourite local artists, Amy McKay. He shows me work on her site.
“Amy is a York based Illustrator and Artist. What’s funny about Amy’s work is that there’s a chance you’ll recognise it from seeing it on the TV, or on leaflets around the country, indeed the world. Her latest TV based project was to create drawings that are to be featured in the main character’s sketch book.”.

On her blog Amy McKay says,”I have been working on an important top secret commission for an upcoming big BBC drama. I have produced (and am still producing) lots of pastel and chalk drawings to be used in lead character’s sketchbooks, I will possibly be doing some handwritten letters to be used as props as well. And I made these sketchbooks! I don’t think it’s a spoiler to put a photo of them up so it’s the only thing I’m posting until after the air date (which will be next easter probably!).”

Curiouser and curiouser, dear reader.

Greg is especially excited about a pile up of portfolios containing what he calls the ‘local equivalent of the Holy Grail. York College graduate’s work. Some of these people are off to Goldsmiths. Glasgow, or further afield. It’s white hot. It’s like a mini-Frieze festival”, he flourishes the portfolios with a ring master’s zeal, “right here, right now.”

Over a later coffee from the McGee haunt of choice Blue Fly cafe, Greg explains his enthusiasm.

“York College continues to disgorge young, edgy artists positively bejewelled with towering talent. Ellise Melia, Imogen Clarke, Marcus Craven and – in my opinion, the top banana of all – Matty Jones. They’re here to rock my world as much as yours. It would be easy to find an artist who we thought had a good chance at selling well; it’s harder to find an artist who not only deserves to be part of a group show, but would massively benefit from it as a debut, as well as consolidating our brand.”
We to deal in edgy, contemporary art as much as possible. That’s why Ails and I opened the place six years ago. Now Matty and his York College contemporaries have come along and given us a shot in the arm and reminded us that work which puzzles, amuses, irritates and lingers is so much more us and – dare I say it – more like an increasing number of Yorkshire art collectors than a landscape that makes you want to fall asleep.”

Ails joins us later just as we’re graduating onto cocktails. The gallery initially was her brain child, and since then she’s given birth to 3 babies, one daughter and two boys. Svelte and talkative, she is a counterbalance to Greg’s more polemic patter, and she seems happy to join us ‘sans bairns’ as she puts it. “We’re looking forward to a witty and challenging group show from the York College crew,” she says. “I think what appeals most to me is their showmanship. They’ve jumped out of their corner and are ready to start fighting. They knows how to throw a curveball into the curatorial process, and they’ve had us both scratching our heads. I mean, this is contemporary and sharp, sharp stuff. But with some of their focus and help from Steve Anderson their vision has really fleshed out, and we can’t wait to see how they’ll transform our white walls. It’s comforting from our point of view to see how the Art Prize launch night will benefit the gallery just as much as the winning artist.”

Then we’re joined by According to McGee’s manager , Holly Bonarius, a York born curator and Berlin experienced art historian. “There must be something in the water at York College. Matty and Imogen are singing from the same page, and it’s funny how effortless their work segues with the show’s ultimate intent: to look at the concept of ‘the hidden’. Their work attempts to control what you do and do not see. In a vivid process of superimposing fragments from ‘celebrity’ magazines over selected images, or from the artists’ own paintings, a strong visual language is established with a more potent and meaningful undertone. Images can be seductive, rightly or wrongly, and it’s immediately discombobulating to discern a supermodel with a bright red orb cut and pasted over her head. Maybe it suggests how celebrity iconography and the visual language restricts our true human interests? Maybe Matty and Imogen are suggesting how our infatuation with the surface of things obscures and limits our perceptions of what really matters? Or maybe it’s just good, mischievous fun. Either way, these artists rock my world.”

We leaf through the pages of a sketch book, provided by Marcus Craven. Ails says,”Every artist should keep a sketch book. Marcus’ work is bristling and impatient, just the way God intended sketching to be. Greg wanted to tear pages out and display them on the walls, but I had to put my foot down and say, no – keep it as it is, a loose-limbed, relaxed reportage of what has caught Marcus’ eye. It’s one of my favourite pieces in the show.”

Holly enthuses about the video installation that she has spent the morning tweaking. “At last, film as art! Great to see a video installation here, the place is ideal for it, and Ellise Melia’s piece has a forlorn, aching quality to it that is redolent of a Plath poem.”

So there you have it. Next week I’m spending time at Earl’s Court witnessing the arrival of ‘be100%Design’. It would be nice to spend time with independent gallerists like the McGees. It must be a rum business wielding an art gallery in a double dip recession, and as I alight my in York Train Station (surely the most handsome station in the UK) I’m grateful to be shown what is going on behind the scenes for One & Other’s exciting collaboration with my favourite gallery in the North, According to McGee.

For details on According to McGee: www.accordingtomcgee.com

For details on One & Other: www.oneandother.com

By Viv on September 15, 2011

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1 Comment » RSS Comment Feed

  1. I’ve been meaning to say a huge thank you to Viv for her kind words about my work … seeing the phrase “mildly astonishing beauty” being used to describe my pieces gave my confidence a real boost and has kept me smiling on the inside for weeks and weeks now :)

    Comment by Helen Harrop — November 8, 2011 @ 4:51 pm

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