Taking the long view has paid dividends for gallery

Joanna Brown's 28 Fingers
Joanna Brown's 28 Fingers
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The arts chief at Dean Clough Galleries in Halifax, Vic Allen, on why it’s becoming one of the region’s most exciting venues.

It takes time for an exhibition to come together.

Take Ray Atkins. His exhibition, A Long View: From Cornwall to the Pyrenees, is the summation of a series of shows we have instigated that explore the influence of artists such as Bomberg and Auerbach. Beginning five years ago with a set of Kossoff drawings that our arts co-ordinator, Dee Grijak, negotiated from the Arts Council, we have since had major shows by Jake Attree, Mike Knowles and George Rowlett.

Ray is a protege of Auerbach’s from the 50s. He famously works his oils on huge boards that are put up in the open and left there – come rain, shine or vandalism – until finished. Ray is much admired by the fast-fading breed of critics who care more for expressive technique than “concepts”.

Jeff Nuttall was a more influential figure than Jagger – in the sense that the Stones exploited the 60s, while Jeff (who died in 2004) was one of that ambivalent decade’s progenitors.

One of his “happenings” involved stuffing tights with kapok so that they looked like body parts; putting them in a suitcase, and then leaving them to be discovered on railway station platforms. This practice evolved so that by the 1990s Jeff was making framed landscapes out of bulbous, painted forms – some of which arch off the “canvas” onto the floor.

Thanks to Jeff’s family members in Wales and Harrogate, Dean Clough has recreated one of these exhibitions from 1990. There are even hopes that it will end up on permanent display in Littleborough.

Angie Atmadjaja is one of Dean Clough’s 25 studio artists and the core of her work is intensely 
scientific and essentially minimalist.

Formerly a Jack Lyons bursary PhD student at York University, Angie is a sound artist; a concept that is still too easily confused with music. Tilt is featured in the Guangzhou Triennial alongside some seriously big art names, and probably represents the most internationally significant achievements of any Dean Clough studio artist in the last 25 years.

Curiously, the “crowd- pleasing” exhibit at Dean Clough this winter is the smallest of our seven shows. It features 28 creative celebrities from Alan Bennett to Benjamin Zephaniah and the idea was born during a discussion among Masters students at the University of Leeds in 2007.

It is Joanna Brown who has realised the concept, though. A beguiling mathematician (how often are those words combined?), she persuaded the “celebs” to each put their index finger in a pot of blue goo and have their photo taken. She then had a limited series of their fingers cast in bronze, produced a fabulous book to accompany them and has now got them on simultaneous exhibition at Dean Clough, the Royal Academy Shop in London and High Cross House in Devon.

Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax. All shows run until January 14, 2013. Free entry.

Vic Allen’s assessment on the artists on show at ‘Clough’

Angie Atmadjaja: This is probably the biggest event and Dean Clough has taken part in – she’s featured alongside international names and exhibited in Japan and San Francisco.

Ray Atkins: Ray is a ‘painter’s painter’ and seriously highly rated by specialist critics. To the average viewer more Cezanne than Constable.

Jeff Nuttall: Blimey. Have you come across Jeff Nuttall, yet? He’s been dead for half a dozen years, but he keeps going...

Joanna Brown – a wildcard and a modest show – just 28 cast bronze fingers; but what fingers!