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Aldeburgh’s Thompson Gallery stages Suffolk’s version of Royal Academy summer show

PUBLISHED: 12:04 11 June 2018

Alan Furneaux, Rough Sea at Aldeburgh, part of the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, summer exhibition. Photo: Thompson's Gallery

Alan Furneaux, Rough Sea at Aldeburgh, part of the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, summer exhibition. Photo: Thompson's Gallery

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If you want to see art of the very highest quality then there’s no need to travel all the way to London as Thompson’s Gallery in Aldeburgh has created its very own summer exhibition. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to co-curator Graham Simper

Andrew Macara, Children's Pool, part of the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, summer exhibition. Photo: Thompson's GalleryAndrew Macara, Children's Pool, part of the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, summer exhibition. Photo: Thompson's Gallery

London may have its Royal Academy summer exhibition but Aldeburgh’s Thompson’s Gallery is hosting a summer exhibition which offers art lovers a comparable experience in terms of quality, if only on a smaller scale. If any one doubts the bold assertion about quality then take note: they will be exhibiting artists of the calibre of Elisabeth Frink, Peggy Sommerville, Mary Potter, Harry Becker, Edward Seago and Michael Scott.

Co-curator Graham Simper says that their 36th annual summer exhibition is designed to be eclectic – to appeal to a wide range of tastes and to banish the generation gap, showing the work of established and respected ‘masters’ alongside contemporary artists and up and coming young talent.

“The only thing we are concerned about is quality. We want to display work that will get people talking, that will pique people’s interest. One work that has got us talking is a work by Hennie Neimann called Joy de Vivre which was photographed and signed one way round and yet when it arrived it had alternative hanging arrangements on the back which suggested an alternative way of hanging the painting which gives us an entirely new perspective on the picture. That was a total surprise and one of the joys of the job, being surprised and delighted by the work you are dealing with.”

Stephanie Rew,Hokusai Dream, part of the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, summer exhibition. Photo: Thompson's GalleryStephanie Rew,Hokusai Dream, part of the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, summer exhibition. Photo: Thompson's Gallery

He said that along with classic painters like Mary Potter and Edward Seago they are also displaying work by contemporary artists like Peter Wileman, Helen Tabor, James Harrigan, Terence Clark, Rachel Shaw-Ashton and James Harrigan as well as rising star Ania Hobson, who is shortlisted for the prestigious BP Portrait Award this year.

“Although we don’t ask where the artist comes from we take work from all over the world, the exhibition does have a strong local link. There are a lot of artists in the exhibition who have strong links to the area and, of course, Suffolk has always had a very strong artistic tradition.”

Work in the summer exhibition extends from works which revel in their photo-realism to abstract works thick with paint to impressionistic landscapes and beautiful, sunlit still lifes.

Ania Hobson, Christopher, part of the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, summer exhibition. Photo: Thompson's GalleryAnia Hobson, Christopher, part of the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, summer exhibition. Photo: Thompson's Gallery

One of the most unusual works comes from Rachel Shaw Ashton who creates ethereal, almost origami-style images, out of tiny, folded pieces of paper, which are mounted on tiny pins which raise the pieces of paper above the surface of the mounting board. With the right lighting, the resulting shadows give the images shape, depth and context.

Graham adds: “Our annual summer exhibition in many ways mirrors the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy in that we are looking to promote the very best of British art from the 20th and 21st Century. We are showing pieces by the Cornwall sculptor Richard Holliday, who is new to the gallery and creates wonderful sculptures in Ancaster limestone and also some charming Aldeburgh observations by Tessa Newcomb and tender acrylic paintings by the Swedish artist Brita Granström.”

Looking at the show as a whole there is an unmistakable feel of summer in the air. You couldn’t imagine the same show being staged in the autumn. All the works play with light and relish strong, vibrant colours. There’s a freshness and excitement contained in works such as Alan Furneaux’s Rough Sea At Aldeburgh or Andrew Macara’s joyful Children’s Pool, Vrsar, Croatia.

Emma Williams, Anemones and Pears, part of the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, summer exhibition. Photo: Thompson's GalleryEmma Williams, Anemones and Pears, part of the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, summer exhibition. Photo: Thompson's Gallery

Thompson’s Gallery Summer Exhibition runs until July 8.

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