Postman Pat illustrator’s show
ON Christmas Eve last year, gallery owner Simon Hester drove into Leeds to do a morning’s work at the Artco art space off the city’s Meanwood Road, knowing it would be quiet and that other businesses in the building had shut for the holiday.
The spell of icy weather had thawed a little overnight but the air was still bitterly cold. As he drew up to park outside the front of the gallery, he was confronted by the sight of a torrent of water pouring from the front door, forming a lake outside the building and quickly freezing. He fought his way inside, to see that the water was gushing through the ceiling in the centre and corners of the gallery. Luckily most of the damage was confined to the actual structure of the building.
“The slight rise in temperature had caused a burst pipe above the gallery to thaw and the only way was downwards,” says Simon, whose gallery had been open since 1997. “I rang a plumber, the insurers, everyone I needed to, then set to in trying to clean up. I spent all my time over Christmas working here trying to do what I could but everything was pitch black and it was unbelievably difficult. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get hold of drying equipment quickly. But even when you do, drying out a building is a very slow business.“
It’s true – there’s no quick fix when the ceiling and floor have been saturated and left so damaged that the only recourse is replacement. It took eight months in total for the gallery to dry out and for the structural work to be done – which, in any case, could not start until April.
Over the years that Simon and his sister Leah had been in business together with Artco, the gallery had established a great reputation and the calibre of artist showing there had risen steadily. Exhibitions programmed for this year had to be postponed, and for months it wasn’t clear how long the space would be closed. The building work included rebuilding of walls, asphalt flooring and a new ceiling. While he was about it, Simon – who now operates the gallery alone – was able to freshen up the decor and lighting and top off the project with a new name.
“It’s difficult to say how much business we’ve lost, but obviously it’s substantial and you lose momentum,” says Simon. “It’s been a difficult time, but the many artists and dealers we work with have been very supportive.” In the middle of the difficulties, he also lost his mother to cancer.
“Thankfully, we’ve been back in the gallery for the last few weeks, and our first show of work by Dora Holzandler has done pretty well. We’re now lucky to have a collection of works by the Bradford-born Royal Academician Richard Eurich, who is a very good fit for the gallery, in that he’s local, he’s highly respected and I really like his work. Eurich, who was strongly influenced by Turner, ploughed his own furrow and was at the height of his popularity in the 1930s and 40s. He dropped off the radar a bit later on, because he didn’t buy into the abstract expressionism that became fashionable. I think more people should know him.”
Eurich (1903-1992) studied at Bradford School of Arts and Crafts and The Slade. His first solo exhibition was in 1929. Land and Sea, paintings and drawings by Richard Eurich RA, is at Hester Gallery, 1 Meanwood Close, Leeds LS7 2JL until December 5. 0113 262 0056 www.hestergallery. co.uk ART in the Mill will be opening its Christmas exhibition on November 13. The exhibition will showcase the work of Ray Mutimer who is an artist from Knaresborough and well known for his illustrations of the Postman Pat books. Ray’s illustrations have been used by many publishers and can be seen in a wide range of stories, from Noddy to nursery rhymes. The exhibition is titled A Little Imagination and features a number of paintings that are said to demonstrate Ray’s ability to recreate affectionate, dreamlike scenarios.
NEW START: Simon Hester at the now reopened Hester Gallery. The current exhibition features work by Richard Eurich RA.