A city of imagination is on display at the Ferens

Published: Monday 16th January 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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Now in its 50th year, the Ferens Open Exhibition celebrates not only the region’s artistic talent, but also its diversity. Presenting an enormous range of mediums, styles and subject matter, it invites the public to discover something entirely new.

It arrives following a £5.2 million renovation, making the Ferens Art Gallery better equipped and more welcoming than ever before. Having just reopened after 15 months of closure, there’s no better time to pop down.

Selected by Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, Hull-born actor Maureen Lipman, and David Mach, internationally renowned sculptor and Royal Academician, there really are some wonderful art works on display.

One of my favourite inclusions is an enormous painting showing Beverley from the roof of St Mary’s Church, with Beverley Minster against the horizon. With the town’s streets and landmarks easily recognisable, this piece makes you feel as if you’re right there with the artist.

Then there’s the detailed image of a young boy in red sunglasses (pictured), which was has been used for the exhibition’s advertising. Another large painting, it manages to be both calm yet energetic, with bright lights reflected in the relaxed youth’s lenses.

Whilst some types of art are clearly grouped together, such as a pocket of wildlife illustrations, there are some juxtapositions that really stand out. To me, this is a key aspect of the Open’s atmosphere, with a surrealist montage of icons from Hull and Hollywood hanging above a photo of the marina at sunset. It’s this purposely haphazard arrangement that drives the visitor to discover something new.

There are many portraits at this year’s Open, each demonstrating a unique technique preferred by the artist. There’s one of a young girl that’s an excellent example of photorealism, whilst others range from sketches and watercolours to vibrant abstracts. Depicting family members, local characters and global celebrities, the mix celebrates both everyday life and the worlds of sport, politics and popular culture.

The exhibition, which takes up two galleries, also includes sculptures and ceramics. One example that really stands out is a horse composed of countless mosaic shards, presenting over a dozen glittering colours. Catching the light as well as everyone’s eye, it stands proudly near the doorway between the two rooms.

Ferens Open horse

Whilst the showcase contains some really stunning works, even masterpieces, by celebrated local artists, there are also more humble additions. However, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb, each piece complements and works in unison with the rest of the collection. This is because the Open is a place where all walks of life and methodologies come together in a single event. The result is an inspiring, fascinating and hugely enjoyable way to spend an hour or two.

If something really grabs your attention, most of the works are for sale. Make sure to pick up an exhibition programme upon arrival for artist names, item titles, availability and prices.

The Ferens Open Exhibition runs until 12 March and, as with the rest of the gallery, is free to enter. Please note that the gallery has been very busy since reopening last week, so this should be factored into your visit.

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Published: Monday 16th January 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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