Top Ten for Tatha Gallery, Newport-on-Tay

Paul Furneaux, 'Birch Trees', mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock print)
Paul Furneaux, 'Birch Trees', mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock print)

We Are Ten

Wed - Sat 10:30 - 16:00

From: 6 Apr 2024

To: 11 May 2024

Tatha Gallery
1 High Street

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Tatha Gallery facade
Gallery facade

Tatha Gallery has recently inaugurated its latest exhibition We are Ten, marking its tenth anniversary. Located on the picturesque coast of Fife, it is in a hidden gem of a town Newport-on-Tay that overlooks the eponymous river, from where you can see the V&A Dundee (which, incidentally, I recently reviewed). 

Arriving at the white-washed building with its majestic view overlooking the River Tay, I enter through the glass doors and am warmly greeted by the Gallery’s proprietor Lindsay Bennett. I take in the natural light that floods the interior and I find myself sipping a coffee from a hand-crafted mug she generously offers me. After brief introductions, Lindsay offers me a grand tour of the exhibition, featuring works by fourteen Scottish and English artists who are integral to the Gallery’s collection. Many of them have been with the Gallery from its inception – notably one of the artists, Helen Glassford, who co-founded the establishment along with Ms Bennett, before deciding to pursue her art career in 2020.

Gallery view with easel painting by Kate Downie

Tatha (meaning ‘Tay’ in Gaelic) is a wonderful example of how the Gallery space envelops the art it displays, and almost becomes its extension. Here, classic fine art pieces seamlessly mesh with more craft-oriented artworks, such as Doug Cocker’s eccentric Scherzi (from the Italian meaning ‘jokes’) series, while Helen Glassford’s ethereal seascapes painted in oils are contrasted with Frances Walker’s prints of Scottish landscapes. Sizes vary, however there is a tendency leaning towards a smaller, more intimate-scale, suggesting an approach towards home-oriented pieces.

Helen Glassford Seascapes

One of the centrepieces that Lindsay draws my attention to are Norman Gilbert’s family portraits, or as she refers to them, the ‘photograph album on the wall.’ His paintings feature many of his family members of different generations. For instance, the portrait below Bruno, Daniel and Mark II (1983) shows three of his sons. The paintings are resplendent tapestries of heart and warmth, that pay attention to fabrics, patterns and the miscellanea that make up a home. As Lindsay recalls, the late artist used to joke how he painted ‘people, patterns, and plants’, with the colour palette on each work varying in aiming to represent a specific decade. For instance, the aforementioned Bruno, Daniel and Mark II was completed in 1983 and brims with ochre, olive and crimson.

Norman Gilbert, ‘Bruno, Daniel and Mark II’, 1983, oil on wooden board

Gilbert’s portrait is juxtaposed next to Paul Furneaux’s woodblock prints (or mokuhanga as the artist labels them, reflecting his extensive training as a printmaker in Japan), which continue the theme of textures, albeit in a non-representational manner. The pieces presented here are smaller in size, and subtle in colour palette, rendering them ideal for an interior, as they create a sense of cosiness and curiosity. His prints read both as carefully-collated collages and kilims found on the walls of a home that evoke textures of rippling water or wooden grain. His inspiration stems from personal observation from nature, with each piece recalling a place (Blue Room, Kanazawa) or an organic feature (Birch Trees – see top), almost resembling, in the best sense, a jumbled memory. The print Blue Room, Kanazawa combines ash grey, Prussian blue and rose hues that are exemplary of the subtle colour combinations that create a vibrant yet understated palette, characteristic of Furneaux’s works.

Paul Furneaux, ‘Blue Room Kanazawa’ and ‘Birch Trees’, Japanese woodblock prints

Turning ninety degrees to the right, you are greeted by a curious display on the wall featuring indigo and teal water tides painted on rather small objects. The objects, as Bennett reveals, are textile stamps found by the artist David Cass in various flea markets around the globe, while others include matchboxes. The Athens-based artist centres his work around the sea and the environmental impact that global warming has on it. His series even featured at the 59th Venice Biennale 2022 and had a broader thematic scope that included environmental aspects, notably rising sea levels. Being relatively close to the water, his source of inspiration also derives from the marine art genre by the Old Masters. What renders his works unique yet no less remarkable and memorable, is the miniature size. Moreover, each crest stands out, rendered even more poignant on a smaller scale, as it emphasises what we ought to be preserving; while the wooden material alludes to the vessels that pass on the sea waves. Thus, the work of art blends classical tradition of nautical-themed painting with contemporary issues of climate change and environmental awareness. 

David Cass, ‘oil on wooden stamps’ series and Claire Harness, ‘Black-Eyed Susan I’, watercolour

Another highlight is ceramic pieces by Michele Bianco. Inspired by the miniscule and the monumental in a landscape, Bianco’s sculptures spell an ode to nature, as they become an extension of what they represent – striations found in a rugged coastline, interstices between crowns of the trees, even floating seaweed – as they are conceived by a material whose origins are found underneath the Earth’s crust. The contrast between the two surfaces, a coarse texture from stoneware clay and smooth glossy surface of glazed clay, creates a joyous palate for the tactile sense. 

Michele Bianco ceramic sculptures

One of Tatha’s core values is to make art accessible. This goal is achieved through various initiatives, such as the ‘Postcard’ project, whereby the Gallery invited the local community to design postcards that would be showcased on one of its walls. The initiative produced fantastic results, reeling in participants of all ages and proved a great success in engaging the public with art. Thus, the Gallery also became a cultural hub for the local community, with schoolchildren frequently visiting, and Lindsay volunteering to talk at length about each artwork.

Jennifer Watt, ‘Sunseeker’, slate resin. The building was completed in 1806, with some features still intact, such as the window facing the river. 

The We are Ten exhibition runs for a limited time and warrants a second visit, as all works leave a lasting impression of longing for more, like after a great meal (speaking of which, drop by another local staple – Newport Bakery, just a stone’s throw away). However, it is the atmosphere and ethos of the Gallery itself that is key to the success of its endeavour (in no way diminishing the accomplishments of its artists). Every inch of the gallery is permeated with warmth and generosity that Lindsay Bennett brings to this place.

With thanks to Anna Shevetovska for this review.

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