Contemporary art on ourdoorstep (with great cakes)


The Slade Centre in Gillingham enjoys a reputation as one of the top visual art spaces in Dorset, says Fanny Charles.

IT is all too easy to imagine that exciting contemporary visual art is only available in big cities – and certainly in this region there is a lot of challenging, cutting edge artwork happening in Bristol. As well as the international Hauser & Wirth arts centre at Bruton and Messums in the Tisbury tithe barn, there are a small number of experienced curators, who are also bringing outstanding work to galleries in unexpected places.
Sladers Yard, a former ropeworks in West Bay – famous for its cute food cabins and the dramatic fossil-rich cliffs – hosts exhibitions by some of the country’s leading painters, ceramicists and sculptors, alongside furniture by the resident designer-maker Petter Southall.
In a farmyard at Child Okeford, Kelly Ross shows work by leading artists of the past 100 years at The Art Stable at Gold Hill Organic Farm – most recently lockdown paintings by one of Britain’s finest portrait artists, Michael Taylor, marking his 70th birthday (see BV, Feb ‘22 issue, p.26).
The Slade Centre, in The Square at Gillingham, in an impressive Edwardian building that was once a department story, shows work by some of the region’s most talented contemporary artists. It was founded by its director, Anne Hitchcock, who was ECO of Wimborne’s Walford Mill Crafts for some years, after an MA at Falmouth and studying at Winchester School of Art.
Recent exhibitions have featured multi-media work (photographs, collages, sketches) by Kirsten Palmer and paintings by Ursula Leach, whose powerful, semi-abstract landscapes often have a provocative environmental message.
Originally on the first floor, the gallery has moved to the lighter and more visitor-friendly ground floor. There is also a cafe which serves a range of teas, great barista-style coffee, supplied by Reads Coffee Roasters of Sherborne, milk from Madjeston Milk Station, pastries and sausage rolls from Somerset’s Lievito Bakery, and
cakes by Sam Ross’s Gillingham- based Lavender Blue bakery.

The new exhibition at The Slade Centre, running from 2nd April to 7th May, is Impressions, with work by four North Dorset-based artists, painters Eric Bailey and Jane Barnard, printmaker Victoria Garland and ceramicist Caroline Hughes. The work on show reflects the individual responses of the four artists to wildlife, landscapes and coastlines. The works, through shape, colour, mood, glaze and texture, convey their
impressions of the diversity in the world around us.
The Slade Centre also offers a range of facilities from office suites and meeting rooms to art classes and exhibition space – call 01747 821480.

by Fanny Charles


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