An explosion of mining art – that is the way this gallery mentions the fantastic development of art in the region by local miners.
This gallery is a beautifully refurbished building in the middle of the town. The exterior and particularly the interior are worthy of awards for the design and ambience lending to a superb venue to display these unique works of art on its walls.
This gallery of course specialises in works of art produced by miners from the local community…
and William Hindmarsh
… amongst others.
Sparing no sensitivities, the works illustrate the fears, dangers and uncertainties of the mining occupations. They also display the camaraderie, social cohesion, community spirt obviously most positively strong in the area. A fact necessary against the adversity of the type of employment where a third of the population were involved in mining and until the National Coal Board in 1947, mine ownership in the hands of private enterprise and local landed gentry. Read your own implications into that.
My father was a conscripted Bevan Boy (as was Tom McGuiness) 1944 to 1947. In South Wales – Penarth Colliery. He managed the experience well, but it never left him.
Tom McGuiness encouraged supported local miners to develop their art as a means of creative and indeed aesthetic escape from the pits. The Spennymoor Settlement (Settlement Movement) provided opportunities, venue and collective collaboration for local people to gather together to enable them to express themselves and their lives.
Norman Cornish spent most of his spare time sketching, drawing and painting particularly mining figures, often huddled against the ominous weather, the industrial landscape, the social venues, pubs, clubs and homes.
To stand and stare, absorb and reflect before many of the works in the gallery is to get closer to feeling the situations, circumstances and times of this region. Much of which is now lost with pit closures and economies moving in different directions. Eras now past, social and economic realities of the time now moved on. Communities both above and below ground, expired.
This gallery was a special and specific destination and it did not disappoint. A destination highly recommended to visit.
(the images shown above will form part of the talk I am giving on the English Landscape. A thoughtful distraction from the idyllic pastoral images of Gainsborough, Constable and Turner)