Off The Wall!
The Short Version!
Off The Wall is a new (July 1st 2018) gallery/shop in Halifax’s Piece Hall selling cartoons, caricatures and prints that reflect my 40 years of collecting! Upwards of 150 pictures (and some 3 dimensional pieces as well) are always on show.
While I buy principally for myself I know that most of my customers are buying with someone else in mind – finding the right image or joke to make unusual, personal and affordable (prices start below £20 and many are under £50) presents.
(A word of advice – most of my pictures benefit from close attention to appreciate them fully. So if you’re planning to come and have a look be prepared to stay a while! You’ll enjoy it!)
The Longer version!
I started collecting over 40 years ago with a caricature ceramic head of Jeremy Thorpe (following his fall from grace after Rinkagate!) followed by Chris Orr, Glen Baxter, Jean Auscher (which, on one occasion, involved a Eurostar day trip to Paris when a French auction house’s response to an enquiry about sending on the La Faune des Dancings Folio I had successfully bid on, was the email equivalent of a Gallic shrug!), Nick Newman, Larry……..
Having built up a collection that had outgrown the house and wanting to be able to continue collecting I decided to explore the possibility of turning my hobby into a business. The 1st step was taking a stall at the Piece Hall 2017 Christmas Market and then a year renting a couple of square metres of wallspace from Alan and Andrew at Carlton Antiques Centre (www.carlton-art-antiques.co.uk) at Saltsmill for a “micro-gallery”. The success of the reopening and reenergising of the Piece Hall and the availability of the “unit” seemed to provide the ideal next step! Giving me more opportunity to explore more artists and share my finds.
So Off The Wall was born and the Piece Hall Gallery/Shop opened on July 1st 2018 on the South Wall Colonnade, selling an eclectic mix of prints, illustrations and original artwork – pictures that add humour and spice to our view of the world! And make individual, unusual, affordable and entertaining presents!
Starting with James Gillray in the 18th Century (during the Heyday of the Piece Hall’s life as a wool trading hall), taking in household names like William Heath Robinson, EH Shepard, Ronald Searle, HM Bateman, Mel Calman, Larry, Gerald Scarfe and Glen Baxter and lesser known (at least nowadays) names like David Low, Casque (SCH Davis), Tom Browne, Max Beerbohm, Frank Reynolds, Bert Thomas, Lewis Baumer and Hugh Dodd.
Although illustration, caricatures and cartoons were, and continue to be, things that the British excel at and the collection has a focus on taking a wry, irreverent and sometimes disrespectful look at British life, there are also some “continental” contributors- Jean Auscher, Frans Masereel, George Grosz, Theodore Van Elsen, Antonis Kyriakoulis, Claude Weisbuch and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec – bringing their own flavour and preoccupations!
Most recently I have acquired a limited edition (131/180) portfolio of prints from Henry Moore‘s Shelter Sketchbooks. Wonderful expressions of the “life underground” of Londoners sheltering from the Blitz. These prints were produced in 1967 under the supervision of HM himself and are exact reproductions of the sketchbooks that formed the reference material for a series of paintings for the War Artists Commission (now mainly in the Imperial War Museum).
Alongside them are limited edition portfolios of prints by William Nicholson, produced in 1980 from the original 1890s woodblocks – An Alphabet, London Types and An Almanac of Twelve Sports – 72 in all.
As well as pictures I’ve included the 3 dimensional caricatures of Italian artist Guillermo Forchino (his bumper car occupants are particularly engaging); Glen Baxter “collectibles” – books (including an uncut copy of Ominous Stains as a full sheet screen print); boxed sets of cards and uncut decks of playing cards featuring political caricatures; Mounted and framed postage stamps presented as miniature works of art (“Stampart”) including some by Gerald Scarfe, Ralph Steadman and Mel Calman.
I’ve also taken increasing satisfaction from finding examples of well known artists’ work that doesn’t fit the preconceived idea that most of us have of them. Ronald Searle’s record of his visit to the Berlin Wall, Heath Robinson’s illustrations for Rabelais (their gothic grotesque style predating Mervyn Peake’s illustrations for Gormenghast by 40 years), David Low’s caricatures of political and cultural figures that are very different from his appeasement bashing 1930s cartoons and EH Shepard’s take on the French/English wartime entente (not a Pooh in sight!)……
More recently I’ve come upon the wonderful silhouette illustrations created by Don Blanding for his books of poetry. I’ve also included some of the iconic 1st world war cartoons by Bruce Bairnsfather, and most excitingly I’ve met Louis Benoit a local artist/illustrator who has a unique and idiosyncratic take on the world – my 1st pieces of his work are at the framers and should be On The Wall in mid October!
But its not just about the artists, its more than anything about humour – cricket, politics and public life, winter sports, schooldays, racing, motoring, courtship and marriage, golf, railway travel – in fact all parts of human life and the human condition ripe for ridicule!