Albany Gallery: Celebrating 50 Years With Something New

You could be forgiven for missing the gallery when walking down Albany Road. On the high street and nestled between bustling shops, The Albany Gallery blends in and requires a security buzzer to gain access to the first and second floor location. Yet don’t let that put you off.

Exhibition inspired by David's 2012 visit to India
Exhibition inspired by Bill’s 2012 visit to India

Clearly the gallery has a winning formula, given it was established in 1965 and recently concluded a ’50th Anniversary Christmas Exhibition’ – somewhat timely in the festive season for a private, commercial operation.

I was astonished to hear that Albany owner, Mary Yapp, is still in charge at eighty seven years young. Unfortunately Mary was in North Wales when I visited but her presence is felt throughout the gallery. Bill Swann, also from North Wales, is an artist she admires and he agreed to take the not necessarily glamorous ‘January slot’ to showcase his glass and sculpture work. By the seem of things, it is far from impacting sales.

Riverscape Orchha (Madhya Pradesh state)
Riverscape Orchha (Madhya Pradesh state)

Swann’s collection has been nomadic, shifting around the country before landing in The Albany. Needless to say, the dynamism of India is captured throughout his work: “the sculptural work conveys how the burden and weight of life contrasts harmoniously with the joy and colour of living.” Talk about adding a bit of spice to the January slot.

Such contemporary work is not a staple of the gallery. Despite being a fan of Swann’s work, the gallery is consciously expanding horizons. For example, you could enter the gallery and make a purchase with a few hundred pounds – not so long ago, the top end work went for closer to sixty thousand.

How could art explore the psyche of India without an  elephant?
How could art explore the psyche of India without an elephant?

If you do go, make sure you spend plenty of time exploring Bill’s personal book, ‘studio work, development of ideas, sketches and source information’. The exhibit has so much energy and movement that it really helps to see how Swann’s ideas progressed and resulted in the cathartic glass work.

As Bill has written on the opposite page of his 'ideas' book, "art is a spiritual language"
As Bill has written on the opposite page of his ‘ideas’ book, “art is a spiritual language”

Like so many stories of travelling in India, Bill shares one of a train journey in which he met a transvestite dancer, a government official (keen to talk about social welfare), a young psychology student and a host of goats and monkeys. Although not having been to India myself, I have read a lot of great fiction from the country (from Midnight’s Children to The Inheritance Of Loss) and could see and feel clear parallels.

Again, this was an unexpected treat and even if you are not in the market for something, I would encourage you to drop by for a browse. Who knows, it may encourage you to pack your bags…


g39: UNIT(e)2015 kicks off next week

g39’s Unit project doesn’t begin until next week but I purposefully wanted to drop by during the build up.

I had read of g39’s move from the city centre in previous years and it certainly has a unique outer appearance.

g39 Oxford St., Cardiff
g39 Oxford St., Cardiff

The warehouse exterior almost looks more like the home of a hip microbrewery than contemporary art gallery, but that’s a strength rather than weakness. The gallery has big ambitions and they’ve found a place to match.

g39 was a key venue during Cardiff Contemporary 2014 and hosted the official launch with Carwyn Evan’s exhibition UDO.

Now it’s preparing for an extension of a successful pilot scheme from last year, where twelve artists, groups and curators occupy the ‘modular Unit spaces’ for production, presentation and development.

Genuine preparation for next week - this is not an exhibition...
Genuine preparation for next week – this is not an exhibition…

g39’s current artists focus is on dialogue and production. Given the gallery is an artist-run space – which accepts submissions from throughout the year – expect plenty of visual art which communicates along these thematic lines.

modular Unit no. 1 awaits Mr Pinder
modular Unit no. 1 awaits Mr Pinder

For example, Jason Pinder’s work is concerned with material experience but the g39 website shares the rundown of all who are involved. John-Michael Parry’s objects (which are known for ‘skewing logic or making little sense’) are also part of the programme and run from January 15 to March 14.

With 6,700 square foot of open plan exhibition space, I cannot wait to see the transformation over the coming weeks.

The main reason I have heard such favourable comments about g39 seems to be because it is as much a resource and community as it is a gallery. I look forward to going back and discovering the latest offering from this contemporary outlet.