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.
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.
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.
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.
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…