As always, this years annual Open exhibition at Preston’s Harris Museum and Art Gallery is an exciting and inspiring mix of more than 400 exhibits of mixed media, materials, quality, and genres.
There is real talent on display, many professional entries, but the open always manages to be inclusive of a gratifying number of heartwarming ‘amateur’ pieces.
At the accomplished end of the scale, ‘Protest 1’ by Michael Robinson is a vibrant burst of colour and composition. ‘Becoming belongings’ by Jessica Hull, combines well executed and enigmatic monochrome portraits on cardboard that are both competent and thought provoking. Joey Cobb’s ‘line drawing 2’ is an amazingly painstaking and detailed construction that reads differently on every viewing.
In contrast Graham Hough’s twin pieces ‘Alphonsine and Aurelia’ combine artisanship and fun, with a hint of Spitting Image. As always there is local interest, my favourite this year is a quirky ceramic construction, ‘Preston-late Victorian’ presented by Arline Painter, a lovely representation of what looks like the environs of the Flag Market. At the ‘amateur’ end are a couple of naive but fun pieces of local characters by Wilf Riley that I have seen before, propped up in the Guild Ale House just around the corner from the Harris.
However, the star of the show this year for me is the, not yet I assume, professional artist(s). Minnie and Rob Kennedy-Parr (aged 8). The line drawings ‘Blind Contour drawings’ are remarkable pieces, displaying real talent. Combining simplicity with crisp execution, a great eye, and wit. I look forward to seeing how these artists progress in the future.
The Harris Open is for me the highlight of the year at Preston’s jewel, and this year is vintage. Don’t forget that most of the pieces are for sale, from £5 to £10,000, and of course the Harris is free to visit seven days a week.