Last summer I wrote a short piece about one of the oddest collections I have ever come across – The Brooking National Collection. This is the life work of architectural enthusiast and eccentric, Charles Brooking and currently comprises some 500,000 individual items of British architecture spanning some 500 years. I wrote the original post because I had been asked to help the Collection mount a small exhibition at Cranleigh Arts Centre (Cranleigh being the home of the Collection) to raise awareness locally and try and stimulate interest in helping it find a new permanent home.
A visit to see the Collection provided plenty of ideas before I finally decided that it would provide context for the viewer if suitable artwork could be found which celebrated architectural subject matter and to which tangible links to the Collection could be made.
The past few months have found me too-ing and fro-ing and talking to artists who seemed to be happy with the idea and generous enough to loan their artwork for inclusion in the exhibition. The main display from the Collection is a group of windows of significant architectural importance and rarity from the Surrey and immediate surrounding area. This is supported by a second display of other architectural artefacts also largely from the locality, each one having something of importance about it. Because the artefacts are all single pieces which are being shown out of their original context, they can look a little bit like bits of architectural salvage. To get round this and emphasise the importance of the Collection, I felt that artwork which takes empty architectural spaces or detailing which is often overlooked as it’s theme would be appropriate; and two artists which spring to mind immediately were the London based textiles artist, Paulene Cattle and Surrey artist Deborah Gourlay. I was delighted when they both agreed to loan me some of their work. A sudden thought struck me that an in-house exhibition should possibly also make opportunities for local artists, and I remembered that the winner of the Visitors Vote of the Open Art Competition for 2014 lived in Cranleigh and her piece was a stunning black and white photograph of a derelict barn. What could be more perfect? So by now, I was well on the way to drawing together the various strands of the show, all that was required was another artist who’s work would underpin everything else and draw it all together. But who? Fortunately, one of the Board members at the Centre knew an artist who would fit the bill perfectly and suggested I contact the world famous watercolourist, Alexander Creswell who happens to live nearby. I have to confess that I was very nervous about contacting him, but as it turned out I needn’t have worried. He agreed to loan us 3 pieces of work from a series of paintings called Silent Houses, and at a meeting with him and his wife, Mary, they were charming and interested and made me feel completely at ease – no mean feat as I am naturally very nervous when meeting new people and on occasions have been known to go to extra ordinary lengths to avoid social situations!
Suddenly I realised that I had an exhibition on my hands! Last Monday found me, together with Naomi and Lidia from the Arts Centre getting the exhibition set up and ready for the Private View Opening Drinks Reception which was scheduled for Tuesday 31 March. A fun-filled day later it was all ready to go and at 6pm on the Tuesday the first guests began to arrive. By the end of the evening a couple of hours later we had played host to over 100 guests and received some very positive feedback. It is this which makes all the worry and stress of the months leading up to it worthwhile.
The Elements of Architecture exhibition in the main gallery at Cranleigh Arts Centre
Guests enjoy wine, nibbles and an interesting mix of art and artefacts at the Private View Drinks Reception