IN a region where conceptual art and Old Masters are available if you want them, there is still a place for the enthusiastic amateur.
Actually, there are quite a lot of places. The Federation of Northern Art Societies represents 61 groups with a combined membership of around 2,000 hobby painters.
On Saturday their latest exhibition opened at the DLI museum & Durham Art Gallery, Aykley Heads, Durham. James Lowther, visual arts officer at the county council, together with artists Joe Hush and Jason Skill, formed a selection panel, whittling a submission of 300 paintings down to 217 which are on display until November 26.
James said: “These are all amateurs and it’s good for people to be able to express themselves in this way.
“The works that particularly interest me are the ones where people have been a bit more adventurous. There are one or two more abstract pieces and someone had a go at collage. Ideally we would want to show an exhibition like this alongside something a bit more challenging but this is always a very popular exhibition and a good selling exhibition too.”
Also present to show me around the other day was John Fulthorpe, a member of the North of England Art Club, based in Newcastle’s Bolbec Hall, and of Gateshead Art Society whose own annual exhibition is coming up at the Shipley Art Gallery.
He is represented by a couple of paintings, including a pastel landscape of Tullagh Bay in Donegal. John, who is also assistant exhibition officer for the Federation, lives in Whickham and took up painting 10 years ago when he retired as a biomedical scientist.
“It is getting increasingly difficult for us to find places to exhibit now,” he said. The DLI, where Durham Photographic Society are also currently showing, serves the Federation well but is not guaranteed to host the exhibition again, following the retirement in August of Dennis Hardingham who ran the exhibition programme for years.
This year’s winner of the Staniland Award for the best picture in the exhibition goes to Geoffrey Milburn of Gosforth, Newcastle, for an oil painting entitled Farm Road, Northumberland.
Various other paintings were highly commended but it’s likely every visitor will have his or her own favourite.
For further information about the DLI and its programme, tel (0191) 384-2214 or visit www.durham.gov.uk/dli
The gallery is open 10am to 4pm daily. Admission is £3.25 adults, £2.15 concessions, £1.35 children (under fives free).