Great British Bonanza

19 May 13 words: Rachel Elderkin
Hopkinson and The Classroom Gallery celebrate British art, craft and culture

The Great Britain Show

The Classroom Gallery is a small room tucked away on an upper floor of Hopkinson. Situated on Station Street, Hopkinson is a four-floored building packed full of vintage clothes and treasures. Alongside the gallery and new Craft Mafia shop, it is also home to a café, a number of artist’s studios and independent shops; including a guitar store and tailors. The Great British Bonanza launch saw an ‘open-house’ style evening where visitors could browse at their leisure with a complimentary drink in hand – a glass of Pimms if you felt inclined to embrace the British theme.

The Great Britain Show at The Classroom Gallery, curated by Izzy Watts, continued this celebration of British arts and creative talents. Although originally inspired by the patriotic events of 2012 the show is not a patriotic exhibition but rather a celebration of British people, country and culture. The artists and their work chosen certainly capture the British spirit.

A collection of amusing sketches by Dave Bishop, AKA Lord Biro, occupy the first wall. These parodies of British figures and events capture their characters, and sometimes social problems, in a humours or subtly ironic way. Favourites are ‘The Pickled Royal Corgi’ with its tagline relating to Damien Hirst, and ‘The Pearly Boris’ – two London icons
in one.
Pearly Boris by Dave Bishop AKA Lord Biro

Continuing the ‘amusing sketches theme’ is cartoonist Lewis Bradley who, for this British exhibition, chose Prince Philip as the subject of his cartoon strip. In ‘The Adventures of Prince Philip’, visitors can see Prince Phil in four short scenarios; a series of amusing anecdotes that perfectly capture the nation’s impression of him.

The stand-out works of this exhibition are those by Emma Wilson and Low Laithes Village. While the artworks themselves – a large portrait of the Queen and a Union Jack – are bold, colourful and eye-catching, it is the story behind their production that makes them special. They have been created by Low Laithes residents who participate in the art therapy workshop ‘Artistic Spectrum’ founded by Emma Wilson. The participants have autism and it is through their collective work that these pieces have been created. The Union Jack is particularly inspiring as the ragged materials used to create it come from a sensory activity set up by Emma when it emerged that one resident constantly ripped his own clothing – he was provided with a room full of fabric instead, from which this flag has been put together by a number of residents. The Queen is an equally distinctive piece, a collage of shredded paper, beads and other found materials. Both pieces are made with a collective, community spirit perfect for this exhibition, yet these recycled collages are also detailed artworks in their own right.

Laura Arten’s photographs of a girl underwater, named Lenka, are another inspiring piece. Again, these photographs are simply a portrait of a young, British girl, until you read that Lenka is blind and that she was a competitor in the 2012 Paralympics.

Photographs of strangers are turned into pencil drawings by Alannah Barker. Her distinctive figures look incredibly like a photograph themselves, the plain white background making them stand out of the page. These are highly realistic drawings showing a definite artistic talent.

Alannah Barker

The Classroom Gallery wouldn’t have its name without the old-school desks and blackboard. Here the desks play host to a number of watercolours by Joan Beal. Capturing the British landscape, icons (well, Mick Jagger) and events such as Ascot and tea parties, they round off this very British exhibition.

Ultimately, this small exhibition is a reflection of British traditions, society, community and – thankfully – British humour. Plus the Great British Bonanza proved to be an evening full of independent arts and crafts, showcasing the wealth of creativity that resides in this independent vintage venue.

The Great Britain Show is showing at The Classroom Gallery, Hopkinson, until Thursday 23 May 2013. Entrance is free.

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