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Review: The 2020 Harley Open

12 October 20 words: Kelly Holmes

Kelly Holmes headed to the picturesque Welbeck Estate to check out the 2020 Harley Open at the Harley Gallery

Linda Wallis - Woodland Sketch

The beauty of walking into an open exhibition is the expectation of unexpected things. You are about to be met with a myriad of different works from an eclectic group of hand-selected artists. There will be works you fall for, there and then. Pieces that you are really not very keen on, ones that will have you scratching you head, then you will stumble on something that touches a part of you that maybe you thought was gone forever, or at least dormant. But one way or another, open exhibitions such as the current one at The Harley Gallery, will absolutely give you something to talk about if not fill you with emotion.

Situated in the beautiful grounds of the historic Welbeck estate, The Harley Gallery plays host to one of the East Midlands’ most prestigious open exhibitions – The Harley Open. A proper thrill for artists chosen to exhibit, it feels like such a grown-up space and a true milestone of any budding artist’s career, having their work alongside such other talented artists. When they opened for submissions (way back in winter when the vast majority of us would have supposed words such as 'furlough' and 'Covid' were straight from the pen of Roald Dahl) in excess of 600 entries flooded in, all from artists within 100 miles of the gallery, as is an entry stipulation. Judges were tasked with whittling that mammoth number down to just 102, no mean feat.

The Harley Gallery invites artists working in a plethora of mediums to submit and the exhibition was initially due to run from late spring into early summer, but for obvious reasons (unless you have actually been living on another planet!) this had to be pushed back and the gallery finally reopened in August with two new exhibitions; The Open exhibition running alongside the solo exhibition of one of last year’s joint winners – Between Islands by Joanna Whittle, who was also invited to be on this year’s judging panel.

As anyone who is tuned into the Nottingham art scene knows only too well, we punch well above our weight in this department. As testament to that, the selection panel for The Harley Open, shrewdly chose a great selection of Nottingham artists, amongst which are Linda Wallis, exhibiting Woodland Sketch, William Gregory MacArthur with Orange and Isaac Hepworth, showing To be Frank.

Situated in the beautiful grounds of the historic Welbeck estate, The Harley Gallery plays host to one of the East Midlands’ most prestigious open exhibitions – The Harley Open

Having been a painter for many years, latterly Linda Wallis found that her processes and subsequently her work were an increasing source of frustration. In a dramatic turnaround, Linda decided to take a break from painting, instead turning to the humble coloured pencil and a practice know as automatism. Since taking up this style of practice, Linda has developed her works, some starting from a point that she describes as “an arrangement of shapes.” You can find Linda’s work on her Instagram or website.

William Gregory MacArthur is a Nottingham artist who work at speed with figurative paintings, enjoying the result which often appears impetuous, spontaneous and raw. Upon the first time of submitting the Harley Open, William’s work was chosen among the 102 final pieces. William said of the work and the judges decision to include it in the exhibition, The painting started out as one of a series of anatomical practice pieces but it took on a life of its own and captured a real energy and uniqueness. It is encouraging that the judges could see something in my work.” You can find more of William’s work on his Instagram.

Upon seeing Isaac Hepworth’s work, it’s kind of impossible to take in the fact that this Nottingham artist is a mere eighteen years of age, yet those are the facts. His work displays the skill and soul of someone far greater years, so it’s of absolutely no surprise that he had 2 works selected to be exhibited. Go and take a look for yourself on Instagram.

Even better, get yourself over to the Harley Gallery and have a butchers in real life. While you’re out there, you had may as well make a day of it and have a good gander around the estate. It really is a beautiful place and makes for a great day out. Have a spot of lunch at the café , grab yourself some goodies from the farm shop, not to mention being home to The Portland collection. For more information, including booking details, health and safety requirements and a full list of exhibitors, check out the Harley Gallery website. 

The Harley Gallery exhibition runs until Sunday 1 November

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