The people pick favourite artwork at Mercer gallery

DACS; (c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
DACS; (c) DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

By Graham Chalmers

It’s launch week for The People’s Choice, a big new summer exhibition at Mercer Art Gallery consisting entirely of artworks from the Harrogate Arts & Museums Collection chosen by local celebrities, residents and businesses.

People selecting work include famous Harrogate actors Hugo Speer and Edward Fox, local business people such as Lesley Wild (Chair of Betty’s and Taylors), sportspeople such as Harrogate footballer Craig MacGillivray and my good self, Weekend Editor at the Harrogate Advertiser.

Sheila Asante, freelance curator, who has worked with everyone from a Knaresborough Youth Club to Speer to choose their favourite picture, said: “We wanted to represent the variety of communities and individuals who make the area their home.

“Working with people from Pateley Bridge to Pannal, we have been able to introduce our fine art collection to new audiences.”

The People’s Choice exhibition, which launches this weekend, is more than a collection of pictures.

Every piece of artwork will feature a story to explain the reasons for the choice, often quite personal, details of which will be displayed alongside each picture in the exhibition.

Hugo Speer, chose Silver Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw. He said: I have known and loved this painting since I was a child. I love how the moonlight is reflected in the muddy rainwater and the orange glow from the drawing-room windows of the house, promising warmth and shelter from the night.”

Wallace Sampson, Chief Executive of Harrogate Borough Council chose Hornel’s reflective painting of an old soldier because it reminded him of the Bob Marley song, Buffalo Soldier.

Mayor of Harrogate Michael Newby chose a Yorkshire landscape by Angus Rands. He said: ‘I have walked along a beck like this many times feeling the pull of the water, the blue of which stands out in this picture.”

The Knaresborough Dance Group chose Malcolm Scott’s painting Trying to Sketch Crows in the.

Speaking personally, the painting I have chosen is by John Craxton, an occasionally overlooked ‘neo-Romantic’ British artist who died in 2009 .

Girl In A White Scarf is not only a wonderfully pretty piece without being twee, it also reflects modern ideas sometimes lost in Harrogate amid its obsession with the past. Painted in 1949, it illustrated Craxton’s love of Picasso’s Cubism era female portraits but is rendered so subtly in pale blues, creams and yellows it transcends its roots.

The People’s Choice exhibition runs from July 13 to September 15 at The Mercer Art Gallery, Swan Road, Harrogate. Entry is free.