Great Art in Chester!

Great Art in Chester!

Went to Chester today for a bit of pretty humdrum shopping and accidentally ended up being ambushed by great art – three times over.

First, stopped at the Grosvenor Museum on some archaeologically-related business and caught the 2013 Chester OpenSome really excellent art on display – figurative, symbolic, abstract, expressionist, and all points in-between. Mostly paintings, but some prints, a few photographs and a small cabinet of 3D works. The room is packed with works, and you can easily lose an hour in there. The show runs until April 17th; if you haven’t been yet, you really should go.

Then, hunting high and low (unsuccessfully) for trousers, I retreated into Bex Raven’s Funky Aardvark shop in the Rows. Bex and the Aardvarks have pulled together a huge range of art and craft, and the shop is packed with great stuff. I picked up a pair of crisp little paper kits by the ever-nifty Tang Mu (and noticed glass sculptures by Inside Out artist Chrissie Smith in the window, too!)

Finally, the arty highlight of the day was the discovery of the 11-day pop-up creativity that was the Rogues Galleries project. It’s an occupation of six empty shops by a series of eleven artists. It’s a series of installations and performances, exhibitions and interventions by a really inventive selection of artists. Challenging shoppers and visitors alike, the projects are an inspired dose of brightness in amongst the everyday bustle of Chester. We were only able to stop into two locations: Repair Stations in The Haberdashery, Newgate Row, and The Scrivener and Heard Words at the old Odeon.

In Repair Stations, artist Anoushka Athique exchanges repairs to visitors’ clothing in exchange for stories which she is weaving into a textile tapestry. Over at the Odeon, Between Art and Technology Studio’s installation Heard Words translates anything you speak in the gallery into a print – twisting festoons of paper dangle from the ceiling, peppered with snippets of overheard conversation. Meanwhile, in The Scrivener, artist Rowan Lear sits in the window of the shop and transcribes a Victorian history of Chester on a typewriter, interspersing the text with her own observations and thoughts. The typed vellum sheets are then pinned up on the window – a diary of the intervention of contemporary life into the antique; present conflated with past, immediacy captured and pressed like flowers.

If you manage brave the snow this weekend and get to Chester before Sunday (24th), you’ll have a chance of catching the Rogues Galleries – and their excellent and inspiring take on the art of shopping – before they close their doors.

So thank you, Chester Open, Funky Aardvark and Rogues Galleries. Saw some great art – met some great artists – and had a fantastic day.