Swaledale art gallery opens with work by Dales artists

Ralph Court (left) and Alan Lyman.

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By Pip Land

The homely and inspiring gallery at East Windy Hall near Reeth opened once more this weekend thanks to the friends and family of Joy Bently.

She created the gallery 25 years ago and even when she was very ill last year wanted to continue holding art exhibitions there.

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It was planned to hold one at Christmas but Joy died on December 8.

“She felt an obligation to keep it going – so I certainly feel that obligation,” said her husband, Ralph (pronounced Rafe) Court. But he could not have done it without the help of artist, Alan Lyman.

“Alan is totally invaluable. He has got the ability that I haven’t of seeing where things belong. He is totally amazing,” said Ralph.

Alan, who helped Joy for about ten years, commented: “The gallery is different from other galleries. It’s a very friendly, homely place – it’s not sterile.

“Joy was always very supportive and encouraging, and welcomed everyone who came.”

For this exhibition he and 22 other artists have come together to create a very fitting memorial as a celebration of her life. The enthralling display of artwork ranges from paintings by Mike Bilton and Piers Browne, to photographs by David Smith and Liz Reed, pottery by Ray Davies and John Calver, and textiles by Jenny Davies.

Joy Bently at work making a model of Freya.

But the keynote feature is the extensive display of the expression-filled studies of the heads of friends and family that Joy sculpted.

Ralph happily recalled the adventures of one of them.  “Bernhard got stolen from a gallery in London. Presumably the thief thought it was bronze and could be melted down. When he discovered it was bronze resin he threw it away. It was found in a ditch somewhere.”

He explained that Joy often used bronze resin to make her sculptures affordable to more people.

At this exhibition Ralph will continue providing refreshments just as he did when Joy was there, and there is a very comfortable sofa. With so much to study and enjoy it is worth planning to spend an hour or more in the gallery, taking time to savour the beauty and intriguing contrasts of the artwork.

The exhibition, which is part of the Swaledale Festival, continues until Sunday June 11.

It is open daily from 11am to 5pm on weekdays and from 2pm to 5pm on Sundays.

Admission is free with the proceeds from the sale of artwork being shared between the Swaledale Festival, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Alzheimer’s Society.