Maiden Bridge Gallery, Tatham Fells

What could be better after a gorgeous lunch in the Pheasant Inn, Casterton, than a fabulous afternoon at ‘Tatham Modern’s’ annual exhibition! The gallery is run by David Davies and Hannah Smeds-Davies in the huge stone barn that adjoins their home.  Set in the Forest of Bowland, east of Lancaster, Maiden Bridge has stunning views of Lancashire’s Tatham Fells across the valley to the fells of West Yorkshire.

One approaches the barn via a cobbled entrance, and through the magnificent pivoting doors, with their heavy iron door furniture, to be greeted by Hannah.  There is so much to see. The entrance hall has textiles, bags, books, cards, paintings, wonderful turned wooden boxes and bowls, and a small collection of stones and septarian concretions under the stairs.

Barn Doors

Entrance hall

The room to the right (seen below during the Facing North exhibition) has a central table displaying the ceramic figures of Vladimir Tsivin, the walls are covered by 2D works by David Davies and other exhibiting artists, and textiles by Hannah Smeds-Davies and Zunya Davies.

Facing North in the lower gallery

The main gallery space is upstairs, where the exhibiting artists are based in the North – North of England and Europe (Hannah is Swedish).

Current Exhibition, Upper Gallery  Current exhibition, Upper Gallery

The Upper Gallery: current exhibition

The slideshow below shows works by most of the exhibiting artists.  Those by Vladimir Tsivin are actual works from the exhibition.

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I was pleased to see Graham Lowe is still at Maiden Bridge.  I learnt about the gallery from him about 12 years ago, when I had a go at his portrait painting class.  This was before I’d tried clay portrait sculpture. I never did get on with painting, though.  Seems he’s added yet another style of painting to his repertoire.  His practice is very diverse – some would say ‘confused’. He’s such a skillful painter.

Interesting to see Simon Griffiths’ birds in real life.  I’d seen his work in Holmfirth, where he has his ‘affordable works’ cast in bronze resin by Martin Norman at The Sculpture Lounge.  His ceramic raptors and owls are imposing.

Martin Norman studio: resin cast partridges by Simon Griffiths

Colour dominates the exhibition. I love the colour in both David and Hannah’s works. Some of Hannah’s woven wall pieces take on a 3D quality viewed at a distance. I have one of Zunya’s vibrant silk scarves for some years, bought on a previous visit to the gallery.

An exception is Eoghan Bridge’s equine acrobats.  When we saw his exhibition at the Pyramid Gallery in York, there were some brightly coloured pieces, which I didn’t really like.  Here they were all toned down monochrome. Great fun.

I don’t even remember Ruth King’s vessels at CAL.  Perhaps it was too crowded to see them properly, or maybe they are too quite to stand out amid all the other displays. They feel ‘at home’ in Maiden Bridge.  Her forms are simple but considered.  Nice.

Not too sure about Pat Ellacott’s elderly people.  On the plus side they are full of character. But they are porcelain paperclay over a wire armature, which means the poreclain has badly cracked on firing.  While I can see that this may work as a metaphor for ageing, I’m not sure I appreciate this aesthetically or conceptually.

I always like to buy something to support David and Hannah.  This time I bought cards and one of the books they publish themselves about a previous exhibition Facing North.  Skimming through I caught sight of Halima Cassell’s carved head she showed us during her recent artist talk. I hadn’t realised it was a self-portrait (the exhibition had 2 exhibits from each artist – a self portrait and an example of their normal work):

Halima Cassell: Self Portrait, Facing North Exhibition in the Lower Gallery

Hannah said that she and David gave Halima her first exhibition after she left UCLan. They support Northern artists, and she says they especially like to help young talent. Hannah said she and David took Facing North went to Scandinavia, Halima’s work was hugely popular.

I also bought two mini-books of their stone collection.  Who knew there were such fantastic stones in the northern reaches of the Forest of Bowland?  I hadn’t heard of septarian nodules or concretions.  Now I find you can buy them on Ebay, polished to reveal the beauty of their internal pattern. Wow!  I’m going to have to search for some. I think I feel a concretion body of work developing!






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