“A Bit Like Marmite”

An Interview with Alan Stratford, A2 Gallery, Discussing the Flock Together Exhibition

work-videoAfter the success of the recent ‘Flock Together’ exhibition at the newly relocated A2 Gallery in Wells I spoke to owner, Alan Stratford about his take on the show. A painter & designer himself, he relocated from London to Somerset in 2002, opening the A2 Gallery in 2008, to showcase the talent of predominantly local artists. The new look A2 Gallery was reopened in 2013, still located on the High Street, yet now with an increased space and a large window front, doing justice to its many treasures. The gallery has seen an increase of visitors and a slight change of programme, with the introduction of their first open call exhibition, which invited artists to interpret ideas around rural Somerset. The collaborative piece, ‘Sheep cam in barn 00:23 – 01:31’ by Flock Together artists was selected for the ‘Real Somerset’ exhibition, going on to receive the first prize of £1000 and a solo exhibition at the gallery.

For Alan, this work in particular stood out as being something a little different and a piece that really engaged with the topic of rural Somerset.

“There was a lot of conversation around this piece and I was pleased Debbie and Sara were nominated to receive the prize of a solo exhibition at the Gallery. For us it was a pleasure to be able to offer local artists their first collaborative solo exhibition and to display work that may not have been everybody’s cup of tea but certainly encouraged a dialogue and a different sort of interaction from our visitors. We want to be known as a gallery that might sometimes challenge our audience and show new things.  We wanted to broaden people’s expectations of us, as although we might generally be seen as a slightly more traditional gallery, we also want to be known as a venue where something a bit out of the ordinary might be on show.”

He describes the exhibition as “a bit like Marmite”, where visitors may either love it or hate it, but everyone, he says was interested in the story behind the work.

“The interesting thing about the ‘Flock Together’ show is that with its monochromatic and moody colour palette, its movement and energy, the work could stand alone purely on aesthetic merit, however, what really brings it to life is the narrative – which is fundamental and equally as important to the understanding of the work.”

Due to this, there was a different kind of interaction from visitors, where some people might even have viewed the work, read the text and then wanted to re-view everything from this new perspective; becoming more engaged and surprised to learn about the artists’ process the audience was intrigued by the visual outcomes of interpreting the movements of the Farmer, sheepdog and his flock.

The exhibition received good press coverage, with press releases in many local newspapers, magazines and through online channels. Although it was not necessarily the most commercially minded exhibition, it was a brilliant tool for creating a conversation around the A2 Gallery and rural Somerset and Alan hopes to host exhibitions of a similar nature in the future.

“Exhibitions like this encourage a conversation and a buzz around the gallery, raising its profile. We’re still building our audience and exploring new avenues. Looking to the future we are planning something out of the ordinary during Somerset Art Weeks Festival, so watch this space…”

…and as much as I tried I could not find out any more from Alan on this subject, his lips were firmly sealed! So if you are interested in what is coming up for the Gallery please visit http://www.a2gallery.co.uk/ or find them on Facebook for the most up to date news https://www.facebook.com/pages/A2-Gallery/403997543059215.

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