Words: Arran Leith
Tower Street art gallery According to McGee welcomed the return of Elaine Thomas last week with a solo show ‘All Creatures Great and Small.’
The artist, who, as Vice-Chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts received a CBE for her contribution to the creative arts in 2011, represents a coup for gallery director Greg McGee. "It’s great for us, and it’s great for York’s art scene," he says. "We’ve championed UK contemporary paintings for nearly 14 years. Some exhibitions have been stronger than others, but the reason Elaine keeps coming back, is because she’s great to work with, her work always connects with browsers and collectors, and she has the has the courage of her convictions. You know it’s an Elaine Thomas within half a second of seeing it." Greg refers to the fresco based, figurative nature of the art. The paintings bristle with restless people, some with divine wings, some intent on more pagan pursuits, all with an energy and quickening that suggest a strong sense of joy in the painter.
Gallery co-director Ails McGee: "There is a joy in the work, but it’s a defiant mischief rather than anything based on religion or even spirituality. But there’s no big message here. The work calls to mind the moment when, on your travels in India, Greece, Italy, you stumble across an ancient, faded fresco and, centuries after they were created, you can still read the stories through the intense and exaggerated narrative caricatures. Elaine has nailed that moment. It’s universal and it’s inimitable, and this new collection is especially exciting. The exhibition launch was testament to that. The place was packed, and the reception to the work was excellent."
Artist Elaine Thomas: "It’s good to be back in York. This new collection is at times mischievous and a little wicked. The titles of each piece - ‘Bursting Forth’, ‘Ravished’, ‘Penitent’ - give clues to meaning, touching on the biblical, the zoological, the pagan and the human." According to McGee is, according to Greg, ‘celebrating its most successful year to date,’ with recent summer exhibitions from global rock star Horace Panter and duo shows from David Baumforth and Freya Horsley clearing house with lively sales.
Asked how they select artists to fulfil the commercial requirements of running a gallery, Greg is sanguine. "We don’t second guess the industry or the whims of collectors. ‘According to McGee’ does what it says on the tin. If we like it, if we see it as art with integrity and desirability, then we exhibit it." He points to Elaine’s art that riffs across the front gallery. The art is intense and very small, smaller even than Elaine’s previous collections, with dark frames harnessing the contemporary nature of the art with a hint of classical heft."
"It is indeed idiosyncratic and witty and would suit the walls of pretty much any art lover, anywhere. "It is highly collectible stuff," says Greg, "It’s unique and it’s small, and it represents an artist at the top of her game. It’s an important show for us, and we’re delighted we could showcase it in such style."According To McGee