Head to Canwood Gallery, Herefordshire's newest gallery, and you'll be knocked sideways by the open, explorative approach to fine art. This genre-crossing creative output comes from students midway through the fine art degree course at Hereford College of Arts (HCA).
Mark Houghton, course lecturer, was among the first to exhibit at Canwood when it opened in September 2016, coinciding with h.Art. Earlier this year he approached Hannah Dale, gallery manager, about filling the space with student work. X Marks the Spot is the result.
"Most of the students were nervous about showing here,” said Mark. "The nice thing to see is how they've stepped up. They’re kind of like goldfish - they’ve grown to the size of the bowl."
The spring exhibition is part of a progression module – "so they don’t sink as soon as they leave college". It's preparing them for the real word, as much their final show next year.
"The more of this kind of experience they have the better they’ll be at curating and exhibiting work in the real word,” said Mark, whose own abstract sculptures and paintings (markhoughton.com) play with subtly of surroundings and the idea of ‘ordinary’.
"Everyone thinks it’s easy to stick things on the wall but there’s actually an awful lot that goes into it."
There are 17 students exhibiting in the stunning surrounds of Canwood – a substantial gallery space with a high-finish, hidden in the rolling rural Herefordshire countryside. On permanent display is Carl Andre’s 1966 Bricks (“the most boring controversial artwork of all time”).
Canwood Gallery in Checkley is a not-for-profit gallery set up by Stephen Dale. Dale survived non-Hodgkin's Leukaemia in his thirties after clinical trial treatment at St Bart's Hospital. Profits from Canwood shows are donated to Bart’s Charity.
Walking us around the exhibition ahead the private view, HCA’s fine art course leader Dr Daniel Pryde-Jarman pointed out work inspired by, entwined with, landscape as much as personal stories.
"In the first semester they are asked to respond to a figure, object or a landscape. By this stage of the course, there is much more expanded scope," said Daniel.
"And although we’ve got more space [last year's students previously exhibited at Hereford's Apple Store Gallery], it’s not about showing all the work they’ve ever done because that’s not the point. It’s about choosing a piece of work, or two, that will respond to the space and to the people around you, to engage and help them explore their practice.
"For a lot of them it’s their first exhibition and that is daunting. Some students can be genuinely terrified.
"It sounds like an everyday thing for art students to have an exhibition but for the first one, it’s a big deal. This may be the first time they’ve been given a space to respond to.
"I mean here’s the Carl Andre piece which was bought at Sotheby’s for £145,000. That’s a pretty substantial thing right there and this student can say, ‘yeah, I’ve shown opposite Carl Andre and last week I’d never done an exhibition before’.”
Artists taking part in X Marks the Spot: Ellen Audrey, Rachel Barnett, Richard Branczik, Sandy Brooks, Roger Fuller, Kate Green, Kate Harvey, Ali Hughes, Joe Jackson, Lady Mel, Omar Majeed, David Saunders, Susan Stevens-Jenkins, Richard Vine, Anna Ward, Justine-Diane Winter, Naomi Wood.
X Marks the Spot is open every weekend (noon-5pm) at Canwood Gallery (Checkley, HR1 4NF) until April 30, and by appointment only.