Saul Hay Fine Art was born out of the passion of its collector founders, Catherine and Ian Hay. It opened in the historical Castlefield area of Manchester in October 2016.
Working with emerging and established artists, Saul Hay presents a diverse programme of contemporary painting, drawing, sculpture and photography and has quickly established itself as an important player on the Manchester art scene. The gallery sponsored the Emerging Artist Award for last year’s New Light Art Prize.
Catherine Hay, Director of the Saul Hay Gallery: “Like us, New Light is passionate about encouraging and promoting artists in the North of England. As a fairly young gallery ourselves, it felt right to support the prize for those artists just starting out on a professional artistic career.”
Glenn Ibbitson: ‘Barcode: WS1984’ oil on canvas
I met Catherine and Ian at the preview of the New Light Art Prize at Bowes Museum back in October. I had seen them looking at one of my works, and its obscure title allowed me to introduce myself with an explanation. The title; “Barcode:WS1984” referenced George Orwell and his fated protagonist Winston Smith. As with so many conversations over the last couple of years, this one turned from the exhibition on view to the subject of Orwell’s journalism and its influence on contemporary thought and culture. The possibility of collaborating on a themed exhibition was left hanging in the air as we exchanged e-mail addresses and goodbyes.
On February 24th, Ian messaged me inviting me to visit the gallery to discuss a showing of work comprising a selection from ‘Room 103’. “It is Orwell’s 115th birthday on 25 June so I wondered if we could tie it with that.”
It was only as I approached the Saul Hay Gallery that I realised just how apposite a location this would be for a tribute to Orwell. On one side of the gallery is the terminus basin of the Bridgewater Canal, one of the catalysts of the industrial revolution. On the other, a viaduct which carried the world’s first passenger railway between Manchester and Liverpool; confirming the development of urbanisation. The problems arising from both these related phenomena provided George Orwell with the material for a lifetime of writing and journalism.
Railway Cottage is a handsome Victorian red brick building of the type with which Orwell would have been familiar while filling notebooks with observations around the North of England, though the accumulation of half a century’s industrial grime may have masked their simple elegance from him at the time. [As a child growing up in Leeds through the 1960’s, I thought the city’s town hall had been built from a black stone.] High on the front wall of Railway Cottage is a clock-face. It doesn’t strike thirteen, but I think Orwell might be tickled by the notion that at this venue, the time is always six minutes before six…
The interior is by contrast, up to the minute. Illuminated by natural light from two sides and diffused overhead units, the large room provides for one long uninterrupted run of wall hanging work, with other walls punctuated by the West-NorthWest facing windows. It is more welcoming than the jaded ‘white box’ model, and allows a potential buyer to visualise the artwork in a domestic setting rather like their own home. The current exhibition reveals an interest in realistic and figurative artwork with an engagingly wide remit. I was particularly taken by their willingness to exhibit paintings on unframed stretchers, which lent the whole space a freshness and spontaneity usually found only in an artist’s studio. It seemed to me a healthy symptom of a bold personal vision at work.
Ian and Catherine’s engagement in ‘Room 103’ at this relatively early stage of its development has generously provided us with a venue and an approximate date of Autumn later this year, propelling the Orwell project to the next level as a bona fide exhibition. Specific dates will be posted shortly.
Railway Cottage 33a Collier St. Castlefield, Manchester M3 4LZ
tel. 0161 222 4800 Website link
Opening Times during exhibitions
Weds – Sat 10.30 to 6.00
Sun 10.30 to 5.00
other times by appointment
closed Sunday 24th December
closed Sunday 31st December