Reading My Way Around the World

Monday 4 February 2019

Artist's Date - the F.E. McWilliams Gallery

Woman in Blast bronze sculpture by F.E.McWilliams

Morning pages have long been part of my routine - it's a habit I picked up from Julia Cameron when I first did her book The Artist's Way 20 years (or more) ago.  Write 3 pages (or 750 words or for 20 minutes) long hand every morning as a way of getting subconscious ideas down on paper and ridding your mind of the unconscious critic that resides there for all of us.   I love this practice - it's a meditation sometimes, other times a rant, often just a planning exercise or even a way of recording and processing life and slowing it down a wee bit.

Recently I've been dipping in to the book again, re-reading it and doing some of the exercises.  One of the other regular practices she advocates is the Artist's Date - a solitary playdate with your artist each week as an idea gathering, well-filling exercise and it's something I had real problems with when first doing the Artist's Way, not the outings so much as the alone time - difficult when you live with your work colleague!.

Anyway Tom had a large recording session in the house over last weekend and as we have such a tiny house the musicians ended up being spread through most of the rooms for sound separation.   So I took myself off for the day and ended up at an art gallery nearby followed by a nosey through the charity shops in the town.

I've passed signs for the F.E.McWilliams Gallery on the road from Newry to Belfast many times - it's been there for years, so I thought it about time to go and have a look.

Frederick McWilliams was one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, a contemporary and friend of Henry Moore and a follower of the style of Rodin.  His work is amazing and this gallery is a permanent space dedicated to his work and curated by the local art council - it also houses temporary exhibitions - the one just finishing today was Crossing Lines.

Here's a little video of a look around the garden and an interview with him when he returned to Banbridge in his later life.

There was a lot to look at in this exhibition which is being run simultaneously in galleries both north and south of the border.  The garden, cafe and craft shop are all fabulous and I will definitely go back for another look.  

In the Crossing Lines exhibition one guy did on site paintings both north and south which really looked like scribbles to me, but I really liked his description of border, in these turbulent days - Liminal Space he called it.  

This Bee Dress by Alice Maher in 1994 really shocked and disturbed me - made entirely of bees (which she said were all dead beforehand)

Bee Dress by Alice Maher
There's a speakers corner in the space which includes lots of posters and drawings both from adults and children - in fact they regularly run toddlers art sessions.  

Out in the garden there are some beautiful huge pieces - how on earth do you sculpt in bronze?   Fabulous.   

Regretably I didn't take more photos but there's a lot more on their Facebook page which is their only online presence sad to say.  

As Artist's Dates go I found it a very enjoyable and thought provoking afternoon (and the coffee was good) 


  1. I did the Artist's Way a couple of years ago, never quite completed it - things happened and I changed. I can remember the hard discipline of the journal writing - several journals were filled but that too stopped. Now - I paint or sketch a small painting over a page of written words in an art journal - that I find very cathartic and more in keeping with how I work. Well done with being so disciplined :)

  2. I do like sculpture but the bee dress freaks me out a bit too! Ahrgh! Sounds like a good way to get out the house though!

  3. All sounds very interesting & the gallery looks very unique. Thanks for telling us about your afternoon. I'm not sure whether I'd be disciplined enough to write in a journal every morning. Mine would probably happen as & when the inclination took me, which wouldn't work to clear my subconscious. Enjoy the rest of your week & take care.

  4. Now I must go and visit some galleries in our town. We do have a few. Isn't it nice to do something unplanned and fun like that?

  5. Not sure i like the bee dress either.


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