Swindon’s art collection boosted by acquisition of two new paintings

By Barrie Hudson - 16 March 2023

  • 'Sleepy Hollow' (2014)

    'Sleepy Hollow' (2014)

Swindon Museum and Art Gallery has added two large-scale paintings by British artist Dee Ferris to its important collection of modern and contemporary British art.

  • 'The Places We Go' (2022)

    'The Places We Go' (2022)

The pieces were acquired through the Contemporary Art Society and will be part of new exhibition Landscape and Longing, which will replace the current exhibitions on the ground floor of the Civic Offices next month.

Dee Ferris is a Brighton-based artist who has exhibited across the UK and internationally. Swindon Museum and Art Gallery is the third public collection to acquire artworks by Ferris, following the Tate and Arts Council Collections.

The two paintings are called ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘The Places We Go’. They represent different moments in Ferris’ career, but both show her preference for large-scale canvases, deep layers of paint and suggestions of recognisable subject matter.

‘The Places We Go’ is from Ferris’ latest series, Azyl/Azul, which explores humanity’s uncomfortable and contradictory relationship with landscape imagery. 

‘Sleepy Hollow’ is an earlier painting by Ferris and presents a network of pastel tones, pierced by brilliant light and the trace of a plant form.

The Contemporary Art Society helps public art collections throughout the UK to purchase art by living artists. Staff at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery worked with the Contemporary Art Society to select artists whose work will enrich the existing collection, and benefit the audiences that will see them.

Katie Ackrill, Swindon Borough Council’s Collections & Exhibitions Officer, said: “Selecting artwork for our collections can be a great challenge, as there is no shortage of creative talent in the UK.

“We felt that The Places We Go and Sleepy Hollow complement the strong representation of landscape art and large-scale abstract painting within our existing collections. They also show how immersive and impactful painting can be, whilst resonating with issues relevant to the times we live in.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dee Ferris’ paintings to Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, and grateful for the continued support of the Contemporary Art Society.”

Caroline Douglas, Director at the Contemporary Art Society, said: “We are delighted to be able to make this gift of two wonderful new paintings to Swindon, as they prepare to open the museum in its new location.  Swindon Museum and Art Gallery has been a member of the Contemporary Art Society since 1945 and we are proud to continue our support through this next phase of the museum's history."

The council says work to create the new venue for Swindon Museum and Art Gallery is progressing well. A new lift to ensure the collections are accessible to all will be installed as part of the refurbishments and a contractor is close to being appointed. The procurement process for the main building contractor opened on 14 March.

When complete, the council says, the Civic Offices will provide 40 per cent more display space compared to its previous home at Apsley House in Old Town. It is anticipated that the new museum and art gallery will be open in late autumn.

The new venue will also provide improved working conditions and additional areas for staff, volunteers and researchers, presenting an opportunity to restart the museum and art gallery’s volunteer programme.

A space will be developed as a school learning and lunchroom and will also be used to host museum events, especially those aimed at families and focusing on the museum and art gallery’s extensive collections.

Cllr Matty Courtliff, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and Town Centre Experience, said: “It’s always exciting when we add new, vibrant artworks to our outstanding collection and I’d like to thank the Contemporary Art Society for helping us acquire these fantastic paintings.

“I can’t wait to see them on display in the Civic Offices. We’re making steady progress behind the scenes to get all the contractors lined up to carry out the refurbishment of the Civic Offices so we can show as much of our collection as possible.

“The new accessible facilities will allow us to share the collection with the whole community and I look forward to seeing the work progressing over the coming months.”

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