As it can be with art itself, the RedHouse Originals gallery on Cheltenham Mount is functional and it’s also a form of expression.
In the functional sense, the gallery provides a space in Harrogate for modern and contemporary art exhibitions that continue to gain recognition in the UK and abroad.
But the uncluttered white rooms with their displays of bright colourful pop art are also an expression of the love and enthusiasm that owner Richard has for what he does.
Sitting at an almost tidy long white desk surrounded by art books and catalogues, sticky notes, coffee mug and a computer, he explains that his passion started when he was young.
“I always naturally felt an interest in art when I was at school. Originally, I wanted to draw for the Beano and had exercise books full of sketches of Dennis the Menace and guitars,” he says with a large smile.
Art runs in the family too. His uncle Paul is a dealer in traditional art and has had a gallery next door since 1981. Grandfather George was an artist and art historian, lecturer and conservator.
“I remember the smell of oil paint and varnish when I visited him,” Richard recalls.
After gaining a degree in set design from Bretton Hall College, now part of Leeds University followed by a minor panic about the future that included an unhelpful visit to a careers advisor, he began the journey that has taken him to where he is now.
The first step was in Harrogate screen printing t-shirts. This led to producing artwork on paper including gig posters for, among others, Super Furry Animals and The Kooks. This created a growing collection of posters and prints which led to an online gallery collaboration with other art spaces in Leeds and Liverpool which led to the acquisition of an actual space for the artworks to be displayed.
And now there’s RedHouse Originals, the name being taken in part from a Jimi Hendrix song. (Music is another ever-present art form in Richard’s life.)
He says about the journey: “The website happened organically. We found we could sell online but things came alive when people could come and look at work in the flesh – at that point we knew we needed a physical space.”
When RedHouse Originals launched in August 2010, he says they were conscious that they needed to draw in the people who were seeing the pictures on the walls as they walked by the gallery.
He laughs when he remembers the early days. “At first, people thought it was different businesses that were coming and going from here because they could see the art work changing on the walls every time we had a new exhibition.”
In fact, Richard speaks glowingly of the gallery’s location in what has become known as the King’s Quarter, another part of town with a buzz alongside Cold Bath Road and Montpellier.
He says: “We’re creating a destination. We’ve got parking and it’s a place to hang out, talk pictures, relax, have a coffee and get away from the nonsense and noise.
“The King’s Quarter has come on and there’s a lot on offer. RedHouse is within touching distance of Violet, Cold Bath Brewing, Brio, Stuzzi and No.35.”
Richard adds emphatically: “We’re like-minded people who set up businesses and who are really passionate. Everyone has the same mindset and it adds to the richness of the area.”
But it’s areas beyond the UK that occupy much of Richard’s thinking time as he goes about doing what he loves, “establishing emerging artists” as he describes it. He is passionate about two artists; Danny Larsen from Norway and Schoph, who is from Yorkshire and splits his time between here and the West Coast of America. It was Schoph who told Richard about an art curator in Laguna Beach, California who all knew about RedHouse Originals. Good news travels fast and far in the art world.
Richard observes: “Things like that are really important as it means we’re doing something right. It shines a spotlight on Yorkshire and the fertile art ground that it is.”
For now, his focus is not on sunny California but on chilly Oslo. RedHouse Originals is to host an exhibition of Danny’s work; intricate forest scenes done on white canvas with a black acrylic marker, which refreshingly, he carries with him in his shirt pocket.
Richard reckons he’ll have a US event in a few years’ time. It’s the kind of timescale he works to – up to 18 months ahead. He will approach artists and agents although often it’s the other way around as the gallery’s reputation continues to soar.
The next exhibition at Cheltenham Mount will be Sixties pop artist Dudley Edwards. It follows hugely successful shows featuring Horace Panter, Peter Blake – creator of the unforgettable Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album sleeve – Andy Warhol, young Leeds artist David Rusbatch and Harrogate’s own John Middleton.
Whatever RedHouse Originals does next; holds an exhibition abroad, gives space to an emerging artist or reveals the style of British pop art to a new audience, it’s clear Richard will be just as passionate about his work as the artists were about theirs. Go and see.
RedHouse Originals Website: www.redhouseoriginals.com