Ambitious new art gallery holds its first exhibition… online

Pictured: Hunter by Matt Duke in Talos Art Gallery portrait
Hunter by Matt Duke in Talos Art Gallery portrait

A Wiltshire art gallery established to showcase the work of the best bronze sculptors from across the world has launched virtually, after the pandemic prevented a physical opening.

Talos Art Gallery was built at a converted 17th century dairy at Heddington, near Calne, to showcase the work of nationally and internationally-renowned sculptors who have their work cast at sister company The Talos Foundry, near Andover.

But with the planned physical opening scuppered by coronavirus, the gallery has taken its exhibitions online. Now art-lovers can look at sculptures large and small, and find out more about the artists and the process of making bronze sculptures, without leaving their own homes.

Featured artists include Vivien Mallock, a war memorial and portrait sculptor whose bust of the Queen Mother was the last portrait the royal sat for; Philip Blacker, one of the world’s leading equestrian sculptors, best known for his life-size horses; and Judy Boyt, designer and sculptor of the iconic Badminton Horse Trials silver trophy.

And, just added, is a solo show for the foundry’s master patinator Matt Duke, known for his dynamic and vibrantly coloured pieces on a nature theme: from kingfishers, to cheetahs, to family dogs.

Chance, by Matt Duke, photo © Sue Morris Photography

Gallery and foundry owner Richard Atkinson-Willes said: “I’ve assembled and curated many exhibitions, but the virtual shows are a new challenge, which I would not be able to undertake without my fantastic marketing consultants – Secret Agent Marketing.”

“It’s a new science, very different from arranging an actual exhibition and welcoming visitors to the gallery.”

To rival the immersive feeling of a visit, each exhibition has filmed interviews with the artists about their work and their process, commissioned professional photos with a 360-degree view of each sculpture, and even offers music to play while the viewer peruses. “It’s interactive and welcoming – the art pops out at you,” said Richard.

When the physical gallery is finally able to throw open its bespoke oak doors, visitors will be able to see bronze sculptures accompanied by their own moulds, working drawings and photographs of the creative processes behind them, and learn about the ancient history of the ‘lost wax’ casting method, which is still used to cast sculptures at the foundry today.

They will also be able to see the barn’s original cobblestone floor, which is constructed of stones thought to have been taken from a nearby Roman road and has been restored by Richard and his team.

“Beneath several layers of concrete, we suddenly found ancient floors, of cobbles possibly Roman in original, and post holes for centuries-old cow byres, and we removed nearly a metre of rubble from the old cart shed to return the floor to its original depth,“ said Richard, who sourced materials locally, with terracotta tiles made at Bowood and Victorian roof boards from a Devizes reclamation yard.

Unlike the usual uncomfortable sanitised white space, Richard is keen to share his vision of a natural setting.

“I decided to redress the balance and create a gallery that celebrates materials and craftsmanship in all its guises,” said Richard.

“Talos is the perfect setting to see spectacular work, traditionally made from a simple, pure material, with an unbeatable backdrop of Wiltshire at its finest.”

The virtual exhibitions are online now at talosartgallery.co.uk