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All about the art

What is art? It’s a question I’ve been pondering since the first day of university (a long time ago now!), when we were assigned that very topic as the subject for our earliest written essay in my film production degree. 

Having just moved home, I now find myself in a living space with double height walls and vaulted ceilings, plenty of natural light flooding in from skylights, and a massive expanse of creamy white canvas to play with. So it was the best possible time for contemporary art specialists Artmarket to get in touch, looking to introduce me to their beautiful gallery in Cottingham, East Yorkshire (midway between Hull and market town of Beverley), and their extensive selection of limited edition and original artworks from leading local, national and international artists.

Art is hugely subjective, and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut or be confused about even where to start when it comes to bringing artwork into the home. I’ve long been a fan of an expertly curated gallery wall, but living in rented accommodation – and having a limited budget to invest in artwork – I’ve always gravitated towards furnishing my home with framed prints propped against the wall as my main way of incorporating contemporary artwork into my home. One visit to Artmarket though, and my eyes have been opened!

As much as i love affordable art prints from the wealth of online print stores there are nowadays, I often find myself scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest and spotting the same designs popping up time and time again on the walls of my favourite homes. Of course, if you love a print you should absolutely have it in your home regardless of how many others do, but more and more I’m finding myself eager to curate a selection of art in my home that is as unique as possible, and doesn’t leave me feeling that I’m mimicking someone else’s style.

I’ve written before about the role biophilia can play in boosting mental and physical wellbeing in the home, but now more than ever the role art can play in our surrounding environment is being heralded as having a significant impact on our emotional wellbeing. There’s been plenty of talk lately about the power art has to humanise and enliven harsh, clinical hospitals or dull, dreary offices, and that taking steps to beautifying your surroundings is proven to help reduce anxiety and depression, while improving overall happiness and productivity. 

When it comes to choosing art for your home I think the most important thing is to not overthink the process and instead let yourself be guided by your heart. The pieces you are most drawn to initially are likely to continue speaking to you over time. I was listening to a Tate podcast recently, talking about the art of ‘slow looking’. Slow looking is not about curators, historians or even artists telling you how you should look at art. It’s about you and the artwork, allowing yourself time to make your own discoveries and form a more personal connection with it. That really struck a chord with me. 

One way art can be beneficial for mental health and wellbeing is by allowing you to access the states of flow which keep you in the moment and help to keep out intrusive, sometimes negative thoughts.. [by] being involved in an activity that really absorbs you allows you’re able to put those thoughts to one side. We know that art making does that, but being in a gallery space that is inviting you to be completely absorbed in the experience can have the same kind of impact. Artists themselves want the viewer to slow down in front of their work, creating pieces that are designed to draw attention and encourage you to slow down and look. ~ Rebecca Chamberlain, lecturer in Psychology at Goldsmiths

“We often discuss with our clients about how they want a talking point in their home,” says Artmarket co-founder Michelle Powers. “We always advise that they display their piece in a space where it is visible to all, so that upon first glance you are intrigued to know more. People like to buy certain pieces based on how it makes them feel, whether that be taking them back to a happy memory, reminding them of their youth, or simply just a piece that made them smile due to the vibrancy of the colours, the subject matter or feeling they had when they purchased it.”

Some of Artmarket’s most popular pieces are those of Leicester-born sculpture artist Tim Cotterill, aka Frogman, the world’s biggest-selling artist in bronze, renowned and loved across the globe for his covetable and collectible creatures. It’s easy to see why. The moment you enter the gallery you’re greeted by a wall of these richly patinated bronze creatures, all vying for your attention with their characterful poses and exuberant expressions. I immediately thought of Jeff, the doorman to the afterlife from The Good Place, and the sheer delight he took in collecting frog-based memorabilia, which then reminded me of the joy I used to get from curating my own – albeit far more mundane – collection of stickers and erasers when I was at primary school. Thinking back on how much happiness these collections brought into my life back then made me contemplate just how much of that ability to find pleasure in the small, simple things we lose as we grow up. I wonder if regaining some of that innocent joie de vivre is what is so appealing to Tim’s army of  ‘Frogaholics’ (his own name for his besotted collectors). The average number of frogs owned by the Frogaholics is reportedly 18 (!), and I was so charmed by these little creatures it was hard to leave without smuggling one out with me – I can only imagine how much of a talking point these must be in their homes!

It’s certainly got me thinking about a themed curated collection of my own – do you have a collection of a particular artist’s work, or particular animal or theme, in your home? I’d love to know! 

Exploring further into the gallery, my eyes were instinctively drawn to the large-scale ‘books as art’ displayed on purpose-designed bookstands. What a stunning way to incorporate art into the home, don’t you think?

The Taschen ones above are A Bigger Book of Bradford-born David Hockney’s artwork, depicting London in the swinging 60s, his famous Californian pool paintings, and a number of East Yorkshire landscapes, and iconic photographer David Bailey’s Collector’s Edition, both displayed on bespoke bookstands designed by Apple designer Marc Newson.

A simple but hugely effective idea in my opinion, and perfect for someone like me who likes to switch up her decor every now and then (ok, frequently!) – I love the idea of being able to change the look and feel of a space with the simple flick of a page. Definitely a talking point, and a great way to incorporate artwork into the home that is both immersive and uniquely aesthetic. I’m pretty sure I could lose hours just pouring through the pages of one of these tomes!

Original or limited edition pieces by independent artists are naturally going to be more expensive than purchasing mass-produced prints from online retailers, but I was pleasantly surprised by the entry levels for artwork available at Artmarket, which start from £150 for prints, as well as the finance options they offer to ensure their artworks are as accessible as possible.

As I mentioned, i’m a firm believer in letting your eye – and your heart – be drawn in by whichever piece of art speaks to you the loudest, and for me browsing the Artmarket gallery it was the mixed media photographic work of Michelle Mackie, aka Dolly. A self-taught photographer, digital artist and visual story teller, Michelle uses these tools to explore her own psyche by recreating forgotten joys and life’s loves, whilst vanquishing past tragedies and trauma. With limited edition giclees starting from £295, I would personally consider this to be an accessible price point for owning a unique piece of thought-provoking and emotive artwork, and one which I could reasonably consider to be an investment in my own emotional wellbeing in my home.

Definitely out of my own personal budget – but not extortionate for an original piece of sculpture by world-renowned artist – the other highlight of my gallery visit was discovering Belgian ceramicist Daisy Bowman‘s internationally famous Bo-men. These featureless square-headed humanoid figures range in scale from tiny pieces that can be worn as jewellery, to monumental public artworks such as the interactive Antwerp Whisperer. They were inspired by the period of time Daisy and her husband spent in the 80s living in South Africa, as a response to the inequality she saw there and a suggestion of the universal desire for oneness and belonging. “The Bo-men have always been about people searching for a better life,” says Daisy, “and that’s just what refugees are doing – seeking the best life they can get for themselves and their families.”

Currently in stock at the gallery are the Bo-men on stone – lively little ceramic figures sitting atop marble columns, which come in sets of three; Around the World – Bo-men marching purposefully around the edges of a hemisphere; and Continuity, which sees the little figures tangled together in a seething spherical mass, with one emerging triumphantly at the top. These original pieces are embossed with Daisy’s exclusive stamp and accompanied by a certificate signed by the artist.

I hope I’ve inspired you to consider art in your home in a new light – I know my visit to Artmarket definitely inspired me! I’d certainly encourage you to visit the gallery if you’re ever in the area, as experiencing art pieces in the flesh is always a far more rewarding experience, but if you can’t visit then you can browse their extensive selection of contemporary art online as well. If you are planning a trip to the store it’s worth bearing in mind that they regularly host artist events that give you the opportunity to meet your favourite artist in person, so be sure to keep an eye on their upcoming events page for the latest details. In the next few months you have the chance to meet the likes of pop artist Paul Oz, ethereal portraitist Carly Ashdown, and popular imaginative painter Craig Davison.

And if any piece of art does takes your fancy, Artmarket have also very kindly offered Fabric of my Life readers £30 off any purchase using the code: fabric2020. This offer is valid until the end of February 2021, so if you do purchase anything be sure to let me know in the comments below!

Artmarket, 197 Hallgate, Cottingham, East Yorkshire

This post is in collaboration with Artmarket, but all opinions and photography are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Fabric of my Life possible. 

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  1. The frog pieces are so cute! I agree with what you say about art, and how it has the ability to transport you to different places and emotions.