New exhibition at the Sayle Gallery 24th March – 22nd April.

The Sayle Gallery and the Manx Museum have staged a joint exhibition which gives an overview of the life and work of one time Manx artist, David Gilbert. The show at the Manx Museum will remain up until the 5th of May but at the Sayle we will be changing our exhibition. Some of David’s artwork will remain but our second show will look at David’s work alongside two of his contemporaries, well known Manx artists, Norman Sayle and David Fletcher.

The exhibition has been put together to honour and give recognition to these three contemporaries; friends, colleagues and exponents of contemporary art on the Isle of Man.

Besides being strong artists who produced astounding bodies of their own work, all three men contributed enormously to art and cultural development on the Isle of Man.

All three were teachers within the art department at the IOM College and have left a huge legacy through their inspiration and education of younger Manx artists. Many of the artists working on the Island today will have been taught by one or all of the three men or indeed their successors such as Ian Coulson (himself taught by Norman Sayle).

David Fletcher and Norman Sayle also served on the Isle of Man Arts Council and were both staunch proponents for the development of the visual arts on the Island. David Fletcher initiated the Arts Council’s Loan Collection of contemporary visual art and had a strong hand in facilitating the move of the Courtyard Gallery at St. John’s to the renamed, Sayle Gallery to its current site in Douglas. The Sayle Gallery is of course named after the Courtyard Gallery’s patron, Norman Sayle.

Norman Sayle

David Gibert, along with David Fletcher, Michael Hebden, George Hughes, Ruth Hughes, Charlie Cannell and Maurice Day, were responsible for initiating ‘Arts in Mann’, an organisation which was established to address the lack of facilites and provision for contemporary visual arts on the Island. Norman Sayle joined the group at a later date picking up the baton from David Gilbert, who left the Island in the late 80’s. David Fletcher was instrumental in seeking and refurbishing a double decker bus, which became known as the Travelling Gallery. The bus provided the first dedicated contemporary art space which became a familiar sight around the Island’s towns, taking art out to the Manx community. As Arts in Mann became established it managed to secure static galleries in Peel and subsequently Douglas. It could be argued that Arts in Mann kick started the visual arts provision that we see on the Island today. Those of us who strongly believe in the value of contemporary art as a vital cultural contribution to a vibrant and thriving town/community, have much to be grateful to the three contemporaries for; David Gilbert, Norman Sayle and David Fletcher.

David Fletcher

The works on show within this exhibition, are for the most part, kindly loaned by surviving widows or in David Gilbert’s case, trustees who look after the work following David’s death. The pieces on show are works which formed the artists’ private collections. Norman Sayle is well known for his excellent draftsmanship in watercolour of places around the Island, however, some of the works in this exhibition will show a broader range of his artistic endeavour.

Ian Coulson (ex leader of the art foundation course at IOM College and who was himself taught by Norman),  will show some of his own recent work which has been made in honour of Norman (on some old paper stock of Norman’s which was donated to the Sayle Gallery by Rosemary Sayle).

David Fletcher’s wife, Eileen Schaer, will select the works of David’s that will be on show. Eileen, an artist in her own right, knows David’s work better than anyone. Eileen will also have a few of her own works on show alongside some of Nicola Dixon’s. Nicola was heavily influenced in her formative years by David Gilbert and his wife Sheila. Nicola spent much time on the Gilberts’ farm where they grew their own food, reared their own animals and shared their creative lives with many.


David Gilbert

Although the artistic style of the three men was quite diverse, they shared many concerns and often supported each other through philosophical discussion and debate about art. They had several shared and solo exhibitions over the years and wrote about each other’s work. Even after David Gilbert had left the Island there remained a close link between the three men and they continued to inspire each other via letters or the telephone wires.

This exhibition will show a body of work from each of the artists as well as work and memoires by Ian Coulson, work and archive material loaned by Eileen Schaer, memories from internationally reknown Manx artist, Kevin Atherton (taught by Norman), archive material from Paul Ford (pupil of David Fletcher and who worked tirelessly for Arts in Mann alongside David Gilbert and Norman Sayle) and work by Nicola Dixon, some of which was made especially to explore her childhood memories of David Gilbert.

The Sayle Gallery is supported by IOM Arts Council.


3 Contemporaries at The Sayle

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