Acclaimed artist puts on largest display in home town

Party for one hundred year-olds at Alnwick Garden.'Gladys Angus and her granddaughter Stella Vine'Picture Jane Coltman
Party for one hundred year-olds at Alnwick Garden.'Gladys Angus and her granddaughter Stella Vine'Picture Jane Coltman

Alnwick’s Bailiffgate Museum and Gallery starts 2019 with a vibrant and exciting exhibition of work by internationally acclaimed, Alnwick-born, contemporary artist Stella Vine.

From this week until February 24 a significant collection of her work will fill the walls of Bailiffgate, including some new works from her latest series Evangeline.

Stella Vine's artwork.

Stella Vine's artwork.

Stella has been donating a substantial collection of artworks to Bailiffgate since 2004.

The collection embodies her bold, signature style, showcased across a variety of medium.

Not since her solo exhibition at the prestigious Modern Art Oxford, curated by Andrew Nairne in 2007, has such a large body of her work been displayed.

After her mother died in 2003, Stella’s work took on a frenzy, resulting in a blood-dripping portrait of Princess Diana foreseeing her own death and a poignant, yet bloody, painting of the young heroin addict Rachel Whitear.

Stella Vine's artwork.

Stella Vine's artwork.

Both paintings caused a media storm back in 2004.

At that time, the art collector Charles Saatchi first discovered Stella Vine and her paintings.

He then introduced her to a mass audience when he exhibited her work in New Blood at County Hall, London.

Bailiffgate volunteer Shelia Starks said: “We are delighted to show this extraordinary collection of art for the first time.

“The paintings are so exuberant, they seem to leap off the walls.”

Stella’s artwork is not easy to categorise; it is at once childlike, edgy, and dark, yet weirdly uplifting, and surprisingly funny.

When you look closely, it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.

The exhibition includes drawings and paintings in a variety of sizes and mediums.

Art critic Waldemar Januszczak found her work had something he called “an emotional pull”, “a combination of empathy and cynicism that can be startling”, and “an alarming sense of personal involvement, that yanks your head in Vine’s direction”.

Despite her outsider status, collectors from around the globe support Stella’s work, including singer Florence Welch, Maia Norman of the Pearl Fashion label, and Unskilledworker, all of whom include her work in their personal collections.

Stella work has also found homes in the permanent collections at Indiana University Art Museum, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Kent University, Goss Michael Foundation in Dallas, and Norwich Castle Museum.

However, it is this, the largest collection at Bailiffgate, that speaks from the artist’s heart.

The Bailiffgate building was formerly the Catholic church of St Mary’s, which young Melissa, as Stella was called then, attended every Sunday till she was seven.

Her mother and father got married there, and her brother, Alistair, was an altar boy.

The artist’s beloved 105-year-old grandmother, Gladys, still resides nearby.

Young Melissa also attended Our Lady’s Convent High School for Girls. Her mother Ellenor was a seamstress and made all the nuns’ habits in return for her free place.

Recently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, the artist has been living quietly, travelling and continuing to put her unique perspective of the world today to paper.

The museum will be holding a free open afternoon for residents from the North East to view the exhibition on Saturday, January 19.

The open afternoon will run from 1pm to 4pm.

The Bailiffgate Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 4pm, and bank holiday Mondays.

Admission prices are: Adults £4; concessions £3; children (five-16) £1; under fives free. See www.bailiffgatemuseum.co.uk