The Saul Hay Gallery is Ian and Catherine Hay’s way of supporting the fine art scene in Manchester and across the north west, having both been long time lovers and collectors of contemporary art.

The couple spent quite a while looking for premises in the city before finding the Railway Cottage in Castlefield. They opened in October with their first exhibition ONE (we can guess what the next one’s going to be called).

It’s a big step away from Catherine’s background in nursing which she has left for good to focus on the gallery while Ian continues his day job as a business systems analyst to help fund the venture.

It’s worth taking a look at the video link on their website before you walk there from Deansgate or you just might find yourself taking a couple of wrong turns. (It’s on the Rochdale Canal and can be reached via secret footbridge 100a off Castle Street).

Once there, it’s well worth the effort.

The Castlefield location is beautiful, overlooking the Rochdale Canal and under the railway arches. Trains whizz by giving that added atmosphere. The cottage is small but beautifully kept and you feel like you are walking into the Hay’s home especially when you are greeted with a warm welcome.

So what of the exhibition? It’s a comprehensive collection of artists from across the region with a particular emphasis on painters. It could benefit from some kind of link between the participating artists, however tenuous, in order to pull the whole exhibition together but is well worth a visit.

What the couple lack in their curating experience, they make up for with love, their sense of pride in the gallery and their chosen artists evident the minute you step inside.

The exhibition features eight renowned artists from across the north west. Here’s three that caught our eye:

Steven Heaton

Steven studied Fine Art at the University of Manchester and is an award-winning artist and director at Cross Street Arts. Through an application of paint layers his work examines time, memory and human interaction within nature, his interpretation of life and the environment. These pieces reminded me of growing up on the south coast and being near the sea, they are very refreshing and uplifting with their decadently applied lashings of paint.

Patricia Volk

Patricia is a fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. It was good to see some sculpture amongst the paintings. Her ceramics are finished with acrylics and display an obsession with catching simple form and line, enhanced with colour. Bold and eye-catching stuff.

Jason Thompson

Detail

Jason is a painter from Liverpool (he was a finalist in the Liverpool Art Prize 2014) whose work really stood out in the exhibition, possibly as he had a number of smaller pieces on show. His accomplished Kandinsky-like enamel paintings are varnished on wooden panels and made us think of Russian dolls. The colours are fantastic and the paintings intriguing.

All work is for sale with prices ranging from around £150 – £5000

It will be interesting to see coming shows and how the  gallery develops. Some one-man exhibitions would work well here, and we hear they will be screening experimental short films as part of this year’s Manchester International Film Festival.

TWO – Northern Abstracts is on until 10 March

www.saulhayfineart.co.uk 

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