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Bob Olley - Mining Art Gallery opens doors in Bishop Auckland

22 October 2017

Ilona Streeting - Mining Art Gallery opens in Bishop Auckland

Ilona Streeting
15 Feb 2020
Mining Art Gallery opens in Bishop Auckland

BBCA museum dedicated to artworks created by coal miners has opened its doors.
The Mining Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, has 420 pieces including works by Norman Cornish, Tom McGuinness and Bob Olley. It part of a project aimed at creating a "a world-class visitor destination" in the market town. A colliery band played at Saturday's opening ceremony as the ribbon was cut by Dr Robert McManners and Gillian Wales, who donated hundreds of works. Dr McManners said: "Coal mining wasn't just a job, it was a way of life and in this gallery are the underground scenes the miners wanted to articulate alongside the community life, the long term-friendships and pride. "Heritage doesn't have to be something which is fossilised in the past, it's something we can take to the future and tell people about in this new gallery."


The 80th birthday of an artist and former miner is being marked with an exhibition in County Durham. Bob Olley started work at his local colliery in 1957, at the age of 17. He became a full-time artist in 1974, with his work chronicling life above and below ground. A collection of his oil paintings, sculpture and sketches is on show at the Mining Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland until 10 May.

Bob 2

Jonathan Ruffer, Chairman of The Auckland Project, said: "This is a very exciting day for Bishop Auckland and for The Auckland Project. "To understand why this area is so special we need to look back into its past and the miners were a significant part of that.


His work turns the spotlight on daily life in the North East and captures historic scenes - from the Blaydon Races to the miners' strikes of the 1980s. The exhibition includes Westoe Netty - a humorous depiction of a public urinal - which sparked controversy at its first showing, nearly causing the show to be closed on the grounds of indecency.


The artist, who now lives and works in South Shields, said: "I have always expressed myself best through art. "When I first went down the mines I found it hard to articulate how I felt about the blinding dark, the noise and the constant movement - the only way to describe my life underground was to draw it. "It was the camaraderie, friendships and laughter that carried everyone along, that famous Geordie humour. "I have a great love for the people of the North East and the mining communities, there's something special about them and I love bringing that to life on canvas."


Angela Thomas, Exhibitions Curator at the Mining Art Gallery, said: "Bob is one of the most instantly recognisable artists in the North East. "His unique graphic style brings to life the world of the miner and the solidarity of the communities.


The Auckland Project - Mining Art Gallery

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