Speech by Gill Ingham DVPLG during the handover celebrations at the Cello Factory, 5 Aug 2021
On behalf of the Group I like to say a huge ‘Thank you’ to Susan.
Susan was elected a member in 2004 and her leadership skills and qualities were quickly recognised and she became Hon Sec a few months later at the next AGM. Then two years after that she became President, the 22nd of the Group but more importantly the 3rd female President….and the longest standing beating Stan Smith’s 14 years and Claude Rogers 13 years. Susan has now been elected a Life Member.
I remember meeting Susan at Vic and Margaret Kuell’s 50 wedding anniversary, soon after she had become president. I hadn’t seen Susan since we were students at Ravensbourne (where Vic taught). Consequently, our conversation was all about the LG, its future and her excitement over Frank acquiring The Cello Factory.
She had a real vision for the Group and one major ambition was to reintroduce the Open which hadn’t taken place for over 10 years……Sure enough, 2007 saw the 78th Open at the Menier Gallery. This biennial has continued since, with 6 in total, though lockdown has meant a delay of the 2021 Open. She raised the Groups profile through encouraging artists’ talks, salons and concerts, and established The President’s Prize offering 3 artists an exhibition at The Cello Factory…. Next month is the delayed Presidents’ Prize aptly titled ‘Subject to Change’.*
Susan has an enquiring mind and is always interested in art debates with members – she loves the ‘art talk’ at and after PVs in the pub next door (on one such occasion I said I’d join them I’ll just pop to the loo and then lock the inner door on my way out – only when I had locked the inner door did I realise Susan had locked the outer door, so a happy hour or so was spent in the lobby till fortunately, Frank came home, when I could then join them all in the White Hart). These debates may well have inspired her vision for Salons where members could meet at Thead Street and discuss a range of topics. Talks like ‘The London Group Between the Wars’ and the ‘Belief’ salon…..these salons also produced a good opportunity for group members to socialise. I should also mention the amazing Christmas parties.
There have been over 50 exhibitions under Susan’s presidency – but first, let us not forget the Centenary year – with a reception at the Cafe Royal, the place where the first London Group meetings took place. Pitshanger Manor Ealing (designed, built and lived in by Sir John Sloane), where members made work in response to the physical environment and were appropriately placed. Collaboration with Ben Uri’s ‘Uproar The First 50 Years’. The Centenary Open and the celebrations ended with 100+The London Group Today. And of course, we had the 100 years reception at the Tate.
Back to the 50 odd exhibitions. Another of Susan’s ambitions was to get the Group out there, She certainly achieved that – for instance, the Group showed in Mauger Modern Art Bath; Deutsche Bank London; Highgate Gallery; Cumberland Hotel Marble Arch; Piers Feetham Gallery Fulham; Southampton City Art Gallery; Q car park China Town; Linden Hall Studio Gallery Deal; Personal Relations at the Hague and Vicenza Italy. There were collaborative “House Swaps” exhibitions with Penwith Society which saw the Group show in St Ives and Drawing Distinctions with the Alumni of the University of Wisconsin. Later this month we are at Honiton**. There was also the most memorable Shoreham Sculpture Trail masterminded by Susan; 5 exhibitions at Kensington & Chelsea College; 3 exhibitions in St John’s churchyard and crypt as part of The Waterloo Festival and 4 online shows during lockdown. But most important are the exhibitions here at The Cello Factory, the first being The Annual 2010 and since then over 20 LG exhibitions have taken place. Susan’s and Frank’s generosity, allowing us to exhibit free of charge has saved the group thousands and thousands of pounds, just reflect that the Menier Gallery cost £25K for 3 weeks!
I could count the number of exhibitions under your presidency Susan but not the number of amazing jackets you have worn – there are lots of photo’s and I’m sure that would make a good subject for PhD for some student in the future.
Seriously, heading up a group of around 100 people or big family as Susan calls it, is no mean task. With good times also come some difficult ones and Susan had her fair share of those early on, but I’m sure she’ll remember the really important things, like when a cap was put on the amount of wine consumed at WC meetings.
Susan believes in pushing boundaries not only for the Group but in her own practice as seen in the diverse work she has exhibited from sculpture, painting, photography, mobile sculptures, installations, videos and computer-generated images and work produced in collaboration with composer Stephen Dydo….. but I believe she is looking forward to getting back to painting.
Before I present you with our little token of appreciation I would personally like to say how much I have enjoyed being your vice president for the last 10 years, so without more ado………Don’t panic you don’ have to find wall space it’s for the garden!
Gill Ingham DVPLG, Aug 5 2021
*Subject to Change took place 20-27th September 2021, The Cello Factory
**In Plain Sight: The London Group & Thelma Hulbert and her London Group Friends, 27 Aug – 30 Oct 2021, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Devon