Updated: 12 Jun 2021

View across Reading from the top of a hill
194. Friends at Balmore Park
Oil on canvas, 65 x 50cm mounted
Noelia Rios-Garcia, SOLD

You can see this work in our Online Exhibition (Room 10)


This Guest Choice has been made by Karen Rowland, Historic Conservationist, Reading Abbey Ward Councillor and Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation.

The Summer Supplement to the Reading Guild of Artists' on-going online exhibition will not disappoint those who desire to lay their hands on yet another wonderful piece of art by a local artist this year. Whilst full of a striking array of colour and subjects such as one would expect from a Summer Supplement (all which can be contemplated whilst sipping on an icey Pimms), it is the "Friends at Balmore Park" by Noelia Rios-Garcia that immediately caught my eye.

Admittedly, I'm a sucker for anything remotely evoking a "Hopper-esque" view on life and that familiar quality of isolation and longing in the work immediately got my attention. Yet Ms. Rios-Garcia has delivered something entirely contemporary and current to each of us, I feel, by evoking where we each are at, at this point in the pandemic. The choices of colours, composition and elements illustrate beautifully the insecurity and anxiety we each have in venturing out from under the haze of Covid-19.

The longing to go or return to that former, busier life in the distance – in this case, illustrated by Reading town – contrasts significantly with the comfort the women have with each other – and indeed the way we have all learned to exist in our own small bubbles of family and intimate friends. Sat safely in the open expanse of a park distanced from the town and secure behind an impenetrable hedgerow the question is indeed: Dare they move? Dare we? Or are we not possibly, just really okay right here – right where we are, right now?

Not caught up in the very real (and perhaps even wildly exaggerated) fears and ambivalence that you overhear in the women's conversation, it is the dog, that to me, provides the answer to our question of venturing on. Definitely related to the women, the dog also comes close to being a fully participating member of their anxiety and hesitation. However, it is in the embodiment of everyone's favourite comfort dog – looking very much to be a classic `Golden Retriever' to my eye that we sense that spark and desire to move on. It is in the tension of the dog's turned head responding to some unknown stimuli just beyond the frame, that we have our reassurance and our answer. We know the dog will likely run towards what's engaged him sooner or later – but will the women call him back? Or will they allow him to go? There is every suggestion that at some point the dog will surely run towards what it is beyond; and so can we – so will we – in due course – move on.

What intrigues me most of all in this work, is the turn of the dog's head, just ever so slightly away from the "tradition and reliability" of the familiar old town beyond which has the women's attention. In his alternate distraction, there is the suggestion that the "way back" may not be solely provided in those old traditional pathways that we have relied on before. Reading town beyond breathes the promise of "normal," the familiar, and the known, but, will we actually go there? Are we ever – actually – going to return to that place again?

And that is indeed, what we all must contemplate in the months to come. What and where is actually our next step? And when will we finally make that move?

Karen Rowland


Old shop front
158. Danns photographers
Digital, 30 x 30cm mounted
Linda Saul, £40 limited edition print (30)

You can see this work in our Online Exhibition (Room 1)


Our next Guest Choice has been made by Anne Nolan, advocate of independent publishing and director at Two Rivers Press

As a keen photographer, I love the story of Frances Dann, who features in the Two Rivers Press book 'Reading's Influential Women', in which this image also appears. Frances was one of the first professional photographers in Britain. The picture shows her studio at its location at 35 Broad Street, very close to where Queen Victoria Street now imposes. This image really brings the late-nineteenth century to life. I really like its luminous quality, its subtle celebration of an amazing woman, and its evocation of a very different town centre to the one we know today – one that we can revisit through the extensive archive of photographs taken by Frances and her grand-daughter Fanny Lewis.

Anne Nolan


White building
42. The Mansion House, Prospect Park
Acrylic on canvas, 67 x 49cm
Keith Marples, £135 Framed

You can see this work in our Online Exhibition (Room 2)


Our next Guest Choice has been made by Richard Bennett DL, Chair, Reading Civic Society and his wife Alison Bennett. Richard is Deputy Lieutenant for Royal County of Berkshire

This is a really striking image, beautifully realised. We have seen exactly this effect within Prospect Park as the light from the south reflects off the white building and contrasts with a dark, rain-laden, sky approaching.

This building is very significant for us. We came to Reading in 1986 and joined Reading Civic Society. We were quickly drawn into the campaign to save the Mansion House from demolition and ultimately it being repurposed by Whitbread & Co. This was our introduction to 35 years (and counting) of supporting so many aspects of the wonderful heritage of Reading and the people we have met and worked with on the way.

Richard and Alison Bennett


Front of RBH building
165. The Royal Berkshire Hospital
Ink and Watercolour, 25.5 x 25.5cm
Mohan Banerji, SOLD

You can see this work in our Online Exhibition (Room 2)


Our next Guest Choice has been made by
Fiona Talkington, well-known radio presenter on BBC Radio 3

I have loved immersing myself in this exhibition. Reading is my home town, where I grew up, so I have a lifetime of memories but, like so many people, I have seen so little of it during the last year. But now I feel I've stepped foot into Reading again, drawn in to these pictures so beautifully executed, with a real passion for their subjects, whether familiar buildings, hidden spaces, or the nature all around us, each one so full of character.

It's hard to choose just one: there are many I'd like to have on the walls around me! But one I'm drawn to time and time again is Mohan Banerji's 'The Royal Berkshire Hospital'. Its historic and stately frontage is a familiar landmark in the town, but Mohan has gently shaped it so it seems to step forward and greet us, welcoming us. The gentle yellow wash of Bath Stone, the fine detail of the steps and windows make this building sing, a reminder of the outstanding care we find inside too. And it's a reminder that art, too, does so much to enhance our own lives and well-being.

Fiona Talkington


Geese grazing on a green meadow
71. Christchurch Meadows: Winter Geese
Oil on canvas, 100 x 100cm
Michael Norcross, £2000 unframed

You can see this work in our Online Exhibition (Room 8)


Our Guest Choice (Nov 2020) was made by Elaine Blake, Exhibitions and Partnerships Curator Reading Museum

I have seen the painting 'in the flesh' and know that it is beautifully executed. I admire the clarity of light, the crisp composition and the calming colours. Also geese are tricky creatures and it's less concerning seeing them getting on with their own business in the water meadows than meeting them on a tow path! A sight to savour as winter approaches.

Elaine Blake


Montage of buildings and sights
93. The Modern Reading Mural
Painted paper collage, 400 x 100cm
Mixed Media Monday Group*, NFS*

You can see this work in more detail in our Online Exhibition (Room 4)


Our first Guest Choice (Sep 2020) was made by
RGA Honorary Member Sarah Hacker

My choice has to be 93. The Modern Reading Mural by Mixed Media Monday Group.

It brings me so much joy every time I see this piece and means so much. I was lucky to be asked to formally unveil this wonderful mural and it is such a happy memory. It also represents the things I have missed and relied on over the last few months. It features the Thames which I visited with my family during our once-a-day trips out, just feeding the ducks or visiting Caversham Court Gardens and Christchurch Meadows. It shows Forbury Gardens which is where I made my first big trip out of the house to join the Black Lives Matter protests and where we had a long awaited Greggs picnic (family tradition) at the end of August. It shows the town I love and the community which rallied round and helped each other during lockdown. It also shows the things I am looking forward to like a trip around the Abbey, a visit to Reading Museum and just being out and about with friends. It's a happy picture and a hopeful picture and we need those things at the moment.

Sarah Hacker



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