Approaching its tenth anniversary in 2019, The Blackshed Gallery, is a rural art gallery and high-end picture framing business, suppling exhibition-grade framing solutions to clients, including a number of high-profile galleries and museums along the South Coast, as well as professional practitioners and private collectors.

The Blackshed Gallery is nestled in the heart of the East Sussex countryside. Located amongst converted farm buildings, the gallery overlooks the hop fields in its unusually rustic setting.

Down a winding farm track on the outskirts of the historic village of Robertsbridge, the gallery offers its customers a memorably unique experience, unlike any you might find on the high-street.

Representing the diverse and dynamic art culture across the South East, The Blackshed Gallery seeks out the unusual in pursuit of delivering exhibitions showcasing the most awe-inspiring artists from various backgrounds.

Kenton Lowe, Founder of The Blackshed Gallery

In December 2018, the founder, Kenton Lowe organised a Christmas event to exhibit local artist Siobhan Stanley’s striking paintings. The best part is – none of it was for sale at the artist’s request. Instead, the attention was drawn to Stanley’s traditional style paintings that cast an eye on the Elizabethan era, tackling issues such as race, gender and re-visiting Britian’s hidden past.

COMMUNION by Siobhan Stanley

Speaking to the BBC, Kenton said “As a contemporary art space, we rely on a commercial element, but it’s quite nice to have a Christmas show that isn’t actually selling anything”

When we took a visit to the gallery, Kenton told us that “The Blackshed is certainly not predictable and offers a unique experience. It’s because I’m not trying to sell people artwork, I’m trying to showcase the best of what I believe has value and sentiment”

The next exhibit at the gallery runs between 6th April – 18th May 2019 and is the work of the talented Rod Harman, described by many as the greatest painter of his age. Rod returns after some time away with  ‘Skin Deep’ , accompanied by a newly commissioned film by The Blackshed Gallery, Rod Harman: a day in New York. 

It’s about the discovery

The Blackshed Gallery is in a beautiful, rural setting, so it is easy to see why people visit. Speaking to the owner and curator, Kenton Lowe, he describes The Blackshed Gallery as a ‘destination gallery’ and adds “it’s the rural location that makes it memorable. Part of the experience is coming here and believing you’re the only person that knows this place exists.”

Kenton started off as a artist making picture frames from a small unit on the same site. With a varied background, Kenton has gone from a university graduate and portrait artist to aviation engineer designing displays for military aircraft. It wasn’t long before Kenton returned to his passion and has now been a successful gallery owner and frame-maker for ten years, dedicated to showcasing the most dynamic local artists.

“The Blackshed has a place culturally within the South East of England, not only for the work we do, but the people we’re connecting with and offers something completely unique in comparison to other galleries you might come across in the high street”

From visiting the gallery, it soon became clear that Kenton’s focus is more on telling the artist’s story rather than selling it. In order to enable Kenton to offer both commercial and non-commercial exhibitions, he is partly supported by Arts Council funding which has funded Kenton’s sixth project this year. Kenton also states that “Rother District Council, Hastings Council and East Sussex Arts Partnership have been great advocates for the gallery throughout their continued support”

Support from Business East Sussex

In the unit next door to the gallery lies Kenton’s picture framing business, existing since 1997. After applying for a grant via the ERDF South East Business Boost (SEBB) scheme provided in partnership with East Sussex County Council, Kenton was able to invest in some new specialist framing equipment.

Kenton explained the impact the funding has had for the growth of his business, “the opportunity to apply for a SEBB grant prompted me to take a leap and buy the machinery needed to enhance my efficiency in the framing business”

“We previously had essential tools that had been around since the sixties that were difficult and slower to operate. Due to my expertise in the field, we were still making high grade frames. But the problems became more apparent when employing part-time/freelance framers who didn’t know the tools as well as I did, giving me problems with training, efficiency and at times, quality.”

“Following the funding, we’ve purchased high-grade specification equipment including a pneumatic underpinner, compressor and industrial mount cutter. When asked if he would recommend the SEBB scheme he said:

“Yes definitely and I have. The team were so helpful and its been great for our business”

 
 
 
 

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