INTERNATIONAL poetry magazine Dream Catcher set York gallery director Ails McGee a challenge in her role as arts advisor for issue number 28.

“When co-editor Rose Drew put it to me that all the artists featured in that issue should be female, I thought, ‘Let’s go with that, but let’s build on it and support it with an exhibition here at According To McGee’,” says Ails.

“So our chief curator, Silvia Brigada, and I went out and found some great, great artists, all of them female, all of them producing work that is as cool and as collectable as anything we’ve ever shown.”

Silvia, from Lombardy, Italy, wanted to bring an international vibe to a show that will open on Saturday at the Tower Street gallery. “She was taken with some of the work from Indian-born Amrik Varkalis and some of the latest paintings from Lille artist Francine Cross,” says Ails.

“I wanted to bring in northern painters, and so we’re introducing Freya Horsley, Rachael Burnett and Janine Baldwin to According To McGee for the first time. To get them all together in one white-cube gallery is like bottled lightning, and Silvia and our University of York interns Molly Cresswell-Baro and Catrin Podgorski have had a great time curating the exhibition.”

Silvia reckons British colourscapes are in a “very interesting place”, especially in the hands of women.

“There’s a real thoughtfulness, almost a lament put there just beneath the surface. I don’t know why that is, but the sensitivity and introspection are so much better than the louder antics of other contemporary British painters. Put it this way, there’s no iPad art in this show.”

Ails believes it was important to distance the Dream Catcher work from the general consensus of what a women-only show might feature. “There’s not a butterfly in sight,” she says. “Seriously though, it’s a strange limitation to put on women artists that they’re only allowed to be intuitive and instinctive.

“I have to say, there’s plenty of that here, but there’s also incisive mark making, witty mischief and as much of a celebration of the light in life as an understanding of the darkness.”

Issue 28 of Dream Catcher is guest-edited by York surrealist poet and visual artist Helen Burke, London novelist AL Michael and American poet Christina Thatcher, a PhD student in Cardiff.

Saturday’s private view will start at 1pm, culminating in poetry readings by Helen, Christina and Mark Connors at 4pm.

“I’m very proud of what I and our team have achieved,” says Ails. “It’s been a woman-only endeavour but it’s about as ballsy as anything we’ve ever done.

“The poetry readings really bring in an extra dimension. We’ve known Helen for years, and we’re very much looking forward to Christina and Mark coming over. Feminism, art and poetry; that’s not bad for a Saturday afternoon in York.”

The exhibition will run from this weekend to March 10.

Copies of issue 28 of Dream Catcher will be available to buy, as well as discounts on subscriptions on future issues and paintings, if bought together.