Quality Crafts

Reviews

The first things that caught my eye at this exhibition at Worthing Museum & Art Gallery were some large and dramatic wood cuts of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and a scene from the Trooping the Colour by Jackie Field. At the other end of the gallery, I was drawn to a series of small-scale black and white wood engravings by printmakers Sue Scullard and Rosamund Fowler. Their images are stunning, in the intricacy of the workmanship and in the beauty of their themes. Both are inspired by the natural world: Sue’s prints feature landscape, woodland and the sea; and Rosamund’s images of wild and domestic animals and birds are truly delightful.

Rosie Jones creates sculptures of dynamic nudes: their smooth, sensual bodies emerge from rough-hewn blocks of white Carrara marble, like Michelangelo’s Awakening Slave. Her expertly-sculpted Basking Nude has the erotic charge of a work by Rodin, which is saying something. Moving on, I found the work of silk textile artist Diane Rogers strange and compelling. With photographs as reference points, she uses dyes to paint or print images onto silk, and develops textures and details with embroidery by hand or free-machine stitching through a quilted layer. Textures found in tree bark, beach pebbles, tangles of nets and rock pools inspire her to create close-up abstractions that appear to be flat, graphic images and three-dimensional objects simultaneously.

Rosi Robinson is a painter, but her method of working is totally new to me. Her large figurative works initially look like watercolours, but she actually uses the technique of batik to make her art, applying layers of wax and dyes onto the surface of the fabric. With great skill, she has taken batik from its pattern-making origins in the Far East and turned it into her own Western way of painting.

It would be an injustice to call John Plater’s creations merely wooden bowls: they are objects that reveal the intense beauty of a natural material that we usually take for granted. Often made with timber that would otherwise be used as firewood, John’s work highlights the essential nature of British-grown hard and soft woods like walnut, yew, chestnut, ash and oak: polished, grained surfaces contrast with roughened edges and raw bark. Jonathan Chiswell Jones is a modern alchemist who makes lustreware ceramics using a process developed in the Islamic Empire over a thousand years ago. Metallic salts are mixed with clay and painted onto the surface of the glazed pot: some kind of magic then happens in the next firing, which results in the surface becoming light reflective, creating iridescent colours and a golden sheen.

Members of The Sussex Guild are professional designers, artists and makers, and this exhibition of their work shows just how skilled they are. There are brilliant examples of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design, and exhibits range from large, colourful prints and delicate engravings, to marble sculptures, creative textiles and exotic ceramics.If you’re interested in seeing stunning works of art and craft by talented, professional makers, you really must come along to this show.

The Sussex Guild Exhibition at Worthing Museum continues until Saturday 13 August 2016.

From Elegance to Urban Decay

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I managed to catch the final weekend of this year’s Open Houses event. With 14 different trails showing work by over a thousand artists across Brighton, Hove, Ditchling, Rottingdean and Newhaven, I needed to decide which area to visit, and how far my feet would be able to carry me. I chose the Brunswick Town trail: I’d always wanted to see inside the swanky white stucco houses lining the Regency squares and crescents of Hove, so my first visit was to a spacious ground-floor apartment in Adelaide Crescent, home to artist Julie Devine and exhibition space to a variety of her artist friends.

After climbing the black-and-white tiled steps and walking into the house, I found myself in the darkness of the hallway. It was a dramatic setting for work by Dijon Hierlehy, who creates paintings with light – lots of tiny dots of light shine through a black layer, and the result is quite magical, like a picture made of sparkling diamonds. Leaving the darkness behind, I went into the front room of the flat, and my expectations of Regency elegance were not disappointed. There was a mile-high ceiling with decorative cornice and chandelier, an enormous window with painted wooden shutters, and a grand fireplace. A wonderfully bohemian atmosphere was created by an animal-print sofa, extravagantly-patterned wallpaper on the chimney breast and by the paintings, drawings, photographs, ceramics, sculpture and textiles on display here and all through the house. I particularly liked the vividly colourful images of mother and child by Kristin Watt-Bonar, who also makes beautiful ceramic pieces; and Colin Chetwood’s sculptural light, made of copper and fuchsia-pink tissue paper.

Julie invited me to explore the garden, so I went out the back door, down the staircase and into a delightful little town garden, its lush and well-grown plants making it feel very secluded and other-worldly. I followed the gravel path around the trees and shrubs, enjoyed the sculptures by Milly Welby, and then had a look inside the summer-house, which was furnished with comfy chairs, a curtained divan and an oriental carpet. It was lovely, the garden was lovely and the house was lovely.

Lansdowne Mews was the next stop on my trail, to see Adrian Walker’s latest work. I’d come across him in Brighton’s Arty Magazine a couple of years ago and I really like his paintings: they’re very Turneresque, and I’m a big fan of Turner’s later work. Adrian is an established artist who’s had loads of exhibitions in the UK and elsewhere. His studio is in a dilapidated courtyard reached by an alleyway down the side of a pub – a far cry from the comforts of Adelaide Crescent. This looks like the kind of place where you might have to suffer for your art.Going into Adrian’s studio was like going into another world: it was full of light, not bright or harsh, but hazy and soft, just like the light in his oil paintings. It was visually peaceful, the collection of his work creating a sense of clarity and unity. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. There was no one else in the studio so I was able to have a long chat with Adrian, who seemed like a really nice guy. A brilliant painter and a bit of a hunk. For my next visit, Adrian suggested I see Dion Salvador Lloyd, another abstract painter who won last year’s Best Artist Open House Award. Eventually, I had to tear myself away from Adrian and his gorgeous paintings, and set off on a long trudge through the rain.

Bedraggled and wet, I arrived at the Hove home of painter Dion Salvador Lloyd, but there was a warm welcome from him and Emma, who made me a lovely cup of tea, which I enjoyed while looking around. This was a professional exhibition of brilliant work in a delightful house. Dion’s wonderful abstract paintings were displayed alongside a fascinating collection of objects: ceramics, sculptures, animal skulls, dried flowers, shells, pebbles, tin toys. Everything was perfectly placed, creating a contrast to the dramatic turbulence of Dion’s large oil paintings. His work is full of elemental nature, its power and chaos suggested through thickly-textured painted surfaces, and in this open house domestic setting, I felt I’d had an immersive artistic experience.

By the time I reached my last open house at 9A Hove Place, the sun was shining. I followed the signs through a front garden/vegetable patch, went down some steps and round a corner, into the basement of a grand Victorian villa. Mike Daniels and his wife Tamar were the hosts, and their passion for ceramics was obvious from the quantity of beautiful pieces displayed throughout their spacious flat. There were shelves and cabinets of tiny miniature pots, large ceramic sculptures, wavy teapots, all sorts of jugs, mugs, dishes and vases, in muted earth tones or bold Bloomsbury-style colours, or with iridescent glazes. I later found out that many of the potters showing here sell their work through Miar Arts, an online gallery and shop run by Mike. As well as ceramics, this open house offered some unusual items, including quirky little wooden wind-up automata, featuring a dancing skeleton and a chorus line of OXO cubes. Brilliant.

West Street Loft Studios

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I recently heard about an artists’ space called West Street Loft and went along to yesterday’s open studio for a look. I took the 700 coastliner from Worthing and enjoyed views of the wild and windy sea from the top deck of the bus, and reached Shoreham-by-Sea in less than half an hour. I found West Street with no trouble and soon arrived at the studio space of a local artistic community. It felt warm and welcoming, and not just because of the cold and wet and wind outside.

I really like being in workshops and studios. There’s a feeling of organised chaos, with materials and equipment all over the place, an honesty about the often mucky processes of making stuff. About a dozen people have spaces here, on the ground floor, including painters Angela Edwards, Karin Hay-White and Geoff Lowe, ceramicist Jane Abbott, jewellery makers Sheila Way and Aron Salanson, mosaic artist Pauline Hudson Ford, designer Amy Baudet of Salt House Interiors and Jennifer Hilverkus of Cockles Candles, who was at work creating aromatherapy candles that gave the place a blissful scent.

On a visit like this, there’s a chance to see original works of art, craft and design, and to speak to the makers who are keen to welcome visitors and talk about their work. You can chat, browse and buy, or just look around and soak up the creative atmosphere.Upstairs is a big space (the loft part of West Street Loft) where a varied programme of events and activities for the local community are held, including courses in arts and crafts, health and fitness classes and cinema evenings.

The studios at West Street Loft are open every second Saturday of the month (coinciding with the local farmers’ market) from 10am to 3pm.