Going with the Flow

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This is an exhibition about notions of flow: the mental state of total engagement; the movement of the sea and the sky; and the passage of time. It’s a brilliant theme that brings together a variety of work by the Saltgrass Artists – a group of six Sussex-based artists who recently graduated after years of part-time study as mature students.

Denise Strange and Lee Rousell are both painters inspired by the Sussex countryside, but their work is very different. Denise works in the English landscape tradition, and her paintings have a sense of space and light. They reveal her love of nature, and of specific places, and her sensitivity to moods created by light and weather conditions. Her focus is being in the moment, creating a mood of calm, solitude and sometimes mystery. In contrast, Lee’s paintings are much more abstract expressionist: he uses a bold colour palette, thickly-applied paint and gestural mark making, which results in a restless picture surface that speaks of inner turmoil.

Sue Coleman takes an interdisciplinary approach to her work, producing drawings, etchings and photographs as well as sculptures and installations. What links it all together is her exploration of the tension between human activity and the natural world, between growth and decay. In this exhibition, she is showing some fascinating photographs of found urban objects, and an installation of green oak, pebbles and sand, called Longshore Drift, a reference to the endless movement of sand and stones along the coast.

Multi-media artist Sam Kennedy uses vintage imagery and fragments of ephemera to create intriguing collage images that suggest a flow between the present and the past. Collage as an art form has a fine pedigree, with its roots in Dada and Surrealism, and Sam continues the tradition of deconstruction and re-assemblage, bringing diverse elements together to create new narratives with layers of meaning.

Nikki Wilson’s photographs capture lyrical details of church interiors, highlighting the beauty of quiet corners of these buildings, which bear the traces of generations of worshippers. Until recent times, the parish church lay at the heart of the ebb and flow of community life, and Nikki’s pictures offer us the chance to focus on physical elements of ancient churches that also have a spiritual resonance.

Dee Hilder works in many different media and for this show she has created a series of etchings, drawings and felted paintings inspired by the ebb and flow of the sea around the beach at Old Shoreham Fort. Repetition, movement and spontaneity are notable features of her work: her graphite images look very much like automatic drawings, and there must be an enormous element of chance involved in the making of her beautiful calico dye pieces.

Saltgrass Artists: Flow continues at the Skyway Gallery, Shoreham-by-Sea, until Friday 17 November.

Business & Romance

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The special display presented a selection of Bloomsbury paintings, prints, designs and ceramics relating to the Omega Workshops, a business enterprise offering hand-crafted household items, set up by Roger Fry and his artistic young friends, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. In 1911, Fry and Vanessa began an affair (Vanessa had been married to Clive Bell for four years, and Fry’s wife Helen had been committed to a mental asylum in 1910 and spent the rest of her life there). Fry’s heart was broken when Vanessa fell in love with Duncan Grant (whose previous lovers included his cousin Lytton Strachey and the economist John Maynard Keynes), but despite this, the three remained good friends.

Fry had gained a reputation for promoting continental avant garde art: in 1910, he rocked the London art establishment when he curated Manet and the Post-Impressionists, and again two years later with his Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition. Edwardian society was staid and oppressive, so this introduction to contemporary European art (specifically the works of Cézanne, Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso) had a profound impact on young British artists, particularly the painters of the Bloomsbury Group. The artists and writers of the group were bound together by their desire to break down the conventions and double standards of their Victorian parents’ generation. They wanted to create a new way of living, based on personal, artistic and sexual freedom. The painters in the group moved away from academic representation to create works of bold colour, expressive brushwork and loose drawing, and they extended their painting activity to interior decoration, seeing no divide between fine and applied art.

The Omega Workshops were founded in 1913 and Fry, Bell and Grant began producing furniture, carpets, ceramics, textiles mirrors and light fittings that would rival the old-fashioned, mass-produced goods currently available. Fry declared ‘We have suffered for too long from the dull and stupidly serious,’ as the Workshops produced objects in a variety of styles, influence by Post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism. The work was highly experimental and the focus was on decoration rather than design: pieces of furniture were often bought in and then decorated at the workshops, to create Omega products. Several different artists became involved, and everyone worked collaboratively, marking the finished objects with the collective omega symbol (the last letter of the Greek alphabet) rather than individual signatures. Vanessa also designed a range of dresses in Omega-designed fabrics, rejecting the tight corseting of high fashion for Bohemian drapery. After six years of trading, a series of poor financial decisions and internal conflicts, Omega Workshops Ltd. was liquidated. It had been a brief flowering of creativity, during which Fry, Vanessa and Grant explored abstract design and championed a new modern style, and the influence of the Omega Workshops was significant in the following decades, and the Bloomsbury style still has great appeal today.

Local Colour

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This season’s south coast artfest is well under way: in May, Brighton & Hove Open Houses gave us the fab and funky experience we’ve come to expect; and Worthing will be consolidating its artistic renaissance with Artists Open Houses from mid-June to early July. What of Adur Art Trail? It’s the jewel in the crown, the cultured pearl between Brighton’s Bohemia and Worthing’s retro charm – but there’s no Trail this year. In 2018 there will be an Adur Art Trail to look forward to. However, lovers of the Shoreham art scene won’t be disappointed this year with Adur Art Collective’s first Summer Exhibition at Skyway Gallery. More than 60 members of the collective are currently showing a selection of work in a variety of media: paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture, textiles, jewellery, paper craft, mosaic and film.

The show offers a chance to enjoy memories of last year’s trail, with Maddie Zayeet’s movie Trekking the Adur Art Trail 2016. And there’s another brilliant film not to be missed: Shoreham by Sea – An Aerial Perspective by Scott Wright (still image at the start of this post). It’s a mesmerizing film offering a drone’s-eye view of the local landscape. You feel like you’re flying high over fields, roads, chalk cliffs and shoreline, looking down on well-loved landmarks – the River Adur and the Ferry Bridge, the power station, the lighthouse and Lancing College – in a stunning new way.

Creating a coherent display from such diverse exhibits is an achievement in itself, and the standard of the presentation as well as the art is high. As a venue, Skyway Gallery at the Shoreham Centre has a lot going for it: bright and modern, it’s at the heart of the community so it’s an ideal place to bring art to the people. And the people are being asked to get involved in this exhibition, to give their comments and to nominate their favourite exhibit as the people’s choice, with prize giving on the show’s closing day. AAC patron and expert watercolourist Shirley Trevena will also present an award for the most innovative use of colour.

What the public have been saying:

“A great eclectic mix, wonderful”
“So much local talent”
“I love seeing all the different media used”
“A lovely exhibition”
“A thoroughly enjoyable feast of art”
“Super exhibition – well done to all the artists”

 

The Summer Exhibition at Skyway Gallery in Shoreham-by-Sea continues until Sunday 18 June.

Art on the Pier

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During a recent stroll along the seafront, I came across Art on the Pier, an exhibition of work including a series of displays by children from local schools. The kids had been briefed to ‪creative selfies in a variety of ways with a variety of media: photography, collage, drawing, wax resist, clay, fabrics, buttons, wood and wire. The results are brilliant.

I found some really fine photographs by local artists on another part of the pier. The creators of this art on the pier thing are Nadia Chalk and Vanessa Breen, who are professional artists, designers and art educators. They set up a not-for-profit company called Creative Waves, to bring some inspiring public art into the Worthing and Adur community. Well done to them, I say – it’s great to see the arts are alive and well in this dreary old town.

http://www.creativewaves.co.uk

Quality Crafts

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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.

Small Is Beautiful

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There’s a brilliant exhibition of dolls’ houses at Worthing Museum right now. You can see miniature townhouses and grand villas, dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries, along with a display of precious little dolls. All the items belong to the museum’s reserve collection and aren’t normally on show, so this exhibition is a rare chance to have a look at these fine examples of craftsmanship, most of which seem far too grand to be children’s toys. Even from a grown-up’s perspective, they are enchanting, with domestic scenes of Victorian ladies taking tea, gentlemen in the drawing room and nanny bathing the baby.

The exhibition is on in the Studio at Worthing Museum & Art Gallery until 20 February.

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.

Back to the Beach

Reviews

Back to the Beach is a seaside-themed exhibition of work by members of local group, Worthing Art Studios, currently showing at Worthing Museum. Participating artists include: Barry Williams – super photographs and brilliant mini conversation pieces in old mackerel tins; Sarah Sepe – colourful, joyous lino prints / collages; Naomi Frances – wonderful creations made from mirrors, shells and stained glass; Mary Crabb  – unique basketry items, like beautiful little lobster pots, made from cane and  coloured wire; Wendy Whiting – a single vivid, abstract, atmospheric oil painting.

 

The exhibition is on until 22 August: don’t miss it.

Sussex Flint

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Flint is a key feature of Sussex buildings and has been used for centuries and in many different ways. You can see walls made of flint all around Worthing, Brighton and Shoreham-by-Sea, from old cottages and churches to Victorian, Edwardian and even modern houses. Flint walls are made of irregularly-shaped field flints or beach cobbles, which are smaller and smooth, having been eroded by the sea.  Flints can be used whole or knapped (snapped open to exposed the shiny grey-black inner surface), and knapped flint is also sometimes cut to create closely-fitting squares. Flints are usually laid with mortar, similar to the way bricks are laid, and the style of the flint arrangements is call bonding: cobbles can be laid in neat rows, chunky field flints can be arranged randomly and squared knapped flint creates patterns.