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.

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.

A Quest for Identity

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I didn’t know anything about Victor Pasmore before I went to the exhibition of his work currently on at Pallant House Gallery, although I was familiar with one of his paintings without knowing it was by him. During years of drooling over pictures in art books and magazines, I must have seen reproductions of his Coast of the Inland Sea, and it made a lasting impression on me: it’s a bold image of swirling lines, graphic marks and a sophisticated simplicity. It’s a lyrical abstract landscape, and I love it.

So, it was a bit of a shock to walk into the first gallery in this exhibition, and see Pasmore’s early paintings. The young Victor was obviously inspired by Sickert’s impressionistic scenes of everyday life, and the pastel drawings by Degas of women washing themselves. In 1937, Pasmore was involved in setting up the Euston Road School, which was dedicated to realism, the traditions of figurative painting and disciplined observation. It was all very British and turned its back on wild, expressive avant-garde art across the Channel. But the war brought an end to the school and – after a short stint in the army, followed by imprisonment for desertion and being a conscientious objector – Victor painted a series of views of the Thames, very much in the manner of Whistler’s subtle and luminous paintings of the same subject, with a touch of the Turneresque. In the mid-1940s, Victor seems to have taken a sudden interest in Post-Impressionism, taking inspiration from the work of Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Seurat and exploring new ways of painting using shifting viewpoints and pointillist dots; he also experimented with Cubism, and studied the writings of Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian and Arp. Embracing the European modern art he had previously shunned, Pasmore developed a distinctive way of painting with patterning, stylisation and abstract shapes.

In the 1950s, Victor turned his attention to creating relief constructions, an art form between paintings and sculptures: the first ones were made of painted plywood and have a rough-and-ready handmade character; the later pieces incorporate Perspex, and look machine made.

When he returned to painting, he produced a series of abstracts dominated by simple shapes in a strong colour, edged with minimalist black lines, and integral frame. In his later years, Pasmore set up his studio in Malta, where he painted big, bold, colourful abstracts and continued to create relief constructions.

This exhibition shows the amazing variety of Victor Pasmore’s work as it traces his story from realism to abstraction. Was he a restless spirit constantly seeking an ever-elusive answer to his own personal artistic questions? Or did he simply enjoy chopping and changing? Did he thrive on novelty? Or just get bored with his own work? Who knows?

Victor Pasmore: Towards a New Reality at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, is on until 11 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

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.

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.

Big Heart Charity Auction

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Love 4 Landscapes

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The Studio Gallery at Worthing Museum was full of colourful paintings of landscapes and seascapes, subjects which, as a painter, I am always pleased to see. Most of the show was dedicated to the paintings of Tom Gillham, a local artist whose work ranged from highly-detailed realist views of parks to vivid images of hearts painted in an expressionist style. I was drawn to his intensely-coloured, thickly painted views of Worthing beach and seafront. Seafront at Twilight (above) and Worthing Dome (below) struck me as the best pieces in the series, reminding me of the swirling skies and starry nights of Vincent van Gogh, and the melancholy Englishness of John Piper. Tom has donated one of the paintings on display, Kite Surfers, to the Big Heart Auction, an online event to raise funds for the Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice.

Tony Gillingwater’s work was on a larger scale than Tom’s, and much more mysterious and controlled. There were three canvases of trees that I found compelling: the compositions were striking and the colours beautiful. There was no information about these paintings or about the artist, but the work spoke for itself very eloquently.

Love 4 Landscapes continues at Worthing Museum & Art Gallery until 21 February 2015.