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.

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.

Painting the Family Album

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I remember, when I was a little girl, on Sunday afternoons at grandma’s bungalow in Findon Valley, she’d take a stack of photo albums out of the dresser and we’d look at the pictures together. I wasn’t that fond of grandma but I loved looking at those photos of my mum as a child or as a beautiful young woman, and pictures of my dad looking so handsome with his RAF moustache, and pictures of my grandparents when they were young, and their parents and brothers and sisters and aunts, going back through the generations to strange-looking people in Victorian clothes.

These albums eventually came to me – and they’re particularly precious now that the people in them are nearly all dead and gone – and they’ve become a source of inspiration for my painting. After concentrating on landscape for some years, and having recently been inspired by a Gerhard Richter exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, I looked again at these old photos and decided to paint from some of them.

The first one I chose was a picture of my parents on their wedding day, and I was really pleased with the resulting painting, which seemed to have layers of meaning to do with British post-war austerity (it was 1950 and my mum wore a demure tailored jacket and skirt rather than a fancy wedding dress), love, youth, romance, the conventions marriage and of photography. The original small-scale photograph of a big moment in the lives of two ordinary people becomes something different when turned into a large oil painting. That’s what I like about painting: it turns the world into something else.

Images are very powerful. Photographs have a special power. Take a picture of someone or some moment that’s precious and you feel as though you’ve caught the essence of something forever. You’ve captured the feelings you experienced with that person in that place, and you keep it so you can experience those feelings again each time you look at the picture. The power of images is obvious when things go wrong and the memory of someone in a photograph is painful or something you’d prefer to forget: you might feel the need to physically destroy that picture, in a symbolic way removing that person from your history.

My father was something of an amateur photographer in his youth. He developed his own films with a home-made enlarger in a make-shift darkroom. His photos of my mother (before she was my mother) reveal his passion for her. She was beautiful and glamorous and some of the photos he took of her reveal how was mad about her he was. In the early 1950s, just after they got married, they took photos of each other, looking very stylish in the fashions of the time, and obviously happy with their newly-wedded life. Photos of them in later years often show signs of the strain between them. Sometimes the smiles are false.

I wonder about the convention of smiling for family snaps. In the early days of photography, before it reached the masses, people didn’t smile (long exposure times or trying to keep a sense of dignity?). But with Kodak and the Box Brownie, suddenly everyone was supposed to look happy in family photos. If you couldn’t raise a natural smile to reflect your joy, you were instructed to say ‘cheese’ to fool people into thinking you were enjoying yourself. Why? Something to do with middle class ideas of the happy family, that life was good and the world was a lovely place.

Photographs are a crucial part of creating your persona. How you look in photos is important. Everyone wants to look good, don’t they? But the image we have of ourselves may not match the image produced by the camera: if you’re lucky, it might flatter and make you look fabulous. More often (in my experience) the camera will catch your bad side, or your good side from a bad angle, and you end up looking fat and ugly and like your grandmother. This is the kind of photo you dismiss, saying it’s nothing like you because it just doesn’t match the picture you have of yourself in your head. The scary thing is that this is the sort of photo other people say looks just like you.

Feature first published in Dulwich On View.

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.

Big Heart Charity Auction

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Love 4 Landscapes

Reviews

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.