Drawn to the Valley, Drawn to London. Artists of the Tamar Valley.

As someone who has spent their entire adult life actually being drawn to the Valley and then drawn to London, on repeat, and loving both equally, this was always going to be a ‘ not to be missed’ exhibition. The Valley in question is the Tamar Valley, the natural border between Devon and Cornwall. Beautiful, spectacular and largely undiscovered this vivid corner of England is home and sometimes muse to a vibrant gathering of artists. Some of whom belong to the collaborative group Drawn To The Valley.

The group has over 160 members, thirty-five of the artists have brought their work to Pall Mall.

The exhibition which runs from 22-27th October at The Royal Opera Arcade Gallery is an eclectic mix of art, some very representational of the area from which the group hails and some inspired by world travels or fantastic imaginations. This exhibition has something for everyone. West Country expats will love seeing familiar landscapes rendered in so many different ways, while those who are quite unfamiliar with the area will be exposed to its charms by the skill of artists who really love the place they call home. Not all the art here is representational, there are some amazing abstracts and 3D pieces. London and other world locations have also inspired this talented group of artists. Some pieces are pure creativity and inspiration.

Invigilators or gallery assistants can be a huge part of setting the tone of an exhibition. It’s not an easy job to gauge how much interaction gallery visitors want. Drawn to London benefits from having the artists themselves as invigilators. During my visit everyone was warmly welcomed and conversation about the art flowed freely and enthusiastically.

The ‘Hang’ at this exhibition, which covers three floors, is whimsical. Not unlike the Royal Academy Summer Show. Works that look good together, hang together. Maybe this style is not for everyone but I think it adds to the really happy feel of this exhibition.

I hope I can get back for another mooch around, I can’t recommend this refreshing exhibition too highly. If you have a blank wall there is almost certainly something here that would fill it nicely.

www.jeannineallen.co.uk

www.nickybeaumont.co.uk

www.janet-brady.com

www.jenbradleydesigns.wixsite.com

www.martinbush.co.uk

www.martinclarkart.com

www.dartmoorlandscapes.com

www.monachorumgallery.co.uk

www.melanieguy.com

www.artgallerysw.co.uk

www.pippahowes.com

www.tessajane.co.uk

www.clarelaw.co.uk

www.nsltextileart.co.uk

www.mawdsley.co.uk

www.jillianmorris.co.uk

www.clarknicolart.co.uk

www.karennicoltextileart.ipage.com

www.sallyoneillartist.co.uk

www.glenrockstudio.co.uk

www.ianpurvisart.com

www.charlottesainsbury.co.uk

www.angelasmithsart.com

www.katystonemanart.co.uk

www.saatchiart.com for Marianne Sturtridge

www.callingtonartschool.com for Tessa Sulston

www.riichardsunderlandart.com

www.tinatianart.com

www.markwigginsart.com

www.annette-wrathmell.co.uk

www.simonyoungart.com

www.drawntothevalley.co.uk

Abstract Intensive.Reflection #1 Early August

Following the last blog which was in essence a review of the Abstract Intensive Course at Falmouth University www.falmouth.ac.uk this blog is much more of a personal reflection. More like a diary of how the course is affecting my practice

I accidentally fell into painting abstracts during my degree in Fine Art. Prior to my foundation course I was very much a landscape painter. The beauty of foundation courses is the requirement to try a lot of different styles and to form ideas on which direction to travel once on the degree. My first foray into abstraction came almost by accident, I was struggling to express my reaction to the events of 9/11 and found abstraction to be the easiest tool in my limited skill box.( An earlier blog Bloggers Block covers a similar theme) https://theoldmortuary.design/2018/03/15/blogblock-spring-clean Abstraction worked then and I’ve largely stuck with it.

Reading books about abstraction and following abstract artists seemed only to take me so far, and it certainly got me through my degree. It got my work into galleries and exhibitions, into people homes and serendipitously one of my pieces of work was shown at Tate Modern . With more time to paint and think I was thrilled to find a dedicated Abstract course not to far from home. Time to learn Abstract techniques first hand.

My particular interest is the interaction of man made structures on landscapes and nature’s constant bid to overwhelm and reclaim supremacy, Nature always wins.

This is the start of my first painting after the course.

It’s working title is Concrete Rock Pools. The Southwest of Britain is a rich source of concrete, built quickly during WW2, used only briefly during the preparation for the Normandy Landings. 80 years of weather and tides have broken it down leaving concrete and rusty iron that forms rock pools that are part natural and part man made.

This will be a different painting from one I would have done on the same subject a month ago, before the course. The impact of a week-long intensive course shows itself in this painting in small ways. Marginal gains is the sport psychology terminology for small improvements in performance.That phrase works equally well in Art. Measuring my own marginal gains may simply be taking time for recognising and reflecting and then developing confidence in those changes.

Having largely worked out my own methods of abstraction from practise, reading and observing other artists work it was great to have this book recommended at Falmouth.

I’ve been stealing an idea for abstraction for years from a completely unknown artist. I’ve always felt a little guilty about that. The author of these books, Austin Kleon cured me of my guilt. Both the book and the journal are well written with simple tips. I’m sure the strategies in these books are useful applied to many areas of life not just art.I bought mine cheaply from www.abebooks.co.uk

( My guilty steal happened at porteliotfestival.com A life drawing class was being taught in one of the tents. The model was posing, lit by some shafts of sunshine piercing through small holes in the canvas roof.There were some cracking images being created by the small group of artists. One artist however was writing a stream of descriptive sentences. Really beautiful words that were accurately reflecting the change of light,texture and nuanced shapes on the models beautiful body. I’ve used this technique many times when an image doesn’t quite flow from mind to canvas or when it is impossible to recreate natural beauty with a photograph, I just take some time out to write what I see and how it makes me feel. It really helps to get me out of a painting rut if I read these notes)

The relevancy of permission to steal to the above painting is all about fear really. I want to get both rust and and tiny sun bursts into this painting. The potential for error is great particularly when I’m happy with the first painted layer. Time to research abstract sunbeams and rust.

Falmouth Intensives, a personal view.

A collaborative painting- Abstract Intensivists 2018 I recently completed a five day intensive course in abstract painting at Falmouth University.I’ve done art courses most of my adult life, many of them at established, well-regarded art schools. Some on-line and some that would be regarded more as a leisure pursuit than as an intellectual expansion of artistic knowledge and skill.The Falmouth Intensive was the best organised course I have attended.At £500 for five days, it is not cheap but is certainly in line with other courses that are available.What did the Falmouth Intensives Course do to make me rate it so highly?The campus itself is eclectic and beautiful,especially with weather that was perfect. Falmouth is a dream destination for artists.Students/course members were treated as valued clients/customers. Our working accommodation was a large Victorian villa on Wood Lane, a leafy suburban street that merges town with gown. We were a group of 9 course members, with a choice of 11 well prepared studio spaces. Within the studio space area there was a communal kitchen that was stocked with complimentary tea, coffee, milk and biscuits, all branded products, that were topped up every day. The communal kitchen was shared by all the intensive course attendees, there were two other courses running the week I attended. This gave us the chance to mingle and share experiences. Food based ‘ break-out’ sessions happened nearly every day, not compulsory, they enabled artists from all three courses to meet whilst enjoying food, drink and some valuable time away from their artistic endeavours. This was a brilliant idea, artists can be insular creatures, to lure us out of our studios with the promise of free food was a genius plan. Falmouth Uni also wins a food diplomacy prize for serving scones a bit like a Victoria Sponge, (Scone-Jam-Cream-Scone). A simple flip made the scone ‘Cornish’ or ‘Devon’, keeping the scone purists happy.So, as they always say at the beginning of courses “that’s the housekeeping done”.The abstract course was not afraid of taking all participants back to basics. Our first morning was spent doing drawing exercises indoors and making observational sketches outside. Our two lecturers for the week were Simon Averill and Glad Fryer, a fabulous tag team of enthusiasm and knowledge. Both working three of the five days we were given the chance for ample informal conversations with one or both of them in addition to time-tabled ‘crit’ sessions and seminars. Both held sessions in which they shared their own working practices and experiences as active artists in the abstract genre. They also made the effort to bring in a good selection of their work and published materials. It is so helpful to understand other artists viewpoints and creative endeavoursWhat participants never know on these ‘selective’ courses is whether everyone who applies gets selected or whether there truly is a selection of suitable candidates. Either way, due to serendipity or selection, our group of students worked well together. All with a similar work ethic, we were surprisingly productive over the 5 days. Our one experience of working on a collaborative piece of art exposed us all to a new, to us, and unique way of creating art. With no rules or instructions it was left to the group to devise a way of working cohesively. That’s a tricksy ask of an established group of people let alone virtual strangers. I can’t say it was all ‘peace and love’ but the character and texture of the individuals in the group found a way to create an image together that gave us all something to think about.The Simon/Glad tag team, was an inspired choice as course leaders. Significantly different in character yet matched in the quality and style of their teaching, it is hard now for me to remember which one taught me which of the learning nuggets I have taken home.Their enthusiasm carried me through when my paint was recalcitrant and my technique shoddy. I’ve been home a day, had some sleep and time to reflect, undisturbed by swirling thoughts of ‘resolution’. I’m nearly ready to unpack the car and return my stuff to the studio. Next week I will paint abstracts again in a whole new way and with a lot more confidence.Thanks to everyone who plays a part in organising or delivering Falmouth Intensives. Thanks to my fellow intensivists. It was great to meet you.An abstract of this blog is not available.A feather that blew into my studio on the last day. I wonder who was visiting? #creativespirits #abstractthoughts

Plymouth Art Weekender / Articles written for Made In Plymouth

 My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #1
This year was the third Art Weekender in Plymouth but having only recently returned to the area this was my first experience and I was impressed! The quantity and quality of the art was astonishing. Despite having one of the few dedicated Art Schools in the country and a well respected Arts faculty at Plymouth University, when I left 10 years ago Plymouths Arts Community was not hugely visible to mainstream Plymouth and beyond.

But things are changing and Plymouth Art Weekender is a vibrant sign of ‘Artsy’ Plymouth. I’ve attended week-long festivals which haven’t had such a voracious and high quality itinerary as PAW17. It didn’t pass me by that Art Weekender exhibits started popping up well before the weekend, and I hope some of it will hang around a bit as well. For me the weekender has been a case of ‘so much art, so little time’. I’ve written about the exhibits and events that really stood out in my weekend but there were many other wonderful pieces I would have loved to write about.

For me the first event was live music at Hutong Cafe. Hutong Cafe cuddles up to the outside of the main entrance of The Royal William Yard and is the evolving brainchild of George, Jack and Emma who opened the Cafe earlier this year. Diamond Family Archive are a Lo-Fi psych folk duo and they filled this intimate venue. The music was mesmerizing, the music swelled and grew to the point that it seemed impossible that only two men were creating it. Ambient sounds, seemingly plucked out of the night air were woven into the performance. Coupled with good wine and food, this could be the new way to enjoy live music.

Ocean Studios played host to JoJo’s photography exhibition before and during the Weekender. This exhibition features couples who have committed to life together alongside single mothers with their children. I posed for Jojo 10 years ago in his first Plymouth Uncovered book and know from experience what a charismatic photographer he is so I felt a particular connection to this exhibition. His empathetic approach to his photography gives it the quality of painted portraits, evolved over a far greater timeframe. Faces, but also hands and feet are expressive at a deeper level than in a usual portrait because of some special magic that Jojo manages to infuse into his sessions. Some of the photos in this exhibition ache with the amount of information they are trying to convey.

I was lucky enough to talk to the artist after seeing the exhibition, and told him some of the sentiments I had picked up on from his images. Ever the consummate professional he said nothing indiscreet about his sitters but I’m sure his eyes agreed with some of my thoughts. I’ve been back a couple of times to enjoy his exhibition; it is well worth the time. This diligence has nothing to do with the great coffee and cake that can be bought at The Ocean Studios Cafe next to the exhibition…

 
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #2

Saturday saw bright sunshine and driving through Plymouth early in the morning I could sense there was something arty in the air. As I drove around the city I caught sight of what can only be described as human sized litter, performing strange activities. I arrived to my first venue of the day, Ocean Studios Open Studios. This event took up way more time than I had planned for and the event blew me away. It was like visiting a massive advent calendar. Every time I took a peak behind the door of a studio I had no idea what I was going to experience. The ground floor, larger, studios of ceramicists and other makers were alive with the chatter of children’s workshops.

Space was at a premium as the peripheries of the rooms were filled with proud and attentive parents who marveled and photographed the skills and achievements of their offspring. Chunky stone stairs led me upwards to smaller spaces. My nose led me in the direction of an artist who was using oil paints, brilliant jewel like colours shone off canvasses, coupled with the smell it was a heady mixture. Sadly the artist was missing, (everyone needs a wee sometime).

Teresa Pemberton was in the building and her big bright canvasses bring a smile to anyone’s face. Talking to Teresa it was easy to discover the value of working as a lone practitioner within a collaborative space like Ocean Studios. Mosaicist Emma Spring works was working on a brightly coloured commission in her studio space.Emma has been creating Mosaics a long while, examples of her work adorn the streets of Saltash and she is also closely associated with Flameworks in Plymouth. I’ve recently taken more interest in mosaics, it was great to meet her and see the process as a contemporary practice.

So far so familiar, and that is not a bad thing but on opening one of the doors I met a woman who Free-style embroiders on a machine. Who even knew there was such a thing! Ewa Morawski has recently relocated to Plymouth and lives close to her studio in Royal William Yard. She studied textiles in London and has had commissions from some interesting organisations. Her creations are stored in clear crystal boxes and as her work tumbles out it is hard to believe that the flimsy, beautiful objects are not petals and blossoms just plucked from a bush. One recent commission had her making delicate orchids for the Royal Horticultural Society; they were better than the real thing. She works on an old Singer sewing machine that looks just like the ones that retailers use to give their interiors retro credibility. Ewa creates flowers for brides and corsages but not all her work is soft and sensitive. She rocks punk sensibilities when she recreates tattoos in fabric and her version of a Remembrance Day poppy is vibrant and jazzy.

As I came to the end of my journey I connected with Shayne House. Shayne and Sarah Smalldon share a studio, Shayne is a digital marketing expert and creates wonderful prints with Letterpress and Silk Screen. Sarah produces prints and exquisite house portraits. Perhaps most importantly after four hours of poking my nose in Studios they had a lovely squashy sofa to rest my weary art tourist feet.
My Plymouth Art Weekender trilogy #3

Sunday, I planned to spend the whole day with one topic – Commit This To Memory. Jessica Wright had installed QR codes at each of the 32 sites identified by Plymouth City Council as ‘at risk’. My interest in this project was that each of these sights was already known to me from years of hunting down old bits of Plymouths history, however I have neglected them for the ten years I’ve not lived in Plymouth. The project aims to get Plymouth people involved and interested in the architectural features that Plymouth Council consider to be at risk of becoming unsustainable, to preserve their history. As a family and group of friends we love finding ‘Old Plymouth’ and the conversations and happy memories that spring out of an old piece of Plymouth architecture are precious.

In Jessica’s words- The project is about the here and the now, engagement in the present and the infra-ordinary – the little things that go unnoticed. Scan the QR codes on the stickers to find out more about the sites included in the project and use the hash tag #cttmplymouth to get involved on Instagram. Follow the project @cttmplymouth.

Following the project on Sunday got more and more unpleasant as the rain tracked down my neck, and photography became impossible. The great thing about this Art Weekender experience is that these artifacts have been around a while and will last even longer with love and respect from the city even if this particular project is transitory. Sunday’s weather defeated me but Monday, saw sunshine and climate induced enthusiasm. I popped out to three of my favourite sites on CTTM. And in the spirit of the project shared some of our familial memories.


Thanks to Jessica Wright and her project, I’ve had a great Sunday/Monday. As my personal conclusion to Plymouths Art Weekender, CTTM beautifully illustrated how art enhances life. Just visiting these architectural locations makes me enthusiastic to learn more about each of them and to experience and talk about them with other people.

The 3rd Plymouth Art Weekender, what a blast!

  

Style and Sausages

IMG_0487.JPGThe stylehounds are in Cheltenham today seeking out the best design and style that Cheltenham has for theoldmortuary.design.

Sausage refuelling required at Baker and Graze following early morning architecture trail .

updates later …

Private View, Breaking Through, PCAD

IMG_0052.JPGEarly June is the perfect time to hunt for contemporary art. Art Schools and Universities showcase the best that their art students have to offer. Usually held over a week or so the Graduation exhibitions are vibrant , eclectic events. Last night I went to Plymouth College of Art and Designs Graduation Showcase, Breaking Through.,  Plymouth is one of the few remaining independent art schools. It teaches an eye watering number of creative courses and the end of year show reflects the huge diversity of subjects. The standard of these shows is always high . Proud parents, tutors and graduates rub shoulders with interested art lovers and talent scouts from the creative industries. Bargains can also be found and I’ve bought some lovely pieces from Degree shows around the country. One or two pieces have turned out to be a great investment as their creators become well respected and successful as their careers progress.

The following black and white images are a snippet of my experience last night.  The show closes on 22nd June. There is ample time to see these lovely things in full colour and in their entirety before the show closes. Go to the PCAD website for times and details.

 

http://www.plymouthart.ac.uk

This slideshow requires JavaScript.