Totterdown Arts Trail

There is one thing I managed to squeeze in in-between teaching. In November I got involved in an event called the Totterdown Arts Trail. The weekend of the 19th/20th, me and my auntie-in-law opened up our home to the people of Totterdown and showcased our art work! What a feeling it was to open up our home like that and have people wander in and admire our artwork! I’d chose to exhibit in the hallway of our house, setting up The Great British Caravan along one wall and placing two older paintings (Two Up, Two Down and The Outhouse) on the others. As visitors came in and out they could also take a look at my cards just below the mirror. We had plenty of visitors and lots of kind words. It was lovely to speak to new people and hear their views of my work. It’s the first time I’ve put myself out there like that. I’ve had exhibitions before, but usually the work is left and you don’t hear the opinions of the people who see it. I wasn’t expecting to sell. I was proud to be showcasing myself in Bristol, proud that I had professional cards with my name and artwork on, (cards that had envelopes and cellophane wrap!) and after selling a few of those I was very happy.

However in the very last hour of the two day event, interest started to grow in my paintings! A lady walked in asking ‘where’s the lady who paints the caravans?’ I’d never been described as that before, word was spreading! She loved my paintings. She was about to buy a few cards, but I thought what the hell, I’ll ask her how much she’d be willing to pay. She ended up getting herself a bargain, she was so happy- saying she’d put it in her kitchen. I suppose it was good karma because minutes later another lady came in enquiring about the caravan painting with the E.U flag- and she was happy to pay full price! What a feeling! Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any better, a lady who I’d spoke to earlier came back wanting to buy one of my older paintings- Two Up, Two Down. She said ‘it was the most striking thing she’d seen on the whole arts trail!’ What a compliment! She paid full price and took it home to put somewhere everyone could see it. So in just an hour I’d sold three paintings! Some might I’m an artist.

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Oswald’s Exhibition

With a four month delay in the next coming posts, I can only apologise for my lack of up to date blogging. I’ll go into why later, but there is so much to write let’s get on! So way back in August, I was hard at work completing the The Great British Caravan series. My tribute to the time I’d spent caravanning in Cumbria. I had completed the series and was excited to be given the opportunity to exhibit in Penrith. I spent a great deal of time curating the layout of the series. Steering the caravan viewpoints towards the central eye line and positioning the sizes symmetrically. I think the photograph of me arranging the paintings is just fantastic- The Great British Caravan, in my humble yet great caravan. It was a novel feeling leaving my works with the café to install, but a really brilliant feeling to walk in the following week and see them displayed for all to see. I felt extremely proud of the work I’d produced. The red walls looked fantastic and although they didn’t all sell, I loved the experience and it was amazing to have a cup of tea, see my work on the walls and watch from a distance people admiring them.

The exhibition ran from 2nd August- 12th September 2016

Success at Greystoke Art Show

After all the hype surrounding the exhibition I never did get round to writing about the exciting events that followed. Firstly there was the opening night of the exhibition- which was a huge success. Despite my nerves, there was a crowd of people who came along to enjoy some great art, music, food and wine. I was able to meet the other artists involved- Christine Hurford, Janis Young and Caroline Dalton. It was great to explore the ideas behind their work. We all commented how the works complimented each other enormously. With all of us working in contemporary sculpture we transformed the 16th century church into a modern gallery space. Telling the story of the church in our own way. As well as the open night I also managed to get myself into the local paper! This was a really exciting time for me- I felt the photo really cemented my breakthrough into the Cumbrian art scene. The whole exhibition was a fantastic experience that motivated me to get making, meet new people, make my friends and family proud and exhibit in an extraordinary place.

Installing My Piece

I’m extremely proud to say that the piece is up! It’s currently in place at Greystoke Church, Penrith, Cumbria. I’m so happy that I’ve been able to hold an exhibition in the very church my great grandparents were married in. It feels very monumental. It’s the first piece I’ve made in the UK since graduation and it’s of great family value to me. It reflects my current life situation, explores place and time and picks up on those memorable moments in life, the repetition of those events and our incessant need to secure ourselves in an area- our corner of the world.

Putting the piece up felt really special, I want to say a huge thank you to Christine Hurford, both for asking me to get involved in the exhibition and for all her help installing. Seeing the piece in the space, the idea coming alive so to speak, it became really real. It was no longer just an idea in my head, something I wasn’t sure I could make- but a real piece in an exhibition. And it looks good, professional yet artistic.

It also feels important that I’ve managed to break through an unwritten rule of the Lake District- the desire to paint the beautiful landscape. It’s so beautiful here it’s hard not to. However I knew I needed to break through that barrier to pursue my practice the way I’ve been doing. This piece explores the area without having to paint a replica of its surroundings.

A Happy Coincidence

As well as that exciting news from Rheged I also had a rather exciting meeting with a lady called Christine Hurford that opened up yet another opportunity for me. Whilst volunteering with Jo at C-Art, I was told there was an exhibition on downstairs in the Old Fire Station. (The office space for Eden Arts is located in the Old Fire Station- Penrith.) I went along and was really surprised to find the exhibition displayed eerie photographs of a previous obsession of mine- abandoned buildings. I began talking to one of the Artists- Christine about how she gets into these buildings- from previous experience I know the difficulties you can be faced with. It’s well worth it though. The photographs were fantastic- cleverly mounted onto fencing well recognised as a symbol to keep out. The images Christine Hurford and Jane Peet exhibited in ‘Dereliction’ complimented one another’s investigation into the unknown brilliantly.

As the conversation went on, Christine became interested in my own art practice and later revealed she’s soon to have another exhibition at Greystoke Church- which she wondered if I’d be interested in showing some work. I was, of course, honoured to be asked- having something to work for gives any artist the drive to start making again. So as I set off up the stairs with a spring in my step, I became even more excited when I then remembered something that’s been playing on my mind for a while now. A family member of mine had posted something on Instagram about my Great-grandparents (her grandparents.) It was a newspaper clipping commemorating their 50th Wedding anniversary- and what church where they married in? – None other than Greystoke Church, Penrith. What are the chances? I’m not from Cumbria; I move here for work each summer and it’s only recently that I’ve found out that my ancestors lived here in this area. I’ve been considering making some art about this happy coincidence- and well now I have no excuse.

Cumbrian Artist of the Year 2015

I was asked by Eden Arts to write a review about their latest show so here it is!CumbrianArtistoftheYear

Cumbrian Artist of the Year

25th April 2015 to 28th June 2015

Walking into the space on the top floor of Rheged’s award winning visitor centre, I immediately began to look for a theme surrounding the artist’s work. However, be it that the nature of the exhibition is searching for Cumbria’s Artist of the Year, it doesn’t allow for a running theme between artists. The work varies. Its Cumbria’s crisp of the crème. The exhibition shows its visitors that contrary to popular belief not every artist in Cumbria is painting their neighbouring landscape.

This notion is no more present than in the winning artist- Sarah Tew. She may not be subscribing to the traditional landscape painting, but her work is never far away from her roots in Cumbria and its remarkable backdrop. Tew was selected by an expert panel, one of which (Rory Stewart MP) observed this of her work- ‘the winner offered a fresh and engaging take on how we interact with landscape, and I am sure will create a strong reaction from local people.” Tew’s two pieces ‘Blade Printing’ and ‘Stone Mould Series’ on first inspection could easily be dismissed. Being the only floor work, they both demand the space, yet I imagine, often get overlooked by the general public. ‘Blade Printing’ especially, as I watched people walk by dismissing it as a small patch of lawn. Many it seemed thought Tew’s work ostentatious and unworthy of the prize. Ultimately though it was her concepts and wider contemporary practice that made her stand out. Mark Devereux, another of the selection panel, confirming- ‘Sarah Tew is an upcoming artist, her work both within this exhibition and also within her wider practice, displays a deep routed interest in interrogating the rural landscape. Encapsulating both an aesthetic but also a conceptual framework to her practice, we feel she is not only a worthy winner of the Cumbrian Artist of the Year Award but hope this will enable Sarah and her ongoing practice to flourish.’

Not everyone though seemed to agree with this statement. The general public didn’t buy into Tew’s patch of grass becoming a work of art, they desired the skillful and atmospheric work of Alan Stones. Echoing this in feedback- “Alan Stones work is magical and looks at landscape in an insightful way. He should have won the prize. I found Sarah Tew’s work pretentious nonsense.” With an outstanding number of votes- Stones was the People’s Choice winner. He blew the public away with large canvas paintings, displaying incredible talent and just enough narrative to entice his viewer. The painting’s compare with former Turner Prize nominee George Shaw. Particularly his piece ‘Clearing’, in this work he captures an eerie setting, a peopleless painting of a deserted forest. This piece is timeless, without a figure it’s freed from any time or any place. Whereas in his adjacent painting; ‘At Low Tide’, he twists this concept- a figure is present at the forefront of the painting, carrying with him a narrative and something for the viewer to ponder.  It’s these large scale paintings that captivate Alan Stones’ audience. His smaller portrait in the exhibition ‘Father and Son’ is dwarfed by these paintings, so much so I would have thought to leave it out in order to focus on the two prominent landscapes.

So who was my Cumbrian Artist of the Year? I noted earlier that this exhibition diverged away from the common place belief that not every artist in Cumbria is painting their neighbouring landscape, and yet still, I’ve predominately wrote about two artists who are very much influenced by Cumbria’s unforgettable location. My shortlist of artists however have resisted the urge to divulge in this subject matter and confronted other subjects close to my heart- time, place and people. On the wall opposite Alan Stones paintings was my favourite space in the exhibition. To the left was a huge acrylic painting by Alison Critchlow. I was drawn to the painting to inspect the brushstrokes and the remarkable textures of paint. Critchlow’s subject matter being wholly different from the Cumbrian landscape the title explaining this- ‘Drifting Iceberg’. To the right were three small oil paintings, framed by white wood, they narrated scenes of a typical British home, the title informing the viewer that this place was ‘Sandringham Road’. Sandringham Road allowed it’s viewer a brief glimpse into what I suspect is the artist’s home. A real tribute to the notions questioning private v public. My Cumbrian artist of the year however is awarded to Beatrice Hasell-McCosh. I nearly missed McCosh’s extraordinary piece, an unusual fabric piece, the floral fabric is mounted onto canvas and worked into with oils. Drips of paint and a subtle painting of what appears to be a steeple is unassumingly painted onto fabric. The work creates a time and place of its own, it evokes the memories of the Artist and allows the viewer to input their own- be that in Cumbria or elsewhere.

Thirty Six Views of Castle Hill

Yesterday I went along to Perc Tucker’s exhibition opening of Sue Smith’s 36 Views of Castle Hill. In some ways it felt like I was jumping back into the saddle again, back into the world of art, and in Australia none the less. Rather selfishly on my part it seemed like an extremely fitting exhibition reflecting Townville and opening my eyes to see Townsville in a different light. It felt exciting to be part of the crowd, with a glass of wine and listening to Sue Smith explain her paintings. As a visitor to Townsville, not a resident, I didn’t share what many there did, concerning their memories and their knowledge behind the history of the city. But I saw my own journey in the short month I’ve been here, I recognised the places I’ve been and the humour Sue was portraying in her somewhat surreal paintings. Sue revealed to us that this surreal style was indeed referencing Japanese painter Hokusai, her obvious homage to his 36 Views of Mount Fuji. An obvious influence to her series of paintings, although alike in its ideas, Sue Smith personalises her 36 views with the symbol of Castle Hill at the heart of her collection. Castle Hill is at the centre of Townsville, an ever looming figure on the city. Smith narrates the presence of the hill in each scene she paints, whether it be the central image or only just visible through the handle bars of a young girl’s bike, the hill dominates the attention of the viewer. As we search out the hill in each painting we get the sense that Smith is encouraging us to reflect upon our own lives surrounding the hill. Our ever changing lives in flux as the hill remains a constant in the backdrop of our lives.

Anti Factory!

It was a success! On Thursday I successfully co-curated and helped host Anti Factory the exhibition and private view! With many thanks to all those involved that helped make it happen; Ashe Wright, Kelly Purdy, Caroline McDougall, Alisia Wilkins, Joe Donze, James Politano, Martin Rayment, Amy Telford and Poppie Jaconelli. Thank you to the performers and most importantly to all of you that came to support!

From the press release this helps those who couldn’t make it get a feel of the exhibition’s concerns;

“Anti Factory is a collaborative project from students on the Fine Art BA course at NottinghamTrentUniversity, who are concerned with the value art has in relation to the time taken in its production.”

“We ask, does work that has taken longer to produce have more value? Are the hours spent actually reflected in the work?”

The venue at Divine Coffee house was greatly received and the space we exhibited was complemented by many. Although we had a drop out on the band situation this gave the audience time to look at the art work, then those who stayed got more free wine and live music!

The live music continued on for me as a few of us went on to Jam Café and later to Golden Fleece where we saw DJ Derek the amazing 71 year old DJ!