Visitors are welcome once again during Artwave Festival, when artists from Lewes and surrounding areas open their studios to show their work . This year’s event was slightly delayed by the small matter of a global pandemic, and of course I will be following social distancing and safety guidance. Being out in the countryside helps, my studio is spacious and there is plenty of room outside for anyone waiting.
As some of you may know I currently have a large exhibition up in Oxford, but there is still plenty of work on show in my studio including some of my early paintings from Australia; new paintings completed this year from the puppet series; and the original illustrations for the new Lighthouse Keeper book, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Mystery.
I will also be joined again by my assistant and fellow artist Abigail Myers who will be showing a few of her abstract paintings, along with some small prints and works on paper. Her work is a different take on the abstract aesthetic, informed both by the abstract expressionists that inspire me, but also later eras of pop, street, and conceptual art.
The studio will be open the weekends of 5/6, 12/13, and 19/20 September from 11am-5pm, at my studio just outside East Hoathly. Use the interactive map below or type BN8 6Qp into google maps or your satnav. This will bring you very close, then just look for the Artwave banner!
I first started my studio shows about 1980. Why? Dealers and I have never had a meaningful relationship, indeed, apart for a couple of minor skirmishes, one could say no relationship whatsoever, a state of affairs not likely to change. This isn’t a personality based phenomenon as far as I can tell.
For many years I worked as a jobbing illustrator. At times this could be stressful, to say the least. A phone call on Sunday evening. Who could that be I wonder? The caller, an agent, comes straight to the point.
‘Right, David, we need an A3 4 colour spread of….(take your pic)… a snow scene / children playing / an exotic forest / Greeks / Romans / Victorian slums / a moody sea scene / dogs / ducks or general livestock / portraits of war poets / airships and balloons / a Romanesque basilica / a street scene / a gooey sunset….etc. etc.’
We need it NOW, please, and… if you could courier it over by lunchtime tomorrow that would be terrific. The client will be lobbing in about 2pm. No time for visuals or scamps. Bye’.
Socialising grinds to a halt, back to the studio. Job is done to the accompaniment of an out of tune tawny owl. My motorcycle mate arrives at 10 a.m. to collect. (Wi- Fi has changed all that.) I have breakfast and get on with a bloody great ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ pic which was way overdue. What was good about all this? It paid well. The downside? One develops a pathological dread of forever doing this kind of stuff. If I see a load of this , or similar ilk, at any dealers, (quite right and proper from their point of view). I thank God, with all my heart, that I will never have to knock out these sort of pictures again. EVER .
Besides, there are loads of highly trained seals who are also really good at this, and they enjoy it! Good for them.
Amongst all of this, illustrating children’s books, a totally different discipline and for a much tougher audience, proceeded rather well to say the least, and still does. More of this anon. Finally, the discipline of painting was also prosecuted to a greater or lesser degree. I still want the painter to create a new magical world of their own, not merely illustrate, more or less, the one we just happen to inhabit. Pictures in other words. That’s easy.
Anyway back to the studio shows. These are, and still are my shop front, so to speak. These were/are a happy melange of painting, children’s illustrations, life drawings and cartoons. A lot of fun can be had juxtaposing a 5 metre abstract painting with some little A4/fragments and a load of children’s illustrations.
Audience reaction or lack of it is wonderful. I have invented a ‘shortest viewing time competition’. The current record is 2.4 seconds (viewed from the doorstep) but that will be bettered. The other great obstacle is the husband/wife dynamic. An example:
They appear. Wife sees a 1.5 metre -ish painting to die for. Hubby a slab of indifference. A tape measure was produced, the problem of furniture moving discussed at some length, generating conviction and increasing volume. Then, the matter was decided. The price agreed, a mere snip at 8 grand, a cheque written. Delivery sorted… I immediately thumbed through the en primeur wine lists and told the bailiffs to call off their dogs.
Next morning the cheque was cancelled. Never mind. I have been there, on a lesser scale, many times, and doubtless will do so again.
The Quadrangle, Ailies Lane, East Hoathly, BN8 6QP
Across two large studios in an idyllic location in the heart of the East Sussex countryside, three contemporary artists share their unique take on abstraction. From expressionism to geometric, and utilising a range of techniques and mixed media, their work explores different styles and crosses over in unexpected ways.
Meet with and chat to the artists, view an exciting range of vibrant and thought provoking work, and soak up the calm and creative atmosphere of this unique corner of Sussex.
Original artwork for sale at varying prices, along with affordable prints and cards. Browsers also welcome!
Chris Mansell MA
Chris Mansell graduated with a masters from the Royal College of Art. His abstract paintings combine painterly techniques with printing, and play with both minimalism and expressionism. Having worked for many years as a technician in a number of arts institutions, his deep knowledge of techniques gives depth and integrity to his work.
“I suppose I have been, mainly, influenced by the painterly abstractionists, like De Kooning and Rothko, but my favourite work still decorates the cave walls at Altamira and Chauvet. I will never tire of looking at these images from 35,000 years ago which are still as sophisticated as anything which has happened since.”
Although working largely within the abstract aesthetic, there are many underlying themes and inspirations behind Myers’ work. Interests in literature, psychology and conceptual art combine with a passion for colour, shape and the exploration of composition to create works which are both visually stimulating as well as being an expression of concept.
Spray paints, acrylics, emulsions, marker pen, and other mixed media combine to create impactful contemporary abstract paintings.
Abi Myers graduated with a BA Fine Art from Portsmouth University in 2003. Alongside her own artistic practice she assists other artists and arts institutions.
Armitage has been working as a professional artist and illustrator for several decades, and the relationship he has built up over time with this most primary of artistic mediums has been a balance, with Armitage mastering the use of colour and mark, whilst accepting his part as slave to the medium, inviting accidents as part of the creative process.
Both abstract and more figurative works are inspired by various sources, including travels to other countries, shrines, landscapes, people and tragedy. Large scale colour-scapes are his metier, but he is also finding ways in which to distill the same energy, space and depth into smaller scale works.
Armitage has received much critical acclaim for both his painting and illustrative works, and has exhibited both nationally and internationally.
The exhibition runs as part of Lewes Artwave Festival 2018. There are many other open studios nearby, please see their website for details, trails and maps.
Open daily from 18 August – 2 September, 11am – 5pm. Free entry. All welcome. There are no stairs, but the ground is uneven in parts. Purchases by cash / cheque.