It’s 6pm, the exhibition is hung, the wine is ready, and a table buckles under the weight of the finest hors d’oeuvres. Everything is ready for my Private View. ELEVATION is open to all. The stress is over, now comes the best part – the guests.
An eclectic mix of friends, customers and artists, and soon the talk turns to Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2019, but only after several glasses of Bianco.
Myrtle Pizzey has shown in almost every Somerset Art Weeks event since 1998. Her linocuts are massive, vivacious reflections of the landscape near her very rural home. Her work hangs on my wall at home and I love it. I’m envious of her skills and patient execution of these huge masterpieces.
Myrtle will be exhibiting with her son Jason in her idyllic Hill Farm Studio near Wookey, and her nod towards the SAW 25th Anniversary is a silver moon. Inspired by a line in Walter de la Mare’s epic poem, “Slowly silently now the moon, Walks the night in her silver shoon”. Ok two lines!
Many artists are playing with the suggested silver anniversary theme for 2019, Somerset Art Weeks, started in 1994 feels proud to proclaim its heritage, and the common thread will be interpreted in many ways.
Jackie Henderson talks to me about burnishing silver onto her already beautiful paintings and prints. Jackie is a prodigious artist and mentor whose work revolves around the nearby Glastonbury countryside, it’s trees (silver birch included) and voluptuous landscapes. Her studio in Glastonbury is very much a contemporary gallery, a modern foil for her imaginatively natural paintings, and Jackie will be showing at the Somerset Craft Centre, Westhay.
I meet Miriam Sheppard, I’ve watched her cloudscapes become more and more luminous, richly moody and sumptuous over the years. Miriam is taking over an entire floor at the Heritage Courtyard Gallery in Wells filling it with translucent papers adorned with her clouds, with a specially composed soundtrack.
An ambitious installation but Miriam is one of the most energetic artists I know, she of all people has the drive and dynamism to carry it off.
Her link with silver? Guess what every cloud has?
Up the stairs pops Warren Leavens, he’s come all the way from Weston-Super-Mare to be here tonight, what a star. He and his wife Emma run the Little Paper Factory, and I’m their biggest fan. Although Warren is far from my West Mendip Area, we will exhibit together in the A2 Gallery in Wells this year.
His exquisite miniature houses and street scenes, so clever, I have no idea how he makes them. Set in vintage type cases, every tiny window and door is cut out, and stand back a little to view the bigger scene.
Warren’s extraordinary “boxscapes,“ another creative route, are pure genius, using curious scientific or industrial instrument cases. A little paper world delicately juxtaposed in a vintage voltmeter or perhaps a signalman’s lantern. And yes, I have his work on my wall too!
Our joint show, Rock, Paper, Scissors will have a subtle reference to the 25 years that Somerset Art Works celebrates this year’s Art Weeks Festival, possibly in the house numbers, all will be revealed.
I share the Groucho Marx philosophy when it comes to club membership, I was a reluctant member when I first joined Somerset Art Works ten years ago. I needn’t have worried, what’s not to like about joining a happy band of 300+ Somerset artists?
I was new to art then, and appreciated the help, support, and the camaraderie I received from members, and now I can reciprocate. As Somerset Art Works Area Rep (although that does sound like a double glazing salesman) for the last five years I’m able to help other artists, rubbing shoulders with the most talented people around, encouraging and enabling wherever it’s needed. Just getting artists together has real benefits, we really do rely on each other despite our individualism.
Having taken part every year since joining, I took a break last year. Not showing gave me the chance to visit over 60 venues all over the county, from the tiniest shepherds hut to the bustling art centres, and boy, so glad I did. Absolutely stimulating.
I’m not much of a gusher, but the enthusiasm and the pure dedication sang out, and sang out loud! Artists of all calibres and media working their hearts out, wonderfully skilled, and using every square inch to show their work and share their passions.
It came at a time when I was questioning my own creative direction, and once again, it was Somerset artists that unknowingly guided me gently in my pursuit. Somerset Art Works, for all it’s little foibles, has given big time, and I’m happy to be part of it, happy to celebrate 25 years of artistic excellence, happy to celebrate all the brilliant artists in Somerset. End of gush.
Kindly written by Chris Lee, West Mendip Area Rep. Images also by Chris, unless otherwise stated. www.chrisleedrawing.com
Published on May 27, 2019 // Sarah Adey