Jonathan Chiswell Jones at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

'Fox and Hare' by Jonathan Chiswell Jones

In 1954, a young art teacher called Lewis Creed at Ashfold School, Handcross, wanted to introduce his pupils to the joys of making pottery. He had little equipment at the school, but obtained clay from Keymer tiles and was encouraged by the head of Horsham Art School to fire the children’s pots in the art school kiln. In due course, the school itself got hold of a wheel and a kiln, and was able to do everything on site. 60 years later, the fruit of that teaching can be seen in Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s new exhibition ‘The Alchemy of Lustre’ – an exhibition of lustreware by ceramic artist Jonathan Chiswell Jones.

'Homage to Islam' by Jonathan Chiswell Jones

Born in Calcutta in 1944, Jonathan Chiswell Jones first saw pottery being made on the banks of the Hoogly river where potters were making disposable teacups from river clay. He was one of Lewis Creed’s pupils and, inspired by that early contact with clay, he has worked as a professional potter for the past 40 years. In 1998, Chiswell Jones was given an award by Arts Training South, which encouraged him to go on a course about ceramic lustre. He began to experiment with the thousand year old technique used by Middle Eastern potters to fuse a thin layer of silver or copper onto the surface of a glaze. This layer, protected by the glaze, then reflects light. Hence the term ‘lustre.’ The lustreware on show at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery demonstrates this almost magical transformation, whereby clay and glaze, metal and fire combine to produce pots which reflect light and colour, a process in which base metal seems to be turned to gold. Of this process Jonathan Chiswell Jones notes:

“I am proud to stand in this lustreware tradition, with its roots in the Islamic empire of the tenth century, its appearance in Spain and Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, its revival in the nineteenth century by Theodore Dec in France and by Zolnay in Hungary, and in this country by William De Morgan, and more recently by Alan Caiger Smith.”

50 pieces of Jonathan Chiswell Jones’s creation will be on display in ‘The Alchemy of Lustre,’ which opens at Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum & Art Gallery on 20 March and closes 30 April 2014. All of the artworks will be available for purchase, including the option to buy via Own Art.

Eric Ravilious, Exhibition of Prints at Pallant House Gallery

Eric Ravilious, Newhaven Harbour, 1937, Lithograph, Private Collection.
Eric Ravilious, Newhaven Harbour, 1937, Lithograph, Private Collection.

An intimate exhibition of prints by the artist Eric Ravilious, who lived and worked in Sussex, is on show at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester until 8th December. The exhibition highlights prints and book illustrations from Ravilious’ oeuvre. His work is rooted in the landscape and life of pre-war and early wartime England, especially the South Downs where he grew up.

Eric Ravilious was born in 1903. As a very young boy he moved with his parents from Acton to Eastbourne in Sussex. There his father ran an antique shop. Ravilious was educated at Eastbourne Grammar School. In 1919 he won a scholarship to Eastbourne School of Art and in 1922 to the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, where he met his lifelong friend and fellow artist Edward Bawden. Both men studied under the artist Paul Nash at the RCA. Nash was generous in encouraging and promoting their work and he helped Ravilious to acquire some of his first commissions for prints and book illustrations. Ravilious subsequently taught part-time at both art schools.

Eric Ravilious, Commander of a Submarine, Pallant House Gallery
Eric Ravilious, Commander of a Submarine looking through a Periscope from the Submarine Series, 1940-41, Lithograph, Pallant House Gallery, The Dennis Andrews and Christopher Whelan Gift (2008).
Eric Ravilious, Manor Gardens, 1927, Wood Engraving, Towner, Eastbourne
Eric Ravilious, Manor Gardens, 1927, Wood Engraving, Towner, Eastbourne
Eric Ravilious, Amusement Arcade, 1938, Lithograph, Private Collection
Eric Ravilious, Amusement Arcade, 1938, Lithograph, Private Collection

Alan Powers, in his excellent and beautifully illustrated new monograph Eric Ravilious, Artist and Designer, maintains that “Ravilious was a printmaker and illustrator first and a painter afterwards”. Ravilious was to excel in both mediums. Certainly, the exceptional textural quality he gives to the play of light upon surfaces is given life through his characteristic use of line and colour.

The print Newhaven Harbour perfectly illustrates Ravilious’ strong connection with Sussex. Here the westerly wind causes the clouds to move across the sky and the light dances on the gentle incoming tide, which brings an ocean liner safely to harbour. Texture, light and movement connect the artist’s work to the English Romantic tradition but with a particular and fresh voice. It is at once figurative and yet highly stylized. The life in this print is made possible by the process of autolithography, which was being promoted by the Curwen Press and others in the 1930s. This process allowed the artist to draw directly on to stone or printing plates, rather than relying upon an intermediary to transfer the image from a drawing. It is evident that Ravilious was trying to recapture his watercolour. The small brush strokes demanded by the viscous lithographic ink are combined with the effects of sponging in the treatment of the sky. There is a hopeful, joyous air to the scene depicted in this large poster-size print.

The mood of the pre-war Newhaven Harbour contrasts with the lithograph Commander of a Submarine looking through a Periscope from 1941. Here, the view from the periscope is abstracted into the shadows of the submarine, the flash of blue connecting this vignette to the commander’s eyes.

Wood engraving was Eric Ravilious’ first medium for print. It allowed for fine lines to be drawn against the black ground. The revival of wood engraving in the early 20th century provides a connection to 18th century artists like Thomas Berwick and William Blake, and to 19th century artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement, who worked in the same medium. By 1927, the date of the wood engraving Manor Gardens, Ravilious displays the line, flecking and crisp edging which define his woodblocks.

Illustrations by many artists are often viewed as being secondary to other aspects of their output. With Ravilious, however, his consistent and particular voice always shines through. Take, for example, the illustration Amusement Arcade from the book High Street, published by Country Life in 1938. Once again the luminosity of light is created by line and tone, creating an image of an arcade at night which is alive with movement and texture.

Entrance to this jewel-like exhibition is free and it is on show until 8th December 2013 at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. Further details of this and the gallery’s other current exhibitions (which are really worth the ticket price) can be found at www.pallant.org.uk. The Pallant House Bookshop has copies of Eric Ravilious Artist & Designer at a special price to visitors of £30 – the perfect start to your Christmas shopping!

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 27th November 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Dalek is coming…

2D Adventures Daleks
Dalek artwork circa 1960 from the exhibition

Excitement is building amongst Whovians as the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who approaches. Fans of Doctor Who will know that in the stories it was the evil Davros who created the deadly Dalek race. However, it was in fact the writer, Terry Nation, who dreamt up the Daleks. But few will be aware that the man who gave the Daleks form was prop-designer and artist Raymond Cusick. Raymond Cusick lived in Horsham securing the town a place in the Doctor Who story. This important connection is being marked by an exhibition at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery of Doctor Who memorabilia including a Dalek! The exhibition, ‘2D Adventures in Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Exhibition’, is the perfect half-term treat, entry is free and it runs until 1st January 2014.

Emma Toovey, Dalek and Jeremy Knight
Head of Museums and Heritage, Jeremy Knight with Whovian, Emma Toovey and a Dalek

We all know what a Dalek is but what sort of Doctor Who creature is a Whovian? In recent years a teenage generation have grouped themselves into fandoms. So if you can’t resist Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes you are a Sherlockian. But if the debate in your household is whether you are most looking forward to seeing Matt Smith, David Tennant or John Hurt as the Doctor, in the 50th Anniversary Special to be screened on 23rd November, then you are Whovians.

The exhibition is the inspiration of Horsham Museum Curator Jason Semmens who has been a fan of the show since he was three years old. “Doctor Who was the hero of a range of cartoon strips published in various comics and annuals from the mid-1960s onwards” Jason explains, “The artwork for the comics are much larger than the comic books and have real visual impact.” I ask him what his particular favourites are, he responds “The TV21 magazine Dalek cartoon strip from the 1960s is vibrant and fun and the weekly cartoon strips from 1980 with Tom Baker in them are also really good.”

For me the highlight of the exhibition is the Dalek shown here with Horsham District Council’s Head of Museums and Heritage, Jeremy Knight and Whovian, Emma Toovey. I still find them menacing. An episode of Doctor Who is guaranteed to make me jump out of my skin in fright. Laughing Emma says “You’re as frightening as the Doctor Who monsters when you do that Dad!” She has a point.

Jason Semmens’ favourite Doctors are Tom Baker and the earlier Patrick Troughton. Each generation will have their favourite Doctor but what unites us is our delight in the stories and our shared experience of hiding behind the sofa. For me the latest batch of Doctors have been exceptional with the alien quality of Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant’s emotion, passion and energy and Matt Smith’s compassion, courage, determination and humour, not to mention his Harris Tweed jacket and catch phrase “bowties are cool”, I could not agree with him more.

Emma Toovey and K9
Emma transported back in time with K9 to P. Williams & Co Pharmacy in Horsham in the late 19th century

You don’t need a Tardis to travel back in time just a trip to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery as witnessed by Emma Toovey and K9 transported back to late Victorian Horsham’s P. Williams & Co pharmacy from West Street.

Many of us now come from generations where our shared memories are often caught up with TV and Film. The ‘2D Adventures in Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Exhibition’ captures something of our own childhood stories brilliantly. Toys also reflect childhood memories. For example, model railways speak to a generation whose childhoods were defined by a passion for steam engines and an ambition to drive them. For the TV and Film generation toys as iconic as a James Bond 007 Corgi Aston Martin DB5, or a Corgi Batmobile, capture their imaginations in a similar way. Indeed Toovey’s toy sales are a boom market!

The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, according to published information, is the third most visited heritage attraction in Sussex. This is an extraordinary achievement which speaks of the importance all of us place on our common history and heritage. The economic impact of these visitors is profoundly important to Horsham and the broader Horsham District’s businesses and economy. Councillors like Jonathan Chowen understand this. Thanks to them The Horsham District Council continues its important involvement in supporting the museum, the hard work and dedication of its Curator, Jason Semmens and Head of Museums and Heritage, Jeremy Knight. All involved deserve to be applauded.

Be transported back in time this half term at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery and delight in ‘2D Adventures in Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Exhibition’. Don’t miss that marvellous Dalek – entry is free! For more information go to www.horshammuseum.org or telephone the museum on 01403 254959.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 23rd October 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Randy Klein Exhibition ‘Moment to Moment’

Artist Randy Klein with a section of ‘Moment to Moment’
Artist Randy Klein with a section of ‘Moment to Moment’

The UK-based American artist Randy Klein’s work is bound up with storytelling. His exhibition ‘Moment to Moment’, currently on display at Chichester Cathedral, brings together one hundred sculptures, which together form a single work by uniting snapshots of a human life.

Randy Klein says, “I wanted to capture the feeling of an animation with each single frame of a human journey depicted by a sculpture.” When you first approach the work ‘Moment to Moment’, you are initially struck by the fragmentary nature of the individual pieces but gradually you are drawn to the beginning and from there the story of a human life reveals itself. “It begins in childhood and moves through the discovery of the outside world, adulthood, marriage, children,” Randy explains, “but they are individual moments joined together.” These are precious moments common to many of our individual lives.

Randy Klein works in a variety of media, including sculpture, painting, graphics and artists’ books. His limited edition books are represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum and he has work in other public and private collections in Europe and the USA.

Dance by Randy Klein
'Dance' by Randy Klein

The importance of the interactive relationship between artist and viewer is acknowledged by Randy. From time to time he has visited Chichester Cathedral. “I stand back and listen to wonderful people responding to my work,” he says. The insights displayed in this show have required a great deal of reflection and thought over the last two and half years.

The work invites us to look back over our lives and relive those moments which have formed us as people. Among these moments, both our joys and our sorrows are recorded with a lyrical, almost musical ebb and flow, like the rise and fall of notes written on a score. I ask Randy about these qualities in his work and he responds enthusiastically, “There is a section in ‘Moment to Moment’ that I call ‘through all kinds of weather’, which is a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of life. Music in spirituality and in the church is very important to me. I always have music playing as I work in my studio.” The sense of movement in this work is captured by ‘Dance’, illustrated here. The procession ends with an invitation to look through a window and go through a door representing a life beyond this mortal journey, which Randy refers to as “looking beyond the trappings of daily life to our epiphany”.

The figures and objects have been forged from copper and steel and Randy has drawn on them in weld, which gives a three-dimensional quality. Many have been patinated to give the effect of bronze.

'Rest' by Randy Klein

Randy Klein has been drawn to exhibit in cathedrals across the UK. “Cathedrals give you that wonderful space in your mind,” he explains. “When you walk in, you leave behind your daily cares and it opens the mind and makes you receptive… to the transcendent and transformational.”

This exhibition has toured Italy and the UK and I ask what Randy is most looking forward to next; he replies, “Getting back into my studio and creating.” Each of us is called to a vocation in life and, whether that is something expressed in the human journey, as Randy sets out for us in this exhibition, or in his own case creating art, there is no peace without answering that calling.

Individual sculptures from ‘Moment to Moment’, this extraordinary tale of a human person, are for sale. As a Christian, I observe how work is part of God’s purpose, bound up with the very fabric of creation. When we work generously and in relationship, it blesses us. It is right, therefore, that we celebrate the beauty in Randy Klein’s work in this selling exhibition, which speaks to both the individual and the common narrative of humankind. The exhibition continues at Chichester Cathedral until 30th October and entry is free. For more information about ‘Moment to Moment’, go to www.chichestercathedral.org.uk or visit www.randyklein.co.uk.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 16th October 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Alison Milner-Gulland ~ Painting Icons for a Modern World

Alison Milner Gulland at home at the foot of the downs

This week I am with the Washington-based artist, Alison Milner Gulland, whose exhibition of Icons is being held at the parish church of St Nicholas, Arundel this coming weekend. Alison gives voice to her artistic imagination through the media of oil, watercolour, collage, print-making and ceramics. The lyrical and textual qualities of her work combine with her rich earthy palette to unite subject and medium.

‘Madonna and Child’ by Alison Milner Gulland

Alison Milner Gulland’s inherent themes and subjects include: landscapes, music, musicians and Icons. I ask Alison where her inspiration to paint Icons comes from. Talking about the ‘Madonna and Child’ illustrated here she answers “The inspiration for this Icon came from a sketch I made at a Sussex Historical Churches Trust talk at St Mary’s in West Chiltington.” I ask whether the image appeared in her imagination. “Yes” she replies emphatically and continues “The scratched, leaf tendrils are inspired by the medieval wall paintings there. I find shapes in things.” The tenderness of St Mary the Blessed Virgin and the Christ child is conveyed with an arresting clarity. Mary’s eyes are averted from us, she is lost in thought whilst the baby Jesus holds us with the intensity of his loving gaze. I adore that this scene is united with a particular church in Sussex. Alison’s Icons follow in, and draw inspiration from an ancient tradition. However, the methods she employs to create these images marks a distinct departure. This ‘Madonna and Child’ for example employs print, paint and collage to great effect, whilst the reds and blues show a faithfulness to the colours traditionally employed in depictions of St Mary.

‘The World Looks on’ by Alison Milner Gulland

In contrast to the serenity of this scene is the less traditional Icon ‘The World Looks on’. Alison comments “I was inspired to create this work by the charred panel on which it’s painted.” She explains that the images came out of a deeply held concern for those caught up in conflict and in particular for two young men she had met in a Syrian bazaar selling jewellery. She had questioned the authenticity of a piece they offered for sale. This chance meeting and exchange led to Alison finding herself being dragged up a mountain by the two men to watch the setting sun, their lives united by this shared moment. And so this Icon reflects Alison’s continuing concern for these two young men and her hope that they are safe in the tumult of conflict in their country. But the image also speaks of conflict in broader terms. Beneath the military helicopter the dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, hope and peace is wounded. An angel holds out her hands in a gesture of concern and blessing whilst rioters in this country and combatants abroad fight and destroy in the sight of the whole world, in the sight of all of us.

The process of painting Icons is often termed Icon writing. Writing an Icon is described as a form of prayer, each brushstroke inspired by a form of meditation and reflection. Alison’s working process reflects this. Those that write Icons speak of the importance of being at peace with themselves. To me there is a quality of prayer in these Icons and Alison is at peace in her art and her landscape.

Her Sussex downland landscapes are inspired by memories of riding on horseback through the countryside. “In my imagination the rhythm of the horse combines with the movement in the landscape” she explains. Imagination and memory synthesize enabling her to commit the Downs’ enfolding curves, ancient paths, chalk, pasture and fields to canvas and paper. These landscapes like ‘Moonlight’, illustrated here, are rhythmic. They express something of the ancient and the present.

‘Moonlight’ by Alison Milner Gulland

Alison’s Icons invite us to take time to reflect on the needs and blessings of the world, and the part we must play in it. They stimulate thoughts in our imaginations and our hearts and as   they do so we find we are engaged in a silent conversation giving expression to our hopes and concerns – which of course is prayer. Perhaps an Icon by Alison Milner Gulland might speak to you and afford an invitation to meditation and prayer at home.

Icons can be viewed at St Nicholas’ Parish Church, Arundel between 9.30am and 4.30pm from Saturday 28th September to Tuesday 1st October 2013. I hope to see you there!

Alison Milner Gulland’s works including musicians and landscapes are also being shown at the Menier Gallery, London as part of The Society of Graphic Artists 92nd annual open exhibition from 30th September to 12th October; also at the Hop Gallery Lewis and the Moonlight Gallery Hove this autumn.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 25th September 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.