An Earthy Sussex Palette: Alison Milner-Gulland

‘Bonding’, three-plate etching
‘Bonding’ by Alison Milner-Gulland
‘Galloping Horses’, stoneware pot with Arundel red clay slip
‘Galloping Horses' by Alison Milner-Gulland

Washington-based artist Alison Milner Gulland works in a variety of media to voice her artistic imagination. Whilst her creations in oil, watercolour, collage, printing and ceramics offer different subjects and mastery, she establishes an inherent theme with lyrical and textural qualities and her rich earthy palette. Nicholas Toovey tells us more.

‘Deep in the Downs #1’, mixed media on canvas
‘Deep in the Downs #1’ by Alison Milner-Gulland
‘Moonlight’, mixed media on canvas
‘Moonlight’ by Alison Milner-Gulland

Alison has been drawing since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but did not intend to become an artist, despite her mother being an accomplished painter and her aunt being a talented botanical artist. It was a move of house and school that steered her away from her father’s scientific interests to an artistic path. It was under the tutorage of her Art Master, Edward Holmes, that she became inspired. Today, Alison feels fortunate to have studied under an encouraging teacher, still subconsciously adopting elements of his teachings, particularly in the use and mixing of colours. She continued her education in art, studying painting and theatre design at Birmingham College of Art and Craft and later printmaking at Brighton and Northbrook. More recently she has added another facet to her output in the form of ceramics, working intuitively this is, she admits, learning by trial and error.

She has taught art in several counties, but Alison feels ‘Sussex chose her’; bringing up her family with her husband in the county and living in a handful of picturesque Downland villages. Does Sussex inspire her? Without question, both in her palette and often with subject matter. She has owned horses since being a teenager and until three years ago, regularly rode up the Downs, quickly discovering that she could not persuade her horse to stand still for long enough to make sketches. Instead Alison committed the movement of the downs and that of the horse to memory. From the elevated position she could see the sweeping chalk curves, with its ancient trackways, rolling hills and far-reaching views, later transferring these thoughts and images to paper and canvas.

‘Cellist’, stoneware pot with oxide and incised decoration
‘Cellist’ by Alison Milner-Gulland
‘Reflection’, mixed media on paper (including reclaimed water-damaged work)
'Reflection' by Alison Milner-Gulland
‘Star Madonna’ by Alison Milner-Gulland
‘Star Madonna’ by Alison Milner-Gulland

Her studio nestles at the foot of the South Downs in the small village of Washington. Inside is a well-organized chaos, framed works are hung wherever wall-space permits or stacked on the floor. After being greeted by the family’s 15 year old pet dog, Harriet, and navigating through a maze of pictures, mounting materials and packaging you come to the main work area of the cottage studio. Here architect’s chests conceal numerous unframed prints, stacked on top of these are further prints, oils on canvas and works in progress, beneath works drying on a washing line. Occasionally the sound of nearby chickens, geese, guinea fowl or sheep are heard from outside. To fresh eyes it would be difficult to believe that disaster had recently struck this room, but drawers are now half-full or containing materials instead of finished works. It has only been a few years since a torrent of water, reaching over a foot high, swept through the studio. This half-hour of devastation resulted in nine bonfires of ruined art. Numerous works on paper and canvas sentenced to the pyre, pictures that on occasion dated back to her student years. Some pictures were partially salvageable and Alison has now reworked many fragments of previous pieces into new reinterpretations in collage and on canvas.

‘Brighton Life Drawing’, mixed media on panel
‘Brighton Life Drawing’ by Alison Milner-Gulland

Negotiating the livestock and braving the elements gains access to a separate studio dedicated to her work in ceramics. A colder but brighter and neater space, inherently slightly dusty from the powders, glazes and clays used to create the work. Along two walls are shelves displaying recent vessels, mostly figurative or musically inspired, but with a few trial abstractive landscape designs scattered amongst them.

She has exhibited her work extensively in Great Britain, including a highly successful exhibition featuring a collection of Russian inspired art in the ScotlandRussiaForum during the Edinburgh Festival last year. Alison also makes regular appearances in the annual arts festivals of Arundel, Brighton, Oxford, and Washington. Work by Alison has been purchased by New College, Oxford and Worthing Museum and Art Gallery for their permanent collections, with other works in private collections around the world.

The artist in her studio

Alison is also an active member of the Sussex Watercolour Society and this year will be exhibiting with other members in Henfield and at the Hop Gallery in Lewes. She has also recently been invited to exhibit with the Society of Graphic Fine Artists in London and often shows with the Southern Ceramics Group.

Alison’s paintings, prints and ceramics all reflect the beautiful rural countryside surrounding her studio, infused with classical, mythical or natural inspirations. The variety in media and style means her art fits into almost all interiors, from country cottages to feature walls in contemporary spaces. At first glance her work is accessible and uncomplicated, but over time, the layers, subtle details and evolving depths of the art come to the fore, highlighting the talent of this artist.

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in April 2011.

Hung, Drawn & Displayed at Horsham Museum

If you want your visual senses to be numbed by the quality, revived by the beauty and then ripped apart by the drama of some of the images, then you don’t want to miss Hung, Drawn and Displayed at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery. If that wasn’t enough you can have the adrenalin rush of the auction process as you can enjoy the chase of buying your favourite piece on May 28th at Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms. In an exhibition featuring the work of sixty artists, including some of the regions most talented contemporary names, the visitor can, in the relaxed atmosphere of Horsham museum, enjoy seeing the contrast of 21st Century art in the relaxed atmosphere of the Causeway’s medieval timber-framed building.

Horsham Museum’s new Art Gallery was launched last year with Artventure, a preview exhibition of Toovey’s Contemporary Art Auction. It proved to be a great success, not only in showcasing work, but also in revealing that there was a desire in Horsham District for such an opportunity.  The success of the show was such that Horsham Museum and Art Gallery were delighted to be able to repeat the opportunity. An opportunity where the public can enjoy spending hours looking at the works hung, drawn and displayed.

The exhibition and sale has been organised by Nicholas Toovey, sourcing emerging and established artists and craftsmen from across the region with an emphasis on the local scene. Nicholas has managed to pull together some amazing works by renowned artists including Chris Kettle whose painting Natura Sola Magistra, will be a talking point for visitors. Along with paintings are various craftsmen, some exhibiting for the first time, each merging the boundary between art and craft. No doubt tying people in to knots over the meaning of art, will be Horsham-based ceramicist Deborah Timperly, whose work Knotted and Hung will cause some debate.

Chris Kettle's oil on canvas 'Natura Sola Magistra'
'Natura Sola Magistra' by Chris Kettle
Deborah Timperley bone china 'Knotted and Hung'
'Knotted and Hung' by Deborah Timperley

The free exhibition Hung, Drawn and Displayed opens on Friday 8 April and runs till 11 May at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery. Two weeks later on 28 May all works displayed will be auctioned at Toovey’s, Washington. A fully-illustrated catalogue with more information on every artist is available from the museum, helping raise funds to enable it to buy contemporary art, preserving the present for the future.

Toovey’s Contemporary Art Auction Catalogue Out Now

The TOOVEY’S Contemporary Art Auction 2011 catalogue is available now.  £6.00 at Horsham Museum and at our Spring Gardens auction rooms (£7.00 by post available only from our offices).

In addition to what you can see on the free online catalogue, the printed version carries additional biographical snippets on each of the 60 participating artists.  All 170 lots are illustrated and reproduced in colour.

A New Generation of Still Life Study: Chris Kettle

'Botanica' by Chris Kettle
'Botanica' by Chris Kettle

02 'My Counterpoint II' limited edition print
'My Counterpoint II' by Chris Kettle
 'Titanica' oil and varnishes
'Titanica' by Chris Kettle
'Hubris' oil and varnishes on canvas
'Hubris' by Chris Kettle
'Afterglow' oil and varnishes on canvas
'Afterglow' by Chris Kettle
The artist in his studio
The artist in his studio

Nicholas Toovey meets a Brighton-based artist handling a classic subject matter in a revolutionary new way.

Chris Kettle has spent most of his artistic career reinterpreting the age-old genre of Still Life.  Heavily inspired by Peter Doig, the Dutch Old Masters and the installation art of Damien Hirst, this unusual grouping of styles fuse to create edgy, urban and contemporary paintings.

The artist’s creativity can largely be attributed to his mother’s influence; she attended the Royal College of Music before starting her family.  She allowed Chris to advance and flourish, swapping his music lessons for art lessons, encouraging him to explore his natural talent.  Chris obtained his degree in Fine Art at Cardiff and always wanted to live life in a big city.  His grandfather was a fisherman on the Sussex coast and his mother had lived in Littlehampton.  During the 1960s Chris’ father rode a Lambretta around Brighton in an age before helmets and the artist admits he fell for the romance of inherited stories when choosing Brighton above Bristol and London.  He now lives with his partner and is bringing up his daughter in the place where he feels more at home than anywhere else he has ever lived.  Does Sussex inspire his work? Not particularly, he admits his art could be painted anywhere, but Chris feels that the sea does influence his work in allowing the space for the freedom of thought.  He believes that Brighton is one of the few places where you can be yourself, a diverse city that encourages experimentalism.

His Hove studio is light, clean and contemporary, with an unmistakable hint of fresh oil paints and varnishes lingering in the air, he shares the studio with fellow artist Simon Dixon.  Chris’ current body of work focuses on things that sparkle and contrast, beside his easel is a small bookcase of choice trinkets, akin to Magpies’ treasure, orderly and neatly arranged, looking like installation art in itself.  Beside this is a table littered with tubes of paint, sponges, brushes and a huge stack of photographs of flowers.  A few currently available works hang on the wall, including ‘Botanica’, a fluid, yet almost photo-realistic study of a silver and glass vase issuing an orchestral explosion of flowers. With his distinctive dripping varnishes and touches of luminous colour it is beautifully presented in an ebonized wood frame of solid proportions.  Below is a small stack of other wrapped works, some recently returned from a show in Gstaad, others ready to send to the Opus Gallery.  Chris’ work is often sent all over the world for various group and solo exhibitions, including New York, Milan, Switzerland and London, where he has hung alongside the likes of Tracey Emin and Antony Micallef.  He can also sometimes be found in the Brighton gallery Ink’d as well as selling directly to his database of private collectors.

Chris describes his paintings as ‘journeys’, a culmination of exploring new avenues, constant editing and organic reworking, a process that means it can take up to three months to complete a single work.  The finished paintings are imbued with presence and emotion, a harmony of various flowers or fruit contrasting with mysterious glistening vessels.  These antique metallic elements are meticulously sourced for their visual aura and their possible enigmatic past.  The dripping varnish on occasions adds a feeling of recovered treasure pulled from the deep, hinting towards a nautical inspiration.  The varnish is the final act of freedom for an artist that is constantly striving and experimenting to improve his output.  Chris recognises that his career started as a whisper, but through self progression he has found his inimitable voice and judging by the current body of work it is big, punchy and powerful.

His latest venture is a limited edition print that he is publishing himself, produced to a high quality in an edition of just 20, ‘My Counterpoint II’ is the inaugural outing of an annual print of the artist’s favourite painting from the previous year.  By publishing it himself he can keep the cost lower than his other limited edition prints, offering it exclusively via his own website.

Chris Kettle deserves to be the next ‘big name’ in the contemporary art market, his subversive approach to the often overlooked subject of Still Life uniquely infuses the classic genre with a modern twist that brings the subject refreshingly up to date for a new generation of patrons.

Visit www.chriskettle.co.uk for more information and to see more examples of his work.

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in March 2011.

An Introduction to Toovey’s Contemporary Art Auction 2011

Contemporary Sculpture by Eve Shepherd, 'Masquerade'
Eve Shepherd's 'Masquerade'

We at TOOVEY’S Antique & Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers are pleased to announce our fifth sale of Contemporary Art at Auction, this year in association with Horsham Museum.

The ethos of these sales has always been to promote the arts in Sussex by creating a refreshingly different way for artists to showcase their work in this county.  We are delighted that Horsham Museum & Art Gallery share this same outlook, deciding to exhibit many of the artworks in this catalogue in the ‘Hung, Drawn and Displayed’ exhibition.  The medieval timber-framed building in Horsham’s picturesque Causeway provides a contrasting backdrop for this diverse selection of 21st century art.

We hope that the auction will reciprocate this support by acting as a stimulus for people to visit the museum and preview some of the works in the sale.  Horsham Museum features a stunning collection of local and national importance and is free to enter.

Toovey’s support of the arts is not limited to these auctions.  In addition to our on-going support of Horsham Museum & Art Gallery and Worthing Museum & Art Gallery, this May we are sponsoring the HOUSE festival in Brighton and the Brighton Open.  The Brighton Open is a fascinating fridge magnet exhibition on the seafront of Brighton on the 7th May, where you can rearrange the artworks and even take your favourite image home with you for free.

In addition, I have been approached by Sussex Life magazine to write a regular feature on contemporary Sussex artists.  The first two articles were published in the March and April issues.

For collectors and patrons, the auction offers an exciting platform for the acquisition of art by established and emerging names.  Drawing on 15 years of experience in the resale art market, I have selected all the artists on their individual merits, creating a diverse and eclectic fusion of styles.  Many of the artists have featured in our previous auctions, but the list of names always changes and we are delighted with the fantastic selection offered in this year’s sale.

We look forward to welcoming you at our Spring Gardens rooms for the auction on May 28th.  If you are unable to attend the sale, but still wish to bid on any lots, we will be pleased to execute absentee bids on your behalf.  For more information on bidding and buying at our auctions, please visit www.tooveys.com or call our offices on 01903 891955.  Nicholas Toovey FRSA, BA (Hons)