All in the Detail: Susie Jenkins

'Aurora' (detail of reflected water on a boat hull) colour photograph © Susie Jenkins

Susie Jenkins is an Arundel-based photographer who views the world through a lens from a different perspective. Seeking out tiny details to capture on film, she transforms these into abstracted works of art. Nicholas Toovey tells us more

'Beachscape III' colour photograph © Susie Jenkins
'Starry Night' colour photograph © Susie Jenkins
'Red Sunset' colour photograph © Susie Jenkins
'Beach' colour photograph © Susie Jenkins
'Blue Horizon' colour photograph © Susie Jenkins

At the age of eight, Susie was given a second-hand box Brownie and after a trip to Bruges returned with numerous pictures of water, a subject that has never failed to inspire her. Her desire to go to art school was stymied by her parents, who felt a different path would be more beneficial. This spurred Susie on to attend evening classes in photography, increasing her desire to create beautiful photographs. She was given a Nikon F2 from a friend after a holiday in the South of France when he saw how often she was using her point and click and how much she enjoyed it. Whilst working at Sussex University she fondly remembers the marvellous dean who allowed her to use the quieter summer weeks to take photographs and develop them using the university’s dark rooms. She describes these as important moments in her journey to becoming a photographer.

‘Aurora’ is a typical example of Susie’s work. It asks the viewer to decide what they see emerging from the photograph. Different interpretations are always suggested, for some it is a car driving down a hill-side at night, for others the beam from a lighthouse beneath the northern lights. Most people however, are surprised when they are informed that it is in reality a detail of the bottom of a boat magnified to abstraction. Tiny close-ups become vast open landscapes, planets, lunascapes or nonrepresentational vistas. Boats have been the mainstay of Susie’s artistic output for the last 12 years, but are often interspersed with reflections in water, clouds, flowers and watery landscapes.

With an increasing number of people owning digital SLR cameras, many professional photographers hear ‘I could do that’ from onlookers, whilst many amateur photographers can capture a beautiful image, this is often down to luck rather than judgment, and increasingly with the help of computer image enhancement. As a photographer, Susie started in a pre-digital age with wet film. This background dictates the way she works, adopting a ‘get it right first time’ attitude. The only difference she has found since purchasing a digital camera three years ago is that her studio is now her kitchen table. Susie avoids the lures of computer editing, as she believes that you cannot take a photograph without composing it in the mind first, looking through the lens you have to see the picture, otherwise it becomes a snapshot. Susie says patience is also important; on a trip to Guatemala she recalls standing in front of a beautiful doorway for half an hour waiting for clouds to disperse and the light to catch the door in the right way before finally taking the photograph.

Susie is co-founder of the Art for Life project with her daughter-in-law Beatriz Huezo. The project intends to help small communities in El Salvador after the country was stricken by two devastating earthquakes in 2001. El Salvador has been haunted by natural disasters, war and by the injustice of social inequality. Art for Life’s first success was to build twenty-five new homes in one of the worst hit areas, without the project a small village would have received no aid. Art for Life has continued with securing the land for and the building of a new school. The mission is very much ongoing with attention currently investigating other needs in the country.

Susie Jenkins

Susie has always lived in Sussex. Despite ‘escaping’ the county on a number of occasions, she always returns to the place which she describes as the ‘hidden secret of the world’. Does Sussex inspire her? Of course, the streams, reflections and clouds all influence her work. In fact, Susie admits she started taking photographs because of her stimulating surroundings, working at the Arun Yacht Club, Littlehampton, inspired her to see boats in a totally different light. Having lived in Arundel for the last twenty-six years, Susie has always been involved with the Arundel Gallery Trail, both as an exhibitor and organiser. This year is no exception as Susie will be showing her works at 1 Tower House, London Road, with fellow artist Jan Irvine. The trail runs from the 20th to 29th August and showcases the work of over 150 artists at numerous venues across Arundel. All Susie’s work is produced in a maximum limited edition of 25, although many images are limited to just 10 copies.

With her inimitable vision Susie creates engaging and beautiful worlds from reflections and minutiae, reinforcing photography as a fine art. For more information visit www.susiejenkins.co.uk

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

Intriguing to the somewhat macabre ~ £10,000 microscope slides

A selection of the slides that sold for £10,000
A selection of the slides that sold for £10,000

A collection of Victorian microscope slides made one of the more unusual lots passing under the hammer at Toovey’s Fine Art & Antique Auctioneers & Valuers Spring Gardens rooms in July. The lot was included in the specialist auction of Clocks, Watches and Scientific Instruments that Toovey’s hold every two months. The exceptional group of over a thousand biological and botanical slides was contained in a twenty-nine-drawer, tabletop cabinet. Subjects captured between glass ranged from the intriguing to the somewhat macabre, with specimens such as blow fly ovary, frog’s lung, flea’s gizzard and various human tissue samples, all neatly labelled and many in colourful, decorative mounts. Collections like this are sometimes referred to as ‘cabinets of curiosities’, a term first applied to the great curio rooms of Renaissance Europe. As interest in science and nature grew during Victoria’s reign and microscopes became increasingly sophisticated, viewing specimens like these became highly popular, not only with professionals but also with middle class families as a source of education and entertainment. A number of companies specialised in sourcing, preparing and mounting interesting samples from around the world to meet the demand. It is now unusual to find such a good collection of slides in near original condition like this, a specialist collector from Bristol travelled to the Sussex Auctioneers’ saleroom to secure the lot for £10,000 against six telephone bidders.

The Freedom of Creativity: Eve Shepherd

'Emotional Predator' cast bronze by Eve Shepherd

Eve Shepherd is a Hove-based sculptor who feels a responsibility to create work with a message, she admits her work portrays sadness as well as joy, but hopes either way, that this will strike a chord with the onlooker. Nicholas Toovey tells us more.

'Broken', cast bronze by Eve Shepherd
Detail of Henry Allingham maquette by Eve Shepherd
'Stephen Hawking' maquette by Eve Shepherd

Eve started her career in art with an informal voluntary apprenticeship with the Sheffield-based sculptor Anthony Bennett. This training led to a position with a commercial sculpting firm in York where she produced realistic life-size figures, working to short deadlines with a team of fellow sculptors. After several years Eve came to a crossroads in her career, she felt the commercial work had become a purely money-making occupation with her love of sculpting and her creativity sacrificed and stifled in the process. A two-year break from sculpting followed and with it relocation to Brighton with her partner, a decision she calls a ‘leap of faith’. The rejection of the commercial world meant Eve had to start her career from the beginning, looking to create work that was truly her own. One of the first sculptures after drawing this line in the sand was ‘Broken’, a cast bronze of a kneeling shackled minotaur with head bowed, perhaps a commentary on her emotions towards her former work.

Today she enjoys being by the sea in a city that is tolerant, fun and less restrictive than the other cities she has lived in. Eve also loves the contrast of liberal Brighton with the neighbouring ‘very British’ countryside. Does Sussex inspire her? Yes, mainly in the people with their ‘can do’ attitude and the ability to ‘think outside the box’. As part of her relocation Eve obtained space at the Red Herring Studios in Hove which remains the base for her output. This industrial building is softened by the community atmosphere created by all the different artists working within. The atrium of her studio has floor to ceiling shelves storing models, moulds and materials reminiscent of a film prop studio. A room off this is the artist’s work area, with creations in progress and numerous points of reference, books and music arranged around the room. On one surface is a maquette (a small-scale preliminary model) of Henry Allingham seated in a wheelchair holding a poppy wreath on his lap before an arrangement of four flags. Allingham was the last surviving British Serviceman, to have volunteered for active duty in the First World War. Eve felt he was a fitting symbol for those who fought in the war and survived, she wanted to create a memorial to the brave servicemen and servicewomen who continued to live with the torment of the Great War in their hearts and memories rather than for those who had fallen. Eve has actively sought a commission to make this maquette into its intended large-scale version, but interested parties always fall short when it comes to planning permission or funding. Eve jokes ‘I will probably be sculpting it when I’m his age’, although her original intention was for it to be a completed work and unveiled on 14th June 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the war. Another on-going project that is permanently in the background is the commission for a one and a half times life-size sculpture of Stephen Hawking for the grounds of Cambridge University. For her commission work she has to have an underlying personal interest to accept it, these sculptures are portrayed with accuracy in anatomy and scale and described by Eve as her technical and academic pieces. It is not surprising therefore that Eve is an Associate Member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors and a Member of the Society of Portrait Sculptors.

Two years ago Eve obtained a kiln and has been exploring the capabilities of a new medium for her work by creating fired clay sculptures. This facet of her oeuvre is spontaneous and experimental. Often with Eve’s fingerprints still evident, these sculptures show a fluid, unshackled approach and highlight her influence from the Italian Renaissance, a period that the artist admires. Eve loves the psychology and story behind each sculpture, often giving the human form zoomorphic attributes or animals anthropomorphic characteristics. A recent series of work was specifically based around Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, however the majority of her works could easily illustrate the books of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis or Hans Christian Andersen.

'Condemned', from the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' series by Eve Shepherd
'The Old Loon', from the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' series by Eve Shepherd

Eve’s work always offers a subtext with deeper connotations and emotive honesty. She unusually embraces two different styles of production and finish and, by allowing both styles to inform one another, creates sincere and soulful works of art. Her refined academic work is often a commentary on social status and perception, running in unison with the more immediate fired clay sculptures. This work in fired clay arguably portrays the artist’s voice with greater impact, often with darker undertones that are challenging for the onlooker, but always showing incredible mastery. If you would like to meet the sculptor and see more of her work, Eve will be exhibiting at the Brighton Art Fair between the 22nd and 25th September. For more visit www.eveshepherd.com

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

June Select Sale of Paintings

Lot 4: Henry Scott Tuke's 'Half Length Portrait of a Boy'
Lot 14: Frank Kelsey's View of Schooners at Anchor in a Cornish Estuary
Lot 76: Harald Pryn's 'Gandlose'

The June Sale of Selected Paintings and Prints will be held on 15th June 2011.  The sale starts with Lot 1, an important watercolour album compiled by the relatively little-known artist R.H. Manning as a present for his niece. The album hints towards Manning being a collector as well as an artist. He obviously asked a number of his contemporaries for a small watercolour for inclusion in the album and so it includes works by David Cox Junior, James Duffield Harding, Henry Gastineau, Henry Pilleau and William Leighton Leitch to name but a few. The works on paper have largely survived in excellent condition hidden from sunlight and dust in the pages of the album. The album carries a presale estimate of £3000-5000, click here to view the contents of the album and see a detailed collation of the contents.

The Select Sale continues with two watercolours and an oil on board by the highly collectable Cornish artist Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929). ‘Half Length Study of a Boy’ is a small oil on board (12 x 19cm) by Tuke highlights his mastery of capturing light. It is beautifully presented in a gilt frame which carries a David Messum gallery label to the reverse adding important provenance to this unsigned work. Lot 4 is offered with a presale estimate of £6000-10000.

Continuing with the Cornish theme is Lot 14, a beautiful painting of Schooners in a Cornish Estuary by the artist Frank Kelsey (1864-1932). In contrast with the Tuke, this oil on canvas is very large, measuring 89cm x 135cm excluding the wide gilt wood section frame. Showing size does not always dictate value it is offered with a presale estimate of £2000-3000.

Measuring 100 x 135cm, another large oil on canvas within the auction is Lot 76. A work by Danish artist Harald Pryn (1891-1968) titled ‘Gandløse’. This painting of a lane near Copenhagen glistens under the artist’s handling of snow. This lot is estimated at £1500-2500.

The auction also includes four original oils on canvas by David Shepherd (click here for more information). To view all the paintings, drawings and prints within the June auction please click here.  The June sale continues with Silver, Jewellery, Medals & Militaria, Oriental Ceramics & Works of Art, British & Continental Ceramics & Glass, Furniture, Metalwork and Collectors’ Items, Textiles and Rugs. In addition, on the 14th June Toovey’s hold their Specialist Sale of Toys, Dolls and Games. To view the free online catalogue please click here.

Nicholas Toovey’s Latest Article for Sussex Life

The June issue of Sussex Life (pictured left) is currently in the shops and features an article by Nicholas Toovey on the East Sussex ceramicist Carolyn Genders, his fourth article in the magazine to date.

The articles allow Nicholas to further promote Sussex-based contemporary artists and reinforces Toovey’s annual Contemporary Art Auctions.

The magazine also has a fabulous diary section with things to do in the county this month, available now for £3.65.