Nicholas Toovey visits the Brighton Art Fair

Claire Palastanga's Black Heart Dish

The Brighton Art Fair held its Private View this evening and opens the doors again on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of September. Nicholas Toovey had his usual snoop around the show viewing the contemporary art on offer. Familiar faces from the Contemporary Art Auctions were present and offered some of the highlights of the show. Dan Bennett was showing his amazing work inspired by phosphenes – the intricate swirling patterns that form before the inner eye. Natalie Martin had two wonderful depictions of the West Pier, Brighton on display, whilst Sheila Marlborough’s bright and vivid landscapes leapt from the white background of her stand. It is always a pleasure to have a chat with Eve Shepherd especially when you can admire her fascinating bronze ‘Broken’ in the process. It was also nice to see some ceramics on display, with Contemporary Art Auction regular Claire Palastanga having arguably the most subtle but eye-catching display in the Corn Exchange. A heart-shaped dish similar to the one pictured was truly beautiful in the flesh – unsurprisingly she had already made her first sale by the time Nicholas got to say hello. Sarah Young, Bill Phillip and Frances Doherty made up the other exhibitors that can regularly be found at Toovey’s Contemporary Art Auctions. Other artists that have not participated in the auction before, included Christine Tongue, Claire Bibaud and Gillian Bates, whilst the two printmakers Janet Brooke and Flora McLachlan are well worth seeking out at the 93 stand art fair. For more information visit www.brightonartfair.co.uk.

£120,000 Chinese jade table screen sold at Toovey’s

Chinese jade table screen

This antique Chinese jade table screen was sold by Toovey’s fine art auctioneers and valuers for £120,000. Top British and Chinese dealers descended on Toovey’s Spring Gardens rooms at Washington on Thursday 11th August for their specialist sale of Oriental ceramics and works of art. Prize of the auction was the diminutive jade screen, just over 6” wide, which dates from the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1735-1796). Carved on both sides with landscape scenes and on one side with calligraphic text, the unassuming panel and later wooden stand were consigned to Toovey’s in a shoebox with several other items by probate solicitors after the clearance of a modest flat in Richmond. Toovey’s Oriental antiques consultant, Lars Tharp, subsequently identified the screen as rather more valuable an object than the shoebox suggested. On the day of the auction, the final bidding was left to two Chinese traders, one in the room, one bidding by telephone, who brushed aside competition from fellow dealers from China and the London specialist trade to battle it out to the emphatic hammer price, Toovey’s top result of the year so far. Further specialist sales of Oriental ceramics and works of art are scheduled throughout the rest of this year and early 2012. Visit the specialist sale page by clicking here to see forthcoming auctions, or contact Toovey’s to discuss the valuation and sale of your Oriental ceramics and works of art.

September Issue of Sussex Life Out Now

Nicholas Toovey writes an article for Sussex Life magazine every month on contemporary Sussex artists.  He was approached because of his contacts within the art world that he has formed from hosting the annual Contemporary Art Auctions at TOOVEY’S.  It enables Nicholas to further promote artists and the arts in Sussex, an area he is particularly passionate about.  His first article published in the March issue was on Brighton-based artist Chris Kettle. His articles so far have featured the work of Alison Milner-Gulland, Carolyn Genders, Eve Shepherd, Susie Jenkins and in the September issue he meets printmaker Sarah Young ahead of showing her work at the Brighton Art Fair.  It is available in the shops now for £3.65. Many of the previous articles can be viewed here: http://sussex.greatbritishlife.co.uk/arts/features/

Sarah Young featured in Sussex Life
September Issue of Sussex Life
Sarah Young's linocut 'Brighton Rock'
Sarah Young's linocut 'Brighton Rock'

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.