The 2017 Arundel Gallery Trail coincides with the Arundel Festival. More than 150 artists are exhibiting this August Bank Holiday weekend in over 65 venues in and around Arundel.
The opening of ceramic artist Josse Davis’ exhibition has, for me, become synonymous with the start of the Arundel Gallery Trail.
I catch up with Josse and his partner, Melissa Alers Hankey, in the Duff Gallery as they put the finishing touches to the exhibition. My eye is immediately taken by a large blue and white stoneware jug by Josse Davis. Its beautiful baluster form bears testimony to the skill of this talented potter. Titled ‘The Art Class’ it is wittily decorated with a nude surrounded by artists and their canvases. Josse shows me how he has painted the nude on each of the artist’s canvases from its own perspective. I comment on how these vignettes add to the scene’s playful narrative. Josse responds saying “I like to think my work makes people smile.”
Josse Davis has exhibited at the Arundel Gallery Trail every year since it began. He comments “I notice how people who came more than twenty-five years ago are now returning with their own young families talking about when they bought their first figure or pot as children”.
A display of raku ware running rabbits is sure to be a favourite with children and adults alike. With prices ranging between £15 and £50 they are an accessible way to start to collect Josse’s ceramics. Each rabbit is individually modelled with its own name. Josse says “I add the eyes last – it gives them such life.” Melissa says “Their character isn’t fully revealed until they come out of the kiln.” Raku ware acquires its crazed appearance as the molten glaze cools suddenly and it shatters.
Josse’s father, the artist Derek Davis, started The Arundel Gallery Trail with a small group of other artists. Each year the Derek Davis Prize is given in his memory. The recipient is voted for by their fellow artists exhibiting in the gallery trail. In 2016 the prize was awarded to Josse Davis.
Josse Davis’ reputation as a ceramic artist is in the ascendancy and his prices are rising with his signature pieces selling for between £400 and £800.
The Arundel Gallery Trail is open 2.00pm to 5.30pm during the week and 12 noon to 5.30pm this Bank Holiday weekend. It provides art lovers with direct access to leading Sussex artists like Josse Davis and their work. For more information on exhibiting artists and this celebration of Sussex as a centre of art go to www.arundelgallerytrail.co.uk.
By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.