Review of the Year, 2022

Andrew Bernardi playing in support of the Chestnut Tree House

What an extraordinary year 2022 has been. As a nation we mourned the loss of HM Queen Elizabeth II and as the second great Elizabethan age drew to a close we ushered in a new Carolean era. It has been particularly hopeful to see the qualities of duty, service and affection for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, that were so admired in our late Queen, embraced and taken forward by our new King.

The war in Ukraine has brought to an end a long era of peace and economic prosperity in Europe leading to inflation, and many in our nation face hardship and personal challenges. And yet it is my experience that across Sussex the response has been generous.

There is a rich diversity of people in Sussex working for the common good in support of our communities, charities and creating opportunities for our young people. They are bringing positive change for the future.

Throughout the year I returned again and again to Arundel Castle and its gardens to find many of the charities that make West Sussex such a special place gathered, celebrated and supported after the separation which Covid-19 brought to our county and communities.

Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice supports children with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Music at their Arundel Castle dinner was provided by Andrew Bernardi. As well as bringing the finest musicians to Sussex through his Shipley Arts Festival Concerts Andrew is also passionate about supporting music and young people through his String Academy.

Arundel Castle gardener, Rose Philpot, The Collector Earl’s Garden

Sussex Heritage Trust supporters were blessed with a tour of Arundel Castle’s gardens. It’s a charity which promotes and celebrates best practice in our county’s built environment and landscape through its annual awards whilst encouraging and supporting talented young people into careers in conservation, building and horticulture.

Castle Gardener Rose Philpot led one of the tours. Rose’s story is inspiring. She discovered her passion for gardening on work experience in the castle gardens. Rose volunteered and worked in the gardens whilst she trained at Plumpton and was eventually offered a full-time job. Her career is progressing at Arundel and she has been given responsibility for looking after the stumpery, herbaceous, Round House and cut flower gardens which she speaks about with a real sense of ownership and a gardener’s delight.

Those who work for the common good in support of our communities and charities, and provide opportunities for our young people are bringing positive change for the future.

I remains to wish you all a Happy New Year.

Love Celebrated at Christmas

The Lady Chapel at St Mary’s, Storrington

They say that you can journey far by remaining in the same place and since I was nine years old St Mary’s Parish Church in Storrington has been my spiritual home. My Dad used to take me and my brother to the 8 o’clock Communion.

The Lady Chapel at St Mary’s is, for me, one of the most precious spaces in all England with a beauty all of its own. My heart misses a beat every time I enter church and glimpse it.

The banner by the artist W. Lawson sets the Christmas story in the folds of the Sussex Downs.

As you read this I and tens of millions of Christians across the country will be preparing to celebrate that very first Christmas when God came among us as a baby in a manger. Mary’s loving response to God’s calling is inspiring.

It is shared memories both of joys and sorrows which unite families, friends, communities and nations. Part of the common narrative of our nation is the Christian Christmas story.

Once again families will join with me and others at St Mary’s Parish Church in Storrington at 4pm on Christmas Eve to sing Carols and receive Christingles representing the love of God expressed in the birth of Jesus, and to raise money for the Children’s Society to support their life changing work with families and young people.

The artist W. Lawson’s Madonna and Child banner at St Mary’s, Storrington

Midnight Mass starts at 11.30pm, and I will be celebrating at the 10am Christmas Day Family Service with Communion.

All are welcome.

There has been much to challenge us this year supporting the poor Ukrainians and dealing with the effects of climate change and inflation. The human cost for individuals and families has been marked. But, people’s response has been noticeably generous and hope filled.

We often talk of value in terms of the material; by this standard, Mary and Joseph had little and yet they knew that they had been richly blessed. They shared the gift of their child with the world. This gift was so precious, so valuable that even the angels rejoiced and praised God. What was being celebrated was love.

I hope that like Mary and Joseph we will be inspired to share what we have with the world through acts of generosity and kindness, especially in these times. The message of Christmas is that hope comes out of our love and care for others. It is a joyful and hope filled message.

It remains for me to wish you and those you love a very happy and blessed Christmas.

Wonderful Wiston at Christmas

Treat yourselves to a glass of finest Sussex this Christmas from the Wiston Estate Winery

With Christmas approaching I’m heading for the Wiston Estate Winery and Chalk Restaurant to catch up with Kirsty Goring and do a bit of shopping.

The Goring family have long sought to share their blessings with the community and have stewarded the Wiston Estate since 1743. At the heart of Richard and Kirsty Goring’s vision is their desire to create a rural community where people and nature can work in concert with each other.

Kirsty greets me in the courtyard of the re-purposed barns, which recently won a Sussex Heritage award. I remark on the beauty of the setting. The lines of vines in the vineyard accentuate the hills and folds of the Sussex Downs in a landscape which would have delighted the artist Eric Ravilious. It is the chalk which blesses the vines and gives the Chalk Restaurant its name.

As we sit down in the fabulous Chalk Restaurant Kirsty says “For Richard and I the point of Chalk was for this place to be the welcoming heart of the estate…to create a rural meeting place where people, nature and enterprise can co-exist and flourish.” She explains how people come to enjoy Chalk’s beautiful food and Wiston’s exquisite award winning wines and end up celebrating the nature and countryside around them. Kirsty continues “We know that Sussex has such delicious produce and if you taste it when it’s fresh your tasting it at it’s best. And here at Chalk some of it is produced only metres away.” She describes how their chef, Bradley, is passionate about the best local produce and that even the fish comes from the day boats at Worthing.

Kirsty Goring at the Chalk Restaurant on the Wiston Estate

Kirsty speaks passionately about the importance of relationship, she remarks “It’s about long-term stewardship. We care for this land and we care about the communities that are here.” I comment on how hope-filled it is to see the return of employment to agriculture in new and exciting ways. She replies “Not only the return of employment but the return of community, a rural community. We are often employing forty people in the original vineyards and now across the estate we have eighty-two people on the books – and lots of them are young!”

Don’t let your Christmas be dull – lay in some fine Wiston wines!

And we are so blessed to be able to be together this Christmas so treat yourselves to an outing to Chalk whether that’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. After all shared, joyful memories bind families and friends together. To find out more visit wistonestate.com/visit/christmasatwiston.

Cezanne at Tate

Paul Cezanne – Mont Sainte-Victoire, c.1902-6 © Philadelphia Museum of Art

Tate Modern’s current exhibition Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) shows the breadth of this artist’s remarkable talent as he embraced post-impressionism and gave a new and unique voice to the modern. The juxtaposition of angular lines and the richness of his palette are remarkable.

The exhibition provides a chronological perspective on his life and oeuvre. With more than eighty works on display it allows us to grasp the sheer audacity of this seminal artist.

The exhibition reveals that all that Cezanne paints – the trees and landscape outside his studio in Aix, his family and those close to him, the fruit in his still lifes, the towering Mont Sainte-Victoire across the valley and even his late bathers – are painted in the context of Provence. Provence, as much an idea as a place, has gathered diverse peoples in her remarkable landscape over millennia. And they in turn, like Cezanne and his art, have been shaped by this remarkable place.

Cezanne is regarded by many as the father of modern art. His work foreshadows Cubism and Fauvism.

In Mont Sainte-Victoire the constructed painterly forms in the abstracted landscape gives voice to the artist’s emotional engagement with the rhythms in nature and the landscape. The painting is one of a group of landscapes taken from Les Lauves heights near the spot where Cezanne had a studio built for himself. In this scene our gaze is presented with a mosaic of differently coloured touches of paint. Green transitions into blues on the mountain face which rise harmoniously reaching for the sky. In the foreground the terracotta roof with the neighbouring green of the trees contrasts with the yellow sunlit walls; the shadows described in blue.

Writing to a friend in the 1890s Cézanne would declare “Art is a harmony parallel with nature.” Cezanne himself insisted that he painted from nature in response to his sensations.

Paul Cezanne – Still Life with Plaster Cupid, c.1895 © The Courtauld, Londo

Also in the exhibition is Still Life with Plaster Cupid, one of Cezanne’s most complex later still lifes. There is an ambiguity in the arrangement of the objects. The Cupid stands on the table in the foreground whilst the floor appears to slope in an unnatural way; the green apple too large in the far corner. These paradoxes appear to heighten the sense of artificiality in the composition.

In Cezanne we glimpse the emerging modern.

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) is a remarkable exhibition and the first in a generation to examine this seminal artist’s work. It runs at Tate Modern until 12th March 2023.

Art Inspired by the Sussex Landscape at Pallant

Duncan Grant (1866-1934) – Landscape, Sussex, oil on canvas, 1920 © Tate

For more than a thousand years Sussex has drawn artists to her rolling Downland landscape and exciting coastline. Artists such as JMW Turner and John Constable, William Blake and Samuel Palmer were all inspired by, and worked in, Sussex and are represented in this exhibition. The 20th Century saw a revival of this ancient tradition with many of the leading Modern British artists living and working in the county.

Sussex Landscape – Chalk, Wood and Water at Pallant House Gallery eloquently describes Sussex as a creative centre for artists and writers. But at its heart this beautifully narrated five star exhibition examines how the particular qualities of the Sussex landscape have inspired artists across the centuries.

Work by JMW Turner are accompanied by contemporary artists like Pippa Blake, Jeremy Gardiner and Andy Goldsworthy.

And at its heart is a roll-call of many of the leading Modern British artists of the 20th century including William Nicholson, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Eric Ravilious, Ivon Hitchens and Edward Burra. Camden Town, Vorticists, Surrealists and Abstract artists are all represented.

Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) – Detail of the Chalk Paths, watercolour, 1935 © Bridgeman Images

Eric Ravilious’ watercolour from 1935, The Chalk Paths leaves space for us as viewers to enter and occupy the landscape or scene in our imaginations.

The distance of the ancient, undulating chalk paths is emphasised by the barbed wire fence and the play of the breeze is discernable in the grassy hillsides painted in muted tones.

It was Vanessa Bell’s love for Duncan Grant and her sister Virginia Woolf which brought her to Sussex during the First World War. Her sister, the author, Virginia Woolf, wrote to her in the May of 1916 from Rodmell extolling the virtues and potential of Charleston house near Firle in East Sussex.

Duncan Grant’s Landscape, Sussex was painted in oils in 1920 and depicts the pond at Charleston. The curve of the pond’s edge echoes the enfolding Sussex Downland landscape.

Both paintings describe the inspiration and influence of the Sussex landscape on artists across the centuries.

We are a processional nation. We confidently embrace the modern and the new but always with one eye to the past. It is wonderful to see the modern and contemporary united in their narrative with works by JMW Turner and others from the 19th century. The exceptional exhibition catalogue is a must, too, and can be purchased from Pallant House Book Shop or online at www.pallantbookshop.com. Sussex Landscape – Chalk, Wood and Water runs at Pallant House Gallery Chichester until 23rd April 2023