Invitation to Enter the Selection Process

The Toovey’s Contemporary Art Auction has been announced for Saturday, July 21st 2012.

Artists wishing to participate in this exciting event are invited to enter the selection process.  The sale consists solely of work entered by self-representing artists. The final selection will be made by event organiser Nicholas Toovey once the deadline of 30th March has passed.

The Contemporary Art Auction is now in its sixth year and continues to gather momentum, it is now considered to be a major platform for artists to showcase their work in Sussex.  The auction this year will be preceded by an exhibition at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery between the 1st June and 7th July.

If you are interested in participating, but would like to know more, please do not hesitate to contact Nicholas (via the email button on the top bar), who will be happy to provide further information and a catalogue from last year’s auction should you require. Click here for testimonials from other artists or click here for testimonials from a few of our buyers.  If you think your art has what it takes to be chosen for this year’s auction and would like to enter the selection process you will need to email images of the work you would like to submit (up to a maximum of ten) with sizes and a price list of suggested reserves by 30th March 2012.  Images should be supplied in a JPEG format and do not have to be professional photographs – snapshots will suffice.  This, along with a CV and any other information you feel would be relevant, will allow Nicholas Toovey to make an informed decision on whom to represent this year.

Below is a selection of works sold in the 2011 auction, as you can see the auction includes sculptures, ceramics and paintings, in addition to hand-created prints, photographs and metalwork.

Last Orders at the Bar…

Toovey’s February sale of Collectors’ Items on Friday afternoon 24th February 2012 includes the majority of the decorative contents of the celebrated public house The Montague Arms, 289 Queens Road, New Cross, London SE15 (Lots 2601 to 2662).

The last pint has now been pulled at The Montague Arms but for over forty years it garnered a reputation for idiosyncrasy, which attracted troops of fascinated and sometimes bewildered visitors from all over the world. Run by landlord Peter Hoyle from 1967 until its recent closure, it offered the traditional pub welcome and atmosphere of a bygone era, juxtaposed with unconventional live music, cabaret and themed events, in a somewhat surreal interior, crammed with curiosities. Voted number one by The Rough Pub Guide, A Celebration Of The Great British Boozer (Orion Books 2008) and hailed as “one of our strangest, and best, boozers” by The Sun newspaper, The Montague Arms was famed for its eccentric décor. An eclectic mixture of nautical items, curios, copper and brassware, ethnic memorabilia and taxidermy, the collection includes numerous ships’ fittings, large-scale models of ships, a vintage diving helmet and boots, a penny-farthing bicycle, tribal artefacts and a range of stuffed animals’ heads, including that of a zebra, which used to gaze out from one of two horse-drawn carriages permanently installed in the pub.  The collection will be offered for auction at Toovey’s Spring Gardens saleroom.

Please click on an image for full view, and again for further magnification

Chinese jade carvings for sale at Toovey’s

Chinese jade carving of an elephant
Lot 1105: A Chinese jade carving of an elephant covered in a profusion of folds and wrinkles

The Chinese jade table screen that sold for £120,000 (featured previously) was one of the more memorable auction prices achieved at our Spring Gardens salerooms last year. Toovey’s Specialist Sales of Oriental Ceramics and Works of Art provided numerous other highlights from objects originating from China and Japan. The first Specialist Oriental Auction of 2012 at Toovey’s (and the first of the Chinese New Year) on Thursday 23rd February includes a collection of mostly 18th and 19th Century jade carvings (Lots 1105 to 1119), consigned from the estate of a lady collector, late of Banbury, Oxfordshire. The consignment includes pendants, vases, carvings, inkstones and plaques. A collection of other jades have also been consigned from other vendors.

Jade is a mineralogically imprecise term for various kinds of hard-stone, more frequently referring to nephrite (a calcium magnesium silicate) and similar jadeite (a sodium-aluminium silicate). The wide-embracing term ‘jade’ can in fact encompass over 150 different varieties of stone. The English term for what in China is called  (玉) is derived from the Spanish piedra di hijada, or ‘stone of the loins’, as it was believed to be healing to that part of the body. “In ancient times“, said Confucius, the Chinese thinker and social philosopher, “men found the likeness of all excellent qualities in jade. Soft, smooth, and glossy, it appeared to them like benevolence; fine, compact and strong – like intelligence; angular, but not sharp and cutting – like righteousness; hanging down [in beads or pendants] as if it would fall to the ground – like [the humility of] propriety; when struck, yielding a note, clear and prolonged, yet terminating abruptly – like music; its flaws not concealing its beauty; nor its beauty concealing its flaws – like loyalty; with an internal radiance issuing from it on every side – like good faith; bright as a brilliant rainbow – like heaven; exquisite and mysterious, appearing in the hills and streams – like the earth; standing out conspicuously in the symbols of rank – like virtue; esteemed by all under the sky – like the path of truth and duty” [Legge (translator): Li Ki, Book XLV.] Since Neolithic times jade has been of central importance in China. No other stone has had such a continuous relationship with humankind in our social and religious development. Centuries before the Christian era we find it arbitrarily symbolic of Heaven and Earth. It is this representation of virtue and its symbolic history that ranks jade as the most precious of stones amongst the Chinese.

Lot 1105 (illustrated above), to be offered for sale as part of the collection in the February auction, is carved from a stone of celedon green tone. The elephant is symbolic of prudence, strength and wisdom and has always been sacred to Buddhism, this 15cm long carving carries a pre-sale estimate of £1000-1500. Many of the carvings offered in the February auction are of auspicious animals, chosen for their specific symbolic meanings. The Banbury collection to be offered in Toovey’s February Specialist Sale includes Chinese works of art decorated with the ram (a symbol of kindness and patience), fish (symbols of rank and power and later, the symbol of marital bliss), Buddhistic lions (often placed at the entrance of religious buildings, and associated with upholding the law), cranes (endowed with many mythical attributes and considered the aerial courser of the immortals), deer and Lingzhi fungus (both symbols of longevity).

Further images of  jade carvings included in the collection:

(Please click on an image for description and full-view, click again for further magnification)

Worth the weight? ~ Rare silver sold at auction by Toovey’s

A rare Scottish provincial silver teaspoon, Stonehaven, circa 1840

There has been plenty of media attention recently regarding the price of precious metals as a commodity. Most newspapers and magazines will have an advert for a company offering to pay ‘top prices’ for gold and silver. Some companies have even resorted to pay for advertising on television to attract large quantities of precious metals. The government is also in the process of passing new laws to try and combat the rise in metal thefts. With prices for ‘scrap’ metal so high, many people overlook the antique object to literally cash-in on its more obvious intrinsic value in ounces. Toovey’s January auction of Antiques, Fine Art & Collectors’ Items included a privately entered single-owner collection of early English and Scottish provincial spoons and other silverware (Lots 350 to 394). The oldest example was a seal top spoon from 1580, made by Nicholas Bartholomew during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. One would hope, having survived this long, it was never in danger of ending up in the melting pot. Early pieces of silver have always been prized amongst collectors, this example was no exception, selling for £2000.

The rarest spoon in the collection however, was arguably a little less obvious. Lot 380 was a rare Scottish provincial Fiddle pattern teaspoon (illustrated above). Like many items of cutlery it was engraved with a previous owner’s initials ‘WSD’. As a provincial Scottish item it did not display the usual hallmarks one would associate with silver from England of the same date. English hallmarks generally would comprise of five marks: sterling, town of assay, date letter, maker’s mark and sovereign’s head. Instead it was marked ‘A.G, S, T, O, N, H, N’ (illustrated below). The ‘A.G.’ is the maker’s mark for Alexander Glenny, the remaining combination of letters indicate that the spoon was made at Stonehaven where Glenny worked circa 1840. This is of particular importance as it is one of the rarest of all Scottish provincial town marks. As Toovey’s catalogue stated, items of Stonehaven silver that can be confidently ascribed are extremely rare with only a handful known to survive. Only items with this combination of marks should be considered of definite Stonehaven manufacture. Because of this collectable mark and its rarity, this 13.5cm long teaspoon attracted the interest of commission and telephone bidders, but finally sold in the room against this competition for £2900. Being a teaspoon it weighed very little, just 13 grams – if it had been condemned to the melting pot on its weight alone, one would have received under £10 for it at the current prices paid for silver. Thus, reinforcing the importance of checking the collectable and rarity value of silver and gold with our team of specialist valuers before ‘cashing-in’ on an object’s scrap value. If you would like to organise a free pre-sale valuation of your silver, please do not hesitate to contact Toovey’s for more information.

Stonehaven silver marks on the rare teaspoon

Consumed by Art: Jim Sanders

04 Shrines in the artist's kitchen
Shrines by Jim Sanders in the artist's kitchen

Jim Sanders is a Brighton-based artist who believes art should be timeless, as opposed to a fashion-led commodity. Through his art, he wants to convey the common concerns, or fundamentals of life: religion, birth, love, sex and death. Nicholas Toovey tells us more.

Jim Sanders

Jim was born in Solihull and raised in Redditch, he did a degree in graphic design and illustration, but soon discovered that the industry was heavily reliant on computers rather than drawing. The degree did however reinforce his love for assemblage and creativity. He moved to Brighton in 1998 deciding to escape his “red brick and concrete 1960s overspill” town in Warwickshire. Does Sussex inspire him? Only in part, he loves spending time ‘people-watching’ in town, and as his work is often figurative, he admits that must be an inspiration. Jim’s work however, is far more influenced by his childhood and his catholic upbringing. He is now interested in all manner of beliefs for what they convey – “I like the imagination of it and the related stories”.

Hybris by Jim Sanders
Totems by Jim Sanders
The Solitaires by Jim Sanders

With the exception of his graphic design degree, Jim received no formal training in fine art. This creates a refreshingly naive appeal to his work. His ethos is most akin to ‘outsider art’, this is work usually created by the mentally ill who are untrained and unaware of the art world or art history but whom enjoy the process of making art. Because he is of sound mind and often dips into reference books to further his appreciation of art he quips “I am outside the outsiders, but also outside the insiders!”. His output is primitive and this is often achieved by working with children; they have an unrivalled naivety when painting, born from their unique imagination and executed with an undiluted freshness that is not constrained by conformity. This process first started whilst teaching art to home-schooled children, but developed with the help of two boys, Apollo and Hermes. The eight and ten year-olds often visit Jim’s studio and collaborate with him. The three work together, doodling and getting basics on the canvas, sometimes with direction from Jim, but more often without. Jim then continues to work and develop these basics into a finished work of art. In addition to Apollo and Hermes, Jim often collaborates with other creative types, including poets, musicians and other artists.

Jim regularly creates work in a series; arguably one of the most imposing of these was a group of twenty ‘Totems’ that show his passion for assemblage. Created from found and salvaged materials, such as bottle tops and rusty tools, the totems adopt an autobiographical element, particularly his Catholic background, with each totem reflecting altarpieces and votive offerings. They were exhibited at the Pheonix Gallery, Brighton in 2007. The ‘Totems’ informed his next series, the ‘Shrines’, these are created in his kitchen also from found materials, the Shrines are continually added to with objects sourced for the unknown stories that they tell.

The route of all of Jim’s work is drawing. Whether it be from sketches created with the children he taught, drawings he makes whilst out and about, or ‘automatic’ doodles he makes at the kitchen table whilst cooking dinner. From a selection of over 400 drawings on scraps of paper, twenty figures have been translated in mixed media onto 2.5m high hessian banners, the reverse is plain black with poetry supplied by Xelis de Toro, when displayed in an installation this is all the viewer sees at first. After being lead through, the viewer turns to face ‘The Solitaires’, a powerful crowd of imposing figures that mirror facets of the viewer’s own personality.

Jim Sanders' Studio
Apostasy by Jim Sanders
Now That The Living Outnumber The Dead by Jim Sanders

Jim works from his Brighton home, one room is dedicated to his studio, where pictures in progress cover every wall. Hessian is stacked on the floor, which doubles up as the artist’s easel. Due to the courser weave of the hessian, paint seeps through to the sheets below creating all important layers and textures for future paintings. The rest of the house is dedicated to his work, the utilitarian bedroom has a bed and a wardrobe, but the walls are yet again filled with paintings, as is the staircase, kitchen and music room (he is the drummer in the Country-Punk band ‘The Crucks’), even the bathroom has works of art above and even in the bath. Jim has no settee in the house – “sofa’s are for people who watch tv” and with the absence of a television in his home you cannot argue with his logic. Every waking hour Jim dedicates to the creative process, art is his life and he is consumed by it. Jim’s work can often be obtained at Ink’d, Brighton, or direct from the artist. He hopes one day to own a building, ideally a church, filled with a lifetime of his work, creating a permanent museum or ornate temple of his work. For now his home is a diminutive version of what he will hopefully one day create. He is always open to showing people around his house and studio, in its ever fluctuating state, and a visit can be arranged by contacting him via his website.

The thought of penniless artists was arguably a romanticised Victorian notion intended to encourage patronage, but Jim, choosing to fulfil his desire for creativity, probably does fit into this category. More often than not he lives off £50 a week, but remains incredibly upbeat, “I’m not poor, I am rich from the art that surrounds me… the only time I get frustrated is when I have to choose between buying new paint or a loaf of bread”. Although his work is instantly recognisable as his own, he signs his work ‘SANS’, a shortened version of his surname and a synonym of without.

The imagery Jim creates is without question intriguing, even if it sometimes borders on the macabre. The dark undertones of some works only reflect the rudimentary elements of life, it is our own fears and taboos of the subject that can make his work haunting and uncomfortable. This does not make it any less brilliant. Jim paints and creates for himself, driven solely by his desire to be artistic. Although pound notes are always welcome, appreciation of his oeuvre, it seems, is payment enough.

Words such as ‘naive’ and ‘primitive’ may appear derogatory, but the art world has always had a place for this approach to creating work and if anything, it is often considered an accolade. One can look at the folk art of the 19th century or artists of the 20th century, such as Lawrence Stephen Lowry, Helen Bradbury, Fred Yeats and Alfred Williams, all of whom are highly collected names on the resale market today. Will Jim Sanders join this list of artists in the future? You can never be certain, but one thing is for sure – he definitely deserves to.

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Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in January 2012.