Exceptional Art & Community ~ 2013 Brighton Art Fair

Jon Tutton and Sarah Young
Artists and Brighton Art Fair organisers Jon Tutton and Sarah Young

The Brighton Art Fair celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. At the heart of this annual event’s success is the vision of its founders and organisers, Jon Tutton and Sarah Young, to bring together contemporary art of the highest quality by established names, providing a unique opportunity for the public to meet the artists whose work they can buy at the fair.

Jon says, “It is rare for the public to have unmediated, direct access to the artist,” and he is right. The art buyer’s relationship with the artist is very often mediated through a gallery or exhibition director. The relational quality that the Brighton Art Fair affords is extremely refreshing. There is a generosity of spirit among the artistic community too, as ideas are shared and expressed. “It helps that the exhibitors understand that we are artists too,” Jon remarks. “It really is important to bring the artistic community together, both artists and patrons.” I think that Jon, with his natural modesty, understates the sense of ownership and creativity which he and Sarah have inspired in their fellow artists.

‘Dryad I & Dryad II’, oil painting by Sarah Young
‘Dryad I & Dryad II’, oil painting by Sarah Young

I ask Jon how the Brighton Art Fair came into being and he responds, “It was completely by accident. The idea arose from a conversation with fellow artists in a pub! At the time, there were no venues in Brighton where professional artists could come together and exhibit and sell their work.” Ten years on, how would they describe themselves, as exhibition organisers and directors as well as artists? Jon replies with a wry grin, “Reluctant!” To organise an event like this is a huge amount of work, but it is clear that these two artists are quietly proud of the Brighton Art Fair’s enduring success and what it represents to the visual arts community.

Sarah Young works in phases and in recent years she has been focussing on her painting. She explains, “For some time the Glyndebourne Gallery has been exhibiting my pictures, which are currently inspired by opera and music.” The work has proved successful with an appreciative audience of music and art lovers.

Sarah will be exhibiting again at this year’s Brighton Art Fair. Among her work on show will be two oil paintings, ‘Dryad I & Dryad II’ and ‘Naiad I & Naiad II’. They are inspired by the Richard Strauss opera ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’, which was performed at this year’s Glyndebourne Festival. Both characters are drawn from Greek mythology. Dryad, the nymph or spirit of the trees, and Naiad, the spirit of waterfalls and brooks, accompany the Princess Ariadne on the Island of Naxos, where she has been abandoned by Theseus. The tale ends well and Ariadne eventually finds love with Bacchus. Sarah’s paintings are at once still, out of time and mystical, reflective of the opera.

Sarah also continues to work as an illustrator and printmaker. As an illustrator, she has worked for an array of famous publishers, including HarperCollins and Dorling Kindersley. She has illustrated ‘20 Sussex Gardeners’, ‘20 Sussex Gardens’ and ‘20 Sussex Churches’ for the Snake River Press and has contributed to the artistic journal ‘Nobrow’. In 2010, she illustrated ‘Greek Myths’ by Ann Turnbull, published by Walker Books. A work perfectly suited to her subject matter, which often incorporates folklore and mythology, the book is her tour de force as an illustrator to date. Her book cover artwork for ‘Ariel’ by Sylvia Plath was shortlisted for the V&A Illustration Awards in 2011.

‘Naiad I & Naiad II’, oil painting by Sarah Young
‘Naiad I & Naiad II’, oil painting by Sarah Young

Working as a painter, printmaker and illustrator, Sarah Young follows in the tradition of the Sussex artists Eric Ravilious and Paul Nash before her. There is a lyrical quality to her work, as there is to theirs. I am always impressed by the particular and coherent voice with which she gifts her pictures, while working in a variety of media.

This year Sarah and John have invited the exhibiting artists to create an ‘artistic cube’, which will be on sale for just £30 in aid of the charity Arthouse Meath. Arthouse Meath works with adults living with severe epilepsy and learning difficulties, who have varying needs and abilities. Arthouse Meath employs professional artists of a high calibre, who adapt their working methods to develop these people as artists, so that they become involved in the process of creating saleable artworks. It is extraordinary and exciting how the combination of art and community can be so transformative.

Jon concludes, “We are proud that we have a show which artists and visitors enjoy.” His view is clearly supported; last year the Brighton Art Fair attracted more than 6000 art lovers!

I think that the Brighton Art Fair’s success is due to the quality of the art and artists exhibited and the generosity of spirit engendered in this event by Jon Tutton and Sarah Young. I hope you will treat yourselves to a visit this weekend and perhaps discover a piece of art for you – at the very least you must buy a cube! The 2013 Brighton Art Fair runs at Brighton Dome Corn Exchange in the heart of Brighton, just around the corner from the Royal Pavilion, from Friday 20th September until Sunday 22nd September. For opening times and further information about the Brighton Art Fair, visit www.brightonartfair.co.uk. More information about the work of Arthouse Meath is available at www.arthousemeath.com.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 18th September 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.