Dixon’s Gavel Bash!

Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings by Simon Dixon

Nick Toovey will once again be wielding his gavel on contemporary art, but instead of hosting a self-representing artist sale, he will be conducting a contemporary art auction to raise funds for a much loved and celebrated Brighton-based artist, the ‘daddy’ of pop art, Simon Dixon, on Thursday 29th September at the Naked Eye Gallery in Hove.

'Dixon' by Antony Micallef
'Dixon' by Antony Micallef

A host of artists originating locally but of national and international renown have donated works to raise funds for Simon’s therapy and care in his battle against cancer. The auction includes works by Antony Micallef, Simon Dixon, Sarah Shaw, Ian Hodgson, Chris Kettle, Charlie Day, Tori Day, Paul Ostrer, Sam Hewitt, Jim Sanders and Graham Carter. The auction will be a rare opportunity to buy works of art from a gallery with the price tags decided by the bidders and buyers.

Auctioneer, Nick Toovey, said ‘I can’t wait! The auction includes works from so many of my friends from the Toovey’s contemporary art auction days, not least Simon himself, who really needs some help with what he is going through at the moment.  I love the community spirit of the art world and this auction exemplifies it.’

On the evening of the sale, the ‘Tree of Temptation’ will offer luxuriant treats donated by local artisans and businesses to buy and take home, but with a twist – find out more on the night!

Artwork offered for the sale can be previewed from 3rd September at the Naked Eye Gallery, 5 Farm Mews, Farm Road, Hove, BN3 1GH, where the auction itself will be conducted by Nick Toovey Thursday 29th September. Doors open at 7pm with the auction starting at 8pm. If you can’t make the auction but wish to try and buy, there are other ways to bid. Please ask for more details at the gallery.

Please visit the Facebook event page for further information.

Dada plus eight

'Terrarium II' by Chris Kettle

It’s been a decade since Toovey’s held the first ever auction of Contemporary Art consigned by Self-representing Artists. Due to other commitments the sales have been postponed until further notice, but those looking to get their Contemporary Art ‘fix’ have the perfect opportunity in Hove during the next fortnight.

Nick Toovey with artist Sarah Shaw

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a preview of the exhibition at the Naked Eye Gallery curated by Stefanra Dal Ferro that runs between the 11th and 24th December. The exhibition showcases eight different artists all of whom have the same 1.5m x 2m area to display their art. Curator Stefania states ‘Rather than the lines in the gallery separating the pieces, I wanted to create a sense of them melting together; simultaneously fighting differences and celebrating individuality.’ All the artists have responded by filling their space with one or two showstoppers.

In the show, five of the eight artists had been included in at least one of Toovey’s Contemporary Art Auctions. It was nice to see a familiar eclectic mixture of styles, palettes and media all in a single venue and equally good to see the artists themselves.

'Wires' by Sarah Shaw

The exhibition walls were full of contrasts. Leaping into focus as you walk through the doors is an amazing Simon Dixon of Bo Diddley, popping with colour this acrylic on canvas sings against the unobtrusive grey background. Beside this is ‘Wires’ by Sarah Shaw, a work that she describes as a cathartic experience to produce. I had a good catch up with Sarah, and was pleased to hear the positivity around her recent competition entries, solo shows and other exhibitions. Sarah’s art features on the soon to be released cover of Daughter’s album ‘Not to Disappear’ released by 4AD and a new print will be launched soon to coincide. As an artist she has always been one to watch and I am delighted people are sharing my enthusiasm for her work.

'Otherwise the stone would carve the tool' by Jim Sanders

The inimitable Jim Sanders was offering two works, both breaking away from his usual palette of black, grey, white and red with bold splashes of colour. Jim was as upbeat as ever and I was reminded of the time I visited his house to write a Sussex Life article and being blown away by what I saw. Discussing this with another artist we both agreed that his home is akin to a ready made museum of his own work, quite an immersive and incredible experience for anyone lucky enough to visit.

Chris Kettle chatting about his impressive oil on canvas 'Terrarium II'

The work of David Levine, Joseph Rossi and Alex Binnie were no less impressive as I moved around to ‘Terranium II’ by Chris Kettle. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, there is no contemporary artist offering such an interesting twist on the Still Life genre like Chris. His attention to detail combined with his unique vision delivers works that are simply breathtaking. I was buoyed to hear that his work was gaining a strong reputation and prints of his work were selling out fast. As a result a new series of prints are just about to be launched.

Then my circuit of the room was completed with the ultimate quirkiness of Paul Ostrer. As always, his work was beautifully executed and indulgently brilliant. The collective group of the plus eight emphasizes how much talent there is on our doorstep, and that Sussex could truly become a center for the arts. The quote of Mattie Stepanek in the exhibition brochure was perfectly apt: ‘Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration wonderful things can be achieved.’

The exhibition also provided me with the opportunity to meet some fascinating new people – not least the amazing framer Tim Harbridge, based in Montague Place, Brighton, and the equally brilliant Vaughan from Tin Dogs, who looks after a number of artists by reproducing their works as sumptuous screen prints.

So if you are in Hove in the next two weeks be sure to pop into the Naked Eye Gallery in Farm Mews, BN3 1GH, to see the Dada+8 show!

Borde Hill Gardens at the Heart of the Arts

Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke open the 2015 Borde Hill Garden ‘Sculpture in the Garden exhibition’

This last weekend I found myself returning to Borde Hill Gardens, near Haywards Heath in West Sussex, as the guest of Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke and his wife Eleni. These generous custodians have worked hard to put Borde Hill and its famous gardens at the heart of the arts in West Sussex. Borde Hill Gardens are celebrating their 50th Anniversary of being open to the public.

Andrew Bernardi and the ‘1696 Stradivarius’ at Borde Hill

Much has been written about the importance of the gardens and plant collection. Between 1893 and 1937 Colonel Stephenson R. Clarke sponsored many of the Great Plant Collectors’ expeditions. They returned with rare specimens brought back from their travels in the Himalayas, China, Burma, Tasmania and the Andes. Many of these plant species are still at the heart of the collection which make up the seventeen acres of formal gardens we enjoy today.

As the Friends of the Shipley Arts Festival gather at Borde Hill Andrewjohn welcomes us in the panelled Drawing Room. He explains that his family have owned Borde Hill since 1892 and says “Although my family extended the house and this room I think my great-grandfather was more interested in the gardens than the house. When he came to Borde Hill the land gave him the opportunity to plan, layout and plant the garden.” Andrewjohn speaks with a gentle pride and understanding of his own place in the story of Borde Hill. As he does his love for it and the desire to share it with others is apparent.

Andrew Bernardi, Artistic Director of the Shipley Arts Festival, leads a trio of remarkable musicians which includes the cellist Jonathan Few and pianist, Maria Marchant. The concert opens with two Debussy pieces written at about the time that Andrewjohn’s grandfather purchased Borde Hill. There is an intimacy in this setting as the delights of the concert unfold.

‘Respond 1’, by Angela Conner
‘Respond 1’, by Angela Conner

The textural melodies and rhythms of the music take me back to the week before when I joined my friends Andrewjohn and Eleni at the opening of their 2015 Borde Hill Sculpture in the Garden Exhibition. We gathered in the Italian Garden for the opening, as sculptor Angela Corner’s ‘Respond 1’ rose and fell responding to the forces of nature and the flow of water. The piece brings your senses alive to the play of light, sound and movement as you respond to the sculpture and the setting.

As I continued around the gardens the sight and scent of banks of bluebells, contrasted against the bright new leaves on trees, the giant rhododendrons and magnolias, made me feel more fully alive. The sculptures, like Guy Portelli’s ‘3 Blue Pokers’, are framed beautifully by the plants and gardens in this ever changing setting.

The Gardens extend into traditional parkland and woodlands, where the variety of micro-climates have contributed to the best collection of ‘champion’ trees (the tallest and largest girth) on privately-owned land in Britain. These ‘champion’ trees, together with many other exotic specimens, provide a canopy for spring flowers in Warren Wood, which is over 100 year’s old, and Stephanie’s Glade.

Andrewjohn and Eleni have placed Borde Hill Gardens at the heart of our community and the arts and their generous spirit and dedication is deserving of our thanks and support.

You must treat yourselves to an outing to Borde Hill Gardens. The 2015 Sculpture in the Garden runs until 1st September 2015 at Borde Hill Gardens, Borde Hill Lane, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1XP, For more information on opening times and forthcoming events go to www.bordehill.co.uk or telephone 01444 450326.

For information on The Shipley Arts Festival concerts click here.

Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 13th May 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Sussex Artist Andy Waite on the Arundel Gallery Trail

Artist Andy Waite at work in his home and studio in Arundel

This weekend sees the start of the 26th Arundel Gallery Trail and among the participating artists is Andy Waite, whose home at 54 Tarrant Street will once again be given over to an exhibition of his work.

I am visiting Andy as he puts the final touches to the exhibition. There appears to be an ordered approach, which speaks of a generous and enabling discipline. I ask him about his working method. He explains that he is content to paint in his studio for days and weeks without need of contact with the outside world. Yet the inspiration for his landscapes comes from his experience of walking in the countryside. Back in the studio, he returns to his sketchbooks and photographs, constantly in the process of creating, as well as recalling his sense of a particular moment and place in the studio.

Andy Waite – ‘Icon – The Last Farewell’, oil on scaffold board

Earlier series of Andy’s icons reflected memories of his family and friends. This latest series is painted on old scaffold boards. I am interested to understand what the gold halos around these purely imagined faces mean to him. He replies: “The idea there is that everyone is special.”

Andy’s spirituality is bound up with his relationship with the landscape and those who are close to him. These qualities are apparent in his work. Both his landscapes and icons seem to be connected with the 19th century Romantic tradition in art and literature, which witnessed a return to the hopeful belief in the goodness of humanity and the grandeur and power of nature. Its celebration of our senses and emotions sought to balance our reason and intellect.

As we walk upstairs past a series of landscapes, I remark on Andy’s depth of vision. His skilful handling of rich, layered oil paint strikes the viewer’s eye with a particular intensity as each scene unfolds in our imaginations. He responds, “Although I paint for myself, as a creative person it is always with the desire to share my experience of the world with other people. My landscapes don’t tell you the whole story immediately but reveal new insights over time.” Certainly, as you take time to stare and to inhabit his paintings in your imagination, you will find that your perception of the scene will change and evolve as more of the artist’s vision and experience of that particular moment and place is revealed. You will find an honesty in Andy’s work, which reflects both the joys and sorrows of our human experience in the world.

Andy Waite - ‘A Million Beating Wings’, oil on canvas

So what is it like for this contemplative artist to open his doors to Arundel Art Trail visitors, given that his work represents such a personal, connected view of the world and his relationship with it? “It’s actually okay,” he remarks. After a pause, he continues: “It may seem a strange thing to invite strangers into your home. Although it’s hung like a gallery, it is our personal living space. I enjoy it – people’s feedback gives you a real sense of their engagement with your work.” The relationships between the artist and the world and the artist and the patron clearly feed and affirm Andy and his work. My eye is drawn to a large canvas hanging in his studio, titled ‘A Million Beating Wings’. There is a musical quality in its depiction of this winter scene. The vanilla clouds dancing against the cold blue sky are reflected in the lake below, connected by the drama of the trees moving in the cool breeze, which you can all but hear and feel. The composition, light, palette and handling of paint is wonderful. Although abstracted, the subject is still apparent.

Andy Waite – ‘Walking through the Long Grass’, oil on canvas

Andy Waite’s work has been described as being united with the English Romantic tradition and he acknowledges this, pleased by the sense of place in the procession of artists which includes John Constable, Ivon Hitchens, Graham Sutherland and many others. John Piper considered his fellow artist Paul Nash to be part of this tradition. Nash, however, was keen to emphasise the ‘poetic’ in his work. He sought to look beyond the immediate to what he referred to as the ‘genius loci’, the spirit of the place, to ‘a reality more real’. This resonates with Andy Waite’s work. Andy describes himself as an occasional poet but I would say that the poet is at play in all his work, which is united by the ‘poetic’, whether that be in his oil paintings, their titles, his writing or his film-making. Certainly as an artist, he returns again and again to the poetry of the English landscape and the people close to him in his life.

It is not often people have such unmediated contact with an artist and it is very special to accompany Andy Waite and his work at his home. Andy Waite’s solo exhibition as part of the Arundel Gallery Trail runs from this Saturday 16th to Monday 25th August at 54 Tarrant Street, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9DN. For more information go to www.andywaite.net or www.arundelgallerytrail.co.uk.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 13th August 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Jonathan Chiswell Jones at Chichester Cathedral

Jonathan Chiswell Jones
“To Everything There is a Season and a Time for Every Purpose under the Heavens” by Jonathan Chiswell Jones

I have long admired the work of Sussex based potter Jonathan Chiswell Jones. An exhibition of his ceramics, titled “Earth, Fire, Gold: Elemental Beauty by Jonathan Chiswell Jones”, is being held at Chichester Cathedral until 14th September 2014.

Last week I wrote about one of our nation’s most famous potters, William de Morgan, who had such a formative influence on the 19th century Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and a strong association with William Morris. He produced lustre wares, finding inspiration in Persian and Hispano-Moresque ceramics.

Like de Morgan before him, Jonathan Chiswell Jones is a master of carefully integrated patterns. These designs employ motifs drawn from nature, as in the dishes shown here with their reserve panels of flowers and fish.

Fish Bowl by Jonathan Chiswell Jones
Fish Bowl by Jonathan Chiswell Jones

William Morris famously said: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Good advice! Jonathan acknowledges the influence of the ideas of John Ruskin and the example of William Morris and says, “My aim is to make practical and beautiful porcelain and lustreware for use in the home. Making lustreware is a process of hand and head and heart; it is the challenge of practising a craft which utilises all my faculties.”

The dish inscribed “To Everything There is a Season and a Time for Every Purpose under the Heavens” draws its inspiration from that wonderful passage in the Old Testament from Ecclesiastes, chapter three, which has given such comfort to successive generations when they pause to reflect on the seasons of our human lives. The verses describe how God gives each of us things to do in his purpose and how we are to enjoy life as a gift of His Grace.

Born in Calcutta in 1944, Jonathan Chiswell Jones first saw pottery being made on the banks of the Hooghly River, where potters were making disposable teacups from river clay. He was one of Lewis Creed’s pupils. Lewis Creed was a young art teacher at Ashfold School, Handcross, who wanted to introduce his pupils to the joys of making pottery. Inspired by these early contacts with clay, Chiswell Jones has worked as a professional potter for the past forty years. In 1998, he was given an award by Arts Training South, which encouraged him to go on a course about ceramic lustre. He began to experiment with the thousand-year-old technique used by Middle Eastern potters to fuse a thin layer of silver or copper onto the surface of a glaze. This layer, protected by the glaze, then reflects light, hence the term ‘lustre.’ The lustreware on show at Chichester Cathedral demonstrates its continuing ability to capture our imaginations. Clay and glaze, metal and fire combine to produce pots which reflect light and colour, a process in which base metal seems to be turned to gold. Jonathan Chiswell Jones notes: “I am proud to stand in this lustreware tradition, with its roots in the Islamic empire of the 10th century, its appearance in Spain and Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries, its revival in the 19th century by Theodore Dec in France and by Zolnay in Hungary, and in this country by William De Morgan, and more recently by Alan Caiger-Smith.”

15th century Bell-Arundel Screen
The 15th century Bell-Arundel Screen restored to the Cathedral in 1960 in memory of the life of Bishop George Bell by Rev. Walter Hussey

How fitting that, following in such an ancient tradition, Jonathan Chiswell Jones’ work should be displayed in our timeless Chichester Cathedral. William Morris defined art as “man’s expression of his joy in labour”. There can be no doubt that creating beauty in the world is part of our human purpose in this life.

“Earth, Fire, Gold: Elemental Beauty by Jonathan Chiswell Jones” is being held in Chichester Cathedral’s Treasury (next to the North Transept) until Sunday 14th September 2014. While you are there, take a moment to go to the Southern Ceramic Group Summer Exhibition in the Bishop’s Kitchen, adjacent to the Cathedral, sponsored by Toovey’s Fine Art Auctioneers.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 30th July 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.