Amberley Museum’s Inaugral Sculpture Trail

Contributing artists at the 2020 Amberley Museum Sculpture Trail

The first flash of spring sunshine broke through as Amberley Museum launched its inaugural Sculpture Trail. The Sculpture Trail provides a natural bridge between the artist and artisan. Many of the traditional crafts and skills preserved and maintained at the museum are employed in creating sculpture.

20th century Britain witnessed a great revival in the Renaissance idea of the artisan artist. In Sussex artists like Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden and others worked as designers and woodblock illustrators as well as painters of fine art.

As we walk up through the museum we reach a fork in the path and nestling amongst the dappled light of the still bare Silver Birch we discover a stone form titled ‘Cell’. The artist Will Spankie explains “The sculpture is inspired by bees. I love bees – the way that they live.” Will and his wife Lucy keep bees. The textural cells carved in Purbeck stone reflect the mass of prismatic wax cells built by honey bees in their nests to hold their stores of honey, pollen and as nurseries for their brood larvae. The changing light plays on the contrasting textured and smooth surfaces of the worked stone creating an impression of stillness and movement.

Will Spankie’s stone ‘Cell’

We walk with the sculptor Michael Joseph and his wife Jane down a wooded path as they talk passionately about wild flower meadows and bees. We round a corner and find Michael Joseph’s sculpture ‘Serene’ bathed in sunshine. Its bold figurative outline is repeated by its shadow against a crisp white wall. Michael loves the technical challenges of making his sculptures. I ask him about the creative process of this piece. He says “I made a maquette by bending the metal, but this larger finished work is made from tubing which can’t be bent without distorting it. So I made a number of cuts through to the outer face to very high mathematical tolerances then I welded it. It’s dressed and patinated with powder coating.”

Michael Joseph with his sculpture ‘Serene’

Works by the blacksmith partnership of Sarah Blunden and Ben Fraser, as well as blacksmith Alex Smith give real voice to calling and vocation in creativity expressed by the artisan artist – for them there is no peace without making. The inspiration of nature and its rhythms is beautifully articulated by the sculptor Simon Probyn. His steel abstract ‘Pebbles’ greets you as you arrive. And then there is the architect sculptor Lester Korzilius’ mixed method ‘Vortex’ with its bold palette and abstract form which plays with light and its enviroment.

I often return to the Amberley Museum for its brilliant railway, vintage car, and craft weekends as well as to ride on its fantastic vintage buses and trains. The sculptures are an exciting addition to this industrial landscape allowing us to see the familiar anew.

Amberley Museum’s 2020 Sculpture Trail runs until the 28th June 2020 and there is a celebration of James Bond on the weekend of the 28th March. For more information visit www.amberleymuseum.co.uk or telephone 01798 831370.

Gilbert White’s Tercentenary Celebrated at Pallant House

John Nash, A pair of Hoopoe Birds from‘The Natural History of Selborne’, c.1972 © Estate of John Nash

Pallant House Gallery’s exhibition Drawn to Nature: Gilbert White and the Artists celebrates 300 years since the birth of the Revd. Gilbert White and the centenary of the Society of Wood Engravers. It runs from the 11 March to the 28 June 2020.

The Revd. Gilbert White (1720-1793) was a remarkable man, a pioneering naturalist who hugely influenced the development of the science of natural history, an author and a gardener. He is perhaps most famous for his book ‘The Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourne’. A man of God with a love and interest in science and the natural world sits well with me. It is often argued that White’s study of earthworms and their vital role in creating topsoil influenced Charles Darwin’s thinking around evolution.

White’s Natural History recounts his daily observations of the animals, birds and plant life found on his doorstep in Hampshire and nearby in the South Downs in Sussex. Published in 1789 it was an immediate success.

Gilbert White’s Natural History has also inspired artists over the centuries and never more than in the 20th century as highlighted by the works on display.

In the 20th century many artists rediscovered their role as artisan artists and designers whilst working as painters and sculptors of fine art. One of the ways that this was expressed was by making printed woodblock illustrations for fine books printed by private presses.

Eric Ravilious, The Tortoise in the Kitchen Garden from ‘The Writings of Gilbert White of Selborne’, ed., H.J.Massingham, London, The Nonsuch Press, 1938

The artist Robert Gibbings influenced the revival of wood engraving by artists. In 1920 he founded the Society of Wood Engravers. Members working in Sussex included Eric Ravilious and John Nash. The society ignited a revival of wood engraving where the designs and the blocks were created by the artist, making that vital connection between the artist and the final print.

Eric Ravilious displays the line, flecking and crisp edging which define his woodblocks in The Tortoise in the Kitchen Garden. It depicts Gilbert White in his garden. A keen gardener from his youth, White increasingly took a close interest in the natural world around him, and grew a wide range of traditional and experimental fruit and vegetables, recording weather, temperature and other details.

Clare Leighton, Hop-pickers from‘GilbertWhite, TheNatural History of Selborne’ c.1941, wood engraving on paper © Estate of Clare Leighton

Clare Leighton also belonged to this revival of wood engraving. Her work combines a deep understanding of life and love informed by her Christian faith, with a captivating simplicity and honesty. Many of her compositions are characterized by the use of a series of underlying curves which at once unite the subjects in her pictures while articulating movement, qualities which are apparent in the composition of Hop Pickers.

Against some opposition from her family Clare Leighton persuaded her parents to allow her to attend the Brighton School of Art. She was friends with Hilaire Belloc, who lived at Shipley windmill near Horsham, and Eric Gill, who was at this point living in Ditchling.

John Nash’s Pair of Hoopoe Birds is one of a series of joyful illustrations to White’s natural history.

The exhibition Drawn to Nature: Gilbert White and the Artists brings together a wonderful collection of images, each inspired by Gilbert White’s Natural History. It runs at the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester from 11 March – 28 June 2020.

A Sussex Celebration of Motorsport on and off the Track at Goodwood

The start of the 2019 Goodwood Revival Kinrara Trophy © GRRC/Chrislson.

I am really excited, I’ve just booked my tickets for the 2020 Goodwood motor racing season 78th GRRC Members’ Meeting, Festival of Speed and Revival. Goodwood’s quintessential British motorsport events celebrate not only the best of historic racing but also the cutting edge and contemporary in the automotive world. It’s a winning combination here in heart of Sussex.

For me the highlight of this year’s Goodwood Revival was the Kinrara Trophy for pre-1963 GT cars with closed-cockpits. Dubbed ‘the most expensive motor race in the world’ the line up on the grid included Ferrari 250 GTs Aston Martin DB4s, AC Cobras and Austin-Healeys promising some very special racing.

The race lasts an hour. As dusk approached the first race of the 2019 Revival got underway. By the time the leading cars had reached Fordwater on the opening lap the Ferrari 250 GT of Andrew Smith and Gary Pearson was being closely followed by the navy blue Aston Martin DB4GT driven by Darren Turner and Simon Hadfield. The racing was close and the pit-lane siren wailed as the cars came in for their compulsory pit-stop and to change drivers. As the race progressed the safety car joined the track after Jack Young went off in his Jaguar E-type. The safety car came in with just 10 laps to go with the leaders closely bunched up. The sun began to set as the drivers battled towards the finish their headlights blazing. It was Pearson and Smith’s Ferrari which took the trophy setting a new Kinrara Trophy lap record of 1 minute 28.825 seconds. They were closely pursued by Turner and Hadfield’s Aston Martin DB4GT in second place as they had been from the beginning.

This evocative race captured the spirit and excitement of the Goodwood Revival bringing together the marques which raced there back in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Sussex historic racing season will open with the 78th GRRC Member’s Meeting on the weekend of 28th and 29th March 2020. The spring Members’ Meeting is a celebration of motor racing exclusively for members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club (GRRC), and the ever growing GRRC Fellowship. It has its own unique atmosphere. This member only event allows enthusiasts, drivers and the car owners to mingle in the paddocks.

The 2019 Festival of Speed saw the UK launch of the much anticipated new Land Rover Defender alongside a spectacular celebration of Aston Martin 70 years after they first raced at Goodwood in 1949 and 60 years after their triumph in the 1959 World Sports Car Championship. The 2020 Festival of Speed will be held from 9th – 12th July.

September’s Goodwood Revival has a unique and special quality with the atmosphere of a motorsport party with vintage outfits, cars and racing. The 2020 event will be held from the 11th – 13th September.
To find out more about the benefits of membership of the GRRC and GRRC

Rupert Toovey at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
Rupert Toovey at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

Fellowship, how to join, as well news about this year’s Festival of Speed, Goodwood Revival, and to book tickets go to www.goodwood.com/sports/motorsport. Tickets for the Goodwood motoring season sell as fast as a speeding Aston Martin so be quick off the start and be sure to get yours!

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.

The Bank Holiday at Borde Hill

The vibrant Mid-Summer Border at Borde Hill Garden
The vibrant Mid-Summer Border at Borde Hill Garden

This week I am returning to Borde Hill Garden near Haywards Heath to enjoy the vibrant summer borders and the 20th Anniversary Sculpture Exhibition. I am met by Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke whose great grandfather purchased the house in 1893 and created the now Grade II* listed gardens and important plant collections.

Andrewjohn says “Borde Hill has always been an experimental garden to try new plants. The first of these were brought back by plant hunters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

This spirit of adventure is alive and well under the stewardship of Andrewjohn and his wife Eleni. This is apparent in the Round Dell garden. Its contemporary design has at its centre a thin, tapering path defined by low concrete walls which leads you through the rich foliage and planting. Amongst these are a number of exciting new specimens found by contemporary plan hunters, including varieties of Schefflera, and unusual evergreens like Daphniphyllum macropodum.

I love the strong summer colours at Borde Hill. The Mid-Summer Border, just off the South lawn, delights with its vibrant coloured perennials, grasses and shrubs.
The garden reveals itself as a series of rooms. The sculptures compliment the planting and vistas allowing us to see the garden in new ways.

Devon based artist Zoe Singleton’s sculpture ‘The Turning Tide’ carved from Kilkenny Fossil Stone at Borde Hill
Devon based artist Zoe Singleton’s sculpture ‘The Turning Tide’ carved from Kilkenny Fossil Stone at Borde Hill

My eye is taken by a sculpture by the Devon based artist, Zoe Singleton who works predominately in stone natural to the British Isles. It is titled ‘The Turning Tide’ and is carved from Kilkenny Fossil Stone. It sits dramatically on its Larch plinth against the backdrop of Borde Hill’s 200 acres of parkland and woodland. The rhythm and movement of the shoal of fish seems to be echoed in the landscape.

Writing about her work Zoe has said ‘My work is frequently described as “poetic and lyrical”, garden sculpture being inspired by my love of gardening as well as the dramatic coastline of the South West and the rugged geology of Dartmoor which has a continued presence in my work.’ Her words resonate with Borde Hill Garden.

The lives of Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke are bound to this place and the garden in a very personal way. Their forward looking stewardship ensures that the past is valued and preserved but that the garden is constantly evolving and changing in a very contemporary way.

Why not enjoy the art and this beautiful garden in the company of family and friends this coming August Bank Holiday weekend. There is plenty for children to enjoy including an adventure playground. The 20th Anniversary Sculpture Exhibition runs until the 30th September. For more information on opening times and forthcoming events go to www.bordehill.co.uk or telephone 01444 450326.

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.

Ivon Hitchens at Pallant House

Ivon Hitchens – ‘Arno II’, c.1965, oil on canvas © The Estate of Ivon Hitchens
Ivon Hitchens – ‘Arno II’, c.1965, oil on canvas © The Estate of Ivon Hitchens

Pallant House Gallery’s long awaited retrospective exhibition of the important Sussex based Modern British artist Ivon Hitchens is exceptional and beautiful.
This chronological exhibition highlights the themes that preoccupied Ivon Hitchens and the development of his unique voice in Modern British Art – a poetic artist in the landscape.

The show explores how Ivon Hitchens emerges from surrealism into lyrical abstraction with an increasing connection with that most English of obsessions, the landscape. His distinctive style is immediately recognisable.
Pallant House Gallery Director, Simon Martin says “The very first artworks that Pallant House Gallery acquired were two paintings of Sussex donated by Ivon Hitchens before his death in 1979.”

The exhibition describes how Hitchens joined the Seven and Five Society in 1919. This group included many of Britain’s leading artists and was distinguished by their freedom of association and lack of artistic dogma.

In the mid-1920s Hitchens painted with Ben and Winifred Nicholson staying at their Cumbrian farmhouse, Bankshead. These paintings focus on Still Lifes in domestic settings, themes which would remain central to his work.
Ivon Hitchens painted ‘Spring in Eden’ in 1925 on his return to London from Bankshead. This reflective, luminous painting with its classical torso is airy – light in tone and colour – creating a dialogue between the world of classical art and mythology.

When his Hampstead studio was bombed in 1940 Ivon, his wife Mollie and their young son John evacuated to Sussex near Lavington Common where they had bought six acres of woods and a Gypsie Caravan. Hitchens became rooted in this landscape – his eye captured by the woodland that surrounded him.
He became more interested in painting the underlying harmony of the natural world through his landscapes. Music informed him stating “I often find in music a stimulus to creation, and it is the linear tonal and colour harmony and rhythm of nature which interests me – what I call the musical appearance of things”.
Hitchens famously said “My pictures are painted to be listened to.”

Ivon Hitchens – ‘Spring in Eden’, c.1925, oil on canvas © The Estate of Ivon Hitchens
Ivon Hitchens – ‘Spring in Eden’, c.1925, oil on canvas © The Estate of Ivon Hitchens

There is a rhythm in his long canvases which are often divided into three vertical panels which play against each other. In ‘Arno II’ sunlight filters through the foliage to reveal a boat lying on a woodland pool in the left hand section. The centre and right sections of the composition are more abstract, suggestive and experiential. This poetic, lyrical landscape conveys the experience of inhabiting, space and emotion in a remarkable way – it has a spiritual quality.
I am excited that Toovey’s together with Irwin Mitchell Solicitors are headline sponsors of this exceptional exhibition. Thanks must also go to the Arts Council England for their support.

‘Ivon Hitchens: Space through Colour’ runs until the 13th October 2019 at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester. It is this summer’s must see exhibition! For more information go to www.pallant.org.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.