‘Paul Nash – The Clare Neilson Gift’ at Pallant House

Clare Neilson, Photograph of Paul Nash, Pallant House Gallery, The Clare Neilson Gift through the Art Fund

An insightful show of work by the 20th century British artist Paul Nash opened at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester earlier this week, including wood engravings, etchings, photographs, collage and illustrated books.

The work provides a rare insight into the relationship between patron and artist, as shown by the photograph taken of Paul Nash by collector Clare Neilson. Their very particular friendship was first formed while Nash was living in and around Rye in the 1930s. It is fitting then that this collection should find its new permanent home in Sussex, thanks to the generosity of Clare Neilson’s godson Jeremy Greenwood and the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art.

Simon Martin, Head of Collections at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, is delighted by the gift of the Neilson Collection, which also includes correspondence. “It is a significant addition to Pallant House Gallery’s collection of Modern British Art,” he acknowledged, “and a fascinating and personal view into friendship and artistic patronage in the 1930s and ‘40s.”

Paul Nash is often thought of as an essentially English artist but between the wars he also sought to champion the hope embodied in continental modernism, defending Picasso and experimenting with abstraction before embracing Surrealism. He served as a soldier in the trenches of the Great War and subsequently worked as a war artist on the Western Front between 1917 and 1918 and again during the Second World War. This body of work provides a stark commentary on the reality of war.

He was drawn to objects sculpted by nature and had what some have described as an overriding habit of metaphor. Trees, for example, could take on the character of stones. This serves to highlight the poetic nature of his painting and how firmly rooted he was in the English tradition as well. Indeed, his earlier work is influenced by the 19th century English Romantic tradition of William Blake (who also lived in Sussex, at Felpham, between 1800 and 1803), Samuel Palmer and Dante Gabrielle Rossetti. With this in mind, you could forgive John Piper for including one of Nash’s paintings in his 1943 book ‘British Romantic Artists’. Nash was less than pleased, though. It was the word ‘romantic’ which bothered him and he referred, instead, to the ‘poetic’. Certainly, as an artist he returned again and again to the poetry of the English landscape. 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’.

Paul Nash, Still Life (No.2), circa 1927, wood engraving, Pallant House Gallery, The Clare Neilson Gift through the Art Fund, copyright TATE London 2013.

Paul Nash was noted for collecting all manner of objects, including seashells, pebbles, seedpods and bits of branches, all of which fuelled his imagination. In 1920, the Society of Wood Engravers was formed and Nash joined. His still life studies are not generally among his most highly regarded pictures. In this woodblock print from 1927, however, the relationship between the glimpsed landscape and still life reflects a paradoxical quality, which recurs in his work. Note also the uncompromising contrast of black and white, of which some, like Jacob Epstein, were critical. But this technique, combined with his unerring and poetic eye, seeds drama in our imaginations and allows us to glimpse something beyond our immediate perception of the world.

Paul Nash exhibited with Epstein at the important ‘Exhibition of the Work of English Post-Impressionists, Cubists and Others’, where his work was selected by Spencer Gore of the Camden Town Group. The exhibition was held at the Public Art Galleries in Brighton between 16th December 1913 and 14th January 1914. Nash also taught and championed two other artists noted in Sussex, Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, at the Royal College of Art in London. I have long been of the opinion that Sussex stands out as an important centre for Modern British Artists working in the 20th century. Paul Nash’s original and influential work, his connection with Sussex and the insight the Clare Neilson Collection affords us, serve to reinforce my view.

We live out our lives relationally and our possessions can help us to articulate the narrative of our lives. Very often they reflect points of love and friendship in our journeys. In these ways they can help to ground us in this life, but it is important to remember that we are only the custodians. The Clare Neilson Collection and the generosity of its gift speak loudly of this and deserve to be celebrated.

‘Paul Nash – The Clare Neilson Gift Exhibition’ is on show from 9th April to 30th June 2013. For more information and opening times go to www.pallant.org.uk or telephone 01243 774557.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 10th April 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Artistic Versatility: Sarah Young

'Pegasus' collagraph with gold leaf by Sarah Young

Sarah Young is a West Sussex based illustrator and printmaker who isn’t afraid to diversify to express her creative vision. Her prints are created by hand and are instantly recognisable and as an illustrator, she has worked for many leading publishers. Nicholas Toovey tells us more

04 'Brighton Rock' linocut by Sarah Young
'Brighton Rock' linocut by Sarah Young

Born in Surrey, Sarah’s mother was a fashion designer during the 1950s, her father was a sculptor and art teacher at the Reigate School of Art and Design. As a child she recalls that she was always very interested in the Illustration Diploma Shows at her father’s school. Her creative parents did not dictate her career path, but they did allow her the freedom to pursue an occupation of her choice. She chose to attend a two year foundation course at Reigate, after which she moved to Brighton and obtained a degree in illustration at the College of Art, under the tutorage of Raymond Briggs. Sarah cannot recall ever making a conscious decision to become an artist and illustrator; she purely followed a path that she felt was best suited to her own personal skills and interests. She can however remember writing and illustrating books as a child for her younger sister, perhaps this is when her decision was subconsciously made.

'Cock' linocut
'Cock' linocut by Sarah Young
 'Barbara Hepworth's Garden, St Ives' oil on board
'Barbara Hepworth's Garden, St Ives' oil on board by Sarah Young

Whilst studying in Brighton she fell in love with the town, particularly the ‘Old Brighton’. She decided to stay, in part due to convenience and in part because ‘it just felt like home’. Sarah did not work as an illustrator immediately, so to help pay the bills, she occasionally took to the streets busking by drawing on pavements. She enjoyed the freedom but felt there must be a more interesting and creative way of making a living whilst retaining some of that sense of liberty. She decided to make a travelling puppet theatre with Jon Tutton. They toured pub gardens, tea rooms, parks and museums with their theatre that was meant equally for children and adults. Sarah built up her portfolio of illustration work whilst also creating jewellery, toys and prints with the same techniques used making the puppet theatre. This creation of a spiralling miscellany of objects has remained with her throughout her career.

'Minotaur' Illustration from 'Greek Myths'
'Minotaur' Illustration by Sarah Young from 'Greek Myths'

Today, Sarah works from her home by the sea. As an illustrator she has worked for an array of famous publishers, including Harper Collins 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. This year her book cover artwork for ‘Ariel’ by Sylvia Plath was shortlisted for the V & A Illustration Award.

As an artist, Sarah uses a variety of different techniques to create her prints which are hand-pulled at the Ink Spot Press, Brighton. She creates relief prints cut from vinyl, lino and wood, in addition to silkscreens, etchings and collagraphs (a print made from a collage), often incorporating many different methods in a single print. Four years ago she started painting original works in unison with her prints and illustrative work. She has also recently created mixed media dolls and a range of four tea-towels that can be turned into soft toys or doorstops. Sarah has always loved sculpture and is constantly drawn towards three-dimensional qualities, even within her two-dimensional work. Does Sussex inspire her? Without question, she would like to do more prints based around Sussex, both landscape and folklore inspired to add to her existing selection of Brighton. Sarah’s next project is a series of prints inspired by pub names for the Penfold Press. She also plans ‘one day very soon’ to wire in the kiln she bought several years ago and start making ceramic sculpture.

The artist, Sarah Young

Sarah’s work can often be found at Emma Mason Gallery, Eastbourne, Castor & Pollux, Brighton, and at the bookshop in Pallant House, Chichester. On Friday 23rd, Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September, Sarah will be joining over 100 other artists at the annual Brighton Art Fair in the Corn Exchange, Brighton. As the only major contemporary art fair in the South-East it offers a fantastic opportunity to meet and buy affordable original art direct from the artists.

Many people might think that she flits between projects, but for Sarah this is the stimulus for her creativity, with each different venture influencing another. It is this multifaceted approach that makes Sarah’s work interesting, allowing her the freedom to keep her mind and work fresh and exciting. The overall output is united by her personal expression, creating her familiar, signature style.

For more visit www.sarahyoung.co.uk

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in September 2011.