Arundel Gallery Trail 2013

The artist Josse Davis working in his potter’s studio
The artist Josse Davis working in his potter’s studio

This weekend marks the beginning of the Arundel Gallery Trail, which opens on Saturday 17th August 2013 at 12.00noon. It combines the delights of discovering art from more than 100 established and emerging artists in many of the historic houses and gardens of Arundel not normally open to the public. These homes provide the perfect setting for this annual selling exhibition and celebration of Sussex as a centre of art. The Arundel Gallery Trail is now in its 25th year. Founded by Arundel artist Derek Davis (1926-2008), Renee Bodimeade, Ann Sutton and Oliver Hawkins, the event is an essential part of the Sussex art calendar.

Josse Davis has played an active role in the Arundel Gallery Trail over many years and will be exhibiting his pottery again this year. The son of ceramicist and painter Derek Davis and the painter Ruth Davis, he works from his home town of Arundel. His affection for Arundel is clear. Asked if he plans to stay put, he answers wryly, “I am reluctant to move now I have a kiln or two.” Having grown up happily in Arundel and inspired by his parents, Josse is very grounded in the town. “Potters don’t move often… kilns don’t budge easily,” he continues with a smile.

‘Salad I (The excuse me)’, thrown stoneware bowl by Josse Davis.
‘Salad I (The excuse me)’, thrown stoneware bowl by Josse Davis.

This wit is expressed in his work and its titles, like the bowl ‘Salad I (The excuse me)’ illustrated here, which clearly shows the influence of his father’s work. Josse describes his decoration as being “divided into two distinct styles: the spontaneous and the disciplined”. “As a confident draughtsman,” he says, “my designs are figurative and often described as traditionally English in approach.” His work is, though, a contemporary take on this tradition.

Another important contributor to the Arundel Gallery Trail is Susie Jenkins, whose art employs photography to challenge our perceptions of the world in which we live. Susie comments, “My work intends to immerse the viewer into a different world or abstracted view, but are, in truth, extreme close-up photographs of the bottom of boats or other ‘found’ objects. It is up to the viewer to decide whether a specific image is a landscape view of the world from above or a piece of abstract art.”

Susie’s view of the world is practical as well as abstracted. Together with her daughter-in-law, Beatriz Huezo, she founded the charity ‘Art for Life’, holding art auctions in conjunction with other Arundel Gallery Trail artists. My brother Nicholas and I have been privileged to work with Susie on this project, which has raised money for the homeless and children in El Salvador in Central America. Houses, a community clinic and a school for children in poverty are part of the fruits of this collaboration of artists. Susie Jenkins’ work, both as an artist and for charity, deserves to be celebrated. It always interests me that when we set off on our own in life, we invariably end up going round and round in ever decreasing circles. But when we bring our gifts together with the gifts of others and share them in a common and generous purpose, exceptional things happen. This collaborative spirit is deeply ingrained in the Arundel Gallery Trail and Arundel Festival, which celebrate community as well as the arts.

‘Event Horizon’, colour photograph by Susie Jenkins, © the artist 2006.
‘Event Horizon’, colour photograph by Susie Jenkins, © the artist 2006.

The 2013 Arundel Gallery Trail will take place between Saturday 17th August and Bank Holiday Monday 26th August alongside fireworks, Shakespeare at Arundel Castle and many other Arundel Festival events. The Arundel Gallery Trail is open 12.00noon to 5.30pm on weekends and Bank Holiday Monday, and 2.00pm to 5.30pm on weekdays. It provides an exciting opportunity to enjoy and buy art from leading Sussex artists. For more information on this year’s exhibiting artists and where you can see their work, go to www.arundelgallerytrail.co.uk. The whole town becomes a gallery – you really must go!

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 14th August 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Eric Ravilious, Sussex Artist and Designer

Eric Ravilious Wedgwood Mugs
A collection of Wedgwood mugs, designed by Eric Ravilious. From left to right: a George VI coronation cup, circa 1937, an alphabet mug, circa 1937, and an Elizabeth II coronation cup, circa 1953

The artist Eric Ravilious lived and worked in Sussex. Known primarily for his watercolour landscapes and wartime studies, Ravilious was also a talented illustrator and designer. His paintings now regularly realise tens of thousands of pounds but examples of his ceramics designs for Wedgwood remain relatively accessible to collectors.

Eric Ravilious was born in 1903. As a very young boy he moved with his parents from Acton to Eastbourne in Sussex. There his father ran an antique shop. Ravilious was educated at Eastbourne Grammar School. In 1919 he won a scholarship to Eastbourne School of Art and in 1922 to the Royal College of Art in London, where he met his lifelong friend and fellow artist Edward Bawden. Both men studied under the artist Paul Nash, who was generous in encouraging and promoting their work. Ravilious subsequently taught part-time at both art schools.

In the early part of the 20th century there were attempts to address the separation between craftsmen and artists. Among the leading voices in this movement were William Rothenstein, principal of The Royal College of Art, artists like Paul Nash, Eric Gill, John Piper and Graham Sutherland, and Roland Penrose’s Omega Workshop, which involved the Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. All these artists engaged with ceramics. In 1935 Eric Ravilious was invited by the Wedgwood factory to design a commemorative mug for the coronation of Edward VIII. After the King’s abdication in 1936, the design was reworked for the coronation of his brother, George VI, and subsequently for that of our own Queen Elizabeth II – both mugs are illustrated here. The designs give a reserved English voice to the joy and excitement that these coronations brought to our nation in the most wonderful way. Each monarch’s royal cipher and coronation date are set in bands of blue and pink, beneath cascading fireworks against a clouded night sky. The designs are modern and yet they capture the ancient in the subject, something that is often reflected in Ravilious’ work. There is a sense of continuity; this modern artist’s work sits comfortably in the evolving procession of English romantic painters from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, artists like John Sell Cotman and Samuel Palmer. These influences and qualities gift Ravilious’ work with a very English corrective to modernism’s extremes, expressed in his emotionally cool, structural paintings and designs. Today, George VI and Queen Elizabeth II coronation mugs like these could be bought at auction for around £600 and £120 respectively.

The delightful alphabet mug illustrated was commissioned by Wedgwood in 1937. Banded in apple green, each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by a printed vignette; ‘A’ is for aeroplane, ‘E’ is for eggs, ‘O’ is for Octopus and so on. This mug would sell for about £350 at auction today.

Ravilious Travel Pattern
A Wedgwood 'Travel' pattern part dinner, tea and coffee set, designed by Eric Ravilious, circa 1953

In 1938 Wedgwood commissioned Ravilious to design the ‘Travel’ pattern dinner service. It captures modes of transport in an enchanting way. The trains on the meat platter and plates leave a trail of smoke as they hurry towards us, contrasting the sailing boats, which seem almost becalmed in the gentle breeze. This small selection of Travel pattern dinnerware would sell in one of our specialist auctions for around £800.

Eric Ravilious’ work continues to be reassessed and celebrated by art historians. Tragically in 1942, while he was working as a war artist, the rescue plane in which Ravilious was travelling off the coast of Iceland was lost. He died with the airmen for whom he had such respect. The body of work that he produced during his short lifetime is made exceptional by both its quality and Ravilious’ own very particular voice, expressed in paint, design and print. For the moment, the pieces he designed for Wedgwood represent an affordable way to collect examples of his work, but prices are set to rise.

It seems to me that our current, somewhat fragmented, postmodern age is suffering from a cult of celebrity. Artists have not been immune from this and many have once again lost their connection with craft and design. Eric Ravilious and his fellow modern British artists enriched our lives in the interwar years of the 20th century, as they allowed their artistic voices to inform the manufacture and design of ceramics. Perhaps it is once again time to give voice to the artist as craftsman.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 19th June 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Hans Feibusch ~ Church, Art & Patronage

‘Christ in Majesty’, 1954, St Mary’s, Goring-by-Sea
‘Christ in Majesty’, 1954, St Mary’s, Goring-by-Sea

Hans Feibusch represents a figurative tradition in 20th century art, which has sometimes been overlooked in favour of abstraction and other modern artistic expressions. He also has an important place in the history of a revival in church patronage of art in the Modern British Period.

Hans Feibusch arrived in England in 1933 from Nazi Germany to escape persecution as a Jew. He had become an established painter in Germany, being awarded the German Grand State Prize for Painters in 1930 by the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. His talent was soon recognized in England and he exhibited regularly, often with the London Group, to which he was elected in 1934. The London Group included many of Britain’s leading artists.

His first public commission came in 1937 when Edward D. Mills invited Feibusch to paint a mural, ‘Christ washing the Disciples’ Feet before the Last Supper’, for the new Methodist Hall in Colliers Wood, London. The painting attracted a great deal of interest from the national press and brought the artist to the attention of Kenneth Clark, later Lord Clark. Clark was very influential and was director of the National Gallery in London during the war. His television series and book ‘Civilisation’ would subsequently capture the imagination of a generation.

Bishop George Bell of Chichester wrote to Kenneth Clark at the National Gallery in 1939 asking for suggestions as to artists who might be prepared to accept commissions. Clark introduced Feibusch to Bell and the two men met for lunch in Brighton on New Year’s Day 1940. It marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship, during which Bell would be Feibusch’s leading patron. Both men were unprepared to turn their backs on evil. Feibusch personified Bell’s deep and active concern for the plight of the Jews in Germany and its refugees.

In 1929 Bell became Bishop of Chichester, bringing with him the patterns of worship and the arts from Canterbury Cathedral, where he had been dean. He wished to see churches filled once more with colour and beauty. Eternal truths could be proclaimed anew in music, modern art and poetry. More people would be drawn into the Christian community by the revival of this old alliance and renewed vitality. Among visitors to the Bishop’s Palace in Chichester were Gustav Holst, Vaughan Williams, Henry Moore, Hans Feibusch, T.S. Eliot, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

Bell and Feibusch’s very particular friendship blessed Sussex with a number of murals by this artist, which can be seen at St Wilfred’s, Brighton, Chichester Cathedral, The Bishop’s Chapel, Chichester, and St Mary’s, Goring-by-Sea.

Sketch for ‘Christ in Glory’ at St Sidwell’s, Exeter, circa 1957
Pencil sketch for ‘Christ in Glory’ at St Sidwell’s, Exeter, circa 1957

Painting onto the walls of churches and cathedrals requires painstaking preparation and the pencil cartoon by Feibusch shown here gives us a valuable insight into his work. It is a sketch for the mural ‘Christ in Glory’, painted in 1957 at St Sidwell’s, Exeter. Most striking to me are the prompts from Feibusch’s earlier works in Sussex. ‘Christ in Majesty’, also shown, was painted in 1954 at St Mary’s, Goring-by-Sea. Like in the sketch for St Sidwell’s, it displays Feibusch’s knowledge of Renaissance artists, whose influence is displayed in this mural. The Mediterranean lilac-blue, ochre and terracotta hues serve to emphasize Christ’s own pose, his arms open in a gesture of welcome and embrace. The figures are convincing, almost sculptural, with a quality of mass and light. Feibusch’s painting gifts them with a grace and nobility through their poses, which to some can seem to deprive them of life and passion. At first glance there is little that is unexpected but, as we look more closely at the angels, we note that the expressions on some of their faces are less angelic and more mischievous, acknowledging his depth of insight into the human condition, which can reflect good and evil. In the St Sidwell’s sketch, men and women look up to Christ with gestures of praise and thanksgiving, reminiscent of the figures painted in the Ascension scene painted by Feibusch in the Bishop’s private chapel in Chichester.

While the attention of the art world moved on to focus on the abstraction of Ben Nicholson and the new depiction of naturalistic forms by artists like Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland, Hans Feibusch continued to paint and draw in his own particular figurative style, influenced by the Renaissance. His style of painting has been the subject of renewed interest in recent years, with retrospective exhibitions held at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, in 1995 and more recently at the Bishop Otter Gallery, University of Chichester, in 2012.

The murals deserve to be celebrated. They represent the work of a gifted artist whose life is inexorably bound up with the extraordinary history and events of his time. For me, though, it is Feibusch’s sketches and drawings that reveal his true talent.

Hans Feibusch’s work rarely comes to the market and so it is with some excitement that I am looking forward to Toovey’s specialist fine art sale on Wednesday 12th June, in which the St Sidwell’s ‘Christ in Glory’ sketch and a number of other studies and prints by the artist will be auctioned.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 5th June 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

‘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.

The Everyday Icon: Andy Waite

The artist, Andy Waite, via blog.tooveys.com
The artist, Andy Waite

Andy Waite is an Arundel-based artist, best known for his vibrant semi-abstract landscape paintings. Nicholas Toovey looks at a different aspect of the artists oeuvre based around figures and human emotions.

'Winter Deep' by Andy Waite, via blog.tooveys.com
'Winter Deep' oil on canvas, a more typical example of the artist's work

Andy was born in Buckinghamshire and after a time in Kent moved to Sussex. While studying art and design he lived in Findon, spending lots of time on and around the South Downs, with Cissbury and Chanctonbury Rings becoming favourite haunts. In 1978 Andy settled in Arundel, a place he describes as ‘an amazing location, you can be up on the downs within 15 minutes and the sea is only 3 miles away’. He is unquestionably inspired by the surrounding Sussex landscape that has kept him in the county for the last forty years. The neighbouring countryside is interpreted in sketchbooks later translating into oils on canvas in his landscape paintings that are most synonymous with his name.

'The Boy King' oil on panel by Andy Waite, via blog.tooveys.com
'The Boy King' oil on panel

Although landscape has been his main output, Andy has also always been interested in life drawing, which he undertakes in a swift and spontaneous way. It would be easy to assume that his ‘Every Day Icons’ are a progression from these figurative sketches, but in fact were created as a deliberate separate series. Informed by his other works and influenced by his trips to Italy, these icons were made with the concept that anyone, not just religious figures, might be revered or regarded as sacred. The faces depicted are based around friends or family and radiate a range of emotions from the quite dark to the joyous. ‘Some are searching, others yearning, some have found contentment in the moment. All are being honoured no matter what their state of mind’ says the artist. Whilst painting the images around these specific feelings, the emotion sometimes change during the painting process. Once completed, Andy assimilates the works for a few days titling them appropriately with a name that is almost suggested by the painting itself.

'The Fullness Of Time' by Andy Waite, via blog.tooveys.com
'The Fullness Of Time' oil on panel
'What The World Has Shown Me' by Andy Waite, via blog.tooveys.com
'What The World Has Shown Me' oil on board

The comparison to iconography is born from the palette used by Andy that echoes those used in Byzantine and Renaissance portrayals of religious figures. These were often embellished with gold leaf and due to the inherent cost it was reserved for the holiest elements such as halos. Ultramarine blue was a similarly expensive colour to create due to the main ingredient of lazulite and the difficulty of extracting the strong blue from the mineral; as a result, this was often used for the robes of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ. These colours were intended to lead the eye of the viewer to the key elements of the religious works when contrasted with the earth colours like ochre and umber. The supports of Andy’s paintings vary from modern boards to reclaimed wood, sometimes with several pieces adhered together to make a single panel, those left unfinished artificially age his contemporary interpretation of a tradition that started in medieval times.

The series of ‘Every Day Icons’ exemplifies the artist’s handling of the human form and Andy’s ability to illustrate unequivocal emotion. He portrays these feelings with an inimitable softness and subtlety. Ultimately, it is this sensitivity that makes the work extremely engaging and distinctively his own.

For more visit Andy’s website

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