2016. The review. Pt1

Nothing like thinking in November ‘I should check that long-neglected blog’ and seeing the last headline is about New Year’s Resolutions…

I assure you I’ve been writing everything but this thing.

Partly to prove it, and partly because I’ve just put the December magazine to bed, I thought it’d be a good time for a bit of a stock check.

So * insert top of the pops countdown music here* in at January we had…

Learning about fly fishing

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I love how random this is already.

The highlight was managing to catch another hook out of a tree, which I’m still convincing myself take skill. The lowlight was catching my own hair…

February

Has to go to Edible Arrangements

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A brilliant and inspiring company which works to match your table decorations with your menu. Honestly, check it out!

March 

This is a toughie but as much as I loved writing about Truth and Tails – books for children with a social twist – and experiencing the Light Technique in Brighton, there was on topic I featured that has blossomed into a hobby…

Calligraphy, with Kirsten Burke

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Just look at that concentration! And excuse to own quills… (Picture by Stewart Grant)

April 

Being a bit of a random fact fan, it has to be the story which lead me to learn the cut flower industry is worth more than the music industry (average of £36 per person).

Crosslands Nursery

 

 

Inside West Dean College

There’s some assignments my work sees me go on that gives me a certain feeling in my stomach.
It’s a good feeling. A this-is-why-I-do-what-I-do feeling. And my trip to West Dean yesterday was on such example.

Now, excuse me while I go a bit soppy, but I fell for this magical place on my first visit and each trip after has just deepened my love affair.

This weekend sees the college open to the public, something that only happens once a year, so an invite to the press preview was not something I was going to turn down.

From the Oak Hall to the purple hallway dotted with spectacular artwork – including the Dali ‘lips’ couch and an ancient dolls house used as a training aid for the servants to know what job was next – it was all I could do not to let my jaw hang open. After all I am a professional, I have a notebook to prove it. But let me tell you my insides were doing a happy skip the whole way around.

Anyway, enough of that. And time for some of this…

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I probably have a million versions of this picture on my camera and phone.. I can’t seem to go to West Dean and not take it.

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Now, it’s probably not fair to have favourites, but if West Dean let me stay (forever) I know I would live in the Oak Hall. The wood panelling, that fireplace, the ornately carved mezzanine floor you can’t see because I took this picture from there…

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My visit also coincided with the launch of Sue Timney’s surrealist collection. The college’s history with the art movement is thanks to Edward James who was a patron of a lot of the female surrealists and even collaborated with Dali.. because if you are going to do something you might as well do it properly.

So the table was laden with the new pieces, half from the surrealist floral range – inspired by a bedspread of James’ – and the other influenced by his obsessions with turtles. Sue herself was amazing, and I may have got a bit ‘fan girl’ about the whole occasion. But, hear me out, she had helped turn around the Laura Ashley homewares department and was involved with one of my favourite builds featured on Grand Designs – the London water tower. 

Sue enjoys tea with the paparazzi..

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I would have taken more pictures if I wasn’t hanging on/trying to write down every word Sue said. For the record it has to be the first time I’ve ever written ‘architrave’ in shorthand and translating it correctly may have been a highlight of my afternoon back in the office.

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One day, tiles like these will be mine.

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The collection includes camouflaged aprons, vaguely seen on the left side here, as well as silk cushions and scarves and fine china tableware. Both designer and college said they are ‘seeing this as just the beginning’ – do you think I could RSVP now for the next launch?

 

A sneaky peek at Stanley Spencer ~ Pallant House, Chichester

Without doubt one of the highlights of my job is getting to see things before other people.

I’m not quite Doctor Who, but with a magazine which works two months ahead of real time it can feel like it at times.

To sneak behind the barrier and see an exhibition that is still not quite finished is pretty special. The description plates sit on the floor leaning against the walls and the table is laid for the private view.

It feels sneaky. In a good way.

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Stanley Spencer, Heaven in a Hell of War runs from 15 February – 15 June 2014

Now I’ll be honest. I’d never heard of Stanley. My work at uni was slightly different – more Emin and Durchamp than murals with religious themes. I could probably blag it and not be honest but for me the joy of discovery would be lost then, and I’ve never been good at pretending to be more informed thank I am.

So, for those in the same camp, Sir Stanley Spencer (1891‐1959) is regarded as one of the most important painters of the 20th century. If you look at the image above, the top left has elements that could be seen as pop art…

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See? Now that is pretty cool. While the focus being on “behind the scenes” of war, a comforting side to the horror. Or making beds and breakfast in the war hospitals rather than the wounded I think is refreshing.

ippThe detail is insane and, thanks to the way it can be highly focused in one place and almost abstract in another, it leads the  viewer’s eye to every inch of the canvas.

Spencer is credited with taking the everyday and giving it a “Biblical grandeur” – personally I believe you can often see what you want to.  I learnt that from studying English Lit. But if you put your mind in the right frame and squint a bit I could buy into macintoshes becoming wings and arms spreading a duvet mimicking  the stance on the crucifix…

But mostly I just like the appreciate the staggering scale, vision and subject. I’ll also admit I enjoy the slightly wonky perspective because sometimes paintings can lose the character of the creator and just turn into painstaking photographs I think.

Pallant House has managed to secure sketches by Spencer, belonging to Chichester University, and his most famous large‐scale work from Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire.

The result is a journey avid fans and newcomers can appreciate and it is another reason to tip your hat to this fantastic gallery.

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Chichester street art festival

Chichester_Street_Art_Festival_Poster_large_jpegThe streets are alive with the sound of… people taking about art.

As expected, the new additions have made quite a stir in Chichester.

And rightly so.

Having worked in this city for almost three years now, I’ll admit I have been walking around in a bit of a daze.

It was a classic case of ‘been there, seen that.’

Walking from work to lunchtime sandwiches and back again without a blink. The only exceptions being the occasional bizarre or brilliant busker – we do have some of the best around in my opinion – or if the nice person with the tray of chocolate temptation was out.

But whether it is the mushrooms on roof tops or stick men on Superdrug, the street art project has made me open my eyes.

I am not the only one either, as friends far and wide have taken to Twitter to compare notes and create a checklist.

Seen the horses galloping at the Westhampnett Road and St Pancras roundabout?

How about the birds in the car park behind Barclay’s?

However my favourite so far has been talk of a Lego installation, in the walkway under the wall along the top of Priory Road.

Lego and art? It is like Christmas has come early. Or rather, because of the nature of the hunt, perhaps Easter a little bit late?

You can almost feel the buzz in the air as you walk around.

Of course, not everyone feels like I do, and I respect that. Chichester is built on strong, traditional, foundations which is very much part of its appeal.

In fact I think that is what makes the street art so effective here.

Yes, it is still Chichester, but it has a new lease of life.

The same can be said for the art too.

Galleries will always have their place but something special happens when you let creativity loose.

Let me know what you find.

Twitter: @LSCartledge

 

Interview with mural artist Nick Hobbs ~ part 2.

First part of this interview can be found here.
One recent piece which is sure to be enjoyed by generations is at River Beach Primary School. Measuring 4.5m by 2.5m it works to include aspects of the school’s houses as well as a sense of adventure.

“The piece for the school was colourful and interesting but came with a really tight budget. Not that I mind. It was great to be involved,” he explains. “It has more elements than most of the work I do and took 10 – 12 weeks.”

To put this into perspective – painting the macaw was a day and a half work. Which explains why it looks like it is just about to ruffle it’s feathers and let out a squawk.

There is no doubt that working on such a scale takes a monumental amount of labour.

“The materials are minimal in comparison,” Nick explains. “Usually, when it comes to costing, it is a case of ‘give me an idea of what to work for,’ as you can keep painting for ever.”

However when it comes to the larger process of completing a mural, the painting is shadowed by the planning.

“First thing is to see the space – the architectural framework. My job is to look at what’s in there, what it is used for and to consider that and my client’s preferences,” he says. “Design is everything as when it is done well the end result just fits.

“For example I was commissioned to work on an Italian inspired bathroom. The client wanted Tuscany originally but what it is used for told me it should be watery so I suggested Venice which they loved.”

Nick then translates the ideas into to-scale watercolour sketches.

“Generally you are home and dry at this point, when brush touches wall or canvas you are okay,” he adds. “The daunting bit is the pre-design but once you have the blueprint it is just a case of scaling up.”

Nick is also modest about the end result. “Detail is everything, when you work on such a large scale you absorb it on one level but then go in closer,” he explains. “It’s not fine art as you have football pitches to paint. Hopefully the detail makes it good enough to look at.” The truth is it is good enough to want to walk into and it comes as no surprise he has attracted the attention of Graham Rust, one of the most renowned living muralists, who has asked Nick to help him complete the unfinished murals in his own house.

For more information about Nick’s work please click here.

Interview with mural artist Nick Hobbs ~ part 1.

Life could have been very different for Barnham based mural artist Nick Hobbs.

Having already discovered an economics degree wasn’t for him, he was sat at home when an article in the Sunday Times caught his eye.

“It had pages of mural artists,” he recalls. “It was a real light bulb moment. Without it who knows where things would have ended up.”
The economy’s loss is clearly arts gain as Nick now uses his paintbrush like a magic wand – transforming ordinary spaces into places which will make your jaw-drop.

“Thankfully the mathematical, mental side of economics are skills which work brilliantly for painting murals,” Nick explains.

Completely self taught, and with no no formal qualifications other than O and A Levels it is clear Nick has more than his fair share of natural talent.

“I met Guy Marciandi, a muralist from Horsham, when I was 25 and worked alongside him almost like an apprentice for five years,” he says. “There are a lot of courses but I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”

So what would his advice be to others?

“Try to get as much experience as possible, either by not charging much or painting for free – it all helps build a portfolio,” he replies. “Make yourself as amiable as possible, there are mundane things that need doing like taping. Approach restaurants and ask if you can paint something on their walls. It’s all about getting the ball rolling. Exposure and publicity are key, as is word of mouth. And being self employed means you need business skills. It’s no good being shy as no-one will see your work.”

From painting pub signs in Bognor Regis to working in Caroline Webb’s furniture shop in Arundel Nick is proof his advice is right.

Learning how to marble and wood grain might seem like a side-step but it got him into the right circles and houses where he soon found mural work.

The artform has historic and prestigious foundations with most murals you see in places like Petworth House having been painted in the 16th or 17th century.

And while the attention to detail than Nick puts into his paintings strongly places his work into the traditional genre he gives it a modern twist. For instance some of his commissions have included a Italian Job room with the iconic trio of Mini cars crashing through the walls to a Goodwood creation which even has the Red Arrows flying overhead. One thing Nick would love to paint, and hasn’t yet, is an Egyptian mural. Plus he would love to do more in Sussex as most of his work sees him travel to Surrey, or even abroad to decorate the holiday home of clients.

“Art is a funny thing as it is inspired by what is gone before,” he agrees. “I like to think what I do has a fresh feel but also keeps the sense of longevity. After all it can be there until the wall falls down.”

Bodycasting Olympians ~ an interview with Louise Giblin (part 2)

Next Louise headed to Brighton to study for a sculpture degree where one of the tutors was Antony Gormley, the artist who created the Angel of the North amongst other work.

“He interviewed me and wasn’t keen – challenging me on why I was doing what I was. He wanted me to think more,” she says. “And he was right, at the time I was flippant and light hearted about it. I knew I was lucky to have a skill in this form of language but I hadn’t said anything important with it yet.”

Over the years since Louise’s work as grown organically from smooth figures to abstract ones with a story to tell. The nature of Louise’s art means it is very personal, yet at the same time the armour-like quality creates an interesting distance between the original subject and finished object.

“I’ve created quite a few motor-heads,” explains Louise. “They have their face cast and want elements of their favourite cars or bikes mixed in. The end result is like an inner-terminator character and yet many of the people are the softest, kindest characters that you can imagine.”

Other pieces are far more revealing, which could be explained by the intimate nature of the casting process.

“People often ask me if it is awkward getting so close to a semi-naked stranger but to be honest I don’t think about it like that. I just get wrapped up in the technicalities of doing a cast – if I have enough plaster bandage cut, if the room is the right temperature,” she explains. “I don’t want them to feel exposed. I want it to be a fun process people are happy to tell friends about.”

The process consists of, depending on hairiness, wrapping the person in cling film, then plaster, which is opened at the sides to create a sort of pie-dish then Louise pushes clay into the mould. This ceramic version can then be cast in brass.

“Casting the Olympians cost thousands, it was the most expensive thing I have done but the most rewarding. The Olympics are a massive deal. For some athletes this is their one shot, what they have been working for their whole lives. I won’t be too old in four years time to make more art. We’ve bought the flags. Let’s go wave them.”

 Louise’s Olympic collection is on show at the Saffron Gallery in Battle from July 27 – August 11. For more information about Louise’s work please visit http://www.louisegiblin.co.uk