A Touching Conclusion to Clifton’s First Marlborough Open Studio

If you need a feelgood story this week, as the Marlborough Open Studios closes for another year, newcomer to the event and our friend here at Devizine, artist Clifton Powell made a big impact with a heart-warming conclusion.

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Founder member of the Marlborough Open Studios, Elizabeth Scott exhibited every year from 1985 at her studio at Minal, until she moved to Savernake Forest in 2006. There she continued to show in Newbury Open Studios.

Elizabeth starting as a photographer in Rome in the 1960s, where she chronicled Italy through the many people she met there. She settled into family life in Wiltshire in the 1980s and the inheritance of dark room equipment from her brother-in-law led her to study photography at Swindon College.

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Commissioned to produce a series of local portraits, she gained an interest in painting. This second half of her artistic career took her from Marlborough College Summer School to study at the Slade Summer School at St Ives, the Verocchio Arts Centre in Italy and more recently for the Rabley Drawing Centre. Her painting, drawing and etching from these travels, along with inspiration from the Wiltshire downs were all shown in her open studios and exhibited further afield.

All this came to an abrupt halt in 2017 when Elizabeth had a pulmonary embolism, following a number of mini strokes. Determined to keep up her art she joined a local watercolour class and then was offered a place in an Arts Together group in Pewsey. This is where she met Clifton Powell, one of a number of volunteer artists who lead the groups.

Marlborough Open Studios chose an annual charity to support, and this year it was Arts Together. If you recall, I spent a special day visiting Clifton at a group in Melksham, here is how it went, it also goes some way to explain the importance of the work Arts Together does.

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This final weekend of the Open Studios came to an emotional pinnacle for Clifton, who was displaying some of Elizabeth’s work within his own open studio exhibit in Potterne. Elizabeth made a surprise visit at the studio. She took great pleasure in seeing her work on show again. Good friend, Bev said, “The whole family came, eight of them, all the way from London, and they had a family picnic in our lounge! It was very touching.”

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Her family commented, “Arts Together has been without doubt the most human and empathetic support offered to her during difficult times.” Showing some of Elizabeth’s work at this year’s Open Studios was an opportunity to both honour her work as an artist, her founding contribution to Open Studios and the ongoing work of Arts Together.

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Marlborough Opens Studios in July

Imagine, if you will, don’t feel you have to on my account, but imagine an art gallery the size of a county, with forty artists exhibiting over a whole month. For some that may be overload, it’s understandable; there’s only so much trudging through an art gallery one can do without the need to scream “where’s the door, my head can only take in so much?!”

If there’s also apprehension from the artist, it’s understandable, if you even get to meet them. It’s a gallery, you’re a potential customer, they’ve got to be sober, wear plastic smile and clothes not splattered in gouache. Art galleries can often be perceived as chic, swanky places, the chinking of wine glasses and ho-ray Henries chortling, “oh, how awfully common.”

How better to visit a more relaxed artist, at their home or studio? That’s the beauty of an Open Studios event, and we have a whopper on our doorstep. Often lonesome by occupational hazard, those creative minds open up their studios in faith you’ll pay them a visit. They call it Marlborough Open Studios, but it pans across the downs from Calne and Devizes to Hungerford, and from Pewsey to Wroughton.

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Arty Pumpkin

We previewed it last year, don’t think we got much of a thanks or response from the committee, truth be told; probably favouring pressing the local rag and those ritzy websites and publications with covers of models in Harris Tweed suits and shooting rifles over their shoulders, prancing about woodland. There’s the whole systematic issue with art today, it’s considered too hoity-toity for the average, chips-from-the-chippy type person. I despise this stereotype; art appreciation should be for the masses. I like art, I don’t wear a beret, never have.

Anyway, I’m waffling. Thing is, with forty artists on show this year, I couldn’t possibly cover them all. So, I encourage you to browse their comprehensive website or pick up the guidebook distributed locally. I’m going to flick through, highlight some I like the look of, the rest is up to you.

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Normandy Barcelo-Soto

It is free to visit any artist, and they open for the first for Saturdays and Sundays of the month of July, but you need to check ahead for the particular artist as not all open every weekend. Some have special events and workshops which may incur a cost.

Again, the Open Studios committee select some exhibiting artists for a bursary award, these this year go to Japanese inspired furniture maker Josh Milton and bespoke hatmaker, Sophia Spicer.

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Mark Somerville 

I’m delighted to say The Marlborough Open Studios has chosen Arts Together to be supported charity this year. I’ve covered the charity some months ago, when I attended a workshop by artist Clifton Powell, one of a number of volunteer artists who lead the groups.

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Clifton @ Arts Together

It should be noted that Clifton Powell will also be exhibiting his fine realism paintings from his Potterne home, a variety of wildlife, locally and throughout his travelling, and the most poignant theme of unrest in the world.

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Roy Evans

Here’s my alphabetical rundown of other favourites to attend:

Anne Swan at Rowde: Botanical coloured pencil drawing.
Arty Pumpkin at Wroughton: urban mixed media printmaker with word and image combinations.
Diccon Dadey in Hungerford: amazing modern metal life sculptures.
Jenny Pape at Chirton: Oil Landscape artist.
Mark Somerville at Ogbourne St George: Lens based urban artist.
Mary Wilkinson at Mildenhall: oil and pastel landscape artist.
Normandy Barcelo-Soto in Froxfield: Mexican modern surrealist.
Roy Evans at Potterne: Coppersmith sculptures of nature.
Sarah Burton at Chirton: Expressive landscape artist.
Susan Kirkman in Ramsbury: multi-media landscape collages.
Susie Bigglestone at Calne: abstract photography.
Tania Coleridge at Wroughton: Textiles, pastel and paint imagery.

Yet, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, there is so many others to explore. Do check the website.

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Upstairs at Jacks with Bryony Cox

I don’t know who “they” are, but Bryony tells me they say you shouldn’t mix dry and wet mediums. “I thought why not,” she shrugs, as we ponder a stunning pastel and ink landscape of Alton Barnes.

Why not indeed? In this painting of an atypical day in Wiltshire, a dark cloud looms over the down, the ink emphasises its shadows across the fields impeccably. In art, rules are made to be broken, provided you understand them first, and judging by the range and panache of Bryony Cox’s paintings, she certainly does.

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You’ve a day left to drop into Upstairs at Jacks and see this Devizes based artist, who studied and remains in Falmouth, and her humbling exhibit as part of Marlborough Open Studios; I suggest you do. I first met Bryony as an aspiring singer, but it’s in her paintings where she really shines.

“You’ve got to be the youngest artist at the open studios, haven’t you?” I asked, knowing how to flatter a girl! She suspected she was but wasn’t completely sure. If it’s true her work certainly fits the bill, it comes across as sophisticated and as mature as anything else on display throughout the county.

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A moody sky landscape takes pride and place, so we ponder Turner; it’s takes no words to see his influence on Bryony’s work. Turner has that instantly recognisable style, rare in a landscape artist and as well as major inspiration, I can see a definite style in Bryony’s work developing.

She appears most comfortable with landscapes. Although there’s a detailed range of pencil studies of animals and wildlife, some sublime scenes from travels in Sri Lanka and even an instantly recognisable wildcard of fellow singer George Wilding with birds nesting in his scraggy hair to add a slither of humour. Although these other subjects show Bryony’s skill has range, the landscapes are simply breath-taking.

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Beauty in small moments of stillness is the essence of what she wants the viewer to engage with; I was just passing while on my way to the supermarket! Unusual for me to do the shopping, I find myself very structured and meticulous while undergoing the task, ensuring I get only what I need and get out as fast as possible. This is so unlike me, who favours to stop and stare at the wonders around me, so if you’ve a spare quarter hour or more, need a break from the shops as I did, I’d recommend you stop by Upstairs at Jacks tomorrow and check it out.

Bryony’s Website

 

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Our Entire Area Becomes an Art Mecca with Marlborough Open Studios

Provided it’s large enough, I’ve been known to lose all track of time in an art gallery, and miss the last train home! But a gallery is one thing, this is another. July is Marlborough Open Studios month, the name of which in itself is quite misleading.

 
Although transport will help, a train to London is not needed, this is bang on your doorstep. The Open Studio concept transforms our beautiful landscape of the North Wessex Chalk Downs, which you know is breath-taking enough, into one massive interactive art exhibit, and something, well, quite unique.

 

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Jenny Pape

 
Beyond Marlborough, engulfing Calne to Hungerford, Wroughton to Chirton, a staggering forty-three of our finest artists open their studios and let you visit, to view their work in their own surroundings. You can meet them, perhaps their pets too, but I wouldn’t advise going through their pants draw like it was some tacky reality TV cooking show.

 
This is as far from a gallery as you can get and still remain in the world of art, but this is not a festival where you’ll be crammed into a tiny space with a million sweating, novelty back-pack-wearing young sybarites clutching bottles of water, all trying to dribble clichés over one painting. No, no, no; circulate at your own pace, use the website to check which studios are open, and visit at your leisure. There is no charge, just drop in when the studios are open; hence the name Open Studio, see?!

 

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Kareen Jackson

 
I guess you assess how formal you need to be by the greeting of each individual artist, but generally I’d imagine they’d be pleased to meet you. Artists, writers and creative people in general work in relatively solitude, twist their arm they might even put the kettle on; I might have to test this myself and get back to you on that!

 
So yes, Open Studios – July weekends: 7th-8th, 14th-15th, 21th-22th, 28th-29th. Check out the website here for browsing exhibiting artist as there’s too many to list here! The ones caught my eye are; beachcombing Kareen Jackson from Baydon, who transforms beach junk into unique hand-crafted driftwood boats, cottages and animals; so cute!

 

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Steven Davis

 
Also, Mary Wilkinson in Minal, for her Turneresque local landscapes, Hungerford’s Jane Corbett’s other-worldly glass sculptures, stunning Devizes photographer Steven Davis, in Chirton Diana Neale’s dreamy mixtures of photographs and watercolours, or Jenny Pape’s beautiful oil landscapes, Sally Osborne’s crazy fish glazes in All Cannings, and there’s so many more, just browse the website to see!

 

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Jane Corbett

 
Artists I’m well aware of but up for popping in to see too, are Bryony Cox, last year’s Bursary Award winner, who exhibits her paintings of vast skies over the Wiltshire landscape, Upstairs at Jacks in Devizes, and Anne Swan in Rowde who, with just colour pencils makes botanical studies you’d think you could reach in to the picture and take a bite out of!

 

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Bryony Cox

 
What a refreshing alternative to galleries, which you could take a whole month to peruse, at your own leisure, and not worry about missing the last train!

Marlborough Open Studios in July

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