England was treated to beautifully sunny weather last weekend. It was a bit of a shock, my body hasn’t yet acclimatised to the possibility of sunshine and intense warmth, so I was happy to spend my Sunday afternoon, undercover, walking around Wimbledon’s Open Studios Art Show. (I’ll get used to the sun in small doses, we get along far better that way, then we’re inseparable).
I attended the show to see a friend who I spent a year with at art college. She is one of hundreds of people who rent a space within a huge industrial looking block, it’s very unassuming, but with such beauties inside! Hannah has a neat little room, (not the smallest on offer which is a similar size to Harry Potter’s bedroom under the stairs) which she shares with two other ladies. One day she hopes to have one of the rooms at the top of the building, those rooms say that you’re a success as they show off their large work tables and floor to ceiling windows, only the best can afford these. She pays a very reasonable amount for her own space and I can understand why she would opt to do that rather than taking over a corner of her bedroom with her art projects, (as I did, with paint stains making my once cream carpet look polka dot, not to mention the green paw prints when my Jack Russell pottered across my wet pallet); the entire building is full to the brim with inspiring artists of wonderful variety, it’s a lovely community all pieced together in a topsy turvy, winding walk way fashion. She, Hannah Grace, is just starting her quest into the world of a professional artist and illustrator producing neat collage designs using maps. I particularly like her collages with animals which are clever and ideal for quirky cards.
We took a tour of the rest of the building and I felt particularly gleeful, and a little bit nosey, when wandering into a great artist’s work space. Their rooms were covered, wall to ceiling, in their latest designs and paintings. Each painting whispered at me, egged me on, to get painting again. The show exhibited all kinds of art; from classic paintings that would look at home in The National Portrait Gallery to wacky Rothko-esque colour explosions, ceramic beauties to intoxicating bath soaps, fascinating architectural instillations to cake art, (that’s right, cake art).
One clever artist, Kjell Folkvord, had his visitors putting forward a name for one of his paintings, the prize would be another of his paintings, and if you entered you got a free post card and bookmark. A great little bit of public participation, and it definitely got everyone thinking deeply about his art. His work centres around a fluid use of colour and patterns. I called his painting ‘Italy’s Melting,’ we were advised to think outside the box, and that’s what I saw in a kind of Freudian ink blot way, but it seem’s like my suggestion wasn’t quite far enough from the box… I didn’t win.
I was also intrigued by the work of Paul Lemmon as seen above. His room was filled with paintings like these, all of women, all excluding their eyes. At first, my feminist instincts blinded me and told me that he was objectifying women through cutting off the image in such a way, their identities were discarded and just their bodies, their sexuality, was on show. When learning about art, we are often encouraged to read into everything we see, find meaning. However, I plucked up the courage to ask Paul what his reason was. He was sat, slumped on his chair like a typically laid back artist, eating take away pizza from its box, his quirkily dressed friend sat beside him. He said, quite plainly, that it was because many of the models were friends of his, and that, most importantly, he found that when he painted people’s eyes, the viewer’s focus is drawn to that point of the painting and the rest can be over looked, including the talent of the expressive paint strokes which he does so well. He was quick to say that he could paint eyes, that he wasn’t avoiding them because they would turn into soulless smudges and ruin the painting, no, he pointed us towards the hallway to another of his paintings where the eyes proved his competence. After talking to Paul, I can completely understand why he chose to exclude the eyes, and he’s right, I would have focused on the eyes and the face had they been there, but without their eyes, I could see more.
There was so much to take in! The pottery of Patrick Nash was beautiful, rustic and very reasonably priced and the work of Simon Watkins was breathtakingly classic. Watkins has a wealth of portrait experience and has both studied and taught in Florence. For such a young artist, born in 1988, he paints with precise consideration and an eye for drawing out feeling in his subjects.
The Wimbledon Open Studios Art Show is a stunning and inspiring free event to attend. You can buy all manner of art pieces and find out about opportunities to get involved with pottery and screen printing workshops. The next show is from the 13th to the 16th of November 2014 and I will definitely attend to see what my favourites have been up to over the summer. Now it’s time for me to get an apron on and give my carpet some polka dots!