Tribe at the Festival (not Glastonbury)

There are festivals and festivals. The Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts has been going since 1948 and is a music festival, but one without camping. It was founded in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and the writer and producer Eric Crozier.

Before the evening concert at Snape Maltings from across the River Alde.

The first festival was held from 5th to 13th June 1948 with a varied programme of choral, orchestral and chamber concerts, recitals, exhibitions and lectures and three performances of Britten’s opera Albert Herring.

The Maltings through the grasses and reeds, 21 June 2022.

Over the following 20 years the festival’s increasing international reputation for excellence and its subsequent expanding audiences led to Britten and Pears realising the need for a dedicated festival concert hall. The disused maltings at Snape were selected for redevelopment. According to Kenneth Powell of the ’20th Century Society, “Britten was a demanding client: he wanted a 1000 seat hall, costing no more than £50,000, and completed in time for the 1966 Festival. The concert hall eventually cost £127,000 and seated 830”. It was opened by the Queen on 2 June 1967, the first day of the 20th Aldeburgh Festival.  

However, just two years later on 7th June 1969 the concert hall was destroyed by fire. The hall we see today is the replica rebuilt, as requested by Britten, to be “just as it was”. The Queen came again in 1970 to open the hall, as she had done in 1967, and is reported as saying that she hoped not to be asked to come back a third time. The Queen may not have been back to the Maltings, but with the exception of the two years for Covid cancellations, the Aldeburgh Festival has returned every year since.

So what of the ‘tribe‘ at the festival? It is an artwork. It is these fine bronze men striding out towards the reeds. ‘Tribe’ by Laurence Edwards is part of a a three-year creative collaboration between Britten Pears Arts and Messums Wiltshire for 2022, 2024 and 2025.

‘Tribe’, Laurence Edwards, 2019-21. Bronze. Walking Figure 1, 238.8 x 134.6 x 83.8 cm, Walking Figure 2, 240 x 142.2 x 81.3 cm, Walking Figure 3, 238.8 x 124.5 x 88.9 cm.

The bronzes are currently on display as part of the Aldeburgh Festival at the Maltings site. They will then feature as part of Laurence Edwards’ solo exhibition ‘Tribes and Thresholds’ at Messums Wiltshire from 6 August – 16 October 2022. And, then next year they will travel to the other side of the world to Australia to be installed at the Orange Regional Museum in New South Wales.

It is difficult to appreciate from a photograph the compelling presence of these bronze men not least their imposing size.

Five men.

As a group of three there is an intensity and solid quality to the ‘Walking Men’, but also, for a static sculpture, a strong sense of movement. And, then, when you look up and into their faces expecting purpose and resolve instead there is a questioning hesitancy coupled with a hint of resignation or perhaps even loss. Altogether a captivating work.

From bright to mellow

Earlier this week I was sorting through my stock of small, bandana-sized scarves to despatch one to a customer when I found this scarf. I started painting it last autumn, finished and steamed it just before Christmas and safely stored it away to add to my shop in the New Year. And then, I promptly forgot all about it.

Adding the cardinal red, the azure blue and the old gold.

Of course, I had taken the usual photographs as the piece progressed and after scrolling back and back through my work files I found them. Then the saga all came back to me. I had chosen, with an eye to Christmas, the colours cardinal red, azure blue and old gold to dye my loose design of the Queen of the Night (see header photo of her in full dramatic voice) accompanied by vaguely, medieval maidens.

More and more colour added.

However, when all the colour had been added we were well and truly into the dark, gloomy month of November and the painting just seemed all too bright. Initially, I had thought it looked rich and vibrant, but in the end I felt it was simply garish. It was time for the big brush, plenty of water and knocking back the colour. The final effect is more like a watercolour and the whole scarf has a soft, muted quality.

Before and after the attack with the big brush.

Speed forward to June 2022 and this week I finally got round to photoshopping the product photos for ‘Ama’ and adding it to the shop. It has only taken six months from start to finish!

Scarf ‘Ama’ photoshopped and added to my online shop.

St Margaret’s Church, Ipswich

Ipswich has twelve medieval churches and St Margaret’s is a glorious, though slightly unusual, example of one of these fine, historical buildings. From the outside it appears like many medieval parish churches you find in an English town or village, but inside it has a superbly carved, fifteenth-century double-hammer beam roof embellished with, and this is the surprise, a programme of late seventeenth-century paintings.

St Margaret’s Church, Ipswich – a Grade I listed, mediaeval beauty.

Originally part of the Holy Trinity priory, St Margaret’s was built during the course of the fourteenth century for the growing lay community that flourished around the Augustinian priory.

St Margaret’s in the bright sunlight of early spring and the soft hues of a winter sunset.

Ipswich during the medieval period was a successful, wealthy town with the East Anglian wool traders exporting to the Continent from the Port of Ipswich. Successful merchants and townsfolk, like any good Christians of the time, provided funds for the church and towards the end of the fifteenth century a double hammerbeam roof was added to the building in order to raise the roof and add a clerestory.

The fifteenth-century clerestory and double hammerbeam roof.

Several merchant families are recorded as major benefactors of the church who provided the funds for raising the roof. John (died 1503) and Katherine Hall (died 1506) and their son, William, were woad dyers and woad merchants, and their initials and merchant marks have been noted carved in the timbers of the roof. Other initials and marks belonging to the brickmakers, Henry and Isabel Tylmaker who left legacies in their wills of 1445 and 1460, can be seen together with the mark for a thatcher, John Byrd the Elder.

Left photo, the nave looking to the east, middle photo, looking to the west and finally the righthand photo shows the large, useful mirror to aid viewing the ceiling.

Looking up at the roof you can see amongst the ornate, decorative embellishments, carved saints, both male and female, unfortunately most are difficult to make out and even harder to identify in the gloom (binoculars and a very sunny day are needed).

Ornate fifteenth-century carving.

Altogether there are over 120 carvings embellishing the roof structure including on the south side symbols of the Passion. The ladder, spear, nails, crown of thorns and scourging pillar have been recorded, but without binoculars I couldn’t see them let alone manage to photograph them in the ambient light despite it being a very sunny day. A camera with more oomph than mine was needed.

Detail of the fine carvings.

Since 1700 there has been a decorative scheme of shields used to hide the damage caused by William Dowsing and his iconoclasts who visited during 1644.

Margarett’s, Jan. 30. There was 12 Apostles in stone taken down; and between 20 and 30 superstitious pictures to be taken down, which a godly man, a churchwarden promised to do.

‘The journal of William Dowsing of Stratford, parliamentary visitor, appointed under a warrant from the Earl of Manchester, for demolishing the superstitious pictures and ornaments of churches.’ Journal commenced 1643, Sudbury, Suffolk.
Decorative shield pierced by metal tie-rod. The ties were installed to stabilise the nave walls/roof in the early nineteenth century.

This particular display of heraldry is explained in depth here if you’re interested. It reminded me of how far most of us have come from some of the pedantic and somewhat trivial aspects of the British class system.

Moving on from that aside, and returning to the roof and its programme of late seventeenth-century paintings, we see an elaborate tribute to William and Mary. There are 50 panels that were painted and installed in late 1694 and early 1695. Along the centre at the highest point of the ceiling run a series of ten sky panels with clouds and gilt stars. Then to either side of those run panels of heraldic arms. In this sequence above the north aisle two panels show the arms of England and Scotland and on the other side above the south aisle of France and Ireland.

The third series of panels (those immediately above the clerestory) feature texts such as ‘Feare God’ and ‘Honour the king’. Not all the panels contain words, many simply show trompe l’oeil cartouche imagery popular in the Baroque period. The painting is thought to be by local artists, with perhaps the more accomplished depictions by either William Carpenter alias Cheeseman (a painter and glazier) or Thomas Steward (a painter and engraver). Both men are in the local record as having being paid for creative work during the 1690s in the Ipswich area.

Left- cloud panels seen along centre of the roof. Right – panel trompe l’oeil cartouche with text.

St Margaret’s painted ceiling is unusual and part of Ipswich’s history, but it is still heavy-looking, dark and gloomy despite undergoing a programme of conservation and cleaning in 1994/5. Perhaps regional tastes at the time of William and Mary were for dark and heavy and not elegant interiors, but somehow I think that this was the best that could be afforded. Ipswich, at the end of the seventeenth century was no longer a wealthy town exporting wool to Europe.

So that was May 2022

I don’t know about you, but I seemed to have been waiting and waiting for the appearance of flowers this year. Maybe it’s because there’s been so much bad news around that the need for garden beauty has been more pressing. Finally, fat, colourful buds appeared.

Tight buds of aquilegias and closed tulips.

As my own backyard isn’t particularly sunny I resorted to walking over to the local park. However, the most stunning display wasn’t in the park, but this delightful wisteria and front garden planting at 16, Fonnereau Road, Ipswich. The bold, mid-nineteenth century architecture of this Grade II listed building is complimented and softened by the delicate palette of the flowers and foliage.

Wisteria sinensis at 16, Fonnereau Road.

In my own back garden the clematis montana ‘Rubens’ has grown to the top of the fence at last and by early May the first flowers bloomed.

Clematis montana ‘Rubens’

However, again the most stunning wall/fence treatment was not at my place nor even in the park, but this gorgeous ceanothus arboreus ‘Trewithin Blue’ topping the fence on a back garden running along High Street, Ipswich.

Ceanothus arboreus ‘Trewithen Blue’

Now, really I should not complain as by mid May I had plenty of flowering going on in the yard, but it was nearly all white. Self-seeded white honesty was in every bed. I had noticed it had seeded prolifically, but couldn’t bring my self to remove any.

White honesty. Lunaria. annua var. albiflora

There was a charming, fairytale quality with all the shimmering white for about a week, before the flowers began to fade. Fortunately, by then tulips in pots were coming into full bloom and

Selection of pot-grown tulips.
Tulip ‘Amazing Parrot’

then my favourites for this time of year, the aquilegias, now too mostly self-seeded, opened into all their intriguing colour combinations.

Self-seeded aquilegias

Towards the end of the month a small clump of alliums showed off their globes of tiny star-like flowers despite my earlier stupidity of leaving a heavy pot on top of their foliage.

Allium hollandicum

And, that’s it we’ve reached June and May 2022 is now history. But before I go, I think I’d like to award first prize for the most over-the-top May display to clematis ‘Nelly Moser’. Not the most subtle of the Group 2 clematis, but it’s hanging on in there despite slugs, snails, unreliable watering and all the various fungi that thrive in the still, damp air of a less than sunny backyard.

Borders: A Creative Collaboration

The River Stour rises in Wratting Common in Cambridgeshire and crosses into Suffolk near Great Bradley in the far west of Suffolk. From there the river forms the county boundary between Essex and Suffolk. As the Stour meanders across the soft rolling countryside it flows through some of the most beautiful, iconic English landscape made famous by Constable and Gainsborough. With the river boundary in mind the Ipswich and Colchester Art Societies decided to collaborate in exploring their mutual border and present a joint exhibition celebrating the flourishing creativity of the region.

Earlier this week I popped along to see the exhibition ‘Borders’ and photograph a few of works created by the artists as they considered what are borders, what are their purpose and what do they mean to people politically and emotionally?

The earliest known habitation on the River Stour dates from 5,000 years ago at Great Bradley and I’d like to begin my sequence optimistically looking forward to a further 5,000 years of responsible and considerate habitation with a painting titled ‘Hope’.

‘Hope’, Sarah Milne. Oil and pastel on canvas. £550

The pictures from here flow on downstream all the way to the North Sea at Harwich in a personal selection beginning with ‘The Stour at Connard’ capturing a melancholy scene.

‘The Stour at Cornard’, Carol Webb. Oil on board. £140

Then we have ‘Wiston Mill in Nayland’ showing the river waters flowing passed the mill. A situation which is not always guaranteed these day. In July 2019 the river in Nayland temporarily ran dry in the hot weather and drought of that year.

‘Wiston Mill, Nayland, Suffolk’, Christine Thompson. Oil. NFS

Not all the pictures on display painted realistic imagery for their ‘borders’ interpretations. There were several striking abstract works such as this crossing of the river at Flatford, a route that Constable would have known.

‘East Bergholt to Flatford Crossing’, Annabel Ridley. Mixed medium acrylic paint with screen print. £1,200.

An interesting painting that tackles the politics of borders very clearly is ‘Borders and Barricades: Mistley Quay February 2022’. The painting shows the tall metal fence denying access to the river at Mistley Quay. The most recent update (local newspaper, March 2022) on the ‘Free the Quay’ campaign reports “An eyesore fence on a picturesque quayside is still spoiling the view for residents despite being deemed an unlawful obstruction in Supreme Court a year ago”.

‘Borders and Barricades: Mistley Quay February 2022’, Wendy Brooke-Smith. Acrylic on canvas. £1,700

Eventually, the River Stour merges with the River Orwell and flows out into the North Sea between the Port of Felixstowe on the Suffolk side and Harwich on the Essex side.

Detail from ‘A Sail on the River’, Cherry MacGregor. Oil on canvas. £450

And finally, I’d like to finish with my favourite from this show, a painting that sums up the river border between the two counties.

‘The River Flows Through’, Valerie Armstrong. Acrylic on canvas. £1,150

Spring Greens

As we move into early summer, I thought I’d pause for a second to take you on a short tour of my local park to see the fresh, light greens of spring.

Christchurch Mansion through the trees.

The horse chestnuts have reached full leaf and underneath their canopy the reduced light supplies dramatic contrasts between bold, sturdy tree trunks and verdant, recently cut grass.

Sweeping and undulating paths.

Together with the horse chestnuts, lime trees line the paths of the park accentuating the curves and sweeps.

The War Memorial through the trees.

There’s not just fresh green but delicate coppery apricot colours too.

Mature lime with old knobbly trunk.

The new leaves in the park are most welcome, but there’s something even more uplifting when you observe the re-emergence of sea kale (crambe maritime) on beaches at this time of year. The plant’s sheer tenacity as it pushes up through the salty shingle for another season of sun, wind and rain is very pleasing.

The new growth of crambe maritime (sea kale) on Sizewell Beach.

No. 143 for Ipswich Art Society – Part II

In last week’s post I looked at two artists’ retrospectives which featured as part of the Ipswich Art Society’s 143rd Open Exhibition. This week I thought I’d post a few photographs of other works on display that caught my attention.

As this exhibition was an open show there were pictures and sculptures by both members of the Ipswich Art Society and also works from members of the general public. In my opinion the outstanding work of the whole event was this garden sculpture, ‘Curled Figure’ by Kate Reynolds.

‘Curled Figure’ Kate Reynolds. Stoneware ceramic.

Across the exhibition there were a variety of media and techniques on display from the two dimensional, wall art category including paintings, drawings, prints and enamels to textured relief work to full sculpture. As far as media was concerned along with traditional oil, watercolour and acrylic paintings there were works created and expressed in pastel, gouache, pencil, ink, graphite, charcoal, conté, wood, cloth, stoneware ceramic, bronze, copper, steel, wire and even ink with gold leaf.

There were pictures for every taste with strongly coloured abstract paintings,

figurative works,

bucolic scenes,

‘After the Snow, Blythburgh’, Mary Gundry. Oil.

a handful of textile pieces

and even a social commentary textile installation.

‘Abolish Snobbery’, Hannah Aria. Textile installation.

However, my favourite of the ‘paintings’ in the show was an atypical expression of the English countryside, ‘This Green and Pleasant Land’ by Dave King working in a traditional, Japanese style with more than a hint of ukiyo-e about it.

‘This Green and Pleasant Land’, Dave King. Acrylic and Ink. 2022

No. 143 for Ipswich Art Society – Part I

For the last four weeks Ipswich Art Society’s 143rd OPEN Exhibition has been on at Ipswich Art Gallery. The exhibition showcases the visual artworks of a variety of creative folk who live in and around Ipswich.

The Ipswich Art Society has been in existence since 1874 with a membership that has included Alfred Munnings, F.G.Cotman, Harry Becker, E.R.Smythe, Tom Smythe, Edward Packard, John Duvall, Colin Moss, Anna Airy and Leonard Squirrell. 

The 143rd Open exhibition showed a selection of works created by members of the public as well as Members and Friends of the Society. The Society has a tradition of encouraging artists from all walks of life to join and be involved in the making and appreciation of art.

Some of the work on display at Ipswich Art Gallery.

The Society also has a convention of including a Special Feature Exhibition to run alongside the Open submissions and this year it was a retrospective for two well-known Suffolk artists, Claire Lambert and Judith Foster.

Suffolk-born Claire Lambert works in ceramics, lino cut, etching, mono prints, painting and drawing. She worked between 1957 and 1975 as a member of Atelier de Ceramique de Dour in Belgium. She was taught by Roger Somerville at the Academy des Beaux Arts de Waterfall-boitsfort, Brussels, and subsequently studied printmaking with Ken Roberts and Judith Lock at Suffolk College.

She has taken part in joint exhibitions in Belgium, France, Italy, Poland and Canada and many UK exhibitions including the Broughton Gallery in Kirkcudbright, Peckover House Wisbech, Norwich Castle and Gallery 44 in Aldeburgh.

Claire’s work is represented in a number of collections including the Musee de Verviers and the Michael and Valerie Chase Collection and further collections in Australia, New Zealand and Belgium.

Sadly, I only managed to get one decent photograph of her work as the combination of a small gallery room and large, darkly coloured monoprints or linocuts behind reflective glass did not make for good photos.

‘Three Friends’ by Claire Lambert. Monoprint.£350

However, I did have more luck photographing the work of the second artist of this retrospective, Judith Foster.

‘Cherries’ by Judith Foster. Oil. £620

Judith Foster was born in London and went to school in Bath. In 1955 she came to study at Ipswich Art School and in 1959 entered the painting school of the Royal College of Art. She then travelled through Europe on an Abbey Minor Scholarship before returning to Suffolk. 

She taught foundation studies and adult education drawing and painting at the High Street Art School from 1963 until its closure, and subsequently at Suffolk College until 2000. 

Judith’s professional life has included many solo and group exhibitions, starting with the Ipswich Art Club in 1958 and including the Young Contemporaries , the Royal Academy, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, Cleveland Bridge Gallery in Bath, Lady Lodge Art Centre in Peterborough and many galleries across East Anglia. 

Her work is in private and public collections in the UK, USA and Europe.

‘Quinces’ by Judith Foster. Pencil. £285

I have to comment that I really appreciated her work and, in particular, her still life paintings ‘Cherries’ and ‘Pear Diptych’. I find her loose, free brushwork with smaller, discrete areas of focus very appealing.

‘Pear Diptych’ by Judith Foster. Oil. £425

It’s always good to see a few still life paintings in an open show and I noticed this delightful little gem, ‘Pears in Conference’ by Hilary Bartholomew, a current member of the Ipswich Art Society. I think you can probably see that the artist is a fan of the French Master, Chardin.

‘Pears in Conference’ by Hilary Bartholomew. Oil. £225

Looking for colour inspiration

We are fast approaching the end of April and I look at a blank piece of silk and feel I want to turn to floral colour for inspiration. I do have several containers of tulips almost in bloom, but they are either the double or parrot varieties typically at their best in May, and, as yet none of them are fully into their stride. Yes, I know there’s blossom, but in my backyard the trees; a couple of pears, the Victoria plum and the cherry ‘Stella’, are all white. And, there’s even more white with an unexpected abundance of honesty (Lunaria annua var. ‘Alba’) this year.

White honesty and more white honesty.

So I’ve resorted to scrolling through my photo albums and hunting down colourful flower pictures. I’ve been looking for pinks and oranges and, funnily enough, golden or possibly even yellow examples to inspire me.

Colourful image featuring strong orange and pinks.

In the process of selecting images I discovered that it’s almost three years since I’ve painted a yellow scarf or even a scarf of muted golds.

Digital Photomontage of a dinner-plate dahlia, oranges and a hint of medieval gilt work behind.

And the more I looked at all the pictures the more I felt like a return to yellowy warm hues.

Digital Photomontage of pears and sunflowers over a medieval painted screen.

It’s probably not going to be the strong yellows of the sunflowers, but a mixture of the softer apricot and cream of this bearded iris ‘Barbara My Love’ tempered by the time-worn gold of medieval St Jude from the rood screen of St Edmund’s, Southwold.

Left – Bearded Iris ‘Barbara My Love’. Right – St Jude, rood screen St Edmund’s Church, Southwold.

Merging the two photographs (the digital photomontage image below) has produced interesting, subtle tones which I feel fit with my mood. I think I’ve found my inspiration.

The Old Cemetery, Ipswich

It’s been a busy family Easter.

Fabulous early morning light.

But there have been early morning opportunities to walk my sister’s dog, Bertie, in the Old Cemetery.

Dandelions in the wilder part of the Old Cemetery.

It was surprising to see some dandelions already turned to fluffy seedheads

End of a morning walk. Just checking to see who’s lagging behind.

As Bertie is a fairly large dog he needs two good walks a day. So, of course, that’s another opportunity to be in the Old Cemetery during the golden hour, but this time in the early evening with more wonderful light.

Getting a pep talk before my evening sprint and workout.

This April the Easter weather has been surprisingly good in Suffolk and not what had been forecast at the beginning of last week. All in all it has been truly pleasurable to have a well-behaved and patient dog in the house.

Can I have an undisturbed rest now thank you?

Last Week for Exhibition ‘Creating Constable’- Ends 24th April 2022

In January I posted a few comments about the ‘Creating Constable‘ Exhibition currently on at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich. Along with many works by Constable himself and his Suffolk contemporaries, there are also sketches and paintings from artists influential and important to Constable during his formative years. However, something I did not mention in that post were the few 21st-century works by Suffolk artists currently working in Constable’s county such as this engaging work by local artist, Hayley Field.

‘Across the river in the trees, 2021’ – Hayley Field. Watercolour on paper.

Hayley Field has been painting the colours, light and landscape that can be see from her studio window by the River Deben since 2017. Below in her own words she describes her work and the process of painting colour maps.

I began making ‘colour maps’ nearly three years ago when I was working in residence in Mary Potter’s house and studio in Aldeburgh, as a response to the surrounding landscape. Once back in my own studio I began to make them of the view from the window, across the river Deben to Suffon Hoo. I gradually developed their format to become an analysis in one sitting of the colours I observed, making a vertical journey – river to sky or sky to river – including the water, mud, islands, river bank, land, trees and sky. I enjoy the complexity of understanding and describing the colours and the intense, deep focus it requires.

The pencil notes record the pigments I have mixed to make the colours, and the date. What started as documentation has become an ongoing, cumulative piece of work. I have exhibited it three times to date – each time in a different way – gridded, a section of the whole, and in a line.
During lockdown I have been making colour maps from a room in my home, with a view to the river Deben, through trees and across fields.

Hayley Field, article for an exhibition at The Cut, Halesworth, Suffolk.

When you take in ‘Across the river in the trees, 2021’, as a whole you can see that it is a visual diary, a year in colours.

The subtle changes across the watercolour map impressively detail the changes of hue resulting from the varying quality and type of light associated with different weather and the different seasons.

Detail from ‘Across the river in the trees, 2021’, colours for 18th June 2021.

Very much on a personal level as colour is central to my work, I find this visual record makes a fascinating piece. And, the delicate yet precise changes painted, for example, 18th June above and 26th September below, beautifully capture the essence and difference of an English summer’s day to a Suffolk day in autumn.

Detail from ‘Across the river in the trees, 2021’, colours for 26th September 2021.