Jo Denbury, Features Writer
And so the summer season of visual feasts kicks off again. We’ll be dusting off our sunhats, arming ourselves with a map and heading off into the sunshine in search of old favourites and as yet undiscovered artists. This month the great Dorset Art Weeks is upon us. Dorset has long been a favoured county among artists. Many settling here, lured by its landscape, light and space. Over the coming pages we meet just some of the talent putting Sherborne on the map.
Denman and Gould
Tucked away at the back of the Sherborne Castle Estate, something very special takes place in Haydon Church: it is now the studio of two young artists who produce furniture, homeware, paintings and models. Eleanor Goulding is a graduate in Fine Art and Russell Denman is a sculptor and cabinetmaker. Together they collaborate on handmade wardrobes designed and built to represent tall elegant houses, often with ornate hand-painted plants on their walls and intricate windows. But their passion for structures doesn’t stop there. They have a joint interest in artistically exploring ‘dwellings’ and architectural structures and for Dorset Arts Week they have worked together to produce a series of paintings and 3D architectural models of unique homes and buildings. Anyone who is interested in architecture will find this show a treat. There will also be series of delicate watercolour paintings of dwellings from around the world.
In addition, a selection of homeware and gifts will be on sale including bags, ranging from simple ‘Totes’ to zippered bags. All the bags will be handprinted by Eleanor. ‘I am interested in detailing minimal landscapes in black line, trees and structures that are reminiscent of the Scandinavian landscape,’ she says and the fine detailing gives testimony to that. There will also be a range of handmade wooden jewellery by Russell Denman on sale. It promises to be a unique opportunity to see inside this unusual converted church along with an exciting glimpse of a creative studio in action.
Haydon Church Studio, Haydon, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 5JB
Jane Shaw studied History of Art at Manchester University but it was her move to Dorset that renewed her passion for animals, the outdoors and for sculpture. Often working from life, her work is focussed on the essence of each subject and more lately she has explored the relationship between man and beast.
‘I have a natural love for animals and did a lot of portraiture in the past but in my latest animal sculptures I feel much freer and have focussed on the movement and character,’ she explains. ‘There are many fantastic artists living in Dorset who have influenced my work and it is very exciting to put Sherborne on the map as a hub for artists.’ Last year she was awarded first prize for her ‘Racing Greyhound’ at the Bath and West show and her collection for this show will include a mixture of work in bronze and bronze resin as well as larger outdoor pieces in plaster. Alongside her work Jane runs a weekly workshop – Art 4 All – an art class designed specifically for those who feel isolated from their community through mental illness or disability. Details of these classes will also be available during the show.
Victoria Jardine originally trained as an architect but as her studies progressed she realised she had become obsessed with landscape and form. It was only a matter of time before she found that ceramics was where her interest would lie and, since recently moving to Longburton, has begun her own Dorset studio.
Her expertise is in hand-built, predominately coiled work that does not use a potter’s wheel in its construction. ‘This is how pots were made before the wheel was introduced,’ says Victoria. ‘It means that you can build more extreme forms,’ and what excites her most is ‘the process of gradually building and exaggerating the shapes,’ she explains. Certainly her stoneware has an architectural quality that stands testament to this. ‘Both architecture and ceramics have a form of usefulness that is similar but what is lovely about making a pot is that you get to make the whole thing from start to finish,’ she explains. To create her stoneware pieces Victoria uses a scarifying process, which gives them a textured surface. A black glaze adds their monochrome effect. The focus in her work is the moment when two surfaces collide and form as a whole. It is this that gives the pots the appearance of being weightless but in fact they are very sturdy and quite capable of remaining stable enough to be used as vases.
‘I am interested in giving the feeling of illusion,’ she explains. ‘The word ‘craft’ comes from the German work ‘kraft’ meaning magical powers, so for me I am trying to make a bit of that magic.’
Glenwood House, Longburton, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 5PG
Laurence Belbin has long been a fixture at his studio in Westbury Hall and this year promises an exciting show from this prolific local artist. Regular visitors will notice there has been a recent shift of focus in his work. As Laurence explains, ‘up until recently I have been interested in looking at light and tone in paintings but now I am working towards focussing on line.’ In this new series of paintings, many of them based on the working fishing boats in West Bay, there is a clear shift towards the ‘architecture’ of the image with boats and fishermen being brought to the foreground. ‘My drawing is coming out and I want to keep it in the paintings and not just in my sketchbooks,’ he explains.
Other new work includes a series of handblock ink prints inspired by the murmurations of starlings on the Somerset Levels and a series of pen drawings sketched in-situ at the coast that have an illustrative quality. His passion for working outdoors continues with the Sandford Orcas studies. It is a body of work focused on the road to Sandford Orcas that has so far produced over 55 paintings. ‘It began with a study of the hedge-laying and now I have got to know the lane intimately in all seasons I have a whole series based on the trees. I even paint there at night,’ he adds. Laurence was born in Romsey and has painted since the age of five, selling his first painting at 16. He later trained as a commercial printer but by 1989 he had made up his mind to work as a full-time artist. He cites the Newlyn School and Impressionists as his main influences. Laurence’s show will bear testimony to a life’s work that continues to develop with each year.
A little further afield in the Piddle Valley is Sarah Hough’s open studio. This year it will give visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in her latest work in progress. Since last autumn Sarah has made a weekly journey to the Studland Peninsular to take the ferry across to Brownsea Island where she walks to a particular beach that faces south. It is where the Branksea pottery used to be and is where Sarah, always returning to the same spot, spends a day sketching. Armed with just a simple bag of ink, charcoal and occasionally oils, her aim is to spend the time in the elements and explore her creative responses to the weather, light, sea and landscape. Her aim is to produce a year’s worth of drawings and paintings that will later inform four major paintings. ‘I am interested in the elemental forces and my desire to visually express the experience of the landscape,’ she explains. Her target is to fill one large sketchbook a month with her work and they will be on show for visitors to explore. She has also made a series of sound recordings to complement the paintings. Most of her sketches use a mix of charcoal and ink wash, often applied with a decorators’ brush. This gives an exciting abstract quality which works well with her immediate responses to the weather, sea and landscape on any particular day. Sarah’s hope is that visitors will get a chance to experience her working process in a personal space that is something they might not get in an exhibition space. ‘I really hope this will give visitors a greater depth to their visit,’ she explains ‘and look forward to discussing my work.’ Some of Sarah’s past work, including her Entomology and floral illustrative work for which is she more commonly known will also be on show and for sale although she hopes that this show will be a new departure and visitors will enjoy the experience.