Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Exhibition in Cookham

I can hardly believe it, but it was over a week ago now that members of the Rogue Gene Collective got together for an exhibition/sale down in Cookham, Berkshire. It is a rare thing for us all to be available at the same time so I was really looking forward to catching up with Rob, Kos, and Amanda. Also, for the first time, I was excited at the prospect of meeting Andrea. It was a shame that Tony and Mike could not make it this time, though.

Keith and I travelled down on Saturday, setting off late morning. We stopped off for some lunch on the way and arrived in Cookham at about 3.15pm. First job for me was to find the Stanley Spencer Gallery - something I'd always promised myself I'd visit one day, but never really had the opportunity until now. We parked the car and walked back up the main street (I think it's called the High Street actually) to look around the gallery. The entrance fee was £3, but I must admit I was slightly disappointed at how small the gallery was, even though they have added another level to it in recent years. However, I was just pleased to be standing in front of his original paintings - particularly impressive for me was the last painting he worked on before his death in 1959, "Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta". This took up a large section of one wall of the gallery and it was fascinating to see the way he'd planned it all out in pencil on a grid, and had only worked on certain areas in stages. The painting is 211 inches wide and 81inches high - there was a photograph of him painting it by sitting on a pair of step-ladders on a table!

I didn't take any photographs inside the gallery, as I doubt that would have been allowed, but I got a good view of the outside of the gallery from across the road:

I was also excited to see the house he was born in and lived in for a lot of his live, Fernlea. I took a photo of the house itself (which is also on the High Street not far from the gallery) and then Keith took one of me outside the house - well, it's one of those things that just has to be done, isn't it? I am interested in Stanley Spencer because I studied him as part of my A level Art several years ago so I remember reading quite a lot about him and his life in Cookham. It was weird seeing some of the work I'd once re-created as part of my personal study on a gallery wall rather than in a book!

With the sun shining, we walked back down to the car park then went for a stroll down to the river - this was obviously a popular place with everyone as the car park was full and there was a constant stream of people walking in every direction. Dog-walkers, young couples, families, serious hikers, frivolous hikers - all were walking along the river-bank at Cookham last Saturday afternoon. I took a couple of photos along the way, but none of the boats moored along the river, strangely enough! Perhaps I thought I'd seen enough water-based vessels after our cruise holiday in April. Anyway, the swans were suitably photogenic and the dandelion is always useful as a reference for future paintings.

What did strike me as we were strolling through Cookham was how many houses had wisteria growing up them - Spencer did a lot of paintings featuring wisteria, and having seen cottages like this one, I can understand why. It's so pretty as it seems to cascade down the walls, almost like a waterfall of delicate lilac flowers.
Saturday evening we had all arranged to meet in a local pub, The Swan Uppers. This was just a short walk away from our bed & breakfast accommodation and it was a lovely, warm summer's evening as we wandered down. At first I wondered if we'd got the right pub, as it was heaving (not that there were too many people in, actually, as it was a small room where the bar is) and I couldn't see anyone I recognised. After getting served we spotted a limping Kos outside so greeted her and then the three of us took a seat to wait for the others. When the others arrived, we all trooped through to a seating area where we were directed to a circular table to eat. There was plenty of choice on the menu, despite the fact that they had forgotten to change the day from Friday to Saturday!  We had a great time renewing friendships - the longest topic of conversation, strangely enough, was cats. It seems that most of the artists I know own at least one cat, or have an affinity with them at least. Alan (Andrea's husband) made me laugh when he demonstrated how you end up in such an awkward position just to accommodate the sleeping cat on your lap! Ridiculous, but oh so true!

We had some olives and cheese to nibble on whilst waiting for our food. To be truthful, the food did take an awfully long time to arrive, but since we were all nattering and drinking anyway, it didn't seem to matter too much. However, when the food arrived, the first meals out were two "Ham, Egg & Chips" which nobody claimed to have ordered. It was eventually deduced that Kos's Scottish rendition of "Haddock & Chips" apparently tranlsates as "Hamegg & Chips" in the South! I opted for a John Dory which I'd never tried before. It was a very meaty, white fish but I seemed to have copped for all the bones - one thing that really does put me off fish is having to filter out the bones when eating it! Andrea & Alan didn't seem to have any bones in theirs so perhaps I was just unlucky. Rob & Kos were staying in the same B&B as us so at some point during the evening he asked us if we wanted to share a taxi back. He'd driven his car down to the Pinder Hall after dropping Kos off at the pub earlier. When we said we were walking back he replied with "Oh, yeah, I forgot, you can walk" which sounded funnier than he'd intended - he's got rather used to Kos hobbling around on her pot leg recently!

The next morning we were up and at the hall for 9am to set up for the exhibition. Amanda had managed to borrow some free-standing display boards which were set up down the centre of the hall and we arranged tables along both sides and at one end. The hall was very light and showed off our work to great advantage.

 Amanda had got a banner made up which she hung outside the hall, and two of her large paintings were propped outside, too, which helped to catch people's attention as they walked by. Thanks to Andrea for letting me borrow some of her photographs here!

The exhibition/sale was also attended by three local artisans - I'm afraid I can only remember the name of two of them - Aurora Spain and Julia Wooster. Aurora is a painter and tutor who saw our Rogue Gene Collective article on collaborative works in the SAA Paint Newsletter. Her work was at one side of mine. At the other side of me was a potter who is a friend of Aurora and a nice lady who was offering free sweets as well as some rather fetching pottery! At the end of the hall opposite the entrance was a local jeweller, Julia Wooster. Her trading name was Blue Cat Jewellery (see, there's the cat thing again?) and I was very tempted by several pieces of hers, but in the end refrained from buying just for the sake of it!

You can see Aurora's work here:

In the next photo, you can see the work of the potter, whose name I have forgotten, sorry! Standing in front of her stall is Aurora.

Here is my work:

Rob Kirbyson's "Special Branch" painting got lots of comments - it really is a stunning creation and much, much more impressive in real life than a photographic representation on the internet!I also liked his latest triptych take on the flying ducks that used to adorn walls such as Hilda Ogden's in Coronation Street years ago. Rob used flying chickens as his theme, which was much funnier!

Kos had some very striking landscapes in classy white frames which set them off beautifully - they looked even more striking against the black backdrop of the display stands in the second image. Kos often paints with a paint roller which gives a really interesting texture to her paintings - I am amazed that she even uses it when painting portraits, which takes some skill, but works really well. She has definitely honed that particular technique to perfection, in my mind.

Andrea brought a lot of her new coastal and ethereal landscape paintings, many of which were painted on small canvases or canvas boards and they were all priced very reasonably considering the amount of work that had obviously gone in to them. I particularly liked "Edge of Darkness". She also had a couple of expressive abstracts which I'd not seen for a while online - these were shown off perfectly on the black display boards and I loved them.

Her expressive abstracts ("Life Form" and "Floral Curves") are painted in oil, which is Andrea's favoured medium, and I really admire the way she has blended the colours in these two paintings you can see in the middle of this shot - you can view these paintings in more detail here. and here.

Andrea had also brought along many of her latest crafty creations which she sells on Etsy - her wearable art brooches that are made of felt flowers and buttons. Very affordable, appealing to girls and women alike, these are perfect little gifts for birthdays, anniversaries or just to say "thanks" to someone! You can view them in her Etsy shop here. Make sure you click on the "Sold" tab, as they are obviously popular items and at the moment she is busy making more to sell online!

Amanda had the most success of us all during the week-end, which seemed fitting since she'd organised the exhibition and put in a lot of work to ensure a smooth operation. She'd also taken part in a "Street Art" exhibition in Maidenhead the day before with lots of sales, so she was in an enviable position from our point of view. We joked that if she wasn't such a nice person, we would be jealous of her success! The truth is, Amanda creates some very marketable artwork that sits well in modern homes and is very pleasing to look at. She is also a very approachable person and interacts with her customers very well indeed. Here are some images of her work inside the hall:

Amanda had far more work than I knew, she must spend every minute when she's not at her full-time occupation painting! I was interested to see that she had also started painting on mini canvases as I have and thought hers were of a very high standard - you can just see them on the left of her table in the photo above. Thanks again to Andrea for the photo here!

We were all impressed with one of Amanda's innovative creations - several paintings on blocks of wood. Sounds dull when you say it like that, but really, they were fantastic! Not just a painting, but a stand alone ornament too, all varnished to give a silky smooth appearance.  You can see these at the extreme right hand side of her table above.

Mike and Tony could not make it to the exhibition ,but fortunately Amanda had some prints of Mike's that we were able to display at the end of the display boards. These are shown on the photo at the beginning of this post.  Mike's photography is always eye-catching and he has a knack for creating an image that draws you into the scene.

Thanks to Andrea, I can show you my table display of crafts - my camera started playing up when I tried to take a shot of it and I lost patience with it. I took several of my magnetic notepads, trinket boxes and mini paintings on easels. I am happy to report that I sold some of them to fellow artists Kos and Amanda - thanks again, you two. It's always extra special when another artist likes your work enough to buy it - it feels like some sort of validation, somehow, that you are actually doing your job properly!

We had a great time meeting up again and are now planning our next group exhibition which will hopefully be nearer me this time - I have a few places to check out in terms of cost and ease of display etc. We also committed ourselves to doing even more of the collaboration work that we have previously done and enjoyed so much, with a view to holding a collaboration exhibition solely. I have already made a start on a background for Amanda, the next one I will be doing is for Kos.

Well, I think I have just about covered everything. I certainly seem to have nattered on for a long time, anyway! Now to catch up with my other personal blog - the holiday! There are never enough hours in the day, are there?


  1. Brilliant write up Aitch! Very much enjoyed reading it. :)

  2. Why, thank you! You're quick off the mark, girl!

  3. Excellent blog Aitch. It was a good weekend and great to see you guys again. Looking forward to the next one and looking forward to seeing your background. I started one for you last night so they may cross in the post!

  4. I have followed this link from Andrea's blogg - Nice to see how well you displayed all your work - glad it was such a fun and successful time for you all

  5. Very good read, I almost thought I was there.

  6. Thanks for all the feedback, guys - makes it worthwhile writing it, too!

  7. Hamegg and chips!

    Excellent write-up as usual.

    Thanks for this, almost as good as being there but not quite I expect, sorry I missed it.

    Tony Broadbent

  8. It's interesting to read about the weekend and see pictures of both the place and artwork. Did you get a picture of the flying chickens?

    Wisteria is beautiful, isn't it? We are trying to grow some. x


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