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Review of Portsmouth Festivities Spice Island Art ...

Review of Portsmouth Festivities Spice Island Art Trail 2015

For the third year running Portsmouth Festivities and a small army of artists took over some of the best historic buildings in Old Portsmouth for the Spice Island Art Trail 2015. Each year sees more and more talented artists from different fields be selected to exhibit and this year saw some incredible work on display to the public for free as well as a great local schools exhibition showing their GCSE, BTEC and AS level art student’s summer work. As for the last two years judges from Aspex Gallery, Ast Space Portsmouth, Portsmouth Guildhall and Strong Island wandered around the different venues seeing the work on show, meeting the artists and finally choosing the winners.

This year’s winners, who will be exhibiting their work at Portsmouth Guildhall are:

Overall Winners:
1st – Kim Whitby
2nd – Alison Lawley
3rd – John Townsend & Margaret Marks (joint third place)
4th – Peter Nicholson

Commended – Michael Wright and Chris Wood.

Schools awards:
1st – Brandon CHoi (Portsmouth Grammar School)
2nd – Yana Trebska (Ryde School)
3rd – Laura Pullem (Highbury College)
4th – Megan Gray (Chichester High School for Girls)

The first venue I visited at 11 when the doors opened to the public for the Arts Trail was the Royal Naval Club & Royal Albert Yacht Club. This imposing, historic building overlooks the sports fields and the Royal Garrison Church before wide panoramic views of the Solent. The artists work on display was itself surrounded by an incredible collection of treasured objects & paintings owned by the club, with groups of work on show in different rooms from the ballroom downstairs up to the library. The first artwork that caught my eye were the sketchbooks of Trudy Barber, with different figures of musicians caught in the moments of musical reverie with their musical instruments.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Trudy Barber
Sketchbook by Trudy Barber.

Working to the back of the building, past a wall of portraits for each of the clubs’ many members to receive a Victoria Cross plus cabinets of trophies for sailing, I checked out the work on display in the large ballroom space. First up was the paintings by Jacquie Woodfield, with a great mix of detail and colour. I really liked the deckchairs painting in particular.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Jacquie Woodfield
Paintings by Jacquie Woodfield.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Jacquie Woodfield
Painting by Jacquie Woodfield.

Also sharing the space was Chris Wood with a collection of different work but front and centre were some band new linocut prints inspired by Ben Ainslie Racing yachts and Southsea. We predicted well over a year ago that BAR, their distinctive yachts and the new HQ would permeate through to photographers & artists as a striking new local inspiration and Chris’ new work is really rather special. These prints are available to buy framed and unframed.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Chris Wood
Linoprint by Chris Wood.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Chris Wood
Linoprint by Chris Wood.

Another artist sharing the space was painter Mary Amos who had on display a series of landscapes of Portsmouth Harbour. Also on show were a collection of different watercolours, which I really quite liked. Something about watercolours, one of the first techniques learnt yet it takes so much skill and creativity to control the water, the mix of paint plus there is no room to fix any mistakes.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Mary Amos
Paintings by Mary Amos.

Taking up one side of the room were the large canvases of Kim Whitby, depicting views out of HMS Victory. These and other work on show were created during a residency on the 250 year old ship which included drawing and painting at Nelson’s table. Victory also featured in some wonderful, loose monochrome work plus the ship and the Dockyard also filled the pages of Kim’s fantastic sketchbooks, which not only showed the creative processes behind some of the pieces on display but could have also been exhibited all by themselves.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Kim Whitby
Victory by Kim Whitby.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Kim Whitby
Victory by Kim Whitby.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Kim Whitby
Sketchook pages by Kim Whitby.

In another room in the club were another great mix of work, beginning with the playful, detailed pencil-work by Will Stevenson.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Will Stevenson
Artwork by Will Stevenson.

The diversity of medium and subject is one of the great things about the Art Trail, with neighbours in the exhibition often having significantly different work meaning there was something for everyone. Next to Will Stevenson were the small, impressionistic paintings by Michael Wright. Each of the three paintings drew the viewer in to a what felt like the middle of a dark fairytale, with the artwork keeping the details secret.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Michael Wright
Painting by Michael Wright.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Michael Wright
Painting by Michael Wright.

The Naval club building is Georgian so all of the rooms are high ceilinged and very open with large windows, so after climbing the stairs the view out over the Solent had to be photographed before viewing the work on display by different artists, including Lyndon Richards’ Old Portsmouth houses painted on bricks. Lyndon was the artists in residence painting during the art trail.






Old Portsmouth by Lyndon Richards.


Lunch at Point by Jean Battye.


Book by Darn Funky.


Artwork by James Shreeve.

From here it was on to Portsmouth Cathedral to see the artwork on show in the Nave.


With the Sunday service completed the cathedral was busy with people now exploring the Nave and discovering the different photography, textiles, painting, ceramics and more on show. As I walked in the first work that caught my attention was the watercolour work on the pillars by Sue Colyer, a set of two colourful abstracts and a country scene.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Sue Colyer
Watercolour by Sue Colyer.

Spice Island Art Trail 2015 - Sue Colyer
Watercolour by Sue Colyer.

Along to the corner of the cathedral where three large, striking and colourful photographs were on display by Peter Nicholson. The work is made with different coloured oils, waxes and more placed in suspension in a water tank and photographed throughout a lengthy process. These images were rich with detail and tones of colour that brought to mind Turner and the impressionist painters plus it reminded me of the large naval battle paintings in the Naval Club I had viewed earlier which had skies thick with cannon fire and the dense smoke of ships aflame.


Dark Trees by Peter Nicholson.

Also at the side of this historic building were paintings by Karl Rudziak. I’m a big fan of these detailed portrait paintings.


Painting by Karl Rudziak.

The far side of the nave was home to the intriguing & a little surreal ceramic figurework by artist John Townsend. It was great to chat with John and discover the ideas behind these wheel and then hand constructed ceramic forms, referencing back to the first photography that captured motion and movement.


Ceramic work by John Townsend.


Ceramic work by John Townsend.

Speaking of surreal, John’s artist neighbour was illustrator and painter Alison Lawley who had two incredible portrait paintings on display. The figure in both paintings was a hybrid of Alison’s friends and who was set in two different scenes relating to nature and wildlife, with surreal touches. The second painting had powerful eyes that would fix you in her gaze. Excellent work, looking forward to seeing more paintings from this new series by the artist.


Painting by Alison Lawley.

The schools artwork exhibition was in Beckett Hall, out the back of the cathedral, and was a collection of different student works from Ryde School, Highbury College and Chichester High School for Girls. Just like last year, you could spot a lot of talent on show in a wide variety of mediums, from printing to painting to 3D. This support of young artists from around the region through the Art Trail is a great way to see work normally not available to the public.










Once again the Art Trail was a great success in bringing dozens of artists and their many different works to Portsmouth and allowing the public free access to view the work, the wonderful buildings home to the exhibitions and creating an environment where you could speak to creatives from all walks of life involved in all different types of art. Looking forward to next year!

You can find out more about Portsmouth Festivities and the other great events happening throughout the rest of the month at:

www.portsmouthfestivities.co.uk


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  1. John horne

    12 August

    I like Alison Lawleys painting with a person with Birds flying around. It’s amazing. As Alison got a website as I’d like to send her a comment on it. Also she didn’t exhibit in this years Portsmouth and Hampshire art society art exhibition. Great painting Alison.Hope to see you next year at exhibition.

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