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22 October 2013

The Last Walk at Westcott

This month has certainly been one of contrasts, it has been so wet and dark today that it seems quite unbelievable that only two weeks ago we were ambling in glorious sunshine in the landscape of Westcott Farm.

On the final Saturday of this year's SAW Festival Lyn Mowat had invited the public to walk at  Westcott and experience the landscape that had inspired the work exhibited at the farm. 

It would seem that many of the artists who had been involved in other venues had heard the 'buzz' about Westcott and had taken the opportunity to come and see what all the fuss was about and so in reality it evolved into another 'Artists Walk.' This time however the warmer weather was certainly more conducive to actually stopping and sketching and all ages became engrossed in capturing their take of the scenery. 

Artist Dermot Trimble (pictured above) had travelled from London especially to participate. He explained that he usually painted portraits, so sketching landscapes was a break from form and hence pushes your creative output. It was also good experience walking and working quickly. One either tends to go for a walk or go out to sketch, which usually means finding a spot and staying put for a while. And so the walk turned into a speed sketching lesson, a technique that tutors of life drawing classes often employ. We didn't try the one where you draw with your eyes closed!

Not all had come prepared to sketch, but paper and pencils were soon shared around 'loaves and fishes' style. Artist Andy Davey produced the most well used and loved pencil from his pocket, explaining the shortness of length allowed for far more freedom and expressive gestures, rather like working with a piece of charcoal. He also went on to explain that one of his teachers had insisted that his students new pencils were immediately divided into a least four for this very reason.

While some sketched , others just enjoyed being in the space, under the big sky..

It was then time to head back and a chance to view the work on show back at base. The artists were on hand to discuss their work and there was even a little buying flurry. Some went home excited and happy with their purchases. Sadly others left disappointed, as in the short time they had dithered about making a purchase others had swept in and taken the decision away from them.

All in all it was a very pleasant, productive afternoon and I hope that  there will be many more Artists Walks as part of SAW 2014.

If you have enjoyed this post you may also like reading about our earlier Winter and Spring outings on the farm here.

11 October 2013

Blaze of Glory

The SAW festival is over for another year, the exhibitions are closed to the public but those directly involved are still busy behind the scenes. Now is the time for the shows to be dismantled, to begin focusing on future projects, for many a chance to get the much missed paint brushes out after two weeks busy stewarding. I hope that you were able to enjoy the abundance of creativity that was available locally on your doorstop and had the opportunity to get out and about. I hear many people lament that they only wish they had more time to view everything that was going on - me being one of them!

Artist Leah Hislop took a slightly different approach to her art weeks and particularly her installation for the Abundance Garden Trail.  Her Labyrinth took shape over the two week period, providing visitors a valuable insight into the work that goes into creating such a large scale structure plus the obvious opportunity to meet with the artist first hand. Once her installation was finally finished it was only to be seen in it's completed glory on the last day of the festival. Some may feel a little disappointed by this, only a fleeting moment to catch a view of this transient sculpture, but what a glorious day to end on. The garden at Aller farmhouse was a blaze of yellow, orange and red in the unexpected warmth of the autumn sunshine, the colour not shouting from the garden's borders but from Leah's woven Labyrinth. 

I arrived early on the Sunday morning to help set up for the Friends of Saw private view and had the joy of experiencing Leah's Labyrinth selfishly to myself. The farm and gardens looked incredibly beguiling, with red brick outbuildings, old oak doors and located in one of those little pockets of West Somerset that feel like France. The light was also amazing and highlighted the long lengths of spider web that were being caught on the soft breeze - quite apt I thought considering the thought processes behind Leah's work. 

The guests slowly arrived and it would seem that all generations took pleasure in not just viewing but stepping inside the Labyrinth. Some were a little tentative in their approach,  unsure how they would escape from the web. Others, particularly the children  relished in running and leaping their way through.

Leah explained that she was very taken by how the human figure was 'lost' in the layers as they ventured deeper within, she also realised that inadvertently the layout of the labyrinth had mimicked the layout of the paths and gardens at Aller. I loved the fact that throughout the entire time Leah was at the private view a length of yellow spun wool did not leave her hands.

The bright sunshine of Sunday was a striking contrast to many of the dark days Leah had worked through to complete her task, enduring heavy rain showers and even thunder as part of her creative journey - a journey from dark to light almost mirroring that of her sculpture. 

You may enjoy reading her progress at the Abundance Blog by clicking here

Now I was under the impression all the SAW venue doors were closed for another year but no you still have an opportunity to visit Make the Most at Barrington Court which is open until the 31st October - so there is plenty more time to get your fix of Somerset art. Plus many of the artists involved with SAW will no doubt be exhibiting in the near future. A great way to keep up to date with many of these events is by signing up for the SAW newsletter, by joining the Friends of SAW and of course by signing up to receive regular updates from the SAW Blog by entering your details in the 'follow by e mail box' to the top right of this page. 

My next posting will be a reflection on the Last Walk at Westcott....

3 October 2013

Interactive Art at Venue 28

Now I have been quite closely involved following the preparations that have gone into creating Venue 28 at Westcott Farm. I attended two of the Artists Walks that Lyn Mowat organised back in the Spring, also my partner Christopher has created one of the venue's installations.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the venue as just that, a visitor and although I had met the majority of artists involved that would be exhibiting at the farm I didn't have full knowledge of all their styles or practice and so I was greeted with a very pleasant surprise. 

The outbuildings were all dusted down, spider free and well swept creating excellent spaces to display work. Sue Lowe's collagraph  prints welcome you as you enter the main barn and they look stunning on the soft red brick wall. The room also features a collection of landscapes by Peter Messa, Veronica Clegg and Annabel Gaitskill Anderson; their individual style and use of colour surprisingly complementary.

Lucy Lean had been busy collecting mud but I had no idea quite what she was creating. Her installation is suspended from soft time worn beams, the round discs made from Westcott mole mud and soot hung on lengths of roughly spun wool - the concept being that this structure taken and formed from the landscape it now sits it can be returned to the land and earth leaving no trace.

Next to Lucy's installation are vibrant paintings by Micaela Beckett and Elizabeth Edenborough's sensitive studies of light. 

Lyn's studio is also open, we only got to peer through the window previously and her sculptures and paintings are literally dancing with life.

So where is the interactive art on the farm? 

Head away from the barns, follow the yellow bunting and little yellow arrows and you will be led to the orchard. Here Christopher has mown a Labyrinth for you to follow but before you do so you must select a Teasing Tag from the metal trunk and follow it's prompt as you walk the path. When you reach the central tree tie your card with your answer on the tree.  I spoke with one visitor whose card had instructed her to write a poem as she walked the path. The initial response was there is no way she could just conjure up a poem from thin air, but to her great astonishment and satisfaction her poem is now hanging from the branches of the apple tree!

Along the path of the labyrinth and as you approach the orchard, Gordon Field has installed his tree aura viewing boxes. Over the course of the two weeks Gordon has dowsed and then mapped the energy fields of particular trees that can be found within the Westcott landscape, two are in the orchard, the others can be viewed across the valley.

Gordon discovered his skill for dowsing over four years ago. He now offers workshops so that others may also connect with trees. The workshops take place at Otterhead near Taunton and the cost is £30 per person, the next available dates are the 13th and 27th October. So if his art installation here inspire you why not give it a go?

We spent a surprising two hours enjoying and participating with all the work on display at Westcott. I would highly recommend a visit, I know the weather has been wet of late, take a brolly to walk the labyrinth and maybe wear some wellies, my toes did get a little damp in the long wet grass.

The prints and paintings on display are naturally all for sale. The installations however have all been created by the artists with no outside financial backing and have been created purely for of the joy of art for arts sake; for you to enjoy also and maybe in the knowledge that other projects naturally lead on from such energy and creativity. It is wonderful that the owners of Westcott Farm, Lyn and Magnus Mowat enabled this group of Somerset artists to come play in the landscape at Brompton Ralph.

The end result is very uplifting and that is surely how you wish to feel after leaving an exhibition which is part of SAW.

1 October 2013

On The Road Day Two

For this outing of SAW Venues I headed to Taunton with the aim of heading westwards, homeward bound, the first port of call being Venue 33 - Five @107.

Artist and writer Jo Backhouse had allowed the use of her home for this exhibition which had received a coat of white paint in the downstairs interior especially. Jo was there to welcome visitors and I commented on how the open invitation to their private view, printed in the SAW brochure, was a brave move considering the personal location for the exhibition. Jo explained that this had not been the original intention but previous plans had fallen through so some aspects of their entry had been amended but not others! Despite this Jo said they were not over run with unruly house guests and the evening had gone remarkably well.

Whilst taking the image above I hadn't realised but Jo was reading the SAW blog, which I suppose is only fair as I was looking at her work too! You may read her writers blog here

 Jessica Palmer 
The exhibition also features work by John Crabb, Jessica Palmer, Lorna Siviter and Tom Lindsey and is now open every day from 11am until 4pm - do pop in if you pass their welcoming font door.

The next venue on my route was to be in Milverton but I spotted a yellow sign en route and called into Venue 32 - The Chapel. I must admit the artists here were struggling with the space, although a beautiful building the hanging system wasn't great, it was very dark and they openly admitted they needed more light. The exhibition included work by  Alexandra Lavizzari, Sue Gutteridge, Kate Elford and Beth Philpot.

 Beth Philpot

Potter Raamy Nadim, from Wellington, was also showcasing his colourful and functional stoneware, perfect for slow cooking stews this coming Autumn, I loved the choice of styles and glazes available.

Time to head on to Venue 29 which could catch you out when planning your day as it opens late at 1pm, although is open until 6pm. Now some venues feel just right when you walk in, they some up for me the essence of art week and this is one of them - a great mix of work from five different artists I could have quite happily moved in!

Featuring work by Sally Mears, Penny Price, Naoko Takata, Louise Waugh and Judy Willoughby you will be spoilt for choice if you are looking for work to adorn your home. They also have a delightful art garden where you may enjoy tea and cake.

Venue 27 in Crowcombe was next. Now I have a personal soft spot for Church House as it was where we held our wedding reception, so any excuse to visit is always a bonus. It's a great space in which to exhibit as the custodians of this village resource have invested in a professional hanging system and good lighting. Showcasing their work for this year's art week were Janet Lawrence, Helen Simpson, Myra Barratt and David Chadwick. Janet was busy in between visitors demonstrating the technique of watercolour painting, in contrast her atmospheric tree canvases were also on display.

My day then unfortunately had to be cut short as it was time to collect a small boy from school. I had planned to call into Venue 11 and then onto Porlock for Venue 22, which is rather out on a limb as it is the Venue furthest west on the SAW map. The weir is always an enigmatic place to visit especially when you can catch the waft of wood smoke on the air and hopefully you will have a longer day to explore.