Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nantwich Arts Festival 2011

The weekend was fun and hectic. Set up for the Nantwich Festival of Arts was on Friday at 2pm. The boards were slightly less high than my plan, and they were also on the floor so I lugged upstairs two heavy tables to put them on, then it was home for extra tablecloths, the silk draperies I use for paintings, and after two hours the setup was complete. The opening was at 7pm.

I'd got to speak to a few artists before from the events I'd done on the square. I felt closest to Pauling Parsons, a sensitive scupltor of the human form and clearly partly angelic being, like me. Her stoneware and bronzes were on plinths near my work and she seemed always to be speaking to some interested passer by. Shan Bower was wonderful too, visiting just about everyone with an enthusiastic hug and a smile. She runs local life drawing classes and her daughter's somewhat eccentric costume art was on show next to my paintings, making a sandwich of me along with Kate McKennan's holey bread and curious objects on the distant wall. My finely painted meat lay in between in perfect symmetry.

On the Saturday I spent half of my time near my paintings and the rest of the time darting to other parts of the show. Cliff Wright, was in a distant room along with textile artist Jackie Brough (who I'd met before at Jobling Golwer; she won the competition with the theme of Silk two years ago). Cliff is illustrator of over forty childrens books, most well known for illustrating the Harry Potter books. Clearly a master of drawing, and also a really nice man and true artist. Then off to see Emma Thackham's interactive installation, where people brought along objects that meant something to them. These were drawn or added to a sculpture by a pile of enthusiatic chaotic children. The "bee thing"; Sweeten My Life was there too and everyone who tried it liked it. It involved dressing up as a bee keeper and coaxing the "queen".

The scupltures in The Residence garden were next. Glass artist Patricia Lee was there with mosaics and glass art that looked a bit liked tiles crossed with stained glass windows crossed with abstract paintings. These were layered and basically melted together. In the lawn behind were some iron dinosaurs and strange, enticing, organic, unique clay sculptures by an artist I didn't meet called Meenu Ranee.

Then a dash back to my patch and I met Stephan Swiegers, a visitor not an exhibitor who told me about his wood art and clocks. Definitely a fellow surrealist. I do hope to meet him again. Lunch then, followed by a visit to the photo-gallery place, which looked a bit like a garage and was in fact an old bicycle repair shop. I had a nice chat with stop-motion animator Mole Hill.

Sunday began with etching with Sharon Lelonek. Three of us were guided through the process from start to finish, from plain aluminium plate to two finished prints in an hour. It was great to try something new and I'm inspired to do more. Mole Hill was there making a stop-motion film and I asked for a piece of modelling wax after Pauline showed me a lump she'd been given. I liked it, smoother and stiffer than the plasticine I've been using for modelling yet just as easy to use. I've ordered some already! Cliff Wright was there and wow, his scupltures were amazing, as if proof were needed how good an artist he was. I told him about polymorph plastic, one of my favourite materials.

After lunch I took at look at Estella and Bridgit's work in Reeds Rains, I know them from the Cubby Hole and both have taken the helm at local workshops.

Then it was over to Firenze and The Cheshire Cat to see Kate McKennan's highly detailed watercolours, her of the holey bread. Kate's been everywhere, along with Janice Clarkson, Shan and Lindsey organising and running lots behind the scenes, darting between venues and being on desk duties. All of that essential activity was done by volunteers. On the way back I popped in to Enzo's to see Janice's drawings. She's a biologist with a relatively recent passion for art, but she's already better at sketching than most artists. The cafes and restaurants can present a problem for showing art because you have to look over and around people that are eating, but the places are popular and easy to get to, so there are ups and downs.

Then it was back to my patch to take everything down.

The weekend was tiring and felt like a holiday but it was great and I've made a list of things I'd like to do next year to improve the experience. The highlight was meeting new friends and artists. The hard part is going to be meeting them again. It can be hard to find a way to get back in touch, when the main reason is to say hello.

Interesting point. Pauline and I both voted for the same "favourite" artwork in the Chester Grosevenor Open, from about 400 works. It was a porcelaine cockatoo. Exhibitor Tony Evans apparently bought it!

There have already been some immediate effects.
1. I've bought some modelling wax.
2. I've refocused my drawing thanks to Cliff's reaffirmation that I'm going about it the right way.
3. I'm back to doing artwork because the festival and the three other competitions of the month are over.

...and also, the events above coupled with an Andrew Graham-Dixon documentary on reliquiaries have inspired an artwork that uses glass (thanks Patricia Lee), scuplture (thanks Pauline), acid etching (thanks Sharon), gold and fine painting! (thanks Andrew) woodwork! and clock mechanics! (thanks Stephan) and this will be interactive enough to be pride of place at next year's festival.

Certain nameless artists told me that festival creator Lyndsey Piper would not get it off the ground and in other ways expressed an unwarranted negativity, which at the start made me feel uncomfortable and maverick for helping out. They were wrong. The festival was great. It was an excellent first year and I only wish I'd seen more! Thanks to everyone who helped make it.


-Don said...

Wow, Mark! What an exhilarating tour de force of inspiration! It sounds to me that this was a smashing success, despite the Negative Nellies. Congratulations to everyone on what sounds like a wonderful exhibition. I wish I could have been there.


John Salmon said...

Excellent Mark. Looks like you made the most of it. Wish there was something like that down here.

Trouble is, around here a Festival just morphs into a glorified market place and sales opportunity. Wish that wasn't always the case.

Obviously it would be nice to sell some work but, like you discovered, even nicer to meet interesting people, swap ideas and celebrate art and artists.