Mid-late October saw us making a flurry of visits to local galleries, some with an American friend who was visiting.

On 13th we attended an interview at the Towner with the artist Simon Ling whose work we had known from an earlier exhibition at the Tate (paintings of unnervingly unstable East End shops and buildings) a few years back, and whose new work in his first solo exhibition was on show at the Towner. This comprised a set of purposely untitled close-up paintings of chopped logs and of collaged sections of skeletons. The interview, which concentrated on his relation to objects, essentially the subject of his work, was fascinating. While Ling was content to think carefully in his own time about the process of becoming intently familiar with the subjects of his work, his interviewer was looking for comparisons with Heidegger, William Burroughs and Object-Oriented philosophical theory. The paintings and Ling’s conception of his engagement with their subjects do raise psycho-philosophical questions, but the interview presented us with quite different ways of thinking these through. We then revisited the exhibition with Ling’s preoccupations and experience in mind. It did mean we could literally look more closely.

The exhibition continues until 27 January.

On the 19th we dropped in to the Private View of Fire! Art inspired by Bonfire Night at Keizer Frames Gallery in Lewes, curated by Laina Watt and including paintings, prints, photography and mixed media work by Peter Messer, Jo Lamb, Emily Warren, Marco Crivello and others. Lewes Bonfire took some explaining to an East Coast American friend who was visiting, but she could feel some of the heat it generates. The exhibition ran until the 5th Nov. We’ve always admired Peter Messer’s work and especially liked the painting ‘Trouble Sleeping’ shown in a previous exhibition in September. Since then, and since Bonfire, we’ve had a chance to buy a print of this work. Visitors to 2 Church Villas will be able to appraise it for themselves.

Next we visited the newly converted barns at Charleston Farmhouse, now comprising an impressive exhibition space, an auditorium and a café. There were two exhibitions: both in different ways responses to and a celebration of Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando. One exhibition, including paintings, sculptures, collages, letters and a playlet on video also showed an original 1928 copy of the novel which included photographs confirming the association of the androgynous character Orlando with Vita Sackville-West and her family history. A second exhibition of black and white photographs by Zanele Mukoli ‘Faces and Phases’ addresses the question of sexual/gendered identity raised by Woolf’s novel and the very current debate on these questions, presenting specifically an ‘inside perspective’, says Mukoli on ‘black lesbian and transgender experiences … I have met on my journeys’ The result is sets of photographs of the ‘same’ person, presenting as male and female and in different social roles. The effect is stunning. A smaller third exhibit was of the dinner plates of ‘famous women’ painted by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant while they lived at Charleston. The exhibitions are open until 17th February 2019.

A further visit was to Farley House (formerly Farley Farm) the celebrated ‘Home of the Surrealists’. This was, for some reason, our first visit. We knew it was there but just not ventured the 30min car ride to Muddles Green, Chiddingly. Others may have the same experience. It is though really worth a visit. The gallery, next to the house, was currently showing recently-discovered photographs by Lee Miller who lived there with artist Roland Penrose from the late 1940s after a very full life of travel, modelling and photo-journalism. She looked, in her kind of surrealism, for the juxtaposition of unexpected objects or people and objects in uncanny situations. There is also a tour of the house which points out the work, including paintings, sculptures and decorations to the house itself, of some of its European visitors, including Picasso, Max Ernst, and Man Ray, along with works by Roland Penrose. Please note: both house and gallery have now closed for the winter, and will re-open on 7th April 2019 with a new exhibition in the gallery.

We’d recommend anyone who hasn’t been to visit both Farley Farm and Charleston: evidence – along with other artists, notably Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden and Peggy Angus at Furlongs, as well as those based at Ditchling, including Eric Gill and David Jones – of the rich artistic history of the region. In the gift shop at Farley House we met Anthony Penrose, Lee Miller’s son. He was very open and enthusiastic about Farley but also very conscious of the varied artistic heritage available to us in Sussex. Someone should think of organising co-ordinated tours!

Thinking of Sussex artists, you may still be able to catch up on the following range of exhibitions at St.  Anne’s Galleries, 111 Lewes High Street and at other local venues:

  • St Anne’s has a Christmas Show from 3rd November until 23rd Dec. which is open Saturdays and Sundays.

Sarah O’Kane is presenting the following:

We went along to this one, liked the work a lot, and bought a painting titled ‘Still Life, Blue Dress’.

  • A  Spring Show including recent work by Julian Le BasJo LambJane  Hansford and Kathleen Mullaniff at Lewes House.
  •  A solo show by Nick Bodimeade in May to be held at his studio in Hamsey.
  • A three week event in June, titled Moon Gazing to be held at the new Lewes arts venue Fitzroy House showing work by a range of artists in different media on the theme of the moon.
  • And in October, a solo exhibition by Lewes based artist and author, Julian Bell, ‘When the City is built’ to be held at Menier Gallery, Southwark St., London.

On our own work, aside from deciding on this year’s Christmas card (two pictures on the theme of ‘Under the tree’), Liz has been working on a lino-cut of ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’. Can this perhaps inspire a set of works on fairy tales, songs, and rhymes? Peter has completed a work commissioned by two American friends, who wanted a reminder of Primrose Hill which they’ve grown attached to on their many visits to London. The result is a painting of Chalcot Crescent – the real-life street used in the Paddington movies where it’s renamed Windsor Gardens. The Browns’ house is number 30 Chalcot Crescent. In Peter’s painting, our friends’ grandson, – a Paddington fan – is standing outside this house.

Another picture is of Blakeney, North Norfolk, which we visited earlier in the year and a third project is a set of drawings of literary figures. This picks up on a group of three drawings Peter did many years ago of Bertolt Brecht, Ezra Pound, and Yeats and Ford Madox Ford. New drawings will be of James Joyce (this one is done), T. S. Eliot (in progress) Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield. All of them C20th ‘moderns’ and a bit of a throwback strangely to the academic interests Peter thought retirement had, well, retired.