Several years ago I had two paintings accepted into the SE Open exhibition at the Grand in Folkestone. I was naturally pleased, but was even happier to find that both pictures had sold.
As an artist It’s always intriguing to know who is interested enough in your creative outpourings to actually buy them. In this case the purchaser was a lady called Briony Kapoor. I discovered that Briony was the driving force behind an organisation called IMOS. IMOS stands for “In Memory of Satish” Briony’s late husband, who was a professor at Cambridge.
Briony and her Foundation are responsible for much of the Public Art that exists around the Marsh. The streets of New Romney are abundant with colourful painted murals by local artists. My particular favourite is a large and ever-growing artwork that exists on what was a particularly dull wall of Sainsbury’s. IMOS have commissioned artists to paint portraits of local people. Each painted likeness is positioned next to another, so what you get is a massive expanse of paintings, I think there are about 36 at the moment, they vary in style depending on who has done them. The overall effect is quite stunning and considerably enlivens an uninspiring corner of the town.
Briony has ideas for a Sculpture Park on the Marsh, of which more in a moment, but first a little related issue.
A couple of years ago a madcap scheme was hatched to build an enormous “scarecrow sculpture” just outside Dymchurch. The thing was planned to be larger than the Angel of the North and would be visible from the French coast. It’s funny how Anthony Gormley’s mighty iron figure has become a benchmark against which to measure other projects. Bigger isn’t always better. The scarecrow was, of course, inspired by the alter ego of “Doctor Syn”, a fictional character created by Russell Thorndyke. Fortunately the large majority of villagers were against this highly inappropriate scheme and rose up to unanimously oppose it. Public art nearly always courts controversy and it never suits everyone. The line between what is and isn’t “Art” is always blurry but I do think (and I’m certainly not alone here) that this idea was just plain wrong.Anyway, back to Briony and her Sculpture Park idea. I have 100% more faith in Briony Kapoor and her ideas (no, it’s not just because she bought my work). The Marsh is an ideal place for appropriate and thoughtfully sited artwork. The first sculptures are already in place, artist Clive Soord’s works depict WW2 RAF and USAF pilots, they have been erected in the garden of Sainsbury’s on Dymchurch Road.
Briony says: “As Romney Marsh is 100 square miles in extent there is plenty of scope and the process may go on for years. “It is an attempt to balance the exciting art centres in Eastbourne, Bexhill, Hastings, Folkestone and Margate.”
To my mind any attempt at bringing art and culture to the area has to be applauded and encouraged. The Arts as a major driver of the economy is still unrecognised (witness the savage cutting of funding nationwide) The Government still hold the view that art is for the elite few and nobody else. The economic problems of the Marsh are not going to be easily solved and people might think a few bits of sculpture on their own won’t change anything. But what they could do is contribute a piece to the jigsaw. People might start to associate the Romney Marsh with not only natural beauty but also art. Witness the success of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park,http://www.ysp.co.uk/ along with the new Hepworth Galleryhttp://www.hepworthwakefield.org/ in Wakefield.
Tell me if I’m going on, but I do believe in regeneration through the Arts and for goodness sake we need some good ideas for the future of the area. So good luck to IMOS,http://www.imosfoundation.org/ The Art Shack, Art In Romney Marsh http://www.artinromneymarsh.org.uk/ and anyone else who sees the Creative Industries as the way forward.