The IMOS Foundation

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.

Sainsbury’s New Romney Wall Project

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.

A lucky escape – the doomed scarecrow

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.

New Sculptures at Sainsbury’s

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.

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When Ben Nicholson visited Dymchurch

Over the years I have come to enjoy looking at the work of Ben Nicholson. It wasn’t always that way, when I was a young art student in the early 80’s his work was deeply unfashionable. Far better to peer over the Atlantic and to dream of  being a New York artist, painting huge canvasses and acting mean.

Poor Ben, he has had a right battering over the years, at least in some quarters. Fortunately this has eased following recent shows at the De La Warr Pavilion and last years beautiful “Mondrian || Nicholson: In Parallel” at the Courtauld in London.

Artist meets Fisherman- Ben Nicholson “discovers” Alfred Wallis

A photograph that always makes me chuckle records the moment when Nicholson and his friend artist Christopher Wood “discovered” Alfred Wallis. Wallis was an old retired mariner living in St Ives. He took up painting “for company”. You can see a great collection of Wallis’s naive marine paintings, (which, nonetheless had a major influence on 20th century art) at the lovely Kettles Yard Gallery in Cambridge.http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/.

Ben Nicholson studied at the Slade School of Art from 1910-14 alongside some of the other great artists to emerge from that period, including; Stanley Spencer, Edward Wadsworth and Paul Nash. Nash became a good friend of Nicholson and his wife Winifred who was also an artist (Kettles Yard currently have an exhibition of her beautiful work).  When Nicholson visited Paul and Margaret Nash at their cottage in Dymchurch in 1923, the two artists walked along the seawall (as Nash was prone to do most days) the outcome of the walk was, as far, as I am aware, Ben Nicholson’s only painting of Dymchurch beach. The painting is in a modern and almost abstract style, but it certainly evokes the atmosphere and colours of the beach at low tide.

Dymchurch Beach by Ben Nicholson

Nash admired the modern style of Nicholsons’ work, which was influenced by developments in European painting at the time. He spoke highly of Nicholsons work and was supportive of what was a very modern style of painting at that time.

Perhaps if Nicholson had stayed in Dymchurch a bit longer  we would have been treated to more  of how he saw our  lovely beach.

The Seawall in Miniature

The Queens Dolls House or Queen Mary’s Dolls House to be more accurate, was completed in 1924 for the wife of George V.  An incredible project, the house was intended to showcase all the finest and most modern goods of the period – in miniature. The house, which still can be seen at Windsor Castle, was originally shown at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924-5.Have a look at the QDH website which shows the extent of the project.http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/queenmarysdollshouse/home.html

 

Queens Dolls House – The Book

The house was designed by Edward Lutyens and works of art were contributed by leading painters of the day were asked to contribute including , William Nicholson, Adrian Stokes, Laura Knight and Edmund Dulac.  Paul Nash was also amongst the elite group asked to take part .

At this time Nash and his wife Margaret were staying at Pantiles Cottage on the Hythe Road.  The Dymchurch Seawall was uppermost in the artist’s mind when it came to subject matter.  Nash had begun producing dozens of pictures of the Wall, using a variety of media, from Oils and Watercolours to woodcuts and lithographs.

Dymchurch Wall -in miniature

The invitation to produce a miniature version of his current obsession was too good to miss. Nash sat down in his little cottage studio and made a tiny picture in watercolour and ink. The exquisite little painting showed the Dymchurch Seawall and measured 2.7cm x1.6cm (just over 1″ x1 1.5″ ) .

Whether we should have to pay to view our own heritage is debatable. It’s expensive (£17 for an Adult) to visit Windsor Castle, just to see Nash’s picture. However, I’m told there are quite a lot of other things worth looking at while you are there.

Romney Marsh Art Shack

Any new initiatives that help the Arts and artists on Romney Marsh should be supported, so make a visit if you can to the new gallery on the main road between Dymchurch and New Romney.

Inside the Art Shack

The Art Shack, as its known, is based at the Romney Marsh Visitor Centre. It’s the brainchild of Steve Humphreys (the Centre Manager) and the late Andy Crawford the ex Head of Art at Southlands School. The project was set up with some financial help from our local neighbourhood windfarm at Little Cheyne Court.  The gallery,  is in what was a redundant wooden building at the Centre.  It opened for business in April this year. As well as providing exhibiting space for Marsh artists, Steve hopes the Shack will host music events, poetry readings and film showings.

You can see from the photographs of the interior  its a lovely clean space and is really well lit. I was impressed by the last show which featured work by Leah Fusco. Leah’s work captures the spirit of Romney Marsh beautifully, she also runs a tiny gallery in Rye http://www.leahfusco.co.uk Which is well worth a visit.

Leah Fusco “Owling” Series

The next show at the Art Shack features work by New Romney artist Emily Goddard and opens on Monday.  Admission is free.  you can see more of Emilys’ work on http://www.emautumn.com/

Steve Humphreys is currently working on a website for the gallery. The opening hours coincide with the Centre opening times, you can get all the details on http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/reserves/romney-marsh-visitor-centre

Pay a visit and support a new gallery for the Marsh!