Thursday, 26 June 2014

Art in a Barn

Saturday's during the summer are basically mine to do with as I will as Steve is out playing cricket.  All day.  From midday to 9pm sometimes.  Very, very occasionally I get roped into making the tea's (the number of times I have to do them has dropped significantly over the years - making a bad tea is a sure-fire way to ensure you never get asked again!) but otherwise I am free as a bird.
On this particular Saturday this bird had to drive out to Lenham, a market village between Ashford and Maidstone to collect a scrap book from one of the Canterbury Players members.  This scrap book had old programmes, photo's and other paraphernalia in it dating back to the 80's, and I was in the process of fleshing out our archives on the new website at the time so it was a valuable resource and I had permission to borrow it.  I checked that Tony would be in, jumped in the car, popped the top down and stuck some feel good CD's on, then made the 30 minute drive to Lenham.  I forgot the Sat Nav and proceed to spend another 30 minutes in Lenham trying to work out where on earth Tony's house actually was (and getting distracted by the Italian food market that was going on).
Mission accomplished, Tony informed me that there was an art exhibition going on in Tithe Barn and I should check it out as I was in the area.  It was still early, I had nothing else to do and the prospect of spending a couple of hours wandering around the exhibition appealed to me greatly.  
Tithe Barn is a huge, medieval barn that is used for all sorts of functions, including weddings.  It is estimated that it was built in the C14th and is formed of two large barns and a number of outbuildings.  The first barn held the craft fair, beautiful hand made goods that were sadly a little out of my price bracket, although I did find some stunning bracelets that I just know my mum would love.  Whilst I was in the barn I got talking to one of the ladies who told me a bit about it's history, the refurbishment work that the most recent owner has committed to it, and how grateful she was that it hadn't become yet another barn conversion.  The interior is certainly impressive, with the stable stalls and cobbled floor and the cross-hatch beams supporting the structure.  The interior was cool with a faint horsey smell left from generations of farm animals.
The main event was in the barn next door though.  This was the home of the Pilgrims Way Art Exhibition, a show by the Pilgrims Way Art Group who are a mix of both professional and amateur artists originally formed in 1996 and who have exhibited every year at Tithe Barn for the last 14 years.  They are quite an exclusive group, with membership by invitation only, and because of this caveat you can be sure that the artwork you will see will be of a high quality.  Not all of it will be to your taste; that is inevitable when so many different styles are displayed, but there were a number of pieces that I spent quite a lot of time perusing, and some that, given the required funds, I would have been more than happy to have purchased there and then! (click on the piece description to go to the artists portfolio).
Janet Jackson: Tall Slab Pieces.  Pilgrims Way Artists Exhibition Summer 2014 Award for Best Ceramic

Janet Jackson's piece above is a form of Raku, a traditional Japanese process which involves the rapid firing and subsequent rapid cooling of the pots.  The pots are first fired to 1,000°C biscuit and then glazed.  When dry the glazed pots are put in a warm kiln and heated slowly to eliminate any remaining moisture.  After this, firing can be carried out more rapidly until the glaze has melted, at around 900°C-1000°C.  The pots are then removed from the kiln whilst glowing and then placed in sawdust or water, depending on the result desired.
Justin Calver: Blue Striped Tuna.  Pilgrims Way Artists Exhibition Summer 2014 Award for Best Acrylic
Thomas Boyd: Circus.  Pilgrims Way Artists Exhibition Summer 2014 Award for Best Original Work
The artists work in and with a number of different mediums, from oil to batik, ceramic to stone and everything in between.  Throughout the exhibition there are pieces which have been awarded prizes for 'Best in Show' in their category.
Nigel Davison: Autumn Felling.  Pilgrims Way Artists Exhibition Summer 2014 Award for Best In Show
There were a huge number of pieces on display at the exhibition, and a large number of families enjoying the show, occasionally breaking to munch on some homemade cake and tea out in the sun drenched grounds whilst children chased each other around the pond and admired the old tractors and cars in the stable block.  Don't they look like they are just waiting for someone to come and take them out!
The artwork wasn't just constrained the barn either.  Outside there were a number of pieces sat on pedestals or casually woven into the fabric of the countryside around the barn.
Back inside the barn there were far too many beautiful pieces to be able to show you all of them, so I have instead selected a couple of my favourites.
Barry Elphick: Intrigue
Justin Calver
Jane Gibson
This piece by Jo Savage entitled Progeny was of particular interest to myself and a lot of other people.  From a distance, it appears to be a simple tree landscape, similar to that you frequently see in Fantasy artwork, but closer up you can see faces and shapes in the bark.  Different people see different things, for me it was the Green Man, Atlas holding up the sky and Yggdrasil all together. 
Jo Savage: Progeny
Jo Savage: Progeny
This piece by Nick Amey was, for me, my favourite in the entire show.  In the flesh it was incredibly realistic; you were hard pressed to believe that it wasn't a photograph and it had an almost 3D quality about it - the tree stood out from the rest of the painting as if it has been lifted from the country lane that morning.  It was just beautiful.
Nick Amey
The Pilgrims Way exhibition was a unexpected bonus of my visit to Lenham.  Lenham itself is a pretty little village that I haven't really explored but it looked like there may be a few good restaurants in the village centre, and the Italian food market was certainly worth a visit!  Tithe Barn itself is a gorgeous location for an art exhibition, with the Church framing the skyline and the open fields at the back, it's a piece of art on it's own.

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