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  • James Stewart

Art Talk at The Steakist - Thirty Four Years of the Arundel Gallery Trail

“Home is where the Art is”

In Arundel Festival week in August 2023, I was asked by The Steakist restaurant to give a talk at a special wine tasting dinner on my take on the highlights of the Arundel Gallery Trail.

During the four course dinner, paired with specially selected wines, the diners also heard from Paul Milne at Enotria & Coe introducing each of the wines: A Cremant to start, a gavi di gavi with the starter (salad or salmon mousse), a pinot noir with the main (beef wellington or cauliflower steak), a moscato with dessert (panna cotta or cheesecake) and finally a great Douro red with a range of English cheeses.

Below I set out the text of my talk:

34 years old but as fresh and vital as ever, the Arundel Gallery Trail started in 1989; ten years after the first Arundel Festival, which at that time had no visual arts element.

Ann Sutton, MBE had the original idea and within hours had the support of Oliver Hawkins, Renee Bodimeade and Derek Davis. These four founders were local, but established, artists or art teachers.

They achieved their aim to create a circular walking trail within the town centre, on which visitors could see “50 temporary galleries in cellars, conservatories, front rooms and back yards of houses, shops and offices”.

The original route took in Tarrant Street, Maltravers Street and the High Street. Being so compact, without the need for a car to see every venue, it was the first of its’ type in the world, a format that is now copied in towns and villages throughout Sussex and beyond.

Artists who took part in 1989 and the early years will be familiar to regular Trail goers and followers of the Sussex “Art Scene”:

Derek & Josse Davis; Neil Holland; David Peduzzi; Ann Sutton; Oliver Hawkins; Matt, Nick and Miles Bodimeade; Andy Waite; Bill Philip; Peter Neuner, and Giles Penny. Some of them have been regular exhibitors over the years, and incredibly a few will also be included this year!

As founder, Oliver Hawkins said in 1995 “It is certainly not the same old team - many favourite artists are still here but there is a large body of works by artists whose work will be entirely new to regular visitors, and that has to be a good thing”.

It is the variety on the Trail which visitors enjoy; they are able to see new work by regularly showing artists and follow their development, and at the same time see the work of other artists who may only show for one or two years.

Over the years the Trail expanded to include the whole Town and even some venues further afield, but still maintained the original ethos of being totally walkable (almost).

[See our earlier Blog post A Potted History of the Arundel Gallery Trail, originally written in 2018 to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Trail. The article was published in that year's Trail guide as well as in local magazines.]

Artists to look out for in 2023

Andy Waite (venue 9) has is unique in that he has exhibited in every single trail since the beginning, he is also one of the organizers of this year’s event and has been helping out most years.

His work has moved from still life and representation to abstract expressionism over the years. Andy’s current series of paintings, called ‘Unmapped’, are a poetic celebration of the English sky and weather in all their elemental power.

Matt Bodimeade and Miles Bodimeade (venue 7) showed with their brother Nick in 1989 as new graduates. They return this year with a great show of South Stoke downland farm paintings and figurative sculpture on Tarrant Street, the house and garden is worth looking at too!

Wish You Were Here, by Manny Woodard, graphite on panel, 30 x 30 cm, hung at The Steakist
Wish You Were Here by Manny Woodard, graphite on panel, 30 x 30 cm, hung at The Steakist

Another family exhibition is the Woodard’s at the Victoria Institute, Ian Woodard is showing with his mother Manny Woodard and father Roy Woodard at the Victoria Institute (venue 1).

We, at Zimmer Stewart Gallery, exhibited his sculptures back in 2005 and paintings in 2016, Manny Woodard’s little photographic pencil drawings are stunning, and Roy’s paintings have a great nostalgic quality.

I really like the look of the turned wood bowls by Barnaby and Dru at Gallery 57 (venue 4) they look weathered with an aged finish with stunning forms.

Mary Bayford (venue 6) has been producing jewellery for the Trail for a number of years using beads collected on trips to Italy Goa and Sri Lanka. Now having completed a course at West Dean she also makes her own chain mail pieces in silver, she says that she likes the way that they move and mould to the body like a textile.

The garden of Eagle Brewery House on Tarrant Street is always good to visit, not just because of the garden, but it is the venue for Heather Stevens (venue 2) a regular on the Trail for many years. Heather works with recycled copper, brass and other found objects to create unique artworks. Her pieces are instantly recognizable as buyers walk around the town with their treasured new purchases.

Plant Life by Karin Moorhouse, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm
Plant Life by Karin Moorhouse, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 cm hung at The Steakist

Karin Moorhouse (venue 9) is a professional artist, who also teaches at the Mill Studio, she will be exhibiting some brilliant flora paintings and other landscape works, under the title ‘How the Light Gets in’.

I have to mention new venue this year at the stable yard on Tarrant St, painter Justin Robins and ceramicist, Yve Slater (venue 8) will show here having already exhibited at other venues in previous years.

Bridge by Justin Robins, oil and household paint on panel, 122 x 82 cm hung at The Steakist
Bridge by Justin Robins, oil and household paint on panel, 122 x 82 cm hung at The Steakist

Justin’s bold and intriguing abstract paintings will provide many years of interest as he plays spatially with scale and form on the canvas and Yve’s bright thrown and slip cast pieces will hold their own in contrast to the paintings.

I could go on all night, but need to mention Duff House and Duff Gallery (venue 24), home to the late great Derek Davis, with whom we had many great exhibitions from 2003 to 2008. It is now home to Josse Davis, his son, and Melissa Alers-Hankey, both exhibiting this year alongside a fine selection of artists from across Sussex.

It is worth venturing beyond Tarrant Street up to Orchard Place to find Jorgen Christiansen’s wonderful graphic gouache paintings (venue 19), these represent scenes in an almost retro manner using an interesting contemporary color palette.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention our two venues (13 & 14): The Crypt Gallery in Ford Road cometary, where we are exhibiting sculpture and prints by Trail favourite Giles Penny, and The Mill Studio just outside Arundel off Ford Lane, where we have a exhibition of woodcuts and etchings by award winning print maker Tom Hammick.

The most important thing is that you do not take my word for it, make your own mind up, try and visit as many venues as you can, be nice to the artists, by showing their work they are putting their hearts on their sleeves!

Buy something from the Trail each year and you will soon have a great collection which will mean something for years to come.

Contact me if you have any questions or would like to find out more.


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