Monday, 20 August 2018

Going green - the wonder of grass

10 days ago the world was still brown. We'd had rain - actually quite a lot of it at the end of July - but nothing seemed to have changed much. The lawn was still like coir matting and even the deep-rooted weeds were looking tired. And then almost imperceptibly the world started to change; just a hint on Wednesday, the merest suggestion on Thursday and then by Friday, green re-entered our dry world.

Curiously some of the first signs were not acvtually grass, but in the dust and gravel along the side of Norfolk's rural roads where grain spilled by contractor's trailers, having first provided a feast for the wood pigeons, burst into unexpected life. And now just a few days on the verges are definitely turning green - you can almost see them growing.

As for the lawns, even though we know - and are always told - not to water them as they will recover in September, this year did seem to be stretching our belief. But the grass is growing - and we're still in August. What a wonderful thing!

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Hot off the press

Just four months ago it seemed like Spring would never come. In some ways it never did and we leapt straight from the freezer onto the barbecue. For us lucky enough to be here in North Norfolk there have been few complaints, sea breezes making our lives disproportionately easier than those who live and work in cities. However, it is now finally getting to us here, with everyday seeing the fire service rushing to extinguish another field fire, whilst most gardeners hereabouts are starting to realise the havoc being wrought by such a long period without rain. Sadly, I imagine the coming months will also reveal how many trees have succumbed.

For the gallery, the good weather has brought more visitors but even they are now starting to find it a little warm, particularly in the middle of the day. Our artists are similarly affected - the memories of being too cold to work now seem like a dream - and many are understandably taking time out from the studio.

Particular problems face the printmaker, with inks adopting unusual characteristics in persistent conditions of high temperature and humidity, even if the maker can cope. Fortunately for us, our current exhibition of wonderful prints by Louise Davies was made before the onset of the current heat. Louise is one of the artists who has shown with us for many years, firstly in Norwich and subsequently here in Burnham. Her work is characterised by vivid colour - hot reds and oranges and also the cooler greens and blues - and offers the chance to acquire some seriously good art at very affordable prices.

Writing about the process of her work Louise says "My prints are created from immediate drawings that I do from my sketchbook. For me, the sketchbook is a vital tool for the beginning of my work. I feel very connected to the landscape and to the seasons and try to convey the feeling, shapes, lines and colours of being in the landscape either at a certain time of day or at a certain time of year.

My prints are often created with three plates and sometimes include a collagraph. I love colour and use the different plates, with Aquatint, to pursue a final print, which I hope will have luminous colour and depth in it. The proofing stage can take weeks as I keep trying different colour fields. It can therefore take a while to finally finish the image. My overall mission is to make something that I feel has a balance pictorially. Nature seems to do this effortlessly and this is what I would like to achieve in my work"

The exhibition "A feel for the land" was due to conclude at the end of the month but given the interest - and the weather - we have decided to allow it to run on into August, with the closing date being posted on the website in due course.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Coast and Field

It is not a pre-requisite for exhibitions to include the word 'Coast' in their title, but given the proximity of the gallery to the coast and the fundamental connection between our part of Norfolk and the sea, it is definitely becoming a habit.

Our next exhibition does, with Coast and Field which opens in the gallery on Friday 1st June at 6pm, and features the vibrant paintings of local (very local) artists Kevin and Ann-Marie Ryan.

At their last exhibition with us three years ago,  I referred to how best to write about successful artists on their return for further exhibitions. As I noted then ”The biographical details remain the same and in most cases the style and approach are a development of what has gone before, and which underpins their reputation  – which, of course, is why they have been invited back”  This still holds true, and amongst our regular returnees, Ann-Marie and Kevin Ryan have seen consistent success over the last 16 years.

At the heart of all their work are their distinctive palettes embuing their perception of the underlying earthforms of the Norfolk scene with a warmth that strikes a chord with many who appreciate the distinctive character of the area.  Their paintings are not normal for Norfolk.  Vibrant, rich and sometimes dark colours are not what most associate with the county and yet they are very much in tune with it.

For those who are familiar with their work, this latest collection builds on their considerable reputation.  For those who are less familiar – come and see – for almost inevitably, the limitations of reproduction tell only part of the story.

COAST AND FIELD - Ann-Marie and Kevin Ryan, June 1st to 23rd

Monday, 16 April 2018

Fragile Coast

In the two years since her last exhibition at Burnham Grapevine, Mari French has emerged as one of Norfolk’s fastest rising stars on the national art scene.

The roots of Mari French’s paintings lie in her deep-seated love and affinity with landscape and weather. Born in Manchester she grew up close to the brooding presence of the Pennine hills and then spent 15 years living on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Her early paintings from this time reflect the locale - powerful, at times moody and always evocative. Moving to live in Norfolk, her sources of inspiration and the resulting paintings changed - the colours brighter, and the mood less intense - but still capturing the elemental forces of these wild landscapes.

Her work is constantly evolving, with experimentation employing paint, ink, collage and oil pastel. The most recent paintings reflect a greater confidence, employing bigger brushes and bolder gestures, the work freer and more expressive but still evoking the interaction of wind, rain, and light.

Having been a selected artist in the 2014 Sunday Times Watercolour Competition her work has most recently been selected for the Royal Watercolour Society 2018 Contemporary Exhibition. Always fascinating to look at on first sight, Mari’s paintings reveal more about themselves and ourselves as time passes. 

The exhibition includes over 20 works with prices starting from £400 and continues until 5th May

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

At the darkest hour

In a week's time Christmas will be done and dusted and we'll be in that strange period where the retail world will have swept all festive signs away and will be into 'The Sales' and Easter Eggs, whilst the media will review everything they can and foretell the future.

Somewhat strangely, we've already past the earliest sunset and the evening light is creeping back, minute by minute. I realise the other part of the equation isn't quite there yet, but the feeling that a corner is being turned is good and prompts the odd reflection on what its all about - particularly when out and about early or late.

It's always difficult to decide which bit of the year one likes best - I actually think some part of us is pre-programmed to appreciate the season you're in.  They all feel right at the time, partly because everything we do still inevitably - even in the digital age - relates to the season. Cold and dark in the winter, warm and dry in the summer. It's when it gets out of sync we all feel everything's not right. So, reflecting, we seem to be doing about right just now; a late colourful autumn and for the first time for a few years a bit of cold and even snow before Christmas. More remarkably, the cold has briefly departed just in time to make family and friends getting together relatively straightforward.

Accordingly and - in our case traditionally - we spent last weekend with good friends who whilst not having the good fortune to live in North Norfolk do live in another wonderful bit of England, down in glorious Devon.  My daily walks briefly disappeared and were replaced with conversation, good food and the odd glass of red! It wouldn't do all the time, but just like the season, it feels absolutely right just now.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The proof of the pudding

Following up on my last post, I am pleased to report that the lights did indeed go on here in Burnham a couple of weeks ago. Like most of the businesses, we are aware of what's going on during the day but only manage to go and have a look towards the end, having discharged our basic function - to trade.

Based on what I heard from customers during the day, it all seemed to go down rather well, with lots to eat and drink and a mix of music on stage and strolling entertainers loose and wandering around the village. The days of the celebrity switch-on are seemingly gone for good with the re-establishment of Father Christmas at the centre of things seeming to satisfy most people's Christmas wishes.

As for the lights themselves, I remember when tungsten started to give way to LED there was a noticeable backlash and a feeling that these new-fangled things were cold and clinical and not very Christmassy. They may have been, but the world and technology has moved on and Burnham has moved with it. The LED's no longer look cold to me and crucially (by and large) they work when asked to. Just as celebrity has been consigned to history so it seems has the need to check and replace bulbs. Another Christmas Tradition that might just not be missed.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Smaller then you might imagine

A couple of years ago I wrote about the hazards and pitfalls of having Christmas Light switch-on events.  Well it's that time again, and all across North Norfolk, lights are being installed, checked and day by day, switched on - even though Christmas isn't quite just round the corner.

When its cold, crisp and bright as it is today, it doesn't seem that strange, but on mild days with leaves still on the trees it does seem just a little early. For most of our neighbours, thinking particularly of Wells and Holt, the organisation and installation is, I think, if not in the hands of the local Town Council very much supported by them. Here things are a bit different; Burnham is smaller than you might imagine - we are not a town but just a slightly larger than average village. We have a Parish Council but the traditional Christmas Lights have always been a matter for the Traders Association, indeed I believe this is where the origins of that body can be found.

Each year in the time we have been here there has been a question of costs and management. There are a surprising number of businesses here but as time has gone past, an increasing number are staffed by those who live elsewhere and the original direct connections and community links have diminished. Fortunately largely through the efforts of a very few over the last couple of the years, some of the installation costs are now more manageable, but as somebody noted this week "they don't switch themselves on" and the Christmas trees themselves need to be funded, purchased and installed.

The Parish Council are of course involved but the fact remains that without the time and effort expended by one or two individuals sorting every thing out, Burnham's lights simply wouldn't happen and another little bit of community life would fade away.