Tuesday, 29 October 2013

On the Bank

Most days I walk along the bank - or should that be The Bank - at Overy.  For the uninitiated this is the earth bank constructed to stop the North Sea having its wicked way with the grazing land between the coast road and the Saltmarsh and thus to protect the soft underbelly of North Norfolk.

On the face of it, it's not that remarkable. It's level, there isn't much variety in the view or the vegetation, and there aren't many opportunities to vary your route. What is remarkable is the light and the tidal variations. Not a day goes past that I don't bless the good fortune that allows me to live, work and walk here.

To start with I used to take a camera with me but more recently I have realised that the technology in my phone is more than capable of capturing the wonder of my daily perambulations. As some will know many of these images find their way onto the Overy Harbour Trust Facebook page, where apparently they are viewed by - to me anyway - astounding numbers of people. Last week nearly 600 people apparently looked at this photo. Who are these people and how do they come to be interested in Overy? I shall never know.

It's a sunset and it's a good sky, but it's far from unique. It happens most days. As I noted earlier in the year there is something about the location that seems to ensure even on the most unlikely of days something wonderful happens to the light or the weather.  And there has been quite a bit of that over the last ten days or so.

St.Jude was a bit of a damp squib in this bit of Norfolk at least. But even before that, my walks have varied from calm warm evenings that would have been unremarkable in June, to cold, very wet and very windy, but all none the worse for it. As has often been said, there isn't bad weather, just the wrong clothes.

Returning to St.Jude - who I feel would benefit from a new agent - in this little corner of Norfolk he turned out to be briefly torrential, with an inch or so of rain in a couple of hours (according to my rain gauge)  and was accompanied by squally winds and very rapid changes of wind direction and pressure. But it is Norfolk, it is on the coast and it is late October. And as - accurately - predicted it mostly happened in little more than 3 hours. By sunset we were back to reassuringly calm and beautiful.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Island

Before we opened the gallery in Burnham, I used to occasionally visit to collect cards and books from the late lamented Saltwater Gallery.  I never met Harry Cory Wright but formed a strong image  of him in my mind's eye.  An aged wiry individual with a trim beard and eccentric behaviour using a huge antique plate camera. Sometime soon after we opened I found myself talking to this young man who jogged past the door most mornings. Ten years younger than me and (nearly) clean shaven. This apparently was Harry.

Over the next 6 years, our paths have continued to cross and our conversations have rambled. Saltwater closed and Smokesilver opened and then closed. At some point, halfway down Front Street I met Felicity Binyon. To be correct, I met her again, as she had shown her work with us in Norwich when we first started.  The only thing was that this time it emerged that she was in Burnham by reason of being Harry's mother-in-law.

Sometime later Overy Staithe entered my life. Initially as the place where Burnham flirted with the sea, but then as somewhere friends lived and I walked and I looked and I wondered. Working with the Harbour Trust and the Boathouse threw more light on Harry's place in all this. And then two summers ago, Harry and Felicity shared a show of their work at home in the middle of Burnham.

For the first time I saw not his all-seeing large format photographic masterworks but minimal monochrome drawings - or were they paintings?

Whatever they were, they were clearly very Overy. The Island, Gun Hill, the marsh, the creek - all reduced to their bare essentials.  They struck not just a chord, but one which was in harmony with the place and how I saw it. And clearly not just for me judging by the reaction.

Two years on and the further development or distillation of these minimal ideas has produced Harry's exhibition with us - The Island. Some people don't get it and are at a loss as to what it's about. Most do - and many who came along to see it at the opening have returned to look again and again.  Which is a bit like Overy itself.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Outside the bubble

It's very easy to take root in this part of the world. Even though my friends and visitors come from and travel to all points of the compass I seem to spend much of life in and around the village. Just occasionally I break out and there's no denying it does change the perspective.

In just 48 hours last week I managed to take in a formal dinner in the depths of Windsor Great Park, pub lunch with my son Sam in Bristol, delivery of paintings to the far west of Devon, a curry with Gerard Stamp - no surprise there other than we were in Exeter for a change - and dinner in rather more historic surroundings with the Dean of Exeter!

By way of explanation, the formal dinner was at a construction conference and took me back to my previous existence as an architect. It all seemed a long time ago and a long way from my life today. Windsor Park did however look very good on a classic autumn morning, all misty and mellow. Lunch in Bristol was pre-planned to mark his 21 years on the planet, but my further travels were prompted by Sam who, with pleasing concern for his aged father, suggested a day off seeing friends would do me good.

Exeter is the venue of our next exhibition of Gerard's work, so it was not chance that found us eating and drinking together within sight of the Cathedral. With the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in the world and now with the West End cleared of scaffolding it's looking very good and worthy of Gerard's attention.

With an eye to economy, I contrived to use a visit to Richard Godfrey's studio as a staging post in the process of getting the pictures to their final destination in the South Hams.  Fantastic to see just how well Richard is doing and to find him hard at work on his new work.  Without giving too much away to those who know the range of his work we have sold over the last ten years, the new work has a real connection with this but at the same time is wonderfully different. Hopefully we should have some here in Norfolk before too long.  In the meantime, if you want or need any or more of his earlier work, you need to be quick.  There won't be anymore and there's not much left.

At Richard's suggestion I then called in to see another Devon potter, Tim Andrews, who each year hosts an exhibition of ceramics by a number of his friends.  Some of these - including Richard and Francoise Dufayard - already show with us in Burnham, and hopefully Tim can be persuaded to join them.

Combined with a small number of pints of Otter and glasses of Reserve du Reverend (really!), Sam's advice proved sound and life seemed quite a bit better.  On my return to Burnham, Harry Cory Wright appeared to deliver the work for his exhibition, having also just got back from a couple of days away. In his case in Marrakesh. I know my place!