A very pleasant and sunny afternoon walking in Brighton seeing various artists’ work. The Artists Open Houses (AOH) event has been going for thirty years or so as a semi-official part of the Brighton Festival. There’s a well-produced guide of 96 pages plus several individual walking routes and maps.
It’s a great tradition, an opportunity to meet with the artists and to see their work displayed in informal domestic surroundings; many of the houses were also offering tea and homemade cakes in the charming gardens of the Victorian houses. There’s a wide variety of types of art and craft on show, the artists have themselves developed in different ways, some are independent whilst others have aligned with various groups and co-operatives. Some are glorious amateurs others are professional. And of course it is an opportunity to buy their work.
Far too many to see and appreciate everything. We find it best to roam rather than follow the suggested itineraries. The highlights for me were the photography of Emma Topping, which I liked for the clear photographic compositions which had been reduced to monochrome to which false colour had been added; this treatment heightened the atmosphere and gave a poster type quality to her images.
In the same house in the Seven Dials area, the display of screen prints by her sister Sam Topping showed attractive prints made from layouts of natural leaves and flowers on a photosensitive material, on the principle of photogram, which had been screen printed using bright coloured inks.
Over in the Five Ways area, a number of exhibitions in the artists’ houses in a wide variety of media. I liked Number 11, showing the varied work of Adam Johnson, not just acrylics and ceramics but a kitchen full of cup cakes knitted in wool and displayed as though real cakes.
Rex Matthew’s masterful paintings of Brighton scenes were on show in a house further up Rugby Road, we’ve seen him at work in various locations around Brighton over the year and it was good to see his finished works, along with some distinctive posters of Brighton created by his ex-student Peter Spells.
Finally and most memorably, in the garden of Harebell House in Florence Road, next to gothic architecture of the apse of the disused church of St. Augustine, Brian Mander’s gothic sculptures The Daemonwain, Of the genus Cruciferae, Pharmakeria/Pharmakos and A Babylon Sideshow. A garden given over to sculptures created variously from rusty chains, disused iron crucifixes, antlers discarded by deer and arranged around a large tree, pond garden and (most worryingly) wooden coop, home to various generations of chickens. Enough to make all of your nightmares come true and quite a counterpoint to some of the very tasteful and often clever art elsewhere in the various houses. Inside the house in a white painted room with Baroque music playing and with a warning that the display includes cremated human remains, Brian Mander’s A Mass for Susan.