Artists Open Houses Review

This May, 180 venues showcase the work of more than 1,200 artists as part of the annual Artists Open Houses Festival. With free entry to everything, it’s the perfect chance to get inspired, chat with creative people and purchase handmade gifts and original artworks at decidedly non-gallery prices. What’s not to love? SOURCE took a tour of some Open Houses and selected ten highlights.

Fugitive Ink
Flat 2, 25 Compton Avenue, BN1 3PT
Jake Spicer, recently the author of a bestselling series of books on how to draw, proves his own mettle with a selection of inspiring, atmospheric charcoal life drawings, which technically dazzle whilst leaving room for an all important emotional connection. Shelley Morrow displays #whomademyclothes, a patchwork quilt made from 1,138 found clothing labels, one for every victim of the Bangladeshi Rana Plaza clothing factory disaster. It’s a strong conceptual piece, eye-catching yet thought provoking and relatable.

Brighton Etch CornerHouse
15a Stanford Avenue, BN1 6DW
A group of Brighton’s most accomplished, deftly assured traditional printmakers sell and discuss their work. Ray Dennis records tender moments with his family in painstaking mezzotints, while the beautiful, oftentimes achingly melancholic colour etchings of Jo Riddell embody a fragile contemporary Romanticism. Her etching of pylons on the South Downs in coming darkness left us dazzled.

Number Ten
10 Palmeira Square, BN3 2JB
Number Ten offers an engaging display of traditional paintings and prints in a fascinating Regency townhouse whose high ceilings and tall windows provide a great setting for the pictures. Peter Matthews’ colourful canvases of sea and sky evoke high Summer, while Julie Kuyath’s opulent mixed media collages shimmer in the light, endowing her subjects (we particularly love the Nick Cave portrait) with an otherworldly glow.

56 Tivoli Crescent
56 Tivoli Crescent, BN1 5ND
A remarkable, TARDIS-like suburban art space. We enter through a door on street level and descend into the basement, to discover artist Keith Petit working away on wood engravings against a completely unexpected hillside reveal of the entire breathtaking panorama of Brighton – rather like walking into a cellar and discovering you’re on the top floor of a flat block. Petit’s tiny, stylised figurative images of Sussex downland offer a beautiful time-travelling window into a bucolic England. His work sits well alongside the wide range other styles on display here, including the vibrant screenprints of Moira Wills, and Sue Haseltine’s evocative landscape linocuts.

Christoper Gunson
22 Cornwall Gardens, BN1 6RJ
Amiable, chatty Christopher Gunson is on hand to discuss his past as an illustrator. Although best known for the sleeve art of Ride’s seminal ‘Going Blank Again’ LP, his display here reflects a more recent passion for photograpy. His enthusiasm for this newer side to his work is infectious. Documentary photos of Ghana, and a mini photo essay about the ignominious fate of a major Tate Britain installation – from Duveen Sculpture Gallery to scrapyard – offer standout moments.
www.christophergunson.com

2 Knoyle
2 Knoyle Road, BN1 6RB
In this most Alice in Wonderland of all the Open Houses, the garden feels like a piece of intimate environmental art. Metal flowers, courtesy of artist Si Uwins, protrude from the soil alongside real flora and fauna, creating a sweetly surreal tension. We wander past a tree house (out of bounds, sadly) and into a fairytale shed where Angela Evans displays her beautiful ceramic tiles and artworks. When we visit, the place is buzzing – tea and cake in the garden seems to be a special attraction.
www.2knoyle.co.uk

The Stanley Road Store
25 Stanley Road, BN1 4NJ
A craft and textiles oriented Open House, Stanley Road Store is a small, joyously haphazard space, crammed to the gills with cushions, dresses, jewellery, badges and much more. Muriel Grimont’s embroidery kits are a great idea. Also of particular fascination are Rachel Eardley’s necklaces, made from recycled and refashioned vintage coins.
(Stanley Road have branched out into The Warren this year – their Makers Village Pop-up is open weekends thoughout the festival.)
www.thestanleyroadstore.co.uk

Bluebell Would
45 Westbourne Gardens, BN3 5PN
Tucked away off Portland Road, this small house in Hove offers an array of craft and art items – Vicky Scott’s colourful paper cuts are a particular delight. We also find ourselves taken with the work of illustrator Del Thorpe, who is selling tiny original pen and ink drawings from book projects with Tony Robinson and Philip Ardagh at quite incredible prices, some less than £10.

The Wellbeing Gallery
Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre, 18-19 Western Road, BN3 1AE
In an unprepossessing NHS health centre on Western Road, we encounter art therapy at its best in a series of works in which clients explore their passions. Stephen Humphrey shows miniature surrealist prints inspired by 80s pop songs, while Stephen Hawthorne displays large pastel pictures of his cat, suffused with love and strangely moving. Chatting to the artists is great fun, too, and their personable enthusiasm reminds us why art can be so important and necessary.
www.thewellbeinggallery.com

Studio 106
First Floor, 106 Coleridge Street, BN5 3AA
At the upper edge of the West Hove trail, visitors have the chance to tour a working fine art studio with a complete gamut of styles, from small pen portraits to large colour abstracts. There’s a smell of paint in the air, and the real sense of a creative community caught mid-process – with a small foyer gallery offering an overview of the artists involved, and then the chance to wander the partitioned interior working spaces. There’s something for everyone, though our highlight is a series of sensitive, boldly composed monotypes by Alex Rutherford.
www.studio106.co.uk

Artists Open Houses, Until 29th May 2017
www.aoh.org.uk
Check website for opening times and dates of individual houses.

Images: Julie Kuyath, Alex Rutherford, Jo Riddell, Christopher Gunson, Shelley Morrow, Keith Petit, Rachel Eardley

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Peter James Field

Peter did a degree in world art history and anthropology, before spending three years in the Japanese countryside teaching English at village schools. For the past eleven years he has worked as a freelance illustrator.

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