Summer 2017 - we held our first show upstairs at Vida Comida in Sherborne, a 'POP-UP' - organised fast - successful and fun. Our second show at this venue will be for Dorset Art Weeks 2018, running from May 26th to June 10th.
2017 - Earth Pulse exhibition at Eype Centre for the Arts. The work by members of Wessex Contemporary Arts reflects the energy and movement of the natural world we inhabit and which we can so easily take for granted. The work is a mix of abstract and figurative, 2D and 3D all in its way challenging not only a conventional view of art, but challenging us to look again with fresh eyes at what is around us, appreciate and reflect . The exhibition was opened by Stephen Batty, we are so grateful for the wonderful talk he gave and so saddened by his recent death. In honour of him we have included it here:
WESCA Wessex Contemporary Arts
Birthdays are a time of reflection, of looking back. I'm old enough to remember that during my 59 years I've been privileged to have met three elderly people, each of them women, who, in their youth saw Thomas Hardy about his business in and around Dorchester. One of these women had a low opinion of the master writer of Dorset: on Sunday afternoons her parents would take her for walks in the Frome meadows. “But then we'd come across Mr. Hardy and he'd be sat on a stile and he wouldn't budge, so we had to find another way round the hedge to get to the footpath.” I've always been intrigued by that thought of Hardy not budging. Was it curmudgenliness? Obstinacy? Rudeness? Or was he dreaming Wessex into being? We talk about 'Hardy's Wessex' but 98 years after his death it has become our Wessex. He took the name of the old Anglo Saxon kingdom and transferred it to a Dorset and Somerset and Wiltshire and Devon and Hampshire that were of his own making. In the preface to Far From the Madding Crowd, he talks of Wessex as 'a merely realistic dream country.' There's a lovely ambiguity in that statement: 'realistic' and 'dream country' wouldn't normally be juxtaposed. Either something's real or its a dream. But in the hands of an artist, whether they be a 'word-painter' or a 'mark-maker', a dream can become real or the real can be seen as if in a dream. I hope Hardy would have been honoured by your choosing 'Wessex Contemporary Arts' as the title of your collective. I certainly believe that he'd have approved of 'Earth Pulse' as a title. In his poem The Darkling Thrush he has a line that includes the words: 'the ancient pulse of germ and birth..'
In Far From The Madding Crowd Hardy writes: 'The sky was remarkably clear – and the twinkling of all the stars seemed to be but throbs of one body, timed by a common pulse..' Where there's a pulse there's a life force and it belongs not just to individual human beings but, as Hardy reminds us, there's an ancient pulse in the earth and a pulse in the sky, a 'common pulse.' Art is one of means by which we take that pulse, listen to it, respond to it.
I would like to close with a story that is, in one way, a kind of warning about the liberties that art can take: yes it is good to dream, to have flights of imagination, but at the same time there is a responsibility to be anchored in the real.
In the mid 1960s, when the film director John Schlesinger brought a crew to Dorset to make his dreamy adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel Far from the Madding Crowd, a farmer in our village was asked to supply the sheep that would appear in the scene where Gabriel Oak (played by Alan Bates) loses his livelihood as a shepherd when a wayward dog of his drives his flock over the edge of a cliff.
The story goes that when the film was premièred in Dorset there was a good number of shepherds in the audience. As Gabriel Oak's tragedy unfolded on the screen, a spontaneous and contemptuous peal of laughter filled the cinema – the shepherds had easily spotted the continuity error. The sheep corpses littering the beach were a different breed from the ones that had been harried on the cliff-top. The film makers had gone to Jack Norman's slaughterhouse at Bradpole to access the bodies of sheep without a thought to differentiation between breeds. They weren't tuned to the earth's actual pulse. Their dream was not anchored enough in reality. They thought that any old sheep would do!
Each of the shepherds who sat at that first screening of John Schlesinger's film were not going to be fooled by a drama that stopped short of specifying between the breeds they knew so well. That shepherd up there on the screen was not going to be believed by a constituency which did definitely know the difference between kinds of sheep. A rather woolly (pun intended) approach to 'sheep-ness' had overlooked particularity. And the result, in the eyes of the shepherds, was absurd: a cinematic shepherd whose flock metamorphoses even as it plunges to its doom! No wonder they laughed. Around the time that the first film of Far From the Madding Crowd was made, an American Trappist monk named Thomas Merton wrote this in celebration of things having their own unique identity:
"No two created beings are exactly alike. And their individuality is no imperfection. On the contrary, the perfection of each created thing is not merely in its conformity to an abstract type but in its own individual identity with itself.'
None of the works of art in this exhibition are exactly alike; they do not conform to an abstract type: they are unique expressions of earth's ancient pulse of germ and birth.
DURLSTON July 2015. Next Year we will be exhibiting in Durlston with an exhibition entitled "On The Edge"
Preparations are underway and we will continue to report updates as and when. It should be an exciting exhibition.
WORK IN PROGRESS - Eype Church (Centre for Arts) .
We have just completed a very successful exhibition at Eype Church. With a footfall of over 250 over the 8 days it gained many favourable comments and several significant sales. We will be returning to Eype soon we hope as we love exhibiting there. It is quiet and off the beaten track but the exhibitions there all have a wonderful atmosphere. ( Pictures to follow soon).
ENCOUNTERS Dorset County Museum 2013.
This exhibition was a tremendous opportunity for the group as a whole. The exhibition was centred around work inspired by artefacts and memories found in the museum and as a result the exhibition was diverse and exciting. It was well attended and of much interest to the public. Pictures below from the PV.