We received lots of invitations to Devon Open Studio this year but when you’re running a busy gallery it can be hard to get away. However, we did manage a couple of trips out and with list in hand headed off to visit as many as we could.
Devon Open Studios is an annual event hosted by Devon Artist Network, in which artists across South Devon open their studios to the general public for a number of days across a period of two weeks. This year, the event welcomed over 200 artists for visitors and residents to plan their own tours around.
In the end we didn’t manage to get around to all that we would have liked, time was simply against us, but we did get to visit Becky Nuttall, Charlie O’ Sullivan, Martin Dutton, The Tin Shed Studio - featuring work from Joanie Johns, Mei Lim, Sarah Morris and Sue Williamson - Alan Gregory, Sue Evans, Heather Jansch, Kate Lyons-Miller, and Rosemary Ensor. Our choices were in part based on geography and permitted time but we were also able to go and see work across a wide range of disciplines and styles, taking in paint media, photography, jewellery, printmaking, ceramics and sculpture, such is the talent that we have here on our doorstep!
It is a rare treat to be invited into to an artist’s studio and witness the space they have dedicated to their creativity. To hear about their process, their inspirations, and see the physical representations of these is a real privilege, and by the end of the day we were completely overwhelmed by all that we had seen, the lovely conversations that we’d had with these dedicated artists who spend their time creating for themselves and for audiences to enjoy and marvel at.
Below you’ll find a little bit about each of the studios we visited and the artists who call them home!
Charlie O'Sullivan SWAc
We had not heard of or seen Charlie’s work before but managed to combine a brief trip away with a visit to her studio based in Churstow near Kingsbridge.
Her studio is vast and on display were some earlier works alongside a more recent series which are brighter and somehow appear more optimisitc. That said there was a darker edgier side to the earlier pieces which we also liked.
Over the years Charlie has developed a unique individual style and exhibits widely in the UK and abroad, the priority of her earlier work was the notion of the sea and the Scottish identity; - now she has focused on the subject of mapping these same memories onto landscapes, included with relevant figures from her own past and those of others.
Martin Dutton SWAc
Martin’s studio is situated alongside his home in Maidencombe just outside Torquay. His work ranges from realism to richly textured abstracts inspired by Devon, Venice, France and Spain, places he visits regularly.
A previous exhibitor at Artizan, we know Martin’s work well but a visit to his studio never disappoints. Our particular favourites are those based on trips to Venice, semi-abstract pieces that provide a hint of the subject but allow your imagination to reach it’s own interpretation and response to the piece as a whole.
The Tin Shed Studio
Mei Lim completed her studio a few years ago and it sits in the garden of her home on the River Teign in Shaldon. A bright airy purpose built space that ticks all the boxes, and which for Devon Open Studios she shared with fellow artists, Joanie Johns, Sue Williamson and Sarah Morris. Between them they displayed ceramics, printmaking, jewellery, photography and paintings.
Mei is possibly best known for her photography but she has just been learning how to produce woodcuts and had some on display when we visited along with fellow print maker Sarah Morris. Sue Williamson produces work across a variety of subjects but is curently working on a series of abstracted architectural pieces that we absolutely loved.
Before leaving Shaldon we managed to squeeze in a couple of other studios, one of our August exhibitors Alan Gregory and another new artist to us Sue Evans. Alan’s work is inspired by the Devon and Cornwall landscape and coastline as well as by trips abroad, mainly topographical although he has recently started to explore more abstract works. His work really does conjure up the feel of the places that he paints, the rugedness of the Cornish Coast, the heat of Menorca and the changing colours of the landscape at different times of the day or year.
Similarly Sue paints and draws landscapes and coastal scenes but their styles and end results are quite different with Sue’s work being more photgraphic in style, a complete contrast and a reminder that we all interpret what we see in different ways.
Heather Jansch and Kate Lyons-Miller
We then headed out to a studio that I had wanted to visit for some time, Heather jansch’s home and studio based at Olchard just outside of Newton Abbott. Her majestic life-sized wooden sculptures of horses greet you as you walk down the drive to her garden, where you come across yet more! We were fascinated to learn about the process of casting them with each piece taken apart again and cast seperately. Alongside her was ceramicist Kate Lyons-Miller who produces large clay highly textured pots made from terra cotta and black clay, simple in design but full of energy and beauty.
Our final trip before we ran out of time was to Rosemary Ensor‘s studio also in Olchard. This brought us back to bright colourful abstracts with themes loosley based around the landscape and natural forms. With some abstract work it is unashamedly bold and in your face but with Rosemary’s work there are more muted colours among the bright, and softer edges to much of them which creates a soothing and relaxed feel to them.