Art by the "Barn Load" - Summer Festival of Art at the Spanish Barn


The diversity of practising South West artists is something we are not unaware of; our regular open exhibition programme exposes us to continuous showcases of the creative output that emanates from Devon and the surrounding areas, and it's a situation that grants us the privilege to be able to do the work we do. Torbay itself is undoubtedly a focal point for some of this activity, presumably because of the favourable conditions that earnt it the title of the English Riviera many decades ago; it's landscapes, seascapes and coastlines easily match the artistic output for diversity and quality, it's climate encourages plein air practise and it's culture and heritage continues to inspire and attract those who seemingly are predisposed to create abundantly. It is, arguably, unrivalled; maybe we're biased but regardless it understandably remains our focus.


In recent years it's been pleasing to see the growth of opportunity developing to support what has always been a thriving community and doing so in a manner that appears to be increasingly focused on sustainability. Venues are embracing collaborations with groups of artists and societies, and in turn these groups and individual artists are recognising the growing expectations of audiences who increasingly want buying a work of art to be an experience which brings them closer to the artist. The bar is being continuously raised to respond to this and we’re pleased to be repeatedly challenged to raise our own game to keep pace with offers across Torbay as increasingly there is recognition that a showcase of art must value each and every work as highly as we are asking those viewing it to.

One particular example that is worth recognising is the work of Torbay Guild of Artists a leading arts society that has thrown its weight behind the delivery of opportunities which truly value the bays artistic talent. With a strong group of professional and amateur artists at their core, the Guild has grown successfully by encouraging commitment from its members and justifying this through an exceptionally professional approach to the opportunities they offer in return. We make certain to attend every Guild exhibition when they’re on and have had the pleasure of collaborating with them in the past and the most recent opportunity to do both was their Summer Festival of Art at Torre Abbey.


Anyone who has visited the Spanish Barn will recognise it as a grand, provoking, serene space; whether you know its history or not you can certainly feel it when you’re present in the building. All these qualities are maintained and transformed when Torbay Guild take over the space and this vast, high ceilinged barn, which echoes in its unfilled state, is brought to life through a contemporary action that feels completely harmonious; it’s grandeur complimented by the presence of art, provocation magnified by the subject of works, and as I found the other day when I visited, if you stay long enough the ebb and flow of audiences will ensure at one time or other you can still experience intimate serenity amongst the art.

This year we were honoured to be invited to present the Artizan Award, which granted us the unenviable task of shortlisting our top contributors to the exhibition with the chance to exhibit with us in 2020. Narrowing down from more than 50 talented artists to a selection of just seven 2D and three 3D artists was no easy feat and we left with pangs of doubt over works which hadn’t made the cut. The quality of this year’s exhibition was truly exceptional and there was not a single artist present that we would not have welcomed to exhibit on our own walls.


The outcome of the final random selection from our shortlist was serendipitously a couple of Alan’s; Teignmouth artist Alan Gregory who tempted us with new abstract works grabbed the 2D spot and wire sculpture artist Alan Poxton just couldn’t be left of our 3D shortlist with the presence of his Cockington Sculpture Trail Horse dominating the far end of the barn. They were joined by award nominees Peter Blakesly, Viv Plewes, Ashley Raddon, Peter Garatt, Val Jones and Rebecca Holley for 2D work, and Joshua Charles and Catherine Rogers, both coincidentally new to Cockington Studios, for 3D work.


But for us there were so many more highlights. When we returned more recently we were delighted to see sales not only for several of our shortlisted artists but also for Geopark Ambassador Artists Chrystine Jones, Lee Pover and Becky Nuttall, as well as Will Mills who joined us for Our Place in the Seven Heavens which recently toured to the new HeArTs Gallery at Torbay Hospital.

We additionally made our own contribution to the exhibition this year with works from two South West masters, Arthur Homeshaw (1933-2011) and Richard Slater R.I. Homeshaw was a Westcountry artist whose work tapped into the deep-rooted influence that represent the best in British art, with work placed in the English romantic tradition of Paul Nash (1889 – 1946) and also revealing the influence of the wood engravings of Eric Ravilious (1903 – 1942). He is best known for his exquisite linocuts which have become highly collectible. An edition of Men-an-Tol, depicting the Cornish standing stones can be viewed at the Abbey. Alongside this are examples of Slater’s watercolour work, The Owl and the Poacher II and a lithograph of Spring Nocturne. Slater has been referred to as a “hidden gem of British art” being elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, but turns his hand diversely to oils and pastels also. Both will be on display at the Artizan Gallery and Artizan Collective Gallery as part of Devon Open Studios 2019.


The Summer Festival of Art runs until September 1st at Torre Abbey, do visit!


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