Water & Ways: an exhibition of artworks inspired by Sussex, post war and contemporary

Pippa Blake, Jean Cooke, Jeremy Gardiner, Kerry Harding, Ivon Hitchens, Katharine Le Hardy, Calum McClure, Paul Nash, Grayson Perry


Open Wed - Fri, 10-5 & Sat 11 - 2 until  10th December. 

By Appt. until 16th December. 


Artist Talk with Jeremy Gardiner, 2.30pm, Sat 26 Nov. Pls email to reserve. 

The Sussex landscape has long been a source of inspiration to artists. While landscape painting has gone in and out of fashion, the calling to artists has endured. 


Landscape leaves an emotional imprint upon us, touched by own memories and those of generations who have gone before. Great landscape painting evokes a visceral response, our feelings and senses brought to life. Faced with the beauty and power of landscape, we are reminded of the transience of our own time on earth.” Jo Baring, for our Sussex Landscapes exhibition catalogue 2019.


British landscape painting made strides in the 20th century when artists such as Paul Nash created a series of visionary landscapes which were at the centre of developments in modern art in Britain. Landscape provided a stage for an imaginative response to the natural world and made connections between tradition and modernism in art. With such strong histories of landscape painting in Britain, and Sussex in particular, it’s an ambitious artist who takes on this subject matter. 


Ironmaster’s Folly, 1941 by Paul Nash (1889-1946), the pleasant aspect of the work is belied by the looming prospect of a German invasion. Working in the shadow of the Battle of Britain, the battle in the sky fought between British and German fighter planes in 1941, Nash has fittingly depicted a swallow flying across the picture. It is sailing towards the folly, which itself bears a passing resemblance to certain military structures. The different levels of the encompassing walls suggest battlements and the brickwork itself is closely similar to British pill boxes, then being constructed in the south and east of England in preparation for invasion.


The work of British painter Ivon Hitchens (1893 – 1979) is much-loved for his highly distinctive style in which great swathes of colour sweep across the long panoramic canvases that were to define his career. He sought to express the inner harmony and rhythm of landscape, the experience, not of how things look but rather how they feel. A true pioneer of the abstracted vision of landscape, his portrayal of the English countryside surrounding his home in West Sussex would go on to form one of the key ideas of British Modernism in the 20thCentury.


Jean Cooke RA (1927-2008) was an English painter of still lifes, landscapes, portraits and figures. She was a lecturer at the Royal Academy and regularly exhibited her works, including the summer Royal Academy exhibitions. She was commissioned to make portraits by Lincoln College and St Hilda's College, Oxford. Her works are in the National Gallery, Tate and the Royal Academy collections. In the early years of her marriage to John Bratby, she signed her works Jean Bratby. She had a studio cottage at Birling Gap in Sussex whose open rural vistas she found wonderfully liberating. She was elected as a Royal Academician in 1972.


Pippa Blake (b.1954) has for this exhibition created a series of paintings of a local chalk stream threatened by pollutants. Long associated with environmental concerns, Blake makes paintings that are imbued with soulfulness, and the moments captured in them feel unstable or unfixed, as though the viewer is witnessing the scene from a peripheral viewpoint.  The paintings describe uncanny scenes that are at once familiar but so fleeting that they remain just out of reach. The poignancy that comes from this detached perspective evokes feelings that give the work its power and potency. 


“For Jeremy Gardiner (b.1957) landscape is complex. His paintings do not simply show us what the eye sees, but give insights into what lies beneath the picture postcard images of our coastal landscape. They are also works of immense beauty with a lyrical use of colour and space. These paintings position Gardiner at the forefront of contemporary conversation about landscape art. Ever since prehistoric man began to dig for stone to make implements, rather than collect loose material, humans have modified landscape. The landscape we see before us now is the result of years of excavation, our creation of artificial ground, architectural features and, in particular, the physical, chemical and biological changes that the earth has undergone. It is these layers of landscape which, through his scientific approach, Jeremy Gardiner is able to evoke in his paintings. The texture of the works is unique and considered, each one referencing both the geological and man-made effects on landscape. His working method is involved. Scientific geomorphic investigations and technologies such as 3D imaging give the artist a greater understanding of the landscape. The artist builds up the surface of the work, with paint and collage, scouring and sanding down, to create a texture which both infers and refers to the texture of our landscape.” (Baring)


Essex, Middlesex, Sussex by Grayson Perry is the only 3D piece in show. Once he had completed his training as a fine artist, Grayson Perry (b.1960) has spoken of how appealing he found the cussed lowliness of pottery. Some of Perry’s work explores the county’s landscape and its typical characters.  Essex, Middlesex, Sussex was made at a time when Perry was growing in confidence with the basic components of potting.  A number of incisions and stamps are apparent on the work, along with a mixture of other techniques. The plate has been stamped with two of Perry’s potter’s marks, visible at the left- and right-hand side.  Essex, Middlesex, Sussex belongs to a small group of similar plates by Perry which the artist discovered in around 2017 while clearing out a cupboard in his studio. These works illuminate the artist’s early practice.


Kerry Harding, (b.1972) a Cornish based artist, whose work combines expressions of cloudscapes and shafts of light that are the result of years of observation of shifting coastal scenes. In this exhibition she expresses the presence of farming in her piece The Hills Undress and a subtle reference to the presence of people in Only a Breeze Will Sigh.  Like Richter, who in the late 1960s blended hyper realistic elements of painting with the abstraction of landscape, her process relies heavily on the use of photography of her surrounding landscape and yet she does not seek to replicate real life. Instead, she looks to her photographs for reference, inspiration and reminders, selecting the elements that most appeal and disregarding those that do not. 


Katharine Le Hardy’s (b.1981) work piece I am a Dreamer expresses the experience of setting forth on a solo adventure. The colours of the slate and sand evocatively used. The vastness of the landscape is felt in all her recent work. Le Hardy’s use of colour changes with each series to effect a different response in the viewer dependant on the subject matter and place. 


Calum McClure’s (b.1987) paintings vary between observational figuration and gestural abstraction, based on an intense scrutiny of details in the landscape. Time of day is also important. The works are usually painted in the poetic half-light of dusk, or early morning. Light, half-light, shadow, reflection - his use of paint to convey the always changing atmosphere around us is skilled and timeless, in the tradition of great colourists such as Ivon Hitchens and Howard Hodgkin.” (Baring)