The private view of The Rye Society of Artists 67th Summer Exhibition was held on Friday, August 3, on an extremely hot summer’s day A vivid and eclectic show, there was a numerous and very enthusiastic audience. The exhibition space was packed and, in spite of the heat, selling went well.
The Dance Hall itself is not necessarily the easiest place to change into an art exhibition venue, and great efforts were made by the society’s members to adapt the space, with two galleries, one small one on the ground floor and a big light one above.
To give context to this wonderful exhibition, a brief background to the Rye Society of Artists (RSA) may be useful. Rye has always acted as “a magnet” for artists, Edward Burra was born here, and Paul Nash lived locally, with John Piper painting his beautiful and evocative pictures of the Marsh churches, for example. Around 1951, new artists arrived to live here and the Rye Pottery “relit its kilns”. They formed a group called RX8 (after a local fishing boat registration) and first held an exhibition in the Boys Club in Mermaid Street.
Whilst putting together a second exhibition, RX8 heard of a younger group of artists planning to do a similar thing, so they met and agreed to amalgamate. This became the Rye Society of Artists, which has continued from strength to strength ever since, with this its 67th Summer Exhibition.
Sarah Palmer, the ceramic artist who has a studio in Hastings, and uses three-dimensional materials with drawing , photographs and found objects, is this year’s chair of the society. She is also exhibiting.
Sarah told me that there are 40 to 45 members of the society at any one time, and these include very well-known local artists, such as Louis Turpin and Richard Adams, Fred Cuming RA, and Gus Cummins RA and recently Dave McKean, graphic novelist and filmmaker, joined. All the people exhibiting come from a 15-mile radius of Rye.
Of the 408 individual items, this exhibition had 80 submissions from non-members and there is a list of artists waiting to show. In Sarah’s view, with new people coming in, the show is constantly refreshed with this year’s exhibits including water colours, oil paintings and mixed media, to name but a few. There are textiles, etchings on felt, etchings on paper with collage, amazing ceramics, such as Gill Deller’s Mapp and Lucia Torso in the lower gallery. Simon Spare’s acrylics (pictured) are to be found here as well
There are pictures up the stairs, not to be missed and exciting and inspiring collections of ceramics and sculpture including items made from Driftwood, Metal and found objects (Gary Redmond). Bowls and tea cups, gentle, calm colours and scratched decoration bring a different ethos, in Judith Rowe’s earthenware pottery.
Andrew Blyth has produced his beautiful watercolours, and who could miss David Crew in the upper gallery Making the Connection (pictured). Cliff Howe designed the poster this year, and the original painting Distant Downs is in the upper gallery, too. Will Taylor RBA, who has two works here, has recently shown at the Print Room at the Royal Academy.
There are too many pieces to go through them all in a short article. This exhibition has something for everyone, and affordable, too. Obviously, a number of the artists and ceramicists command high prices, such as Richard Adams or Fred Cuming RA, both of whom have sold pictures, but there is a good selection of prices, with Shirley Spottiswoode’s linoprints, of Ziggy’s Kittens, a particular favourite with buyers, and the ceramics and windowsill exhibits attracting interest.
This year’s exhibition is exhilarating, beautiful and with lots of talking points. On visiting again on Sunday, some 50 works had the “sold” red dots. Rye is very fortunate to have such a thriving artistic community living on the doorstep. This show is not to be missed and Sarah Palmer and her team have done a wonderful job. To give the last words to Sarah: “We have a good following, with good variety and something new.”
The Rye Society of Artists Summer Exhibition 2018 is being held at the Dance Hall, Community Centre, Conduit Hill, Rye, until August 26 2018. It is open daily from 10:30am to 5:30pm. All works are for sale.
Photos: courtesy RSA