Money chases artistic talent

Ghostly grin: "The Woods" by RSA's youngest member, Matt Hardman, 41, sold almost immediately

The 63rd Rye Society of Artists Summer Exhibition – the 30th at the Boys Club on Mermaid Street – got off to a lucrative start. I can’t imagine a better venue for this hugely popular summer event, with guests spilling out on to the outside space for a cool down before circulating the gallery space and its two bars again. It reminds me of the good ole’ pre-street-drinking-ban summer weekends when it was OK to socialise outside the pubs and enjoy the summer heat.

It’s the biggest event of its kind in the town, and promises excellent attendance and sales year on year. I’m told that at Friday night’s opening (August 1) sales were double those of the year before. It’s a beacon of positivity in this difficult financial time, and proof that short-term exhibitions and shops are an exciting and smart business idea – something the landlords of the empty shops in Rye could learn from.

Among my favourite pieces was Heather Colin’s Camber Castle. Heather has developed a technique of hand-making fabrics so they resemble solid materials – stone and rusty metal in this year’s exhibit. Last year she exhibited what appeared to be a piece of driftwood covered in barnacles and mussels. You have to look closely to realise the works are fabric. Genius.

Annie Soudain’s Jewelled Starlings is an eye-catching piece and other stand-out ones include Will Taylor’s Jagdish Chowk, Michael B White’s Vase Under Pressure, Elaine Mullings’s Dove Vai and Helen Hunt’s Red Underwing Moth.

My most favourite piece was “The Woods” (sold almost immediately) by RSA’s youngest member at 41, Matt Hardman, which incorporated a real animal jaw and teeth and sunken glitter-filled eyes on a ghostly figure (pictured above). The piece shines like a lightning flash of “blackness” among the bright colours of the other works.

Another impressive piece, Richard Adams’s Mermaids is being sold in poster form at £25 each. So frame one of those if you don’t want to splash out on an original piece of art.

The show includes work from RSA members as well as 52 invited artists, all carefully selected and living within a 15-mile radius of Rye. These include Katherine Reekie, a quirky and raw talent, who is also currently showing at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne (see website).

A true peacock . . .

There is a sense of occasion about the RSA Summer Show, dubbed Rye’s “most glamorous event of the year” by long-standing supporter Rosemary Bagley, that I feel we need more of in Rye. A true peacock, Rosemary arrived dressed head to toe in gold, eyes framed in shocking blue, and gets my vote for best outfit.

RSA’s Siobahn Hanlon told me that they now face the exciting, and possibly difficult task, of finding a new venue for the annual summer show. With a lot of landlords wanting to sign a three-year lease on their shops and spaces, I hope that this amazing tradition, which is so valuable to the town, finds a suitable new home – with the space outside and in – to accommodate its many fans and give us all a reason to dress up and spend money.

This year’s show continues until August 25 (see website for details). Below: the Adams poster