The Rye Society of Artists 63rd annual Summer Exhibition at the Boys Club on Mermaid Street is open and runs until August 25. The show includes 400 exhibits, among them paintings, photography, prints, etchings and ceramics; all are the work of artists within a 15-mile radius of the town. There is a small entrance charge and everything is for sale.
A warning: this exhibition is very popular with both locals and visitors to Rye, so if you are interested in buying something it is best not to think about it too long. First-time visitors may be surprised by the high quality and wide range of work shown. Despite Rye’s reputation as one of the prettiest towns in England, there are no chocolate-box images of Mermaid Street; many of the works are bleak and haunting, always thought provoking. There is beauty, but no clichés.
Rye has long attracted artists and the RSA currently has two Royal Academicians as members – Fred Cuming and Gus Cummins – both of whom are exhibiting. I particularly liked Fred Cuming’s Angel of the South, at Dungeness. Also Louis Turpin’s two South Undercliff Allotments works illustrate the beauty of the quiet and usually deserted walk around the back of the park that few visitors see.
John Fewster’s photograph of Rye’s bonfire night conflagrations, entitled A Little Night Music – would simply not be credible to people who hadn’t seen it in the flesh. And Heather Collins’s Camber Castle, made of fabric and what appears to be real grass is exceptional. It is hard not to reach out and touch it, though I managed to resist. There were people looking.
Although some works sell for many thousands of pounds, there are lots of bargains including some beautiful ceramic pigs and sheep by Timothy Smith, for less than £20. There are also unframed prints, posters and cards by many of the artists, all of them very affordable options. I got away with spending less than £100, on three beautiful and very special pieces.
The venue is in Mermaid Street, Rye; open 10.30am to 17:30pm every day; entrance 50p/20p (concessions).