A newbie’s view of Rye

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Part 6: Locals for art’s sake.

In the sixth of a series of articles describing how one couple find their new life in Rye, they explore the art scene and see the work of a few established and up-and-coming artists

Painting the town

Whitechapel. Royal Academy. Sir John Soane’s Museum. Dulwich. The National. V&A. Wallace Collection. The Geffrye. The Hayward. National Portrait Gallery. The Tates. And, my personal favourite, the Courtauld at Somerset House.

For a couple of art-lovers, living in London presents an array of galleries that would take a lifetime to explore.

Would Rye – or the local area – have anything at all to compare?

Galleries by the sea

London-based friends who also like their pictures and sculptures were quite sanguine on our behalf. Guys, there’s the Jerwood in Hastings, and the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, both great, and both just down the road from you. They weren’t wrong.

But what of the art scene in Rye itself? The Art Gallery in the High Street hosts a permanent collection of works by local artists and it’s a much bigger space than its frontage would suggest.

Then, of course, there’s the Rye Arts Festival, which runs from the middle to the end of September, with other “unofficial” events happening throughout the summer.

It was our first full year in Rye, and we thought we should at least visit the exhibition held in the dance centre on Conduit Hill. Our expectations were frankly set very low. I imagined ranks of feeble watercolours of the local artists’ pet cats.

Two Fishermen by Peter Fifield
Two Fishermen by Peter Fifield

Not at all. In fact, we were impressed by the high quality and the wide variety of the work. While many pieces tempted our purse, in the end, we managed to escape with but a single purchase: “Oystercatchers”, by the wildlife artist Robert Greenhalf.

Promising, promising.

And returning to Rye Art Gallery one day, we were struck by the linocut-style images of Peter Fifield. His two fishermen in a pub weaved their way to our home.

Sometimes though, you don’t have to go out looking for art; it finds you.

To the waves, to the sky

One day, I was sat in a bar next to a chap who was flicking through some artworks on his smartphone. Instantly intrigued, I asked for a closer look.

“Well, I’d buy that one, that one, that one and, yes, that one. Who did them?”

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Seascape by Freya II Hubbard

My acquaintance smiled and gestured to the young person pulling pints for us: “She did.” I was somewhat taken aback for reasons which will become clear.

In the catalogue for the Coastal Currents Arts Festival 2016, Freya II Hubbard’s work is described thus: “…abstracted seascape and landscape, using texture and sombre palette, intensifying the atmospherics.” Which makes sense, as she takes some inspiration from Dion Salvador Lloyd.

One enthusiastic admirer claims that it’s as if the soul of JMW Turner inhabits Freya’s brushes. An extravagant comparison, perhaps, but a clear indication that we’re not short of artistic talent in this postcode.

Modelling
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Model by Emma Granger

Of course, not all art emerges from tubes of oil and acrylic.

Ceramics seems to be a popular medium. But not the only one. Sculptor Emma Granger also works in papier maché and Fimo. As a toddler, she recalls making a fairy out of Plasticine, then swinging it in her hair so that it would “fly”.

Nowadays, she is content for her work to adorn walls and windowsills, depending on the nature of the model!

Shooting at Dungeness

If one word can sum up the weird, atmospheric landscape of Dungeness, then “photogenic” would be a euphemistic candidate. Two old advertising mates from London have – separately – presented us with their own photographic images of old fisherman’s huts on the shingle, as house-warming gifts.

Dungeness is a subject that has caught the eye of Rye-based photographer Graeme Foster, who also knows how to capture the more extreme vagaries of our local micro-climate.

But, given that much of the original attraction of us moving to Rye was its coastal location, I guess the final word must have a salty flavour. Look out for the work of Ben Fenton, another painter who looks out to the sea.

Photos: Simon Kershaw, Emma Granger, Graeme Foster, Freya Hubbard

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