Best of the West – September 2021

The best art exhibitions coming up in Bristol and the Westcountry – selected by the Friends of the RWA…

Here’s our pick of the best art exhibitions and events happening in and around Bristol and the south west in the month ahead – including a look ahead to upcoming features….


 

RWA Pop-Up Exhibition ‘Varekai’

The RWA has closed its doors until February 2022 for the very exciting Light and Inspiration project. But in the meantime there will be plenty of RWA events going on at other venues in the area. Keep an eye on rwa.org.uk for the latest.

One such is the Varekai (‘Anywhere’) Pop-up Exhibition, in which a selection of works from the RWA’s Permanent Collection will be appearing at venues around the city.

To accompany the exhibition, free family art workshops with an artist will run at each venue, using the paintings as inspiration. Booking for these workshops is via each individual venue.

BCL South: 1 Sept – 24 Sept (Family workshop 4 Sept 10:30am-12:30pm)

St Paul’s Learning Centre: 25 Sept – 28 Oct (Family workshops, Sat 9 and 23 Oct)

Wellspring Healthy Living Centre: 30 Oct – 26 Nov

Southmead Community Centre: 27 Nov ’21 – 6 Jan ’22 TBC

Find out more about the Varekai events here.


 

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

Compiled by Sue Quirk and Laurel Smart
 

1) JACKIE PHILIP: A COLOURIST IN THE CARIBBEAN

3-25 SEPTEMBER, DAVID SIMON CONTEMPORARY, CASTLE CARY

A trip to Barbados for a few weeks last year turned into seven months of being stranded on the Caribbean island, partly due to lockdown and partly to the fallout from the volcanic eruptions of La Soufrière on St Vincent. Jackie Philip set up a temporary studio to make good use of this time. She came to observe the abundance of nature in all its forms, from the tiniest dragonflies, to birds, fruit, flowers and mahogany trees to the expansive canopy of stars and moonlight overhead. The images that resulted are informed by a variety of cultures and traditions and her latest paintings are more expansive and filled with luminosity and colour.

Website.
 

2) TOBY O’BRIEN: ETERNAL LIFE (THE MIRACLES OF LOVE)

UNTIL 10 SEPTEMBER, TREMENHEERE SCULPTURE GARDENS, PENZANCE

A solo exhibition of recent paintings by artist Toby O’Brien that delve inside the human mind, bringing to the surface new imagery and challenging life’s biggest questions. Most myths and legends involve finding some kind of key, an ‘open sesame’ into another world, where there is great treasure and where conflict is resolved. The same is true of many video games. They are quests. Toby’s paintings take us into this kind of territory. Like many of his generation, he loves video games. Unlike many who play them, he sees not violence, but the beauty of the quest. At the end of the quest there is peace. And love. These paintings were all made in 2019-2020, and they emerged in an intense period almost as a single body of work. They are, of course, each complete in themselves, but they bring to the gallery the additional intensity of working with and between each other.

 Website.
 

3) JOHN EAVES: 50 YEARS

UNTIL 19 SEPTEMBER, VICTORIA ART GALLERY, BATH

This stunning and inspiring body of work looks back over the career of one of the most distinguished Bath artists.

Eaves trained with such luminaries as William Scott and Peter Potworowski at Bath Academy of Art from 1949-52; he also worked as James Tower’s assistant in the Academy’s pottery.

Website.
 

4) PENELOPE O’GARA & ROWENA J DRAPER: ‘WONDER TALES’

UNTIL 20 SEPTEMBER, HEART OF THE TRIBE, GLASTONBURY

Tales of Weird, Wild and Wonder. A collection of otherworldly beings and paintings inspired by fantasy and imagination. Touches of vintage circus and steampunk in fairy-tale settings.

As a self-taught artist, Rowena Draper generally works with acrylics on canvas or wood, and recently has been adding recycled objects such as ornate frames, fabric, cogs or other “trinkets and treasures” from her fantastical travels as a travelling mural artist, from Mexico to California, India to New Zealand. Rowena’s art depicts magical creatures and fairy-tale archetypes, her paintings narrating their stories and exploring her own relationship with these characters.
Dolls as medium spoke to Penelope O’Gara not only because of her career experience in theatre and costume design, but more deeply because of the symbolic resonance of their historical use as totems. Her work explores ritual objects, archetypes and symbolism. At the heart of what she creates is a narrative, and Penelope’s calling is to go deeper.

Website.
 

5) HELYNE JENNINGS, TREVOR JENNINGS, ELISE JENNINGS: MIXED MEDIA SHOW

UNTIL 25 SEPTEMBER, PLOUGH ARTS CENTRE, GREAT TORRINGTON, DEVON

This is the first time the family trio of artists have exhibited their diverse range of work together. Veterans of national and international exhibitions and commissions, Helyne, mixed media and textile artist, and Trevor Jennings, metal sculptor, will feature work spanning from the RCA in the 80s to recently completed pieces. Their daughter Elise, creating work from recycled materials and with a love of textiles, will feature her vibrant range of jewellery and multi coloured felt vessels.

Website.
 

6) FRANK BOWLING: LAND OF MANY WATERS

UNTIL 26 SEPTEMBER, ARNOLFINI, BRISTOL

In new works (made throughout 2020) surfaces are stripped back in luminescent colours, and paint bleeds, stains and seeps into imagined horizons and shorelines – ‘not a view but the idea of a view’. Alongside these sit older works in which Bowling revisits past techniques from his ‘poured’ paintings to vertical ‘zippers’, embedding surfaces with textiles, collage, and a multitude of materials so that the acrylic paint is littered and layered with remnants of life.

Animated by photographs, texts, and materials from Bowling’s personal archive and London studio, Land of Many Waters also evokes the colours and textures of his working life, highlighting the multiplicity of his practice.

Website.
 

7) DAVID PARFITT: 20 MILES

UNTIL 26 SEPTEMBER, BLACK SWAN ARTS, FROME

 

Paintings and prints by Somerset landscape artist David A. Parfitt. The series reflects on our connections with nature, place and home. A mixture of dramatic, sometimes almost abstract, watercolours and striking monochromatic monoprints, created in David’s studio during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.

The body of work focuses on the trees, wetlands and woods of Somerset, exploring the tension between the restrictions that have been placed on all of us over the past year and the desire to get out into the natural world.

David describes himself as a landscape artist working with watercolours and monoprints. His paintings are representational, but his intention is ‘to make things that have a sense of place without looking overly contrived or deliberate’. His method involves working quickly, drawing seemingly haphazard marks with a brush and combining these with loose washes without getting overinvolved in detail. At the same time, he is also ‘thinking about the painting and letting it speak to me, rather than purely replicating the landscape image in front of me’.

Website.
 


 

LAST CHANCE TO SEE…

  • UNTIL 4 SEPTEMBER: REBECCA HARPER: THE WATERS OF DWELLINGS New solo exhibition incorporating small and large scale paintings and objects. ANIMA MUNDI, ST IVES
    animamundigallery.com
  • UNTIL 5 SEPTEMBER: ROSIE BURNS – SEA, SKY, SIRENS, MARIGOLDS AND COVID CORNER An exhibition of “landscapes, figures and pandemic light relief”. HARBOUR HOUSE, KINGSBRIDGE https://www.harbourhouse.org.uk
  • UNTIL 5 SEPTEMBER: SEEDSCAPES: FUTURE-PROOFING NATURE Five contemporary artists explore global efforts to safeguard vital plant species from extinction. ROYAL ALBERT MEMORIAL MUSEUM & ART GALLERY, EXETER https://rammuseum.org.uk/seedscapes-future-proofing-nature/

 


 

WATCH OUT FOR…

JOHN PEDDER NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: 9 SEPTEMBER-5 OCTOBER An exhibition of prints spanning the last three years, taking in various projects with the common thread of using black, the white of the paper and red. THAT ART GALLERY, BRISTOLhttps://www.thatartgallery.com/

10 PARISHES FESTIVAL: 11-19 SEPTEMBER This Festival of Visual and Performing arts was founded in 2003 and takes place every two years in September. Ashbrittle, Bathealton, Brompton Ralph, Chipstable, Clatworthy, Fitzhead, Huish Champflower, Milverton, Stawley and Wiveliscombe, SOMERSET https://10parishesfestival2021.org.uk/

CLIMATE CHANGE: 11-27 SEPTEMBER Work which focuses on climate change in its broadest sense. SOU’-SOU’-WEST GALLERY, SYMONDSBURY https://sousouwest.co.uk/

VAROSHA BODY OF WORK: 17-23 SEPTEMBER An exhibition of life drawing from the last eighteen months. CENTRESPACE, BRISTOL centrespacegallery.com

 

TWO DAY EVENT

 

If you would like an exhibition or artist to be listed please email laurel.smart@blueyonder.co.uk for consideration.


The Friends of the RWA is an independent charity that supports the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol’s first art gallery. 
For just £35 a year Friends can make unlimited visits to RWA exhibitions and enjoy a host of other benefits, as well as making an important contribution to the arts in Bristol and the South West. Find out more and join up here.

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