Yearly Archives: 2015

cakes and ale

Friday 9 October 2015

[factory farming on the mantelpiece]

factory farming, at home on the mantelpiece, back from the artworks exhibition. i think this one’s for keeps… i have others. [link: ]

in a picturesque village not that far away, a small group of residents were unhappy that a local farmer wanted to use the land bordering their properties for the rearing of pigs. with the assistance of a solicitor, the residents were offered the opportunity to ‘rent’ the land off the farmer, who would plant arable crops instead and not trouble them with pigs. free-range pigs are happier pigs but they were not consulted. i read about the tale of the pig city on the village’s notice board – the current arrangement may be open to change, but pig city [as these little piggy communities are colloquially known] is now situated a little further away from the picturesque village. it could make a great british comedy film. i am dream-casting it right now: richard e grant, colin firth, bill nighy [disgruntled local menfolk]; kristin scott-thomas, emma thompson [disgruntled local womenfolk]; hugh grant [city lawyer]; timothy spall [farmer]…

random dispatches from the JG picture desk, from august to october:

a reserved grey brick wall. wondering if a reserved parking space can be used by anyone who happens to be passing if there is no nameplate attached to it? a thought for the day in the week that was.


supreme lettering on the side of an old caravan. it was tuesday the 15th of september.


if you see cows sitting down in field it’s a sign that it will rain soon. some pitch-perfect forecasting from local young farmers.


hand-written ‘lost’ poster at a road junction. it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the saints [i know this from personal experience]… were the friendly ferrets lost or missing, or have they gone intentionally awol? it reminds me of the scene in ‘Chicken Run’ where the two rats are having a friendly banter over the ‘chicken and egg’ problem. good times.


slow down: passed this road sign on numerous occasions; it’s just before a blind bend. the softly filtered sunlight was almost heavenly that afternoon.


getting into the grooves of one of my wintery farmscape paintings in the artworks exhibition shop. it didn’t sell but i am okay with that.

a few days later, just down the road…


lightbulb moment: saw the blood-red supermoon at around 3.30am after some wispy clouds finally cleared, very small and delicately peachy in colour. the supermoon was more impressive at around 7pm the evening before, on the return from the artworks exhibition – did i mention i had some work in an art exhibition? the moon was super large and quite low in the sky, and i could clearly see the marbled grey pattern of the moon’s surface – obviously fascinating, but kinda distracting too while travelling. no plans to stay awake, but at about 3am two juggernauts passed through the sleepy village – ghostly strings of tiny lights on the cabs & trailers zoomed through the darkness [no street-lights here]. not really noticed this before. strangely magical for a moment.


tuesday again: conker contest headline poster on a newspaper stand outside the supermarket. now pinned up in the kitchen. super bonkers.

[cakes and ale, framed collage on kitchen shelf]

golden acres, valley and dale, brewers bakers, cakes and ale… [non-working fragments of a poem]

cakes and ale: a well-known phrase [from shakespeare] that implies living the good life: riches, merriment, celebrations, etc.

Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” Sir Toby Belch, Twelfth Night [or What you will], Act 2, Scene 3

simple tonics: if you think about it, the countryside has evolved to mostly feed the populations of the cities, so it’s a little odd to discover at a local market an artisan bakery travels up from london to sell its wares around here. the local fields of sugar-beet, wheat and barley later become some of the raw ingredients for cakes and ale. i saw a poster in the fine city for ‘cupcake classes’… it’s all food for thought. i have bought [as a special treat] a bottle of sloe gin from the adnams brewery, because if i attempt to make this seasonal liqueur myself it will probably be characteristically rustic and undrinkable… chin-chin!!

artworks exhibition 2015: a private view

Saturday 19 September 2015

me again… with some photographs of the artworks exhibition [photographs courtesy of valerie armstrong, together with some snapshots i have taken]. a small selection of pictures from the artworks exhibition 2015: a private view:


prints by Janet French

Janet’s silkscreen prints are printed on her own handmade paper, made from the actual leaves of trees – they are beautifully presented, floating in the picture frames. the handmade paper has a delicacy and translucency suggesting the transient effects of dappled sunlight – or maybe it’s dusk – contrasting with the silhouetted spindly tree branches… the two prints above are ‘Winter Light‘ I and IV, the central work is ‘Solitary Oak‘. Janet French has had considerable success with these distinctive prints. a recent collaboration with another printmaker, Emma Buckmaster, resulted in their prints being selected for the Royal Academy summer exhibition. deservedly, the edition of prints sold out. both artists are members of Gainsborough’s House Print Workshop.


Cargo I, glass sculpture by Liz Waugh McManus

i was quite taken by this sculpture, although my snapshot cannot do it any justice. glass has a beguiling quality with its capacity to reflect or contain light, and Liz’s art installations using animations and video projections have explored this to great effect. much of Liz’s recent work is concerned with childhood stories and memories, but these tiny dolls [i presume cast from real toys] on a raft adrift at sea immediately evoke the very real and tragic circumstances of refugees as reported in the news – which makes it compelling and thought-provoking.


paintings by Roger Gamble

this is another one of the snapshots i have taken at the exhibition. i have enjoyed seeing Roger’s paintings in the past, with their vibrant ‘pop’ colours and graphic style, and the wry sense of humour, or observations of everyday scenes. Roger is now focusing on local landscapes as a subject, reducing them to near abstraction with horizontal lines, heightened colours and smooth colour-blends, which makes them appear other-worldly – on higher spiritual plane, if you will. never has a trip into norfolk looked so weird. some parts of norfolk do sometimes appear, from ground level, to be mostly fields that stretch on for miles and miles, but it’s not quite as expansive as the american prairies…yet. there’s an obvious sense of distance too in all of the paintings, as if one is just passing through the landscape, hovering above or gliding silently through the air – they remind me a little of taking the train to cambridge… via peterborough. the largest painting is actually based on a video clip Roger chanced upon of the journey of the ‘Solar Impulse’, an aeroplane powered by solar energy, and Roger said afterwards he ‘had to get it down on canvas‘. i said to Roger at the PV that i would quite like to purchase one of the small paintings, but i may [i will] need to sell some of my own paintings first…


paintings by Valerie Armstrong

when i look at Valerie’s mixed media paintings i also get a strong sense of the other-worldly. Valerie is also moving more towards abstraction, with expressive gestures, colours and textural incidents combining to create a symbolic sense of freedom in the compositions. Valerie recently acquired a house and studio in france, where much of this work has been created – and she said it has been a liberating experience. the large pink painting shown above, titled ‘In dreams I visit sacred places’, is a tantalising portal into a paradoxical sub-conscious world, as she says in her statement: ‘to express the intangibility and ephemeral nature of dreams’ [from the artworks exhibition catalogue]. there are small birds, snippets of music, flashes of text, a building, all floating in juicy red hues of summer fruits, sparkles of gold, glimmers of morning sunlight or mist… i am slowly drifting into a lucid dream world – i just wish i could experience my dreams this vividly.

Lyn Aylward, Fly-past and Who do you think you are?

it’s great to see that Lyn’s paintings have attracted much interest this year. she has also been working on a painting in the barn which has sparked some engaging conversations with visitors. older people with memories of WW2 have especially connected with her paintings, although the scenes portrayed are based on modern day events reliving that era. viewing these paintings has made me think of a comment i made a few days ago regarding black & white photographs, since most of us view these real-life historical events from the emotional distance of black & white photographs or films, but the memories of those who were there will have some elements of colour, and Lyn’s paintings seem to illustrate that connecting with the past isn’t always grey or sepia-toned. i am also reminded how refreshing it is to have such conversations – across the generations – with the incidental asides or other thoughts and things that make them more interesting, memorable or special in some way.


paintings and prints by Elaine Nason

Elaine’s paintings and linocut prints depict scenes and interiors drawn from her own observations and experiences. i like the strong sense of drawing and design in the compositions, in the placement of figures, shapes, patterns, fabrics, the jug of flowers from a garden, those calming hues of grey and blue. the implied narrative of quiet rural living – in the domestic or everyday, in informal social gatherings or routine household tasks, to the comfort of just being at home – feel as cosy as a cottage, as reassuring as a fresh pot of tea and homemade biscuits… i am at ease. i have known Elaine from wayback when i moved to suffolk from london to live in a shared farmhouse. Elaine was then a teacher at the primary school, and there was a lively community of artists living in the village. these paintings and prints remind me of that time.


Eleonora Knowland: small mezzotints exploring the phases of the moon. Waxing moon [left], and Waning moon [right].

at our recent ‘show and tell’ Eleonora suggested that this series of monochrome mezzotint prints might be a radical departure from her large abstract paintings of the suffolk landscape, but i can see a natural symbiosis: they express the same sensitivity to tonal values and forms, the gentle undulations [echoing the curved canvases, characteristic of her previous work] could also suggest moonlit striations of clouds in addition to the tides and rhythms of the sea. the moon seems perfectly suited to this refined and timeless printmaking technique, and the diminutive scale, subtle tones and soft velvety blacks are a quiet invitation to gaze inwards and ponder on time passing, as we might do when looking at the real moon.

it is a little odd to think about the small selection of pictures above, becoming more acquainted with the artworks by looking at the photographs, as when i was helping out with stewarding at the exhibition it was mostly behind the sales desk, and there was little opportunity to wander around the whole exhibition.


Artworks is a professional art group of thirty east anglian artists. All work by the artists in Artworks 2015 is new, created in 2014-15.

The artists in Artworks 2015 are: Valerie Armstrong; Mike Ashley; Lyn Aylward; Alfie Carpenter; Gillian Crossley-Holland; Cathy D’Arcy; Helen Dougall; Dunham; Chris Gamble; Roger Gamble; Jazz Green; Alison Jones; Eleonora Knowland; Lucy Lutyens; Mac McCaughan; Christine McKechnie; Annabel Mednick; Katie Millard; Elaine Nason; Carol Pask; Anne Paton; Doug Patterson; Kit Price Moss; Eileen Revett; Kate Reynolds; Colin Slee; Liz Waugh McManus.

Saturday 5th September to Sunday 27th September 2015
Blackthorpe Barn
Rougham Estate
Bury St Edmunds
IP30 9HZ

Artworks Gallery shop: paintings, original handmade prints, sculpture, ceramics and glass, artist postcards & greetings cards. Artworks café for light refreshments. Free parking at Blackthorpe Barn. The Artworks exhibition is signposted via AA road signs. Junction 45 from A14.