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Brighton Open Houses Festival 2022
We attend Brighton Open Houses Festival on at least one day of the four weekends in May each year; we usually make a better job of it. Discussions beforehand and having tried to gauge what to visit we made an overly ambitious plan. Rather than sticking to one trail and walking from neighbour to neighbour over a number of hours we’d cherry pick a few studios and move between them on foot, electric train and bus. We needed the car.
It didn’t quite work out – we spent too much time on foot a long way between venues. Indeed the 12,000 steps was the biggest takeaway rather than the excitement of a particular venue or artist.
Devil’s Dyke Farm
That said, we made a reasonable start at Devil’s Dyke Farm, though we thought this would be an Open House; instead we found a wedding venue marquee and an event that had a commercial air to it. Devil’s Duke Farm was excellent for what it was: well signposted, ample parking, loos, coffee and even alcohol (but not food) and ample space for each of the artists/creators to display their work.
Perennial favourites here included Sarah Jones and Helen Brown, as well as the charming Wolfram Lohr and his handcrafted wooden and leather hanging plant containers.
The price was a bit steep and I was unconvinced that a pot full of water, crocks, soil and a plant would remain secured to the wall.
The history of the location, the end of the line for the Devil’s Dyke Railway, was fascinating (it’s a shame that the train doesn’t still operate).
The views are also panoramic with 15 or 20 miles out to the top of the horizon taking in the vast Rampion Offshore Wind Farm and huge shipping silhouetted on their traffic lanes in the Channel.
Our next move was to park up in Brighton Marina, dodging the Sunday morning car boot sale. We’d have 4 hours for the rest of our trip. The thinking was a dinky ride on the Volks Electric Rail would take us into Brighton and then we’d walk along the seafront dropping into a number of venues, then come back through town via venues near the station, the Lanes and finally Kemp Town. To achieve this we would have needed bikes or scooters – or taken an Über between some parts of time; I hadn’t realised the distances involved which explains why the ‘trails’ have been created. Yes, select a trail and walk between venues on this trail. No, pick and mix across many trials thinking you’d still be able to walk between them. Brighton and Hove is not Ditchling! The Ditchling Art Wave venues really are linked back gardens, shop fronts and venues that are neighbours. And we ought to have come on the first weekend and made our mistakes then rather than leaving it all to the last day.
The highlight of the Volks Electric Railway was to make the first purchase of a discounted ticket for a ‘Senior’. The train has had a renovation recently but is otherwise much as it was when constructed 150 years ago, and much the same as when I first made a trip into Brighton from the Marina in August 1980. On that occasion I was on a family sailing trip with my late father and his boat; his boat Canny Lass, a Fischer 38 was moored on the new marina. At the time the ONLY building on the site was the Portacabin like Brighton Sailing Club.
The Dog Show
The walk from the end of the Volks Line to the 360 and into Brighton was far further than expected. At least the result was a typical Open House treet, a couple of rooms, a grand Georgian parlour featuring in this case a variety of artists, painters and makers on the theme of dogs.
There were many lovely pictures and items, though we were not tempted to purchase any prints or cards. I have promised Wanda that I will draw Evie, from life, and see what I can do to add colour with paints or pastels.
The second venue was a ground floor studio around the corner; a lovely space but the landscapes, though well executed in oil appeared somewhat kitsch and invented, not real landscapes but landscapes of the mind with certain motives repeated in that way that might appeal to a certain purchaser, but lacks authenticity. In all honesty I had no idea where the places being depicted were and no title invited us to think this was the Downs at sunset, the Pennines and Spanish Nivada.
Having taken up an hour and a half since leaving the marina we now found we had a 20 minute walk diagonally across town to pick up a venue, only to need a further 20 minutes to get up to London Road Station. We had miscalculated, our feet were tired, we needed coffee and possibly something to eat. We rethought our plan, instead staying closer to the coast. This had its disappointments because of course it took in crafty shops, though the Sussex Arts Club Annual Show was worth the visit to renew my interest in attending regular drop-in sessions here (£12 for 2 hours). I recognised a number of the models, for example the wiry and gymnastic ‘Peter’ and spoke to our host, one of the artists.
The work is of a really high standard and wonderfully eclectic in the variety of approaches and results from oils to charcoal, pencil to watercolour. I took life drawing up six years ago and have, I feel, started to produce work that would be worth displaying. I’m best at doing several quick pieces in a few minutes – even the three minute pose can feel too long for me. I want to get it right, get the feel and look of the model and their pose with a dozen or some marks or not at all.
There were some hidden gems around Hanningtons, quirky one off ideas executed with a sense of fun, such as the comical piece made of painted driftwood with cartoons and cheeky, rude or political comments.
By 4:15pm our options were running out. We had to get back to the Marina.
We had expected to use our return ticket on the Volks Electric Train, but wanted to visit a number of venues towards and around Kemp Town. We had left it too late, though we could have driven up to one venue which would be open until 6:00pm. Hunger was now the motivation and it started to rain.
Patsy Mcarthur had a first floor lounge looking over the sea, the perfect Open House venue perhaps to show her large water themed paintings and charcoal drawings of swimmers young and old, in bathing costumes or clothes, frolicking and twisting about in a pool, lake or open sea, swimming hard or just enjoying the feel of the water.
I could see these large pieces of art displayed by someone’s swimming pool, or recreated as massive murals to cover an entire wall of a 25m or even 50m swimming pool. That or where they are most likely destined in a home with the light and a pool.
I’d happily pay the £7,000 for one of the larger paintings though these days, even if I had the money, I am less keen to purchase prints for £200 – these still need to be framed well to take their place properly on the wall. There was a hardback book though. Not being the type to gush about being embroiled by British understatement, I failed to get a selfie with the artist, have her sign the book or even talk much at all about her work, her inspiration … and most importantly of all, how she does it.
I rather think my days of purchasing art are long gone (I have a couple of peices bought through Artsy 8 years ago). instead I need to be making my own. I am, and always want to aim at peices 8ft long and 6ft high – so scale. But I’m still, I feel ‘getting my hand in’ and learning some simple techniques. I can see, I can draw, I can compose, but I’ve never mastered colour beyond a light watercolour wash over an inked up drawing.
Having a space to paint without having to clear everything off the kitchen table two or three times a day would help! In our excursions we admire the different studio spaces and wonder what changes we could make around our own home. My ambition is to take my life drawing to life sized pieces and any urban landscapes I am venturing towards a good 6ft by 4ft or larger. I’m not for diddling about as if I am painting an Airfix model, and I can see that it is the large image that is best reduced down for prints and postcards (If we go this far).
Ditchling Open House Art Festival 2022
This ‘Trail’ is a great way to ease your way into the annual Open Houses Art festival that sprung up in Brighton 41 years ago and now fills Brighton, Hove, Kempton, Saltdean, Ditchling and beyond. The beauty of the Ditchling ‘Trail’ is that is generally easy to park in the Village Hall car park then walk in and out of shops and galleries on the High Street, in and through a number of back gardens to a number of studios and workshops, and of course, around the Village Hall itself which hosts a dozen artists and craft makers.
Entering the Village Hall visitors are invited to complete a slip of paper identifying their favourite. I chose Chris Dawson, a cartoonist – for his wit and execution. Being someone who does life drawing once a month I enjoyed his cartoon showing a life drawing class in a nudist colony in which the artists are naked while their model is clothed. I also enjoyed Karen Peters, see ‘Home for Christmas’, and David Hobden
A little coordination between neighbours since our last visit, there is now a rabbit-run of connected studios between four or five rear garden studios and lean-to spaces. Collectively they offer garden sculptures, paintings, prints, pots … and bespoke guitars and citterns.
I can’t indulge myself in any way with this but can enjoy how types of sculpture can add so much to a garden experience, complementing the planting and established trees and adding a feature to a corner of the lawn or as a centrepiece. My eye caught the bright daisy paintings.
Caroline Todd,told us how she began creating a painting a day in January 2020 and kept it up for a year during lockdown, restricting herself to small, landscape Moleskine art pads. She filled several books on display here.
It reminded me of exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, I’m thinking of Antony Gormley, featuring many notebooks that chart the thinking he has gone through and how one idea or another comes to fruition.
Caroline was inspired by a fellow artist who said he had been wedded to the discipline of doing something every day for five or more years.
Restricted to one location during lockdown she became acutely aware of the changing light through the day and seasons.
I like the line in her blurb ‘there is always a danger of overworking the image and losing the magic’ – I have a habit of doing this (with paint, not drawings). I also like the discipline of doing something everyday, just as once upon a time I wrote a diary daily, kept a blog – every day; or would play the guitar, or go for a swim – every day. The guitar sits untouched like a wrapped sculpture in the sitting room – never touched: I will teach swimmers but haven’t been in the water myself for at least six years. Life moves on. I keep my fingers tapping, my hand in with a pencil … my mind alert and relieving itself somewhere, somehow.
The greatest value of extending our capacity to remember, both externally and internally will be to take a record and build on it, treat it is as living thing that grows into something more.
Fig.1. Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger
The greatest value of extending our capacity to remember, but externally and internally will be to take a record and build on it, treat it is as living thing that grows into something more.
If human remembering is the weak link, then perhaps memory needs to move from the brain to some external storage and retrieval device. By drawing or writing, we capture an event, an emotion, a thought. Looking at our own drawings or reading our own words aids us in remembering, making it possible for us to recall more, and do so more accurately’. Mayer-Schönberger (2009. p. 28)
Does a weak or false link matter?
If an author looking for material for a teen love story would it matter a jot as the parameters for the story would need to be met by fiction, not fact. Can we so easily make-up stories based on fact, if we are encumbered by the actuality?
Being selective though there are times when an absolute record may be of value – a surgeon operating so that multiple aspects of the experience can be shared, at a distance with colleagues and students.
An artist in their studio, working in a niche material and using rare craft skills not simply preserving their actions, but doing so in a way where many followers get as close as they can be to sitting at his shoulder? And of value to the protagonist, to identify mistakes where improvements could be made.
On the other hand, the act of creating your own version of events, of reflecting afterwards, adds value, adds originality and perspective, like the director’s voice talking through a movie they have made.
The real-time record lacks the context of the person’s thoughts.
These ‘inner-workings’ are surely of greater value to prosperity?
In addition, to personally make the effort to externalise events by taking notes, by creating a drawing or chart, or table … by translating the essence of the experience for others into a form we recognise we etch it into our memory. It benefits from the phsyiological attribution, something that will be lost if the ‘memory’ is gathered automatically.
It matters that we select as we go along, listening to someone talk, but only seeing them or caught by a conversation on another table as we are served, or watching the traffic and thinking of a cycle ride we had a child.
Memory creation is not as literal as a digital snap … and when we hear, as any professional sound recordist will attest, we filter out a huge amount of noise.
Mayer-Schönberger (2011) takes us through a brief history of how we externalise our thinking and touches on painting. ‘Painting is perhaps the oldest form of establishing external memory. It creates an image of a scene or an event, whether real or envisioned, and thus enables remembering’. Mayer-Schönberger (2011. p. 29)
If I want a record of events, translated through my mind’s eye, then perhaps a drawing or painting is a better way to do it than to write about it? Then again, a ballad might do the job. Either are preferable to a poor ‘absolute’ digital recording of what took place from the odd-perspective of my chest (or the chest of another) via a cigarette-packet sized gadget hanging around my neck.
A record of what I read and watched might suffice.
Why complicate it by creating a personal digital log of all the above where so much will in future simply require a link – so not some grabs of a text book as I read it, but the eBook, not parts of a film that catch my attention, but the film in its entirety. This supposes a record that is even greater than that experienced, but one which may be of greater value to others so that they can ‘live’ a life alongside, rather than stepping into the shoes of someone else. This may be a more valid and useful way for someone to pick through the digitised memory too – as a video editor or director, at arms length.
Fig.2. John Seely Brown speaking at the Open University in 2007
‘The emphasis, though, is on mixing and recombining, on creating a bricolage as the former head of famed Xerox PARC John Seely Brown has suggested, in which the value is derived from the (re) combination of its parts, not necessarily from the parts themselves’. Mayer-Schönberger (2011. p. 61)
- The power to remember and the need to forget (mymindbursts.com)
- The memory is the mind process happening in your brain, it can never be the artefact that plays back footage of an experience. (mymindbursts.com)
- The idea of gathering a substantial part of one’s life experience fascinates me, as it has often inspired others (mymindbursts.com)
- The greatest value of extending our capacity to remember, but externally and internally will be to take a record and build on it, treat it is as living thing that grows into something more. (mymindbursts.com)
- I use dreams to dwell on a topic. (mymindbursts.com)
- The idea of a machine that acts as a perfect memory prosthesis to humans is not new. (mymindbursts.com)
- The value of keeping a diary is, for most people, entirely personal. (mymindbursts.com)
- I’ve long visualised digitization as creating an ocean of content. With Web 2.0 this ocean developed currents, weather systems and a water-cycle. (mymindbursts.com)
How a triptych painted in the 17th century can teach us something about web and learning design
Lady Anne Clifford in the left hand panel is shown age 15 at the time of her father’s death.
Her father, her brothers shown here also long dead, leaves his estates to his brother; something Lady Anne spends the rest of her life fighting to overtime.
In the right hand panel, 41 years later, she had the lands – though only because the male line of her cousin also produced no male heirs.
This vast painting, known simply as the ‘Great Picture’ tells a poignant story, wealth and lands are involved, but also the desperate love of a daughter for her wayward father.
It is a deeply personal story too, the image of a happy family suggested in the central frame is a myth.
George Clifford was a womanizer, Champion to Queen Elizabeth, privateer and gambler. By the time Lady Anne was at court, where she was sent age 13 years 2 months, her father was estranged from her mother and with his mistress.
Fig 4. Loaded into Picasa this grab of a 17th century painting, of a 16th century character gets the ‘networking’ treatment.
This vast painting, known simply as the ‘Great Picture’ tells a poignant story, wealth and lands are involved, but also the desperate love of a daughter for her wayward father.
The rows or heraldic devices left and right of the main picture tell the 200 year history of the Clifford Family from the mid 15th century, a line that ends with Anne. All the portraits are copies of miniatures, some made 50 years before this composite painting.
It reads like a Hollywood Movie
There are three acts, the moment when it all goes wrong for Lady Anne she loses her father and inheritance), the conflict to take possession of the lands which the central panel indicate belong to this line of the Clifford family, and the final act when Lady Anne, now 56 years old, and twice married with daughters of her own, moves into her properties.
On the other hand, to modern eyes it is a homepage for a website.
There would be over 70 clickable points, links into nuggets of information, on previous generations, on her brothers who died age 5 and 7, on her governess (Mrs Anne Taylour) and tutor (Samuel Daniel), her aunts too (Baroness Wharton, Countess of Derby, Countess of Warwick and Countess of bath), and her two husbands (the earl of Dorset and Phil, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery) … on the books she read and the music she player, even her pet cat and dog.
The learning experience is governed by the viewer and where your eyes alight.
Both Lady Anne’s diaries and this painting suggest a daughter who craved her father’s affection and on his death wanted what she felt should have been his gift to her – his lands. Clifford is shown in a pose he’d never recognise, a father and head of the family with his wife and children. He wears a suit of ‘Star Armour’ the equivalent today of being shown sitting in or standing next to a Royals-Royce Phantom.
Some story, some picture, some ideas on how to compress information into a three frames from the 17th Century.
It has all I’d look for in a website home page: a storyline, a choice of ways into the information (the choice to explore down to the use) and drama both in the events and the scale and nature of the picture.
There’s pleasure today tracking down items from the Great Picture: the books are labeled, the pearls Lady Anne wears (a gift from her father), the star armour, the portraits and miniatures on which the Great Picture exist in galleries, collections and museums. The players have their stories too and Lady Anne kept a diary.
The journal Lady Anne kept reads like a modern blog, it trips between the issue of her inheritance and tussles over them with kings and husbands, as well as details like paying the housekeeper 3d (three pence) to look after her cat when she was away (you can see the cat at Lady Anne’s skirts in the right hand panel).