Summer Exhibition Review

by George Bailey

Arriving at The Gallery beside Hackwood Grange, located in open country in the settlement of Tunworth to the south of Basingstoke, was to be a most pleasant experience. Siobhan Hamilton-Phillips and I were invited to the Summer Exhibition on Thursday, 14th June, as guests to view the work of artists including our WiW member Arabella Thompson. Amanda Aldous, owner of The Gallery, was our hostess in this superb converted barn with its large central space so suitable for the showing of paintings and sculptures.

Entering The Gallery, we were immediately struck by a large painting of blue and yellow macaws to the left of the door. Its vibrant colours, reminiscent of Indian silks, were a visual delight. We discovered the artist was our Arabella exhibiting under her maiden name Ross.

Inside The Gallery was another large painting of red macaws in moonlight, again demonstrated her strong use of colours. Four smaller paintings showed the same use of colours which lead us to understand Arabella’s approach to her paintings.

Clearly the twenty months she spend in the Indian sub-continent, absorbing the life and culture of this part of the world, has heavily influenced how she brings colours into her paintings of natural scenes. Nevertheless one has to be receptive to these – Arabella’s personality suggests she has both the sensitive and the joyful nature to take the best of India into her paintings even when back home in England.

Mingling with the other guests, we found ourselves being photographed by Arabella’s son Dylan, both her husband Michael and son were attending to give her support as were Amanda Aldous, George Bailey, Siobhan Hamilton- Phillips and the Artist Arabella Ross.

Arabella kindly explained the inspiration for some of her work – “I am thrilled to be taking part in a group Summer exhibition at AA fineart at Hackwood Grange. I met Amanda Aldous in 2016 who came to my solo exhibition at the Whitchurch Silk Mill Museum. The exhibition there was part of the Hampshire open studios. The Ceramic silk bobbins and reels I had made formed part of my written and visual research at the Victorian Silk mill factory upstairs. I was also showing oil paintings and mixed media collages. It was from this meeting at the private view that the relationship with Amanda developed. Amanda contacted me this year after seeing some of my instagram posts. A studio visit was arranged for March 2018.

 In 2004 Amanda Aldous founded the Hackwood Arts Festival, which quickly became a notable event in the national art calendar. In 2009 Amanda opened her own gallery where there continues to be a growing demand for contemporary and mid-20th century art in the UK. Awarded an MBE in the 2016 Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours for services to the Arts Amanda continues to be an active member of The Chelsea Arts Club.

In this group exhibition I will be showing oil paintings on canvas and paper collages using watercolour and acrylics. The theme of my work is of a tropical nature; landscapes with palm trees, Macaws, gardens with bougainvillea, stormy skies and intense colour. All the images are drawn both physically and emotionally from the experience of painting in situ and making numerous drawings and taking photographs. I am thrilled that the Blue and yellow Macaws painting has been chosen for the private view card.

The colours and ideas expressed in my paintings emanate from a voice within. The paint, pigments, images, drawings and marks come together and form a narrative through painterly vocabulary. Narrative and drawing are always the starting points. By responding intuitively to my surroundings I seek to convey the passion I feel for light, form, colour and recurring images which emerge int my work from my imagination. It is a slow unfolding of the voice from within. Working outdoors is a way to enter into nature’s magical world of sky, trees, plants, colours, light and aromas which form a dialogue and contemplation between the artwork and the viewer – and therefore between artist and viewer.”