Ta­mar Val­ley art

For many the Ta­mar Val­ley marks the spot where Devon ends and Corn­wall be­gins – but for its many artists it is a rich source of in­spi­ra­tion and the sub­ject of a new Lon­don ex­hi­bi­tion, writes Laura Joint

Devon Life - - Inside -

The River Ta­mar. A di­vid­ing line, sep­a­rat­ing Devon and Corn­wall? Tra­di­tion­ally, yes. But not for the artists who form the Drawn to the Val­ley col­lec­tive. For them, the River Ta­mar is the nat­u­ral artery that brings them to­gether.

The group was set up in 2003, since then it has grown to 160 mem­bers, artists across the spec­trum, all liv­ing and work­ing in the Ta­mar Val­ley. Now, for the first time, they are hold­ing their first ex­hi­bi­tion in Lon­don.

Drawn­tolon­don at the Royal Opera Ar­cade Gallery in Pall Mall takes places on 21-27 Oc­to­ber, and 36 of the group’s artists are tak­ing part. It’s un­usual for so many artists from such a large geo­graph­i­cal area to take an ex­hi­bi­tion to the cap­i­tal, and it’s some­thing the col­lec­tive have wanted to do for some time.

One of the artists ex­hibit­ing is vice-chair of Drawn to the Val­ley, Sally O’neill. “This is an im­por­tant show­case for our artists, an op­por­tu­nity to reach a much wider au­di­ence,” she says. “There are a lot of peo­ple

in Lon­don who know Devon and Corn­wall but prob­a­bly don’t see so much of the art that is made there. So we thought ‘let’s go and show them’.

“One of the strengths of Drawn to the Val­ley is the di­ver­sity of work and the ex­hi­bi­tion will re­flect this,” she added. “It’s won­der­ful to see how peo­ple have risen to the chal­lenge, pro­duc­ing new work spe­cially for Lon­don. And some have taken the op­por­tu­nity to work to a larger scale.”

Sally is one of them. Her stu­dio is a con­verted cow­shed at her home in Co­ry­ton. To get here from Tav­i­s­tock, you drive past Bren­tor, down hedge-lined coun­try lanes and past fields of sheep. Th­ese are the scenes Sally of­ten finds her­self paint­ing: “I love it here in win­ter when you can see the trees in their skele­tal forms. That must be my ar­chi­tec­tural back­ground, look­ing at the form and struc­ture of ev­ery­thing.

“In win­ter, you can see the his­tory in the hedgerows and the range of colours and tex­tures of the moor.”

Sally usu­ally works in acrylics, but for the Lon­don ex­hi­bi­tion, she is also re­turn­ing to pen and ink draw­ing. “The black and white brings out the sheer drama of the Dart­moor land­scape,” she says.

Two other artists show­ing their work in Lon­don are hus­band and wife Clark and Karen Ni­col, who live a few miles up the road, in Lyd­ford. They work in to­tally dif­fer­ent ways, Clark’s main tool be­ing acrylic paints and Karen’s a sewing ma­chine.

‘There are a lot of peo­ple in Lon­don who know Devon and Corn­wall but prob­a­bly don’t see so much of the art that is made there. So we thought ‘let’s go and show them’’

Much of Karen’s work is com­mis­sioned, some in­ter­na­tion­ally, while her imag­i­na­tive ex­hi­bi­tion pieces are highly sought after. Hav­ing only moved to tex­tile art a few years ago, she now works ex­clu­sively on her em­broi­deries to keep up with de­mand: “My idea was to com­bine my love of pho­tog­ra­phy, draw­ing, sewing and beau­ti­ful fab­rics,” she ex­plains.

“I love our whip­pets and, ini­tially in­spired by their grace­ful poses, I took pho­tos and made sketches. Work­ing on li­nen or some­times vin­tage fab­ric, stretched in a hoop, I em­broi­der free­hand – my sewing ma­chine is my pen­cil.” She of­ten uses ap­pliqué in her work to cre­ate char­ac­ter or hu­mour. “In a way, my work falls be­tween art and craft.” While her work is finely crafted, it is cer­tainly art.

Many of her sub­jects are an­i­mals – such as the guinea fowl at their small­hold­ing, peo­ple’s pets, wildlife or a horse. “I took a lot of pho­tos to cap­ture that ex­pres­sion in the eye which re­flects the re­la­tion­ship you can have with a horse. That’s why I called the em­broi­dery The­bond.”

But not all her mod­els are an­i­mals. “I once asked a bal­let dancer to model for me,” she re­mem­bers. “She came here and I pho­tographed her spin­ning around. When I sewed it, I left some of the threads loose, to give a sense of move­ment.”

While Karen works in her loft stu­dio with ex­pan­sive views to­wards Dart­moor, Clark is down­stairs, work­ing on his lat­est paint­ings based on the north Devon coast­line. But th­ese aren’t your usual seas­capes: “I like to ex­per­i­ment with lines, boxes and tex­tures which draw peo­ple in, some­times cre­at­ing lit­tle com­part­ments within the paint­ing, with fresh ar­eas of in­ter­est. The ef­fect is to al­low the viewer to en­gage in a jour­ney around the paint­ing.”

In his new work for the Lon­don event, he has ex­per­i­mented fur­ther: “In one of the paint­ings, Sea­weed at Bar­ri­cane, I used an un­der paint of sea­weed colour, painted the dark rocks over it and then re­moved that paint when it was still wet to re­veal the paint un­der­neath. I also used print­ing tech­niques with crum­pled news­pa­per to cre­ate a rocky sur­face pat­tern. And then there are my usual splashes and splat­ter­ings.”

Clark is a pre­vi­ous quar­ter fi­nal­ist of Sky Arts’ Land­scape Painter of the Year com­pe­ti­tion and has ex­hib­ited in Lon­don. “As a group, Drawn to the Val­ley has al­ways as­pired to greater things, so the Lon­don ex­hi­bi­tion is a good move at a good time,” he says. “It’s get­ting us out to a wider au­di­ence and that’s re­ally what we need.” drawn­tothe­val­ley.co.uk roa-gal­le­ria.com

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