Time to slow down
Painting a pair of giant snails
Artist Judith Berrill has created two snails for Brighton and Hove’s Snailspace, taking inspiration from a fictional green-fingered gardener and a trailblazer who put Brighton on the theatrical map.
“I wanted Mr Watts to represent that part of the garden where everything collects in a hidden corner – leaves, flower pots, bamboo canes… and snails of all shapes and sizes,” says Judith. “I teamed up with a poet friend of mine, David Attree, and he wrote the poem that is on Mr Watts’ apron.
“Gardening is a process that requires slowing down, you can’t grow things instantly. In the same way, painting is also a process that moves you into a different space. Each of my snails has taken over 150 hours to complete. It may not look like that, but you have to put a lot of layers of paint on to get real depth of colour. For Mr Watts I did a whole under-painting process first then added multiple layers to make the colours really sing.”
When Beth, one of sponsor Greenacre’s owners, saw the design she liked the gardening theme, but another surprising connection made it a natural fit. “Her late father was called Mr Watts,” says Judith. “Her dad received support from Martlets when his wife was ill and he had a great deal of admiration for the hospice.”
Snellie pays tribute to Ellen Nye Chart who ran Brighton’s Theatre Royal during the Victorian era. “When her husband died at quite a young age, ‘Nellie’ took over in 1875 as owner and manager and built its reputation,” says Judith. “Nellie’s favourite seat was in the Royal Circle [today’s number G16]. Some say that when the theatre is empty and all the seats are upright, Nellie’s seat is still down as she’s sitting on it making sure everything is running smoothly!”