Time to slow down

Paint­ing a pair of gi­ant snails

Sussex Life - - Inside -

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!”

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