Festival Exhibition 2017: “Quercus & Co”
Opening Times : 10am – 6pm; Weekends, Tuesdays to Fridays + Bank Holiday Mondays
Dates : 22nd April – 21st May
Entry : Free Entry and Parking. Children and families welcome. No dogs please.
Enquiries : firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2017 Spring Festival Exhibition presents new works by local, regional and international artists.
Painting : Richard Elliott, Meriel Ensom, Kate Giles, Jelly Green, Roger Hardy, Becky Munting, Tessa Newcomb.
Sculpture : Laurence Edwards, Jennifer Hall, Maggi Hambling, Roger Hardy, Craig Hudson, Freddy Morris.
Drawing & Etchings : Jason Gathorne-Hardy, Sarah Pirkis.
Sound & Video : Richard Elliott.
As in past years, the Festival Exhibition is arranged around the farmyard barns. Out of season, these are used for storage and farming activities. For four weeks each spring they are cleaned, painted and dressed for the Alde Valley Spring Festival. The barns become a series of galleries, showing works by up to 30 local, regional, national and international artists.
Entry is free and all works are for sale.
The Festival Exhibition 2017 ~ Exhibition Information
The Old Threshing Barn : Quercus & Co
It is a great honour to be able to welcome to the barns a collection of pigmented bronzes made by Maggi Hambling. Cast from found pieces of wood – some collected from the farm earlier in the year – they include works previously shown at Somerset House in autumn 2015 as part of a retrospective show War Requiem – Aftermath. After showing Maggi’s sea paintings – and having had a glimpse of her remarkable new ice cap paintings – it is very exciting to be able to show a new body of work with connections to the local landscape and woodland.
The Threshing Barn presents a dramatic show of new paintings by Suffolk artist – and rising star – Jelly Green. These include large water colours and oil paintings of woodlands in England and Wales – together with drawings of veteran oaks and a display of sketchbooks from trips around the UK, Sri Lanka and Brazil. Jelly Green was given the inaugural Fidelity Cranbrook Residency Award for Painting by the Spring Festival in 2o14 to paint at Banks Farm in the Howgill Fells of Cumbria. This led to a series of small oil paintings of trees growing at the farm and subsequently to a series of much larger works. The paintings and drawings presented in the Threshing Barn represent her continuing exploration of trees, woodland and forests in the UK and abroad, with some of her largest watercolours and oil paintings to date.
Alongside Jelly Green’s paintings is a selection of figurative bronze sculptures by Laurence Edwards – now working from an immense new foundry in Halesworth. Much of Laurence’s work is embedded and rooted in the Suffolk landscape. The bronzes on show present figures who are disintegrating into it or emerging from it – including River Man, 2015 and two previously unexhibited figures made in early 2017.
Another artist with long-standing ties to the Spring Festival and farm is Freddy Morris. He took part in the first workshop residency project as one of the The Artists & Bronze Casters from Butley Mills Studios. In 2015 he returned for a larger Woodland Residency, with support from designer Charlie Hawkins. During this period Freddy started to explore burn out bronze casts of sculptures made from wood and branches found at White House Farm and elsewhere, which led to a much larger works in his Tangle and Variations series – several of which now feature in the Spring Festival Collection. His work is pioneering. He is re-interpreting woodland and the landscape in an highly individual way. His most recent bronzes from Tangle Series and Variations have the quality and feel of land art from the 1970s – but with a new approach to landscape through his use of bronze casting.
Elsewhere in the Threshing Barn and farmhouse Dining Rooms are new works by Richard Elliott, who returned to the farm for a painting and installation residency in the New Year of 2017. These include paintings made at the farm about the veteran oaks and patches of ancient planted / sown woodland. Tucked nearby is another new departure for the Spring Festival : a 3600 VR installation that has been developed as part of a VR tech residency with Richard in response to drone and VR footage he took at White House Farm in 2015. The installation will let visitors to the Festival move to other woodland sites in Suffolk.
Also on display and for sale in the Threshing Barn are examples from The Suffolk Chair Collection including Great Glemham Hedge Chairs and Benches by Raymond Hopkins and oak tables made at the farm’s wood workshop.
The Lambing Sheds and Old Dairy : Woodland and local Wildlife
These rooms were until recently used seasonally as the Lambing Office and Maternity / Lamb Nursery Rooms. They are now used for storage and seasonally for a few weeks each year as an exhibition space. In one room we are showing a selection of new paintings, sculptures and constructions by Roger Hardy. Represented by The Alde Valley Spring Festival since autumn 2015, Roger’s new paintings are a continuation of a project called The Boundary Series. These depict the River Alde along its course from inland valleys to the broad estuary and finally the sea at Shingle Street. The first two works from the series were shown at the farm in 2015 and depicted the Alde at as it flows past alder trees and a fallen ash tree along the eastern boundary of White House Farm. They are forerunners for a larger show planned for autumn 2017. Alongside the paintings are some of Roger’s latest sculptures and constructions made with found wood and old tools – some collected from sales and farmyards and others from boatyards along the Suffolk coast.
Nearby are paintings by Becky Munting of hares. These are from another new residency project launched in early 2017 at Great Glemham Solar Farm. The landscape management plan for the solar farm is supervised by Great Glemham Farms and uses a model called Solar +. This is testing a multi-layered approach to solar farm landscape management that is intended to deliver on site ecological enrichment and food production through grazing on top of energy production. The 70 acre site is now beginning to support a wild hare population and Becky’s painting residency project was set up to try and record some of the hares on the solar farm.
On an adjacent wall is a new collection of paintings on driftwood of birds by Meriel Ensom. These are a mixture of inland songbirds and seabirds from the coast, echoing the span of Roger Hardy’s work which runs from the Upper Alde down to Aldeburgh, with raw materials gathered from boatyards and the mudflats beyond.
Next door in the Old Lambing Office Jennifer Hall is showing the first results from a new 2017 Woodland Residency at the farm. This was launched in January 2017 and will run for 12 months through the spring, summer, autumn and winter of 2017/18. The residency looks at leaves and surfaces in three distinct patches of woodland at White House Farm : the Nutgrove [a patch of post-medieval hazel coppice next to a restored heritage orchard], Rookyard Belt [a stand of ancient / semi-veteran sweet chestnuts with some sycamore, hazel and oaks that runs along a Suffolk hilltop opposite the farmhouse] and Back House Pond Covert [an expanse of self-sown willow / birch / hazel / ash / sycamore that gives way to a plantation of oak standards and hazel coppice]. The Spring Festival Exhibition presents some of the first works to come from the residency project.
Arranged around the walls of the larger Lambing Maternity Room – which doubles up as the main entrance to the Festival Exhibition - is a selection of new paintings by Tessa Newcomb. These are part of a larger collection of works that will form the basis of a book about White House Farm, due to be printed in autumn 2017. The paintings and the idea of the book draw inspiration from A Painters’ Place by Abbott Hall Gallery in Cumbria. The works capture scenes from the farm during the Spring Festival and at other times of the year. Also included in Tessa’s works are a handful of paintings from a new satellite farming residency project Song of the Howgills that is being launched later in November 2017 in the beautiful Howgill Fells of Cumbria – recently added to the Lake District and North Yorkshire Dales National Parks.
Next door in the Old Dairy are bronzes and works in progress by Craig Hudson. Like Freddy Morris, Craig took part in the first workshop residency at the farm in 2014 with The Artists & Bronze Casters from Butley Mills Studios. Since then his work has developed greatly in scale and ambition, leading to Tourist in 2015 and more recently to To the Moon and Back – a series of bronzes and studies based on Craig’s family dog Marley. These culminate it in a larger than life-size bronze of the Staffy-Lurcher cross carrying a twelve foot branch, which is on show in a field opposite the front farmyard near the Bluebell Nature Walk in Rookyard Belt.
Beyond the Old Dairy is the former Milkstore, still fitted with large slate shelves for cooling the milk. This is the temporary home to a display of maquettes and the mould for Craig's largest work to date, Tourist. The Alde Valley Spring Festival started representing Craig's work in early 2016 and Tourist, together with other recent works, was the subject of a pop-up exhibition for curators and collectors in London in October 2016.
Above the entrance to the Festival Exhibition in a small Mezzanine gallery. For the past eight years this has been the seasonal home for exhibitions of icons by Bulgarian iconographer Marchela Dimitrova, past Artist in Residence at the farm. Marchela and her husband Fr Nedyalko Dimitrov have visited the farm since 2009. During a stay in the autumn of 2016 Marchela created and gifted to the farm a huge icon painted on beech and oak milled in the wood workshop by Raymond Hopkins. This takes pride of place, with examples of other icons made by Marchela over the past few years – Marchela herself is taking a sabbatical break from exhibitions of new work this year.
The entrance room also presents new works from The Suffolk Chair Collection by Jim Parsons, Dan Hussey, Dylan Pym and Raymond Hopkins. All of the chairs on show can be made to order – including re-editions of antique Suffolk Ball Back chairs from a design reference collection. These can be adapted to create chairs that are unique new versions, allowing customers to create their own piece of Suffolk chair-making history.
The Old Stables
This building stands opposite the Festival Exhibition entrance and in front of the Old Threshing Barn. It contains the Farm Chapel, a larger Open Stable and The Old Tackroom. The Open Stable presents drawings, photographs and works in progress from The Eye of Achilles - an ongoing project by Jason Gathorne-Hardy that explores the history of the Suffolk Punch in the farmed landscape of the Alde Valley and East Suffolk.
A hundred years ago there were tens of thousands of Suffolk Punches in the county. Their power and strength underpinned agriculture in the region – and they trod almost every acre of cultivated land for generations. As the writer Adrian Bell wrote in Suffolk Horses at Plough :
“They tread so dainty where that burrow was
That let their feet in sudden deep, when we
First ploughed the pasture up, less grass than moss;
And though there weren’t no difference you could see
When we were drilling wheat, me and the boss,
They knew that place, and went right fretfully,
Like today they did at plough again, because
They still mind where that burrow used to be”
The plough lay sideways like a stranded ship,
With hedge-pole handle, cotton reel and spud
With which from share worn silver-bright, the mud
He pared; then straightened and again took grip,
Pouting the cinder of his home-made fag,
And gee’d and twisted them with the plough-cord’s sag.”
As an ongoing project The Eye of Achilles takes its name from a magnificent stallion called Achilles who lives at The Suffolk Punch Trust near Hollesley. It looks at the local oral and social history attached to this variety of horse – part of the Suffolk Trinity of breeds. Visitors to the Spring Festival are invited to bring their own recollections, photographs and stories to add to the project.
Next door to the Open Stable is the Old Tack Room. For the duration of this year's Spring Festival this houses one of the highlights of the Festival Exhibition : a show of remarkable bronzes by Maggi Hambling - one of Britain's most prominent artists and a long-term supporter of the Spring Festival Exhibitions. Made from bronze casts of found pieces of wood treated with pigment and luminous paint, some of the works have been previously shown at Somerset House as part of War Requiem & Aftermath in 2015. Others are more recent, with works in progress made from pieces of wood collected at White House Farm in February 2017. This is the first time works from the Aftermath series have been shown in East Anglia and it is exciting to be able to welcome the pieces to the farm for the Spring Festival Exhibition.
The Farmhouse Dining Rooms
The dining rooms occupy the oldest part of the farmhouse at White House Farm. During the 1940s the farm was home to all the children who feature in Benjamin Britten's opera The Little Sweep. More recently in the 1970s one end of the farmhouse - now used as residency accommodation - was lived in by the singer Nancy Evans and librettist Eric Crozier. The dining rooms have low ceilings and sit within a framework of oak uprights, long rafters and beams. They overlook the pastures and more distant woodland and farm parkland on the farm. Some of the trees are of immense age. Many are 200-300 years old; a few are 400 years old; and one or two may have first germinated in the late Middle Ages. One of this year's Writers in Residence, Aljos Farjon [an honorary research associate at Kew], is writing a book ancient oaks of England and will be giving a talk about his work on Friday 5th May. Given the construction of the farmhouse Dining Rooms, their connection to the local farmed landscape and their rich cultural history, it seemed appropriate for them to provide a home to a new collection of paintings by the painter Richard Elliott. Returning for 2017, his paintings focus on oak trees and the rural landscapes of the farm.
Notes about The Festival Exhibition
Visual Arts in a Farming Landscape
In the book “A Painters’ Place - Banks Head, Cumberland 1924-31” [Abbot Hall Art Gallery / Redcliffe Press, 1991] Jake Nicholson writes “I wonder if we realise how poor our lives have become now that so many of us are separated from our animals ?”
In the early years of the Spring Festival, the sheep and fine arts almost overlapped. The barns doubled up as lambing sheds and a seasonal gallery, with only a few days between the two uses. Nowadays, the lambing takes place elsewhere. But the barns in which the exhibition pops up are very much part of the working farmyards. This feels important – it anchors the works of art in the land. The view through the doorways from the gallery rooms are of the barns and the countryside beyond – the land from which much of the work was drawn, painted or sculpted. That the air is also often laced with the smell of livestock or the surrounding fields also feels significant. It adds an edge to the exhibition that is real.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Living Landscapes
In 2009, White House Farm and Great Glemham Farms signed a 10 year Higher Level Stewardship agreement with Natural England. The purpose of this was to further improve and enrich the wildlife habitats on the farms. A range of projects have been implemented, including orchard restoration, dyke restoration, woodland planting, new footpaths, an open access area, wild bird seed patches and a bird box scheme. Hedgerows have also been restored by double-planting, laying, widening fences and allowing adjoining grassland to go a bit wild. The aim of these changes has been to enrich the ecology of the farm – to provide a “woolly jumper effect” by making the hedgerows warmer and more welcoming for wildlife. This policy has also been inspired by Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscapes initiative, which envisions a more balanced approach to development in which ecology is enriched rather than degraded. Much of the work in the Festival Exhibition has grown out of the landscape around the farm, through the Spring Festival Residency Programme and is intended to highlight the importance of landscape, local wildlife and social history.
The Suffolk Chair Collection
This project revolves around a collection of over 40 original Suffolk Ball Back chairs. These are used as a design reference collection from which clients can commission re-editioned chairs or new designs that incorporate a blend of features from different original chairs. Working with a selection of contemporary Suffolk chairmakers, The Suffolk Chair Collection also celebrates new designs and the chair-making heritage of Suffolk. A selection of chairs from the Collection, both new and old, are on show in the Festival Exhibition for which orders can be taken.
Iconography in the Alde Valley
Since 2009, the Festival Exhibition has shown new icons by Marchela Dimitrova from Plovdiv in Bulgaria. For more information about Marchela’s work, visit Icon Painting in the Alde Valley.
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