Tuesday, 21 April 2015

NNF Open Studios - A Taster of Things to Come and a Brush with Local Artists

We are all used to seeing art exhibitions inside the Forum in Norwich, and I always try to stop and take a look. As with music and writing, it is always a sobering experience to stop and appreciate just how much artistic talent we have within the city, and throughout the county. Whilst the media will always focus on household names, and big business has the profit motive to promote its own product and artists, there is so much to like locally that can be enjoyed, or even purchased, without spending a fortune.

 In the same way that farmers have promoted the idea of buying direct from the producer, and our restaurants are quick to extol the enhanced tastes and textures that comes with dishes prepared using locally sourced ingredients, the arts world, too, can encourage us to appreciate and purchase local produce.

Which is exactly why the Norfolk and Norwich Festival organises the annual Open Studios. Now in its 21st year, the scheme encourages us to visit the workshops and studios across the county in which local artists work and create their art. Over three weekends between May 23rd and June 7th it will be possible to visit and view the work of 450 artists, either individually or as part of one of 17 local art trails. There is no charge, no obligation to buy, and each location can be found in the Open Studios brochure, and easily identified by the Open Studios banner displayed outside.

I have just visited the Central Taster Exhibition which was held last week inside the Forum, and it has certainly whetted my appetite to get out and participate in some of the trails, as well as visit the studios of several individual artists that I admire. Whilst I do not have much of an income at present, I still prefer purchasing original art to simply picking up expensive framed prints from the high street stores. And it is not necessary to spend that much more in order to hang a unique and personal piece of work in your own home.

The most expensive painting that I saw at the Forum was the stunningly beautiful 'Portrait of Ruby' by Norwich painter Paul Smith. Priced at £950 this was outside my budget, but will surely find a willing buyer. Much more affordable at only £145 was a mixed media composition by one of my favourite local artists, Tracey Ross. 'Spring - Holkham to Wells' is typical of her expressive seascapes which capture the colours and beauty of the North Norfolk coast. Not surprisingly, someone had already snapped this one up, but it certainly provides the interest and incentive to make a visit to the studio.

Other pieces that attracted a lot of attention included the spiralling metal sculpture 'Vortex II' by Thomas Joynes (yours for £2000) and the life-size textile 'Stag Head' by Jo Rochester (£295). Local landscapes are always going to be popular, and there were a selection on show, including Anne Filgate's nautical study 'Wells at Dusk' (£95), or a more esoteric insider's view of  Norwich's 'The Bicycle Shop' by Paul Cozens (£185). Remember, these prices are a fraction of what you could pay in a London gallery, and often less than you would pay for an unsigned framed print.

By supporting local artists, we are helping support our local economy, promoting not only the individual artists but also raising awareness of Norfolk in general, including our important tourism trade. Organisations like Norfolk and Norwich Festival are vital to contribute to and expand the profile of our local artists. Perhaps this should be borne in mind when support grants from the likes of Norfolk County Council are cut back so drastically. But that is another story. In the meantime, get out and enjoy the Open Studios weekends. Pick up a brochure from the Forum, or check out the website :

And, if you see something that you like enough, and can afford, buy a piece of local art!

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