Exhibition at The Brewhouse Theatre and Arts Centre
10th October – 26th November 2016
Review by Robert Parker
The rejuvenated Brewhouse has a gallery that is airy, light and spacious. The current exhibition features work of some of the most prolific and distinguished artists in Somerset.
The theme New Territories covers the exploration of technique as much as location. The 8 exhibiting artists have a variety of approaches to the chosen theme. The two central protagonists have concentrated on the far north.
This is an important exhibition and a milestone in re-establishing the Brewhouse as a major player presentation of the visual arts in the south west.
Being from the north bank of the Tyne myself, I’m more than familiar with the territory between the Yorkshire dales and Hadrian’s Wall. David Graham’s photographic presentation is an exploration of the north Yorkshire coast – his misfortune with the weather has provided him with a moody vision of cliffs, rocks and a sea that looks hostile without being stormy – this personal almost angst-ridden view of a coast that is normally crisp and bright makes a fine contribution to imagery of this area.
Mike Collier has a modishly calligraphic take on Durham: birds’ song evocative phrasing suggesting it is not always more conventional, visuals that penetrate the true essence of place. Andrew Davey tackles the curse of the sketch book head on to make small studies as telling as larger scale works – gazing out of the window onto Cape Cornwall translates the expectancy of the sketch book into something more formally satisfying – not easy to pull off but it has been achieved with great aplomb here.
Toni Davey provides an interpretation of the sea: white on white with manipulation of surface that is both Zen and tactile suggesting that in nature, miniscule forces at play can be as crucial as more spectacular events. Phil Dudman, a painter who captures the darker forces of nature, always suggests pulses of energy even in his small canvases. His rendering of the north Yorkshire coast has dour tension – the dunes in Northumberland, with paths that lead who-knows-where created by the passage of people you’ll never know encapsulates the edgy uncertainty of lonely places.
Stef Mitchell from Staithes uses monoprint to marry organic accident with intentional marks, exploring in detail the landscape around her studio; a unique insight which makes you want to share the same experience by visiting her chosen source of imagery.
Jenny Graham’s large scale canvases have a peaty sense of colour – ‘now you see it now you don’t’ images suggest mystery on the moors and rivers – and rocks are an indication of something monumental that reminds me of John Martin’s apocalyptic visions. The composite work placed between the two larger canvases in the main gallery is a tour de force by any standards, hopefully the beginning of something rather than a one off.
Sara Dudman’s work shows her maturing as an artist of power with something to say. Her use of media and technique has become enviable, her muted palette is stunning, cunning as well as lucid. What is so telling about her vision, especially the Northumberland coast is that it translates the familiar into something fresh without distancing the image from its source. This is what everyone hopes to achieve but seldom does – I could write more about these works that feature the Farne Islands and the coast at Staithes but words cannot supplant coming to view these works.