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ARTiculation: Look, Think, Speak; Using Art to build confidence

I’ve been talking with the team of the Roche Court Educational Trust at the New Art Centre, Roche Court recently. I knew of the education work taking place at Roche Court through a colleague but had never visited. What a wonderful and extraordinary place it is!

The New Art Centre was founded in 1958 by the impressive Madeleine Bessborough in Sloane Street, London. She moved her commercial contemporary art gallery out of London to create a spectacular showcase in Roche Court in Wiltshire in 1994. This beautiful house is said to have been originally built for Lord Nelson to retire to. Lord Nelson, as we know, never lived to enjoy his retirement with Emma Hamilton, but the house and grounds are certainly worthy of the nation’s most well-known naval hero. Bessborough has created a beautiful commercial gallery and sculpture park where works can be appreciated in situ both indoors and out.

As you approach the house you are greeted by a selection of stand out sculptures along the drive. My favourites were three of Peter Randall-Page’s monumental pieces: Fructus, Corpus, Phyllotaxus.

I love his simple organic shapes that are so tactile and powerful. The house sits at the top of a dry valley which provides a beautiful setting to show off the art works on display. The fields around the house are home to beautiful russet coloured cattle.

Having a few minutes to spare I was able to explore the grounds where the art works were carefully placed to show them off at their best. I particularly loved the slightly sinister Silent Howler II by Laura Ford; Silent Howler I was there on my first visit but had already been snapped up by the time of my second visit! I loved Ford’s whimsical Dancing Clog Girls too.

Contemporary spaces have been added designed by architect Stephen Marshall. The Artist House, which is modelled on Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge provides space for activities and an ideal gallery space for more domestic scale works and acts as a counterbalance to those on display in the Sculpture Garden.

However, the reason for my visit was to find out more about the ARTiculation competition which was first held in 2006. In essence this is a public speaking competition for students aged 16 – 19 year old using art and architecture as the subject of each 10 minute presentation. It is now a national and international programme with events even taking place in Ireland and in Italy in partnership with the British Council.

I’d urge you to take a look at the ARTiculate website. The testimonies of the young people who have participated in the project speak for themselves as to the benefits of this programme, which is so much more than just talking about art. The great and good of the Art world have been competition adjudicators and this is the one of the strengths of the programme. The link between the Educational Trust started by Madeleine Bessborough and her New Art Centre provides a direct line to contemporary artists like Laura Ford and Director’s of the UK’s foremost museums and art galleries such as Tate Britain, the Ashmolean, the Fitzwilliam and journalists and critics such as Will Gompertz of the BBC.

Looking, Thinking, Speaking

The programme has taken off and developed over the last 13 years. More than 4,000 students a year engage with the scheme. Strong partnerships have developed with over 50 organisations across the sector. It now features the Discover ARTiculation Challenge which is aimed at GCSE students and helps young people to develop the skills necessary to take part in the ARTiculation Prize . This is delivered in conjunction with the University of Leeds.

The Trust is also developing an ARTiculation Network including Ambassadors, Allies and Advocates to help support the alumni of the programme and to enable the programme to be delivered sustainably to more areas and young people across the country.

The Trust are planning to do some work on evaluating and being able to define the benefits more clearly so as to be able to convince busy teachers that it is worth being part of the programme and to unlock much needed funds.

I would urge any secondary school teacher to take a look at this wonderful programme and see how they can use it to develop life skills for their students. Art is a wonderful rich and diverse subject but at its heart ARTiculation is about developing the “soft” skills of young people so that they can progress into the adult world and the world of work with confidence, having developed skills in critical thinking and being able to express themselves articulately.

ARTiculation is changing the future of British art criticism for the best.
Antony Gormley

Roche Court is available to visit every day please see their website for details

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Linda Brothwell: Conversations in the Making Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Anyone who has had any association with Stonehenge will know that it keeps calling you back. I only live a short distance from this World Heritage Site and my membership of English Heritage means that I can pop in any time. This time it was to see the new exhibition in the Visitor Centre – Linda Brothwell’s Conversations in the Making

One of the criteria that Stonehenge and Avebury met as a World Heritage Site was Criterion ii “have exerted great influence , over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture, monumental arts or town planning and landscape”. Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site’s case for meeting this criterion is: “The monuments and landscape have had an unwavering influence on architects, artists, historians and archaeologists, and still retain huge potential for future research.”

One of the new elements of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Management Plan 2015, which I co-authored with Sarah Simmonds, was the introduction of Policy 5d: Artists and the creative sector will offer new and inspiring ways for communities and a wide range of visitors to engage with and learn about the OUV of the WHS and the wide range of artistic responses to it both past and present.

To begin to fulfill this we held an Arts Symposium in November 2015 which brought together practitioners, archaeologists, museum and property managers to consider how we could work together to use the arts to interpret, explain and enjoy the historic landscape, building on the incredible creative work of Constable, Turner, Nash, Inshaw and many others. Peter Tyas submitted a guest blog to the Arts in Wiltshire blog after the event.

At that meeting and others, using the Visitor Centre for exhibitions of contemporary art was discussed, and something that I was personally keen to see, so that this tradition of drawing inspiration from the amazing landscape of Stonehenge and Avebury could be shared with both local residents and international visitors to the this iconic archaeological monument. I was delighted when I heard about the exhibition and that this vision was finally coming to fruition so of course I had to come and see for myself.

I had the gallery to myself for the majority of the time which meant that I could enjoy this carefully lit exhibition in peace. Each of the 40 vessels is given plenty of space to demonstrate the range of texture, shape and colour that Brothwell has carefully crafted. Some of them sang out like brightly coloured jewels which is hardly surprising given her training in jewellery, metalwork and silversmithing.

The creation of 40 vessels for this exhibition has been inspired by speaking to ten makers who live and work in the community; key cutter, hairdresser, tattooist, and leather worker, among others. She has also been inspired by prehistoric tools and pottery vessels in both Wiltshire Museum and the Salisbury Museum.

Tools, vessels, making and using our hands; these are the threads that link people and place through time. These are Conversations in the Making.

English Heritage

Commissioned by Ginkgo Projects for Bloor Homes in partnership with English Heritage
Linda Brothwell’s exhibition (the first contemporary art exhibition at Stonehenge) provides an intriguing new way to think about the landscape surrounding Amesbury and Stonehenge and the archaeological objects found here.

“Stonehenge has inspired art and artists for centuries – from those who illustrated medieval manuscripts, to the Romantic paintings by Constable and Turner and more recently artists such as Jeremy Deller. So it’s really exciting to host a contemporary art exhibition at Stonehenge for the first time. Linda Brothwell’s work, which looks at tools and vessels as a thread linking people and place over time, will provide an intriguing new way to think about Stonehenge and the archaeological objects found here. A visit to the new exhibition coupled with a trip to Wiltshire and Salisbury Museums to see some of the ancient objects that have inspired Linda’s work would provide a fascinating picture of Stonehenge and make a great day out.”

Susan Greaney English Heritage historian

It’s really positive to see the use of the Stonehenge Visitor Centre temporary exhibition space for this purpose; joining the historic landscape, community and art together in this way and introducing contemporary art which reflects the landscape and its archaeology. I hope that this will be the first of many such exhibitions. Stonehenge and Avebury has had such a powerful effect on artists in the past and will certainly continue to do so.

The exhibition is on until 24 November. Do take the time to take a look at this exhibition and to visit both the Wiltshire Museum in nearby Devizes and The Salisbury Museum which should be an essential part of any visit to Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.

One final link that some may find interesting is the project 30 objects / 30 years These objects were put together by Courtney Burmaster as part of her work experience while undertaking her Masters at UCL. This collection of objects demonstrate the range of objects found in or inspired by the landscapes of Stonehenge and Avebury.

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Creative Wiltshire on show in Chippenham

Balance – Sarah Purvey

I had the pleasure of visiting Chippenham Museum recently and was able to catch the Sarah Purvey retrospective ‘A Decade On‘. This is part of a programme of short exhibitions celebrating the huge wealth of creative talent in Wiltshire. The exhibition was held in the Museum’s elegant temporary exhibition space.

I wasn’t familiar with Sarah’s work but my father for many years was an enthusiastic amateur potter so I am always interested in artists who use this media.

Finding that Sarah was in the gallery was an added bonus. She told me it was so lovely to have her work on display in her ‘local’ gallery and confessed that she had popped in several times during the exhibition period. She was due to hold a ‘meet the artist’ event the following day.

I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with Sarah about her work. Interestingly she didn’t see them as ‘pots’ or ‘ceramics’ they are artworks. She views her two and three dimensional works as different ways of expressing herself. Her palette is mostly monochrome (“I don’t do really do colour!” she joked) but I loved her piece ‘Balance’ where the raw colour of the clay really stood out amongst the other more muted drawings and sculptures.

The sculptures are coil pots and the elegant wave like pattern inside the pieces created in their construction echo many of the painted surfaces and paintings.

“Based in Calne, Sarah Purvey creates powerful, sculptural ceramics which combine monumentality and subtlety to unique effect. Her sculptures and drawings are united by a bold and confident use of mark making, and their expression of the inner journey and personal landscape of the artist.”

sarah purvey ‘A decade on’ exhibition programme – chippenham museum

This exhibition is part of a summer programme ARTSPACE@Chippenham Museum running until 27 July organised by Mel Barnett, the brilliant Curator of the Museum. Mel is determined to draw attention to the creativity and the talent in Wiltshire and this rapid-fire programme is a great way to do it. See the image below for the remaining programme.

This season of exhibitions and the Creative Wiltshire programme are celebrating the ongoing inspiration that Wiltshire provides to artists of all kinds. If you want to find out more why not visit The Salisbury Museum’s current exhibition Creative Wiltshire: A Celebration which provides an “eclectic and visually stunning celebration of art in Wiltshire“?

Chippenham Museum is free to enter and supported by Chippenham Town Council and the permanent collection provides an interesting timeline of this ancient town that dates back to Saxon times and beyond and reminds us of those industries and crafts that have disappeared. Any new (or old) resident of Chippenham should make the time to visit this wonderful record of the town’s history. We should all understand more about the history of the place we live in.

I particularly love these yellowing clippings that tell the story of the foundation of the Museum in the 1960s.

Do make the time to visit the Museum. The volunteer welcome team are friendly and there is plenty to see. The ARTSPACE@Chippenham programme will provide plenty of opportunities to return.

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Devizes – Caen Hill Locks and more

The Easter weekend sunshine coaxed me out to finally make a visit to the Caen Hill Locks near Devizes that I’d been promising myself for ages. Plainly many others decided to do the same as the car park was busy on Easter Monday.

On arrival, I was delighted to find the Diamond Jubilee Wood funded by the Forestry Commission as part of a national scheme to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and full of native species which will in time create a rich habitat for wildlife.

The Locks themselves are undoubtedly impressive. It is one of the longest continuous flight of locks in the country, with a staircase of 16 locks the centre piece of a series of an incredible 29 locks in total. These were designed by John Rennie to solve the fact that the Canal has to negotiate a 273 ft drop within 2.5 miles as it travels through the Vale of Pewsey.

We talked to a party taking their boat through the locks. They thought it would take them at least 3 hours to complete. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted! This marvellous piece of engineering was created between 1794 and 1810, with the Caen Hill Flight the last stretch to be completed. The locks also have unique side pounds where boats would have waited as they traveled up and down the Canal. It’s heard to imagine this part of Wiltshire as a motorway of the 19th century carrying goods to and from London and Bristol along the Canal before trains and better roads meant that they had fallen out of use by the second half of the 20th century. The pounds are now havens of wildlife as they are not deep enough for boats to use now. The nesting swan close to the towpath would never have found a spot here in the heyday of the Canal.

I remember as a child in the 1970s being taken to somewhere along the route of the Kennet and Avon by my parents who were interested to find out more about the restoration of the canal which was then in its early days. I don’t know which stretch we visited but I do remember seeing the drained canal, the rubbish at the bottom of the channel and the people working hard to repair and clean up the canal so that it could become usable once more. Here I am in 2019 looking at the fruits of their labours.

We walked right into town to the Devizes Wharf where we watched as the MV Kenavon Venture set off to give visitors an experience of travelling along the Canal. This is yet another heritage attraction in Wiltshire dependent on the assistance of volunteers. Canal and River Trust volunteers at the floating visitor centre were friendly and knowledgeable and The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust run the Kenavon Venture and the small museum at Devizes Wharf. Their AGM is coming up soon and they have some volunteer vacancies if you would like to get involved.

A WWII pillbox tucked away near the Marina reminded us that the Canals were an important part of our infrastructure that needed to be protected in case of invasion by the German army.

Devizes is undoubtedly an excellent destination for visitors and one which is often overshadowed by the more famous destinations in Wiltshire such as Salisbury, Stonehenge or Stourhead. The Canal and its Museum, the Wiltshire Museum with its nationally significant archaeological collections, the Wadworth Brewery and Devizes market and independent shops mean that there is more than one day’s worth of things to do here. It’s close to the Avebury part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site and there are plenty of excellent walks to other sites such as Roundway Down or Adam’s Grave at Alton Barnes.

It also has a thriving cultural scene with its Arts Festival and annual Carnival, independent cinema and plenty of nice places to eat.

The volunteers were able to provide information for visitors on the history of the Canal and things to see and there were a selection of both free and paid-for publications available that were informative, attractive and easy to read. There were clear signposts and information boards to help orientate the visitor. The Canal is a wonderful place to relax, enjoy nature, wonder at the engineering skills of our Georgian ancestors and to give thanks for those volunteers who worked so hard to restore the infrastructure so that we can all enjoy it now. They have a nice cafe too! I’ll definitely be back.