While out and about today visiting Chichester University with my daughter who is thinking of studying there next year I had the opportunity to visit the Otter Gallery and see the current exhibition “The Margins of the Lane”.
For those who are not aware of the Otter Gallery it is a small ‘white cube’ space within the learning resource centre at the University of Chichester. The gallery boasts a fine permanent collection of some of the very best in 20th century British art including works by Patrick Heron, Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore, Stanley Spencer and one of my personal favourite artists, Ivon Hitchens. The gallery is open to the public free of charge and runs an active series of artist-led workshops and other community events throughout the year to support its exhibition programme which showcases works from the permanent collection as well as work by contemporary artists and students from the University. It gets its unusual name from the Bishop Willam Otter, who was Bishop of Chichester (1836-40) who was a champion of ‘education for all’ and was keen to found a school for the training of Elementary Schoolmasters. After his death in 1840, such a school was founded known as ‘Bishop Otter’s School for Training Masters’, one of the very first Church Colleges and which after many changes throughout the past 160 years is now the University of Chichester.
The current exhibition “The Margins of the Lane” revisits themes explored in a 2011 exhibition (Entrance to a Lane) which saw students from the Fine Art department presenting work in context to works held in the permanent collection; this new show takes this exploration of ideas about the nature of landscape imagery further and combines new work alongside selected work from the permanent collection.
The exhibition opens appropriately, with a well known and impressive work by Graham Sutherland titled ‘Entrance to Lane’ painted in 1943. This leads on to a 1972 painting by David Michie, ‘Patterned Garden’ and three delicate and atmospheric 2010 etchings by Norman Ackroyd (www.normanackroyd.com) ‘Tory Island Donegal’, ‘Anthony Repton’s Prospect’ and ‘Westmere Evening’. These are followed by five contemporary works by Fine Art lecturers at the University; Steve McDade, Elizabeth Colley and Christopher McHugh.
Horizon Moor, Christopher McHugh 2012
(acrylic, pva, red earth, dust and wood fibre on plank)
Between the two works by Christopher McHugh hangs Ivon Hitchens’ Autumn Stream painted in 1950. I am a big fan of Ivon Hitchens work. I love the way the image reveals itself the longer you look at it and what at first glance appears to be random splodges of colour open up to reveal careful draughtsmanship. Hitchens first began exhibiting his work in the 1920’s and joined the London Group in the 1930’s. After being bombed out of his home during the war, he moved to West Lavant in West Sussex where he lived in an old railway carriage to which he added various small buildings. Settled in the beautiful Sussex countryside he continued to paint landscapes from blocks of colour for the next 40 years until his death in 1979.
Autumn Stream, Ivon Hitchens 1950, oil on canvas
image credit: Ivon Hitchens’ estate/Jonathan Clark & Co.
photo credit: University of Chichester, Otter Gallery
Moving further round the exhibition the viewer is confronted by a striking triptych by Chris Aggs who until 2012 was also a lecturer for 30 years at the University of Chichester. A realist painter, Aggs prefers to paint directly in front of his subject. His work is held in several national and international. The subject matter of the triptych is a view of the Old Cement Works at Shoreham, which closed in 1991 and has steadily fallen into a state of dereliction. There have been many plans to develop the site but as it falls within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park and is in an area designated as of Outstanding Natural Beauty, many of these schemes have fallen foul of the various planning rules and regulations imposed by Horsham District and Adur District Councils as it straddles both these district boundaries.
Chris Aggs, Shoreham Cement Works (triptych) 2012
oil on board
Moving round into what could be called ‘the home straight’ the first work is Roger Cameron’s 1966 piece ‘The Monestary Garden’. This is a charming and interesting painting (gouache on paper), which I felt would translate well into other mediums such as a textile piece. The same applies, in my mind at least, to the (undated but probably 1950’s) painting by Paul Feiler titled ‘Boats and Sea’
Above left: The Monestary Garden, Roger Cameron 1966, gouache on paper
Above right: Boats and Sea, Paul Feiler (date not known), oil on canvas
The exhibition ends with the large and somewhat striking, not to mention slightly disturbing black and white image of abstract figures by William Gear and appropriately titled ‘Black Figures’ before finishing with another monochrome painting this time by Patrick Heron, Black and White April 1956 and finally Peter Lanyon’s ‘The Green Mile’ is an appropriate way to leave the exhibition. Hanging opposite the Graham Sutherland on the other side of the gallery, the Lanyon painting echoes the imagery and colours of the Sutherland and draws the whole show together into a cohesive whole.
Against the glass wall looking out into the learning and resource centre was a large drawing on an acetate sheet roll which was the result of a Big Draw workshop on the theme of Halloween which had been held the previous day. The Big Draw is an international celebration of drawing aimed at encouraging people from all walks of life and parts of the community to engage in creative activities. Held annually in October this month long festival celebrates drawing in all its varying forms. Find out more from the Campaign for Drawing at www.campaignfordrawing.org.
part of the Halloween Big Draw workshop held at the Otter Gallery
All in all a fascinating and interesting small exhibition of artworks exploring the idea of Landscape from the more literal and realistic to wildly abstract by artists of national and international repute. It just goes to show that it is not necessary to go to the blockbuster shows at major galleries to see some of the best art in the world.