Last Friday I went to the Brighton Art Fair (www.brightonartfair.co.uk). Although it has been running for 10 years and is only about half an hours drive away this is the first time I have ever visited it. It was a lovely sunny day and because Brighton is a “green” city (they actively encourage people not to drive in to the city and to use public transport instead – one of the many ways is by the exorbitant parking charges), I decided to go by train, despite the journey time taking just over twice as long as it would have if I had driven. Still I thought I could sit back and “let the train take the strain” as they used to say. At the station in my home village the announcer came on stream to say the train was running 5 minutes late and Southern were sorry – that’s alright then. Four stops down the line and I had to change trains. This meant waiting on the platform furthest from the station, which was naturally the scruffiest and if tumbleweed had rolled down the track I would not have been surprised. Never mind, because my first train was late I only had 5 minutes before the next one came… 5 minutes came and went, and a couple more minutes before the announcer crackled into life to say that the train was also running 5 minutes late, no apology from First Capital Connect though! Finally I arrived at Brighton and walked down to the Corn Exchange, joined the queue and went in to the Art Fair.
Now I am no stranger to Art Fairs and have been to a few in my time, so I do know what to expect, but I couldn’t help feeling just a little bit disappointed. The Corn Exchange is quite small and feels a bit dark in an almost subterranean way, which is not helped by the fact that you have to go down a short flight of stairs to get in and enhanced by the layout of the booths displaying the artwork.
This year there were 103 exhibitors, mainly individual artists alongside a handful of galleries. Brighton has a reputation as an “Out There” kind of place, home to a cosmopolitan mix of folk, so it came as a bit of a surprise to see how very conservative the artwork on sale was. There was a lot of printmaking evident in one form or another, including work from the fabulous bip-Art Printmaking [www.bip-art.co.uk], formerly known as BIP – Brighton Independent Printmaking and where I first learned [almost 10 years ago now] how to make etchings, screen prints and lino cuts. I think I was most surprised by the painting on display and how very traditional much of it was with lots of landscapes, particularly of local scenes. I was disappointed at the small amount of sculpture, but cheered up by some of the mixed media work especially the boxed narratives by Frances Bloomfield (www.francesbloomfield.com); and Box 2+2 collaged assemblages (www.box2art.com).
Sadly there was very little textile work on show but from the small amount that was I was cheered by the jolly and quirky sequin fish and stitches pieces by Kate Jenkins (www.cardigan.ltd.uk) and the soft muted colours and textural landscapes by Dionne Swift.
For me though, the stand out artist was Heliana Sharpley (http://helainasharpley-wirework-artist.co.uk. Heliana makes the most intricate and interesting drawings from wire, and during a conversation about her work I discovered that she shares one of my own interests, tea drinking! Much of her work revolves around tea drinking as a pastime or ceremony. She makes line drawings which she then recreates in wire before mounting them on a wood panel so that the line drawing is now a sort of two and a half dimensional work. Do look at her website her work is delightful as is Heliana herself.
Sadly no photography was allowed inside the art fair – for obvious reasons, but I hope that maybe you might follow some of the links to each artists website. I hope you enjoy their work as much as I did.