Sussex Heritage: Arundel Gallery Trail ‘When the whole town becomes a gallery ...’

The artist Josse Davis working in his potter's studio.

The artist Josse Davis working in his potter's studio.

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This weekend marks the beginning of the Arundel Gallery Trail, which opens on Saturday August 17 at 12noon.

It combines the delights of discovering art from more than 100 established and emerging artists in many of the historic houses and gardens of Arundel not normally open to the public.

'Salad I (The excuse me)', thrown stoneware bowl by Josse Davis.

'Salad I (The excuse me)', thrown stoneware bowl by Josse Davis.

These homes provide the perfect setting for this annual selling exhibition and celebration of Sussex as a centre of art.

The Arundel Gallery Trail is now in its 25th year. Founded by Arundel artist Derek Davis (1926-2008), Renee Bodimeade, Ann Sutton and Oliver Hawkins, the event is an essential part of the Sussex art calendar.

Josse Davis has played an active role in the Arundel Gallery Trail over many years and will be exhibiting his pottery again this year. The son of ceramicist and painter Derek Davis and the painter Ruth Davis, he works from his home town of Arundel.

His affection for Arundel is clear. Asked if he plans to stay put, he answers wryly: “I am reluctant to move now I have a kiln or two.”

Having grown up happily in Arundel and inspired by his parents, Josse is very grounded in the town. “Potters don’t move often… kilns don’t budge easily,” he continues with a smile.

This wit is expressed in his work and its titles, like the bowl ‘Salad I (The excuse me)’ illustrated here, which clearly shows the influence of his father’s work.

Josse describes his decoration as being “divided into two distinct styles: the spontaneous and the disciplined”.

“As a confident draughtsman,” he says, “my designs are figurative and often described as traditionally English in approach.”

His work is, though, a contemporary take on this tradition.

Another important contributor to the Arundel Gallery Trail is Susie Jenkins, whose art employs photography to challenge our perceptions of the world in which we live.

Susie comments: “My work intends to immerse the viewer into a different world or abstracted view, but are, in truth, extreme close-up photographs of the bottom of boats or other ‘found’ objects. It is up to the viewer to decide whether a specific image is a landscape view of the world from above or a piece of abstract art.”

Susie’s view of the world is practical as well as abstracted. Together with her daughter-in-law, Beatriz Huezo, she founded the charity ‘Art for Life’, holding art auctions in conjunction with other Arundel Gallery Trail artists.

My brother Nicholas and I have been privileged to work with Susie on this project, which has raised money for the homeless and children in El Salvador in Central America. Houses, a community clinic and a school for children in poverty are part of the fruits of this collaboration of artists. Susie Jenkins’ work, both as an artist and for charity, deserves to be celebrated. It always interests me that when we set off on our own in life, we invariably end up going round and round in ever decreasing circles. But when we bring our gifts together with the gifts of others and share them in a common and generous purpose, exceptional things happen.

This collaborative spirit is deeply ingrained in the Arundel Gallery Trail and Arundel Festival, which celebrate community as well as the arts.

The 2013 Arundel Gallery Trail will take place between Saturday 17th August and Bank Holiday Monday 26th August alongside fireworks, Shakespeare at Arundel Castle and many other Arundel Festival events. The Arundel Gallery Trail is open 12noon to 5.30pm on weekends and Bank Holiday Monday, and 2pm to 5.30pm on weekdays. It provides an exciting opportunity to enjoy and buy art from leading Sussex artists.

For more information on this year’s exhibiting artists and where you can see their work, go to www.arundelgallerytrail.co.uk.

The whole town becomes a gallery - you really must go!

Rupert Toovey is a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington - www.tooveys.com - and a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Chichester.