By BWV Community Reporter Laura Hillier, Photographer Mireya Gonzalez
The exhibition “Six in the City” opened on Saturday 20th July, and features the work of six female artists from the Cotswolds Guild and North Bristol Artists. I spoke to several of the artists about their work, the gallery exhibition and their love of art.
I first met with Laura Howarth, who is a retired art teacher. Many of her pieces use oil and cold wax medium which means that her work is malleable for several days. This technique allows her to build layers and show the history of the painting by using tools that dig away at the surface. For Laura, these pieces “start with an intention, but they evolve gradually and take on a life of their own”. Laura also showed me the “gyotaku” fish prints she has created, including prints of an octopus and prawns. The method is based on a technique used by Japanese fishermen to record their catches, and the ink creates an image with an extraordinary level of detail.
Olga van Rijswijck, a nurse, says that her lifelong interest in art has been influenced considerably by both of her grandmothers. Olga produces unique pieces involving many different styles and techniques, which include watercolour, collage and textiles, giving her the “joy of discovering different things” each time. Olga explained that she also likes to upcycle and recycle materials in her work – one of her pieces uses small pieces of leftover tweed to create a lovely tree. We also discussed the mental benefits of the creative process; Olga she finds that art gives her “mind space – it’s where I find my happy place and time can stand still”.
Lorna Rankin expressed a similar sentiment with regard to becoming absorbed in art – “I can’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t do art – I would have to have something to occupy my mind!”. Lorna has a background in graphic design and architectural illustration and first focused her paintings around gardens, including sketching different views of National Trust properties. Lorna’s preferred method of working includes bringing together lots of these sketches and then layering them to examine how they fit, “like doing a jigsaw!”
Several of the Six in the City artists are ceramicists, including Yvonne Halton, who previously taught ceramics in hospitals as a form of art therapy. Her pieces are often illustrated with bold images of animals and birds, making use of vivid and bright colours. Yvonne noted that she likes to make things that people can use, and I could imagine many of her pieces as a striking feature in one’s home.
Denise Lonsdale is another ceramicist, that previously worked in local government and has been interested in art since childhood. Her ceramics predominantly feature animals – recent creations have been inspired by local wildlife such as hares and owls, due to her participation in a wildlife art group. However, there was also a somewhat less native piece – a pair of charming ceramic elephants! The joy of art for Denise comes from the feeling experienced when the piece turns out well. If – through the process – there was a sense that it might not quite work, it’s always a pleasant surprise when it eventually comes together.
I also asked the artists about the significance of all-female line up for the exhibition, which are seen as valuable by Olga for giving a “voice” to women in the art world. Yvonne also highlighted that a potential strength of having all-women spaces can be the different (and sometimes more equal) dynamic that results. More broadly, there may be an additional impact on other women that are interested in art. As Denise pointed out, it can be extremely positive for women to believe that they are able to “do more than one thing” as a way of building their confidence.
Unfortunately, I was unable to meet with the sixth artist, Sonya Wilkins, a creator of nature-inspired ceramics and jewellery. I particularly loved her hanging ceramics that resembled leaves and were filled with an array of delicate air plants. The skill, creativity and diversity in the Six in the City exhibition was breathtaking, and there were interesting details to study across every piece. The exhibition is on until Saturday 10th August – make sure you catch it! To find out more about the exhibition and the artists, please visit www.bristolguildgallery.co.uk
Photos of the exhibition are also available on Mireya Gonzalez’s website.