Steyning artists "taking liberties" at Chichester's Oxmarket Gallery

Carol Wagstaff left, Eve Chalcraft centre and Jenny Wightwick
Carol Wagstaff left, Eve Chalcraft centre and Jenny Wightwick

Carol Wagstaff, Jenny Wightwick and Eve Chalcraft – artists based in and around Steyning – join forces for an exhibition called Artistic Licence – Taking Liberties with Reality in The Wilson Studio at Chichester’s Oxmarket Gallery from May 7-19.

Carol explained: “The term artistic licence can describe distortion of facts, words, place or of course, art and therein lay the opportunity for we three Sussex-based artists to take liberties with reality.

“In collaborating on this project, we step outside the boundaries of prescriptive visual art to create work to challenge and to embrace that which is felt.

“Our works are driven by a shared passion for nature and the landscape with all its vagaries. These are the threads that link, bind and form this exhibition even as our individual identities delineate our different processes.

“As members of Steyning Arts who had previously exhibited at the Oxmarket Gallery, we were familiar with the advantages offered by this unique space and so the seeds were sown for the possibility of a joint exhibition.

“We are delighted to now have the opportunity to present our work within the intimate surroundings of The Wilson Studio.

“All three of us live in or around the market town of Steyning. Jenny, a ceramics artist originally from Norfolk, has lived nearby in Ashurst since 2013, while Eve, our painter and the truly-local artist among us, has spent most of her life in Steyning.

“I was born in London and grew up on the borders of Hertfordshire.

“In 1993 I moved to Steyning, where I now work from my own studio as a multi-media artist.

“In 1991 after a life-long passion for the arts and creativity, admiring many artists such as the sculptors, Giacometti, Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor, and painter’s Velazquez, Francis Bacon and Gerhard Richter, I decided to embark in earnest on my own artistic journey.

“This began with a certificate course in art & design at St Albans School of Art & Design, followed by a BA (hons) degree in fine art at the University of Hertfordshire. Seven years later I left a very different artist with a conceptual approach to my work.

“Residencies and commissions for the National Trust ensued as well as public and private commissions. I have exhibited nationally and internationally, gaining awards for works that touch on the human element and our impact on the landscape.

“Fusing painting and sculpture, I seek to express the challenges of displaced peoples around the world and, closer to home, the homeless crisis that we face here and now.

“Jenny gained a City & Guilds qualification in creative textiles and a degree in ceramics from Manchester Metropolitan University. Artists such as Philip Elgin, Laura Ellen Bacon, who creates sculpture from Willow, together with potters Lucie Rie, and Grayson Perry, have subliminally woven their inspiration into Jenny’s psyche.

“She creates sensual sculptural objects extracted in porcelain and stoneware clay which are both beautiful and practical.

“Her work has a primitive quality, imbued with visceral marks and embellishments inspired by nature and the landscape. Hinting of another time but with a fresh modern take, Jenny’s work is perfectly suited to the 21st century as people become more aware of the beauty and benefits of embracing natural materials in daily life.”

“Since moving to Sussex, Jenny also runs workshops from her tranquil garden studio, The Clay Place, in Ashurst.

“The origins of Eve’s creative bent stem from six years of part-time study with the Open University to gain a BA(Hons) degree in literature with creative writing. A compulsion to learn new skills soon led to extended study at West Dean College which fostered her interest in Contemporary Landscape painting, since when she has never looked back.

“Among the artists that Eve admires are Peter Lanyon and the St Ives School of artists as well as contemporary landscape painters David Tress and Frances Hatch, who she met at West Dean College and inspired her to work in alternative ways.

“Eve’s lyrical, colourful depictions of the landscape are imbued with the immediacy and sureness of someone who knows their place within it. one can sense the changing seasons, the prevailing weather and the chalk paths walked within the works. An unwavering focus on her chosen subject allows Eve’s sensitive nature to shine through her paintings. Eve also runs workshops in a variety of processes ranging from painting to sculpture at her delightful studio in Steyning.”

Carol added: “This is the first time that we have collaborated together and trust that there will be something in this exhibition for every visitor to engage with on some level. We shall all be present on May 11 from 10am-5pm for a Meet The Artist session and would be delighted to see you so please do come along for a chat.”

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