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Artists bring colour into our lives

THE Henley Arts Trail is back to its usual spot of the early May bank holiday weekend. Now in its 17th year, this year’s event features 33 venues with more than 300 artists exhibiting their work. NATALIE ALDRED caught up with two local artists.

SARAH PYE lives in Henley and last summer she realised a long-held wish when she opened an art gallery in Reading Road called Artistry.

She showcases the work of local artists like herself, who has a studio in Sonning Common. Sarah says: “It was a wild time to be thinking about opening an art gallery but sometimes you have to do these things – you just have to go for it.”

The gallery, where the changing window displays catch the eye of passers-by, has thrived and will be among the venues for the Henley Arts Trail. Sarah has helped run the event since its inception and is involved the planning, putting up banners and helping to organise publicity.

The trail extends from Bix in the north to Twyford in the south and takes in Kidmore End, Shiplake, Hurst and Waltham St Lawrence.

“From skilled amateurs to awardwinning professionals, the trail shows the wealth of artistic talent in the area, covering the full gamut of arts and crafts,” says Sarah.

Venues are free to enter, with artists more than happy to chat about their creations. There is no obligation to buy but the trail is as an opportunity for those interested in doing so to seek out hidden gems. Sarah says: “If you’re art-orientated and you want to track down something that’s original, different, new, whatever – small budget, large budget – you can find everything from professional artists to people who are doing it as a hobby on the side and using this as an opportunity to put their work out there.”

The artists herself takes commissions and works with customers’ tastes and palettes. “I love pinks and greens – they bounce off each other,” says Sarah. “But they are quite bouncy and bright and sometimes you can see people looking as if to say, ‘Oh my goodness me, that’s a little bit bright’.

“Certain colours come into fashion or are on trend, like greys – and I am probably the least grey person you’re ever going to meet.

“You suddenly find that there are certain colours, like pinks, yellows, teals and those sort of colours, which bounce off grey beautifully.

“A couple of years ago I would never have dreamt of using grey in my paintings, except perhaps in a wintry scene.

“But now I find you could have a wonderful, soft grey, moody, massive cloudy sky with a beautiful bright pink bubblegum blossom tree and sunflowers underneath it. For me, that combination is really exciting.”

She takes inspiration from the natural world, often while walking her dog around Sonning Common. Sarah says: “Once the seasons change, I don’t need much more inspiration than that because most of my work revolves around colour.

“By pulling in colours that I find exciting you can create a scene that is pleasing on the eye and makes you smile.” Artistry is venue 13 on the trail (57 Reading Road, RG9 1AB) and will be showcasing the work of local artists including Julie Adlard, Caroline Gatfield, Kate Findlay and Catherine Ingleby.

Sarah will be appearing at venue 23, the Big Plant Nursery in Wargrave Road, Twyford, RG10 9PN. Allan Henderson lives in Remenham but will be among several artists exhibiting work at Pheasants, the futuristic home of artist Judith Fletcher and her husband Dick in Mill End, near Hambleden, that won the won RIBA South Regional Award in 2018.

“There’s a core of people – we’ve known each other a long time – so it seemed like a nice thing to do after the last two years,” says Allan, who has previously exhibited at his own studio.

The artists are even collaborating on a little in-joke for local parishioners: “There is a number of us from Remenham and we’re going to do a picture which is us sort of going over the weir, like the Beatles’ Abbey Road type thing. It’s a laugh for the parish newsletter, a joke most people wouldn’t get.”

Allan’s work ranges from paintings to large commissions from geometric patterns to watercolours and sculptures. He will be exhibiting his smaller works at Pheasants in order but will be available to chat about his larger pieces.

He says: “I’ve been busy painting but I intersperse that with different projects – I mix it all up.” When working on commissions, Allan likes to invite people to his studio then visit the place where the installation will go. He says: “It seems to work better because then you can actually envisage it in the space. You can get the colours and recommend if they need to change the lighting. I do a lot of that sort of stuff.”

Allan recently provided some post-pandemic cheer when he installed a large illuminated sign spelling out “hope” on a garden wall outside his home. He also installed a heart neon lightbulb at the Spoon café in Duke Street, Henley, alongside some smaller paintings.

Art at Pheasants is Venue number 7 on the Henley Arts Trail (RG9 3BL) and it will be open daily from 10am to 5pm.

There will be an exciting variety of work on display in this stunning contemporary home by the Thames. Art lovers can sit by the river and enjoy snacks and drinks as they peruse the works of 15 local artists and sculptors: Martin Cook, Richard Cresswell, Judith Fletcher, Allan Henderson, Peter Jones, David Law, Jenny Law, Martin Lorenz, Kasha Lunt, Charlotte Martin, Karin Ort, Alison Pink, Roz Read, Cate Stuart and Jayne Ward. There will be two free workshops daily.

Martin Cook will give one on ‘Portraiture Photography’ from 11am to 11.40am each morning (pre-book by email at hiddenhenley@talktalk. net), while creature ceramicist Alison Pink will demonstrate her technique each afternoon from 2pm to 4pm.

The Henley Arts Trail runs from Saturday, April 30 to Monday, May 2. For more information, email henleyartstrail@gmail.com or visit www.henleyartstrail.com

This Month's Issue

Henley Life April 2022