Saturday, 1 September 2007

On the Arundel Gallery Trail

Bank holiday Monday found us on a smart new train out of Victoria Station and heading south towards Arundel in Sussex. We were going to sample the Arundel Gallery Trail which is held during the Arundel Festival towards the end of August every year. The idea was to go and see our friend, David who I'd shared a stall with at our local Midsummer Festival. He was showing his woodcut prints and drawings along with three other artists in a vacant shop in Tarrant Street which was at the heart of the gallery trail and so was a good place to exhibit.

Arundel lies close to the South Downs and the countryside, as you approach by train, is distinctly different from anything we usually see in the Lea Valley and is well worth a visit. The town has its very own castle which is rare and was established at the time of the Norman Conquest. The castle has been extensively restored over time and frankly looks too good to be true. Being sited on a hill it dominates the view of the town from the train station and provides a good landmark to follow as you walk into town. The castle has been home to the Dukes of Norfolk, the premiere Catholic family in the country, since way back in the 1500s. The town also boasts its own cathedral which is, I understand, what normally defines a city but since it's a Roman Catholic cathedral that may not apply in this case.

We approached the town from Queen Street which meant we had to cross the River Arun and as we did so we were offered the chance to buy an entry into the duck race and the plastic yellow ducks were all lined up and ready to go! I quite fancied the idea of joining in but by the time we went back some time later it was all over - shame. Never mind, since what we really wanted to do was go visit art. The trail is an art 'open house' event and you can pick up a brochure with a map in it and trot up and down streets entering participating houses and shops on a whim and without an invitation. It's great fun and provides a fantastic opportunity to snoop round posh Georgian houses. A couple of the houses had jazz music playing in the background which competed with the live Rock and Roll playing in the town square - I must say I preferred the jazz. There was the usual mix of interesting work and tat and some work had the desirable little red dots placed underneath indicating they had been sold.

We particularly liked some sculptures in what estate agents would call a well appointed garden in Maltravers Street. There were some sculptures of individual fish on metal spikes pushed into the lawn which, when displayed in an untidy row, resembled a shoal of fish which we rather liked and I can't remember the name of the artist and there was also a display of large copper pots made by Mike Savage. It would have been nice to buy one of these pots but we don't have room in our very small garden. Another artist's work which made a favourable impression on us was by Andy Waite. While we didn't like everything on show in his house we very much liked some of his large landscapes, especially those which had been inspired by the local landscape and you can have a look at some of them at his website. Arundel is a small town and it seems that everyone knows everyone else so I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Andy and tell him that many years ago I spent some time lolling around in his kitchen when David had lived there. Oh, how time flies!

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