Chichester artists' collective celebrates the magic of alchemy

Alchemy is the title of Artel artists’ contribution to the 2021 Festival of Chichester, running from June 29-July 11 in Chichester’s Oxmarket Gallery.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 9:05 am
Liz Hanan
Liz Hanan

Artel comprises contemporary artists based in Chichester: Sandra Izard, Jackie Knee, Linda Nevill, Bridget Woods, Carol Naylor, Isabel Dodson, Liz Hanan, Sue England, Catharine Somerville, Deborah Richards, Polly Dutton, Aldobranti and Sehila Craft.

As Sue England explains: “Alchemy is a transformation; a strange chemistry tinged with the inexplicable; a magical process. Our group found this title full of inspiration and possibilities and this, together with the extraordinary experience of life during a pandemic, has led each artist’s focus, resulting in an exciting and varied exhibition. We are all so pleased to be able to show our work again and to be part of the Festival of Chichester.

“Following her work as a vaccination volunteer, Liz Hanan turned used vaccination syringe packets into a thousand origami cranes. These have become a hanging installation in the shape of a sphere. According to Chinese culture, the crane symbolises hope, health and longevity, a striking parallel with the Covid vaccination programme.

“Linda Nevill collaborated with the elements in her garden, relinquishing some control of outcomes and allowing alchemy to occur. Working on paper, she conducted a number of seven-day projects, each day intuitively adding mixed media to the marks created by weather.

“Landscape artist Catharine Somerville also sees alchemy in the shifting tensions of nature, painting for example the enchantment of a peach orchard transforming from winter starkness to a glory of blossom.

“With greater focus on our homes, Sehila Craft considered daily rituals, particularly our national penchant for tea drinking. She dried the tea bags used by her household in 12 months, then removed the tea.

“Visitors to the show will see what she made with the beautifully stained bags, and how Carol Naylor has handstitched long-forgotten metallic threads and fabric pieces into her machine embroideries.

“Sandra Izard found new inspiration in her daily walks on the South Downs. A field of dandelion seed heads resonated during such a time of tragic loss of life, emphasising the fragility of existence. She used the medium of collage to express this, and memories of favourite coastal places. Deborah Richards has created a series of monotypes to express an alchemist’s response to the sun and moon on water. Watercolourist Bridget Woods also draws inspiration from nature.

“Polly Dutton’s work depicts the changing state of her emotions during lockdown. Her series of paintings called Bring Back the Red moves from the fog of uncertainty to the return of colour in life. Isabel Dodson also places emphasis on the alchemy of colour in her work.

“ldobranti is exhibiting photographic results from ongoing research into the cultural entanglement of the cast shadow with the Other, while Jackie Knee is showing an intriguing automaton with drawings.”

As for Sue, on a trip to New Zealand in early 2020, she witnessed the work of nature, as it bubbled, mixed, repelled and changed. In response, she has produced prints and books, using materials that react and repel, to give a sense of that amazing place.

In a new departure for Artel, five artists are giving talks and demonstrations during the show to share their process with visitors: “The exhibition will celebrate an optimistic return to normality.”

Artel is a contemporary art group from diverse backgrounds, based in Chichester.

Artel was formed in 1997 to “inspire, generate and incubate work.”

As Sue explains: “Members are artists at different stages in their creative careers, meeting together regularly to discuss ideas which can be taken forward into studio practice. Such collective thinking acts as a foundation for the annual exhibition and for each exhibition, a conceptual theme is chosen by the group. Artists will then produce work as a response to this theme. This year our theme is Alchemy.

“Applications to join the group are welcome, submissions are considered in September and there will be application forms available at the exhibition.”