Chichester exhibition shines spotlight on Martina Thomas and Eric James Mellon

Chichester’s Oxmarket Gallery is hosting The View from Rose Green: The Sussex Landscapes of Martina Thomas and Eric James Mellon (October 5-31).

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 7:05 am
Eric James Mellon_Snow, Hunston
Eric James Mellon_Snow, Hunston

The exhibition, and a new book published to accompany it, showcase the two artists’ representations of the Sussex landscape.

The Rose Green of the exhibition title, just six miles from central Chichester, was their home for 58 years.

Oxmarket chairman Sophie Hull said: “Eric James Mellon is famed for his contribution to ceramics and printmaking but less known for his painting. Martina Thomas painted throughout her life

“Their techniques are quite different in many respects: their passion for art and the Sussex landscape is what shines through in both.

“Each trained in London in the 1940s; Martina at St Martin’s School of Art; and Eric at the Central School of Art, during the war and early post-war years. After a first date in 1950 meeting on the steps of the National Gallery, they married in 1956 and settled in a red-bricked house in Rose Green in Sussex. Each had a studio in which to produce their own artwork. Eric lived there for 58 years, surviving Martina by 19 years.”

Andrew Churchill, gallery director, said: “When I started at the gallery in September and found out more about The View from Rose Green, I knew we had something very special. We decided to make the exhibition run for four weeks and publish a book alongside it. It is also the first time that we have made all the paintings for sale available to purchase on our new website – something we intend to do a lot more of.”

Tess Cox, daughter of Martina Thomas and Eric James Mellon, has curated the exhibition which is drawn from her collection of her parents’ paintings.

Choosing the landscapes of Sussex as the subject allowed for “a posthumous journey of revisiting some of the places they painted,” she said: “It’s a platform for me to share thoughts and past times from my childhood prompted by looking at each of the paintings.

“It feels appropriate to sketch an insight into the life of my artist-parents and days spent landscape painting by way of a record. Artists intend that each painting speaks for itself and (this ) is the one reason Martina wrote so little: why pen words when there is canvas to paint?”

Tessa said growing up in an artistic household was not always straightforward: “There were moments as a child when I wished I had normal parents like the ones the other children at school seemed to have. But now, to look at these paintings is to encounter the essence of my truly gifted artist-parents and to feel humbled by the memory and legacy of a wonderfully ingenious and kind mum and dad.”

Sophie added: “As a charity the exhibition would not have been realised without a bequest from Rosemary Portal, 2nd Baroness Portal of Hungerford, who lived near Chichester and was an enthusiastic supporter of the arts and Oxmarket Gallery from its early days in the 1970s. I hope visitors and readers will enjoy the captivating paintings of Sussex landscapes that both artists depicted so beautifully.”

Tessa has written a book to accompany the exhibition (£7.99 from the Gallery or oxmarket.org) which explores both artists’ depictions of their Sussex surrounds as well as their numerous associations with Chichester, not least the Oxmarket Gallery.

From the 2000s, Eric held several exhibitions in the gallery, from solo exhibitions where he exhibited ceramics, prints and Sussex landscape paintings, to joint exhibitions. Retrospective in nature, these shared in the lifetime’s work of Martina, and a celebration of the group of artists from Hillesden. Some coincided with the launch of co-publications with the University of Chichester, besides other exhibitions where he was invited to exhibit alongside other makers and artists.

Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-4.30pm, free of charge.