Members of The Sussex Guild are professional designers, artists and makers, and the current exhibition of their work at Worthing Museum shows just how skilled they are. There are brilliant examples of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design, and exhibits range from large, colourful prints and delicate engravings, to marble sculptures, creative textiles and exotic lustre ware ceramics.
A Leaping Hare and a View of the Downs
The first things that caught my eye were some large and dramatic wood cuts by Jackie Field, of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and the trooping of the colour. Quite stunning. At the other end of the gallery, I was drawn to a series of small-scale black and white wood engravings by Sue Scullard and Rosamund Fowler. Their images are stunning, in the intricacy of the workmanship and in the beauty of their themes. Both are inspired by the natural world: Sue’s prints feature landscape, woodland and the sea; and Rosamund’s images of wild and domestic animals and birds are delightful.
Naked Ladies, A Quilted Beach and Horses in Batik
Rosie Jones creates sculptures of dynamic nudes: their smooth, sensual bodies emerge from rough-hewn blocks of white Carrara marble, like Michelangelo’s Awakening Slave. Her expertly-sculpted Basking Nude has the erotic charge of a work by Rodin, which is saying something. Moving on, I found the work of silk textile artist Diane Rogers strange and compelling. With photographs as reference points, she uses dyes to paint or print images onto silk, and develops textures and details with embroidery by hand or free-machine stitching through a quilted layer. Textures found in tree bark, beach pebbles, tangles of nets and rock pools inspire her to create close-up abstractions that appear to be flat, graphic images and three-dimensional objects simultaneously. Rosi Robinson is a painter, but her method of working is totally new to me. Her large figurative works initially look like watercolours, but she actually uses the technique of batik to make her art, applying layers of wax and dyes onto the surface of the fabric. With great skill, she has taken batik from its pattern-making origins in the Far East and turned it into her own Western way of painting.
Revelation and Transformation
It would be an injustice to call John Plater’s creations merely wooden bowls: they are objects that reveal the intense beauty of a natural material that we usually take for granted. Often made with timber that would otherwise be used as firewood, John’s work highlights the essential nature of British-grown hard and soft woods like walnut, yew, chestnut, ash and oak: polished, grained surfaces contrast with roughened edges and raw bark. Jonathan Chiswell Jones is a modern alchemist who makes lustreware ceramics using a process developed in the Islamic Empire over a thousand years ago. Metallic salts are mixed with clay and painted onto the surface of the glazed pot: some kind of magic then happens in the next firing, which results in the surface becoming light reflective, creating iridescent colours and a golden sheen.
The Sussex Guild at Worthing Museum & Art Gallery 2017