East Dulwich is now renowned as one of London’s up and coming areas, this formerly dowdy corner of South East London boasts broad leafy streeets and burgeoning high streets. Property prices are rising a higher rate here than anywhere else in London and this ‘gentrification’ bemoaned by some old timers, has resulted in an upsurge of trendy restaurants, design-led shops and personal trainers in every green space. Of course, the past inhabitants of East Dulwich (formerly known to many as part of ‘Peckham’) were those drawn to a cheap area of London to live in, and voila, a community of creatives emerged. The Camberwell and Goldsmith’s Schools of Art are within easy reach, so many ex-art students have remained in the area, growing careers and families in this leafy corner of South East London. ‘Incomers’ have been attracted by great transport links to the City, Docklands and the West End, bringing a whole new demographic to the area.
The Dulwich festival incorporates the Artists’ Open House event, two weekends when the local artists literally open their homes and studios to the public, and this is a fantastic opportunity to see how artists work and live. As an artist, I know how much pleasure comes from the opportunity of meeting like-minded people, getting face to face reaction and feedback to new work, and chatting about art and design. This melting pot of artists and designers spreads over the ‘Dulwich’ corner of South East London and I love the opportunity of seeing, not only what these creative souls have been working on over the past year, but taking a sneaky look behind the facades of the Georgian and Victorian streets into other people’s homes! A stroll around the back streets is punctuated by the Artists’ Open House signs posted outside the participating properties, some front doors are left open, (Something unimaginable in this area twenty years ago!) some doorbells need to be rung, but in either case a warm welcome, often with the offer of a glass of wine, and snacks is always to be had, so don’t be shy, go out there and see what there is on offer!
This weekend we made the most of a blisteringly hot day to visit a few of the open houses around the Lordship Lane and Bellenden Road area, and the artists have kindly agreed to me sharing a few images of their work, of course this is only the tip of the iceberg as there are in all over 150 homes or studios open for the event, which runs over next weekend, the 14 – 15th May.
Tig Sutton Has been working on expressive brush marks, gloriously free in their movement, the subtleties of colour have been enhanced in their translation ito fine art prints, this is a bold move forward from his monochromatic prints of fine linear expressive drawings last year.
Ceramicist Sacha Tanyar ( Twitter handle @bansheeplum) is showing her gorgeous ceramics with friends illustrator Angus Robertson and painter Louise Hardy. A little foray into the back yard unveils cute hand painted bird boxes created by Sacha’s partner too; a real family affair!
The home of David Hopkins is that of the archetypal artist, canvasses stacked against the walls, paintings covering every surface, portraits gazing around every corner, and occasional lighthearted looks at patisserie and foodstuffs. It was a delight to talk with the softly spoken David, who explained that his portrait subjects’rarely look directly at the viewer as he finds it disconcerting, and sees this as a tribute to Velazquez who also avoided the direct gaze of his subjects.
Scenic artist, Sarah Kier has been working on a series of paintings exploring the maps showing bomb damage to streets in the Blitz. The maps have been stencilled onto canvas and painted using scene painting techniques that she has used in her work for shows such as War Horse. Sarah is currently working with the National Theatre.
Printmaker Ellen Hanceri has translated her block printed designs onto textiles, ceramics and homeware. Simple printed images tessellate in a style reminiscent of the woodcut designs of the 1940’s. Ellen is showing her work alongside ceramicist Ben Swift who has recently been developing a body of work that explores the torus form. I, however was instantly captivated by a display of his mini ceramic animals and a mantlepiece crammed with small cylindrical vessels before looking around the front room with the beautiful collection of suspended torus’ (or should that be torii?) along the walls!
Staying with the Liliputian theme, my next visit was to the front room of Stephane Godec who works under the label NoBookEnds. Stephan creates fantastical worlds from cut and folded paper using vintage books. He transports us from the city to the seaside with his little row of beach huts emerging from an old book, and his meticulous paper cuts are also shown as framed pieces of multi layered collages.
My final visit this weekend was to the workshop of Richard Wood who makes bespoke furniture. Richard’s pieces are refined, simple and elegant with a lightness of touch that is truly contemporary, the aroma of wood shavings permeates the workshop, and instantly transported me to my childhood, watching my grandfather turning wooden bowls on his lathe in the garage – happy days!!
If you happen to have the opportunity of wandering the streets of Dulwich next weekend, I would thoroughly recommend it, you never know what treasures you might find behind those front doors!