York: stone, wood, copper…

Autumn is a perfect season to visit the beautiful ancient city of York. A recent week’s break there had me exploring the medieval streets, riverside, and old hidden churches. I took a small sketchbook and brushpens with me, and of course a camera, not anticipating much sketching, but was compelled by the soft seasonal light on the old stone and statues.

For me one of the challenges of a popular tourist city like York is finding the hidden quieter spots to relax and sketch. So it was a pleasure to discover the (free) beautiful garden of the Treasurer’s House at the back of theMinster, where I spent a relaxed hour sketching the various statues and luminous white swathes of cosmos flowers on a convenient bench (the artist’s friend!).One day we stumbled on the old church of St Martin-cum-Gregory in the Micklegate area, which happened to be showing a completely stunning exhibition of the sculpture of Harold Gosney. Unfamiliar till now with his work, this was a beautifully curated retrospective (by the Stained Glass Centre) in a beautiful space. Gosney has worked in stone, riveted copper and wood for the past 60 years, mainly capturing the essence of horses, birds and the human figure. His work is also on display at Ripon Cathedral. More on Harold Gosney and his work here. Images below are © Harold Gosney and greatnorthartshow.co.uk (copper sculpture).

We also spent a few hours wandering through the peaceful space of York Cemetery just outside the city walls, on the recommendation of an artist friend. The cemetery is run on a nature conservancy principle with paths winding through the flowers and shrubbery and semi-hidden angel sculptures among the treees. I found (another) bench in the sunshine and sketched the light through the autumn foliage, trying to push the limits of effects and colour blending possible with my brushpens.

Another place we passed several times without realising it, was the entrance to Holy Trinity Church, off Goodramgate. This is a real gem of a medieval building, which still has the original box pews. Well worth finding but wrap up warm, it’s freezing even on a sunny day. I loved the fleeting play of sunlight on the pews and the colours of the worn old stone.

And, last but not least: a visit to my friend Lesley Birch, an excellent abstract landscape artist who I’d previously only ‘met’ on social media. Her art studio is in Pica Studios, part of the Quacks printers building on Grape Lane. The studios house several artists/makers and are open by appointment. Contact them on this link. Below you can see myself with Lesley in her busy studio.By the way, if anyone can tell me how on earth to add captions to photos on the recent WordPress versions I’d be very grateful. It used to be straightforward, but they seem to have changed it for some reason (on the app anyway!). Thanks.

Art in another barn!

Last Friday’s private view of ARTWORKS annual exhibition at Blackthorpe Barn near Bury St Edmunds was mobbed! The general consensus from visitors on the night (and in the visitor book since), was that this is the strongest ARTWORKS show yet.
ARTWORKS are a group of 30 East Anglian artists who exhibit here each year. I’m one of the new ‘guest’ artists and have eleven pieces of work on display and several unframed browser works, plus cards. The barn is a huge impressive space and there is a wealth of contemporary art and stunning sculpture on display. There’s also a great little cafe selling tea/coffee/cakes and a shop with art cards and small items of artworks, jewellery etc. for sale by the artists.
The exhibition is on every day (10am to 5pm) till 1 October, with demonstrations by artists most days and is well worth a visit. Blackthorpe Barn, Rougham, nr Bury St Edmonds (just off Jct 45 of the A14).

‘Painters’ exhibition at the Black Barn …

'Illuminated coast i, ii and iii' by Mari French at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.
I’m currently showing three large canvases at ‘Painters’, an exhibition of work by 19 contemporary Norfolk artists, at the Black Barn, Cockley Cley, nr Swaffham in Norfolk. The exhibition is curated by Hugh Pilkington, for Sir Samuel and Lady Roberts. Artists include Tracey Ross, Elaine Banham, Kate Giles, Anne Allanson and Fred Ingrams.

Saturday (5th August) saw the private view of ‘Painters’ very well attended and enjoyable. Bright sunshine and flowing fizz with Hugh as genial host, made for a memorable evening. But most importantly, the works on display, all contemporary paintings, many of which were large canvases, formed an impressive, well-selected and thoughtfully hung show.

Work by Tracey Ross (left) and Anne Allanson at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Tracey Ross (left) and Anne Allanson at ‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.


Hugh Pilkington curates quite a few exhibitions in Norfolk, including the Sainsbury Visual Arts Centre. He chatted with me about his interest in whether there is such a thing today as a Norfolk school of painting, as there was in the 19th century with the likes of John Sell Cotman. This exhibition ‘Painters’ is a result of Hugh’s desire to get together a group of contemporary Norfolk artists to illustrate the high quality of art currently being created in Norfolk. 

Hugh also curated Cley Contemporary 2016 (which I wrote about in a previous post, here). I’ll quote again, part of his text from Cley Contemporary 2016…

Who are the artists who could make up a new Norfolk or Norwich School? Who are the successors of Cotman and Crome; of Sell and Ackling; of Emerson and Payne Jennings? Who are the landscape painters? Who are the abstract painters? Who are the sculptors? Who works in other interesting and challenging formats?

Hugh Pilkington, Curator, Cley Contemporary 2016.

Work by Tracey Ross at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Tracey Ross at ‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Fred Ingrams at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Fred Ingrams at ‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Kate Giles at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Work by Kate Giles at ‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.


‘Painters’ is open each Saturday and Sunday in August, 11am-1pm (other times by appointment – Hugh Pilkington 01366 328354). If you’re planning to visit, follow signs for the (now closed) Iceni Village south of Swaffham, then follow the signs for the Black Barn.

'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Mari French and Tracey Ross at 'Painters' exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.

Mari French and Tracey Ross at ‘Painters’ exhibition, Black Barn, Cockley Cley, 2017.