I live in the small country town of Lewes, Sussex, in south east England – it’s an inspiring to place to have your home. Not only is it a lovely town with a rich history and well preserved architecture, it is also bordered by the wonderful Sussex Downs – we are in England’s newest national park.
If that isn’t enough to make anyone want to live here, it is also a town full of artists many of whom are also my friends. Two of them, Dawn and David Stacey (Dave to me), have just opened their latest exhibition, Shared Encounters, round the corner from my house at Lewes’ excellent Hop Gallery. It runs until 13th March.
Dawn is a painter and Dave is a photographer and they have collaborated on a show that explores the many moods of the reclaimed Railway Land on the edge of town that is now a twenty acre nature reserve, ten minutes walk from my house. It is an inspiring place to visit but then so is this exhibition.
I have one of Dawn’s paintings on my living room wall and I’m lucky to be able to look at it every day. It depicts, in Dawn’s very distinctive style, a red dawn in November on the Railway Land Nature Reserve. Dawn’s work is an intriguing mixture of landscape and intense close-up which mixes realism and reductionism with near abstraction. It’s a style that reveals something new no matter how many times you return to look.
When she had a significant birthday last November, I thought I’d mark it with a poem, Red November, and, fortunately, both Dawn and Dave liked it sufficiently to get it framed and they asked if they could include it in the exhibition. I was proud to be part of their show but also thrilled to see poetry up there on the wall in a frame like any other work of art. I’d like to do more of this.
It’s fascinating to see Dawn’s railway land work alongside her husband Dave’s photography of the same location. Dave’s natural melancholy is not often on display when you talk to him but it is often the mood of his work. This cow is not just chewing the cud – things are seldom what they seem in Dave’s work. It was this quality, also found in Dawn’s paintings, that inspired the tone of my poem. I was very happy to be invited to the gallery on Saturday afternoon to read Red November surrounded by Dawn and Dave’s work. If you can, do go along and take a look before the show ends on 14th March.