For the second year running the Spice Island Art Trail this Sunday saw dozens of artists take over different historic buildings in Old Portsmouth as part of this year’s Portsmouth Festivities. The day began in the morning with the doors opening at Portsmouth Cathedral and the Royal Naval Club & Royal Albert Yacht Club which became home to 26 artists from a wide range of practices including photography, sculpture, illustration, design, painting, papercraft and much more. Becket Hall by Portsmouth Cathedral was home to student work (GCSE, AS and A-Level) from Portsmouth Grammar School, Admiral Lord Nelson, Ryde School and Cowplain Community School covering a diverse, creative collection of artwork. As well as the artwork on display inside down at The Hot Walls were local street artists Lex & Mimic, Fark and Dharma77 painting a set of panels in the shade of the arches.
Through the day a group of judges representing aspex Gallery, Art Space Portsmouth, Portsmouth Guildhall and Strong Island were looking for seven different artists to be selected for an exhibition at Portsmouth Guildhall plus a first place prize. For the schools there were also first, second and third prizes for students too.
The trail for me began with the cool shelter from the hot morning sun of Portsmouth Cathedral with initially the triptych of mixed media by Beth Davis-Hofbauer, a series focusing on the stages of coming to terms with a sense of comfort with the self.
The first of the many 3d artists involved in the art trail was next, local artist Lyndon Richards with his painted slate paintings and his incredible brick/house paintings. Each finely detailed brick house is painted for the owners of the historic Portsmouth homes and together made for a ‘street’ full of local heritage in a creative new form. With a turn of the corner was Drayton based paper/3d artist Anita Bell, whose work with free-stitching and paper dye showed fine detailing and a sense of open creative expression. Close by was Making Space resident fine artist painter Agata Wojcieszkiewicz, with a series of passionate and compassionate paintings of herself and her father, rich in colour.
The far side of the Cathedral was home to many different photographers and painters, too many to detail here but all with great images capturing scenes around Portsmouth, I particularly liked a photo by Danish but now Portsmouth based photographer Fie Hansigne Petersen, with a model’s hand coated in sugar, touching on themes of addiction and infection.
I walked out the other side of the Cathedral through to Beckett Hall which was packed with student work from schools in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. The work was of a high level, with bold graphic design, passionate paintings, sculpture and much, much more.
The third venue for the Art Trail was the Royal Naval Club & Royal Albert Yacht Club, a building packed with the history of the clubs and their associated members, going back well over 100 years. Nestling amongst these historic surroundings were artists based on different floors. In the bar area on the ground floor were the works of three artists and photographers, the first were a selection of abstract paintings by Amy Owen with a clean and fresh palette, giving a sense of the sea. Next to Amy’s work was the incredibly detailed pencil drawings by Kevin Hayward. Kevin talked me through his lengthy drawing process, building up layers and layers of graphite to form photo-realistic works of animals, including a recent commission by an Isle of Wight zoo of their tiger. Reflected in the large mirror were the large scale, long exposure/multiple exposure photos by Fiona Harvey.
Across the ground floor was another room full of artists and their work (too many to mention them all, sadly). Paintings and linoprints by Peter Jackson and Chris Wood were fantastic. Finely detailed portraits in pencil by Wil Stevenson & the carefully stitched rigging of HMS Warrior by Jessica Taylor were inspiring and it was great to also talk through the creative processes on both of these intricate pieces of work. Also on the ground floor were illustrator & designer Kate Bishop with her colourful Kroma prints and jewellery plus the photography and print based work of artist Thomas Robson.
Also located on the ground floor was painter & sculptor Kas Williams, who was surrounded by her highly creative 3d paper sculptures made from old books. Each piece was hand shaped and cut and formed a unique object.
The floor upstairs was also full of too many fantastic artists to be able to mention them all but the atmospheric and abstract paintings of Sehila Craft caught the eye with their colour and questioning forms. The delicate and almost playful insects and spiders formed from old electronic components, PCBs, bulbs and pieces of old jewellery produced by artist Julie Alice Chappell were fantastic. The synergy of the entomological forms and the lines of copper & colour of resistors were as beautiful as they were fun. Speaking of playful, the illustration work of Lauren Hunt was also great to discover. Aaaaand…speaking of discovering, tucked away in the wonderful library was artist & painter Peter Jarvis whose structural paintings were a stunning blend of architectural plan-like detail and washes of atmospheric watercolour. As well as the work on display Peter was painting on-site too, when not engaging in conversation with every visitor who wanted to discover more of his work and his artistic process.
Julie Alice Chappell
With the judges given a very difficult task of choosing winners, it was tough, but the overall winner in the end was Kas Williams who with six other artists chosen will exhibit at the Guildhall very soon. The schools first place winner was Jessie Colman from Ryde School.
If you want to find out more about the Spice Island Art Trail and Portsmouth Festivities visit: