Karen and I were originally introduced to one another by a mutual friend as practicing artists with a shared interest in printmaking. We instantly hit it off and this has eventually led to coerced cold water immersion, orange hats and a great friendship. We both work in a range of mediums and currently find ourselves in two exhibitions here on the island, so for once we thought we’d share this side of the Orange Hat Ladies. We are in fact working on adding a gallery to our website here so this might be a way of easing you in gently! It may not necessarily be obvious but our art work and swimming are symbiotic. Self expression comes in many forms and we both strongly feel that our daily swims and interactions are also part of our wider artwork – one informs and influences the other. This is perhaps more obvious in Karen’s needle felting sculptures than some of my etchings but hopefully some of you might find the flow and expression interesting to hear about and explore.
The first exhibition is ‘Freedom’ at Quay Arts which opened on 26th June and runs until 29th August, so there’s still plenty of time to catch it. This biennial open exhibition offers a well curated range of work including paintings, printmaking, 3D pieces and sculptures, showcased in the wonderful Quay Arts building in Newport, Isle of Wight. Work is for sale so you might want to go home with something special purchased too. Entrance is free and the fantastic waterside cafe is also open for lunches or coffee, plus there’s a shop selling Island based arts, cards and crafts. The exhibition centres around work inspired by the notion of ‘Freedom’ or lack of it and many artists have responded in relation to their personal pandemic experiences. Why not pop along and have a look in real life if you’re near?
Karen’s ‘Hermit Unlocking’ reflects the cautious unfurling of our daily lives, just reaching out from the duvet to receive the latest Amazon package.It is a clever combination of disturbance, concern and humour.
Perhaps in contrast my “Leaving the Light on” copper etching (limited edition of 10) illustrates how the small act of leaving a landing light on can give hope and reassurance, just as it did when we were children.
I also have a piece entitled “In these unprecedented times” in the exhibition which reflects the different aspects of the pandemic’s affect on our lives. It’s a larger work using four copper etched plates and is a limited edition of 6.
The second exhibition is the inaugural Monkton Arts Prize Exhibition at Acon’s Gallery, Monkton Arts in Ryde, Isle of Wight. It’s an eclectic mix of 50 works specifically showcasing artists from the Isle of Wight. Whilst it will result in an eventual prize, the exhibition is a lovely opportunity to see a mixed media selection from professional and amateur artists, and of course many pieces are for sale.
There was no theme for this exhibition and so the subjects matters vary enormously. I have two etchings included, firstly “The Pond at Dinton (After Heneage)” (limited edition of 6) which is an abstracted representation of a formal portrait of a couple I know well, stood by their large garden pond. Whilst undertaking many preparatory sketches for this etching I was very much influenced by Gainsborough’s portraiture (hence the reference in the title) and this is one of a series of related images focused on a specific, naturalised body of water.
Secondly, is larger copper etching entitled “Succession” (limited edition of 4) which explores a repeated motif representing ancestry and the links we have ad infinitum with our past and future. This is part of a larger body of work based around the themes of genealogy and looks at intimate emotions. For me, theres a definite connection to the water and is reminiscent of the ebb and flow of the sea.
Karen also has two pieces at Monkton Arts currently – first up is “Spincycle”. A world turned upside down in the waves, water that’s shifting your clothes around and throwing you about… just as the pandemic has done for us in so many ways! Karen’s needle felting skills capture the movement and energy with underlying warmth and humour.
And secondly is another amusing felted swimmer – “Rabbitwoman Surfing”. A free and wild swimmer in every sense of the word! She’s embracing the freedom of the sea and letting everything go with the flow! (She’s definitely found her inner Fiona!)
It’s always good to share work in exhibitions and lovely to have galleries showing here on the Island – if you’re able to catch either of these exhibitions we hope you enjoy them. I’m really hoping you’re not put off by my abstract work (ha ha) and that this insight has sparked an interest in what Karen and I do as Orange Hat Ladies elsewhere. You can also find Karen on instagram here and me, Fran also on instagram here.
We’ll be sharing more work as the year progresses. If you’re interested in purchasing work please do get in contact with us via social media or here on the website.
Right… normal swimming will resume soon…