Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Brighton Open Houses.

It’s that time of year again in Brighton!
The stripy deckchairs are unfolded, to only immediately fold back again on the victim, creating wooden prisons. (Usually incarcerating the hapless pensioner)
The beach and the Laines are swarming with a mixture of tourists and locals and obscene amounts of pasty skin is revealed.
And you have to become even more vigilant against menacing characters, the seagulls become even more formidable than the usual thugs polluting the Brighton streets (Yes, we are talking about West Street) by nose diving at any poor unsuspecting soul with ice-cream or chips in their procession.
I don’t know about you, but I treat winter as a chance to hibernate, rather than facing the forces of nature and the upsetting notion that my fringe will make me look like the shorter rounder brother of the stunt double for David Bowie in Labyrinth rather than Betty Page.
I choose to stay low, stay warm and live in a state of laziness and lethargy, eating my weight in chocolate and hummus, although I would be lying if I pretend I don’t do this on a daily basis.
So it’s always a shock to me to emerge from my winter slumber (about 678 stones heavier but at least my fringe isn’t being decimated by the wind-hah) to a hive of Brightonian activity!

It’s the Brighton Fringe (the irony!) Festival!
Created in 1967, Brighton festival is an annual event that platforms a wide spectrum of events. You can expect to find countless art exhibitions, plays, stand up comedians, concerts, dances and much much more.
Now I’m going to be honest, I’ve been a bit of a heathen in the past years of The fringe, I can’t blame it upon anyone else, I’ve been constantly supplied with endless information of events going on but I’ve hardly ever attended anything that’s been affiliated with the festival, it's a possibility that ive been overwhelmed by the amount of choice but that hasn't stopped me from feeling guilty of my lack of interest and participation.

This year has been different! It might have something to do with my migration to London back in late 2008; I’ve started an illustration degree at Westminster University.
Now that my trips to back home are at times sporadic depending on time and finances, I’m starting to regain my appreciation on how fun and cultural Brighton is and reflect upon how I was taking it for granted, I now plan my time very carefully and try and fit in as many exhibitions I can fit in.

I started my new resolution by picking up a brochure for Artists Open Houses. Beginning in May this event spans for about four weekends over the width of East Sussex, all houses are completely free and the artwork exhibiting includes all kinds of media ranging from print, illustration, paint, textiles, sculpture, jewellery, furniture, ceramics etc.
I actually couldn’t conceive of a better way to squander a sunny Brighton weekend after visiting a few houses last Sunday with my mum.
Not only do you manage to avoid the over crowded, stressful and hot streets of the central, it’s a great way to explore some of the quite beautiful residential areas you may not have visited before whilst simultaneously viewing a huge range of eclectic and diverse local artists.

We began our slow meander around Seven Dials with the open house of Ben Allen.
I LOVE Ben Allen. I will more than likely have a penchant for any contemporary artist with an enthusiasm for colour, typography, slick graphics and imaginative use of collage with comic book, pop art and street art references.
Allen encompasses all the above into his artwork seemingly effortlessly, I’ve bumped into his artwork before at the last Brighton Art Fair and the not so long ago solo show Life, Death and Other Colours at INK_D.
Ben Allen

Ben Allen
So it wasn’t too surprising that I wanted to start at his open house and I wasn’t too disappointed, situated at Montpelier Crescent, his house was huge and not only was it fun to strut through the house imagining you are an incredibly affluent brightonian aristocrat (puerile but impossible to resist), it was also great for the amount of different artists it housed.
Ben Allen
My second favourite artist to feature within this open house was an artist I wasn’t familiar with; Marina Rivans, working exclusively in collage, her work was reminiscent of Victorian collage with reappearing themes of romance, sci-fi and nature.
Her work is joyfully ornate and intricate and I enjoyed her exploration into 3D, with her Joseph Cornell-esque boxes making her collages spring to life with the added depth to the layers in her work.

Marina Rivans
I was surprised and pleased to see some of the work by Pam Glew too; I was fortunate enough to be taught very briefly at my previous college by Pam and had tried to visit her solo show in London in Old Street at gallery Stelladore but was unsuccessful due to university commitments.
Her work is instantly recognizable, drawing inspiration from film noir and horror films creating atmospheric pieces that are simultaneously sensual and eerie.
Pam Glew

Ben Allen's garden

Other artists to definitely check out that were particular favourites of mine included;
Amy Douglas, Heike Roesel and Jane Sampson.
If the artwork alone isn’t enough to tempt you out and about on the Open House trail then the gorgeous gardens, cream teas and choice of home made cakes surely has to be an unavoidable incentive.
Exhausted by the at least 15 minutes of trekking around definitely warranted the first break of the day in the garden of Ben Allen, my mum and I celebrated our successful discovery and exploration of our first open house with tea and chocolate cake.

Next stop was number 2 Clifton Hill, still in the Seven Dials trail.

2 Clifton Hill

This house had a lot more arts and crafts to offer, I loved these carefully crafted quirky little figures that greeted me in the foyer.
Created by Judy Dwyer, her little hand stitched people and dogs were so cute and wonderfully intricate.

Judy Dwyer

I also liked this unique Paper cutouts by Sylvie Howitt, I’ve noticed there’s been a welcome comeback in the illustration scene with this traditional paper art, but this is the first time I’ve seen the artist explore in media and I loved these dainty symmetrical designs cut out of maps and manuscripts.

Sylvie Howitt

The last house took us onto the Hove Trail.

I had been looking forward to visiting the Rock n Roll Boudoir and I wasn't disappointed.
More of a flat than the other more grandeur houses we had seen, what this location lacked in space made up with in hospitality and a collection of some very gorgeous pop art and burlesque inspired prints!
I managed to even strike up a conversation with the graphic artist/illustrator Kitty Finegan.
Her Prints are bold and striking utilizing Illustrator to create sexy digital pin ups.
Kitty embodies everything she has a passion for neatly into her work, 1950’s fashion, hair, and colour schemes, I think Brighton is the perfect home for this wonderful vintage manifestation!
(And on a geek note- she is very lovely to chat to too!)
Co-founder of an online gallery that not only showcases her own artwork but other artists, such as the previously mentioned Ben Allen and Simon Dixon.

Kitty Finegan

Dixon’s artwork was another highlight of the Rock n Roll Boudoir, I Particularly enjoyed his Portraits. (Although I am starting to question if my obsession with the perfectly constructed fringe is healthy! It appears to be a reoccurring theme in my interests).

Simon Dixon

Now this is a very rushed review of the Open Houses available to visit in Brighton, with the options of many trails and ultimately hundreds of different houses, I think everyone’s experience will be very different.

Find yourself a brochure or visit the website See if you can find any of your favourite local artists or just go out with an open mind and hopefully you will be inspired and excited as I was with all the creativity hiding behind all those (open!) doors.
And if all else fails you can always turn your weekend into a cake and tea trail, critiquing the interiors of the houses rather than some of the art on display, lets be honest that’s a very seductive part of being a participant in this whole experience.
Or the whole day may descend into what my mum and I liked to call Brighton Cat Trail, where we could see how many people’s cats we could pet in one day.
Oh dear, we are heathens after all!


  1. You have awesome writing, and editorial skills Rosalie. Furthering my proof that you are more than just a pretty face. Its pretty funny in places too. MISS YOU

    <3 roger

  2. yey, ta for your kind words.
    and glad you got to do the full art/cake/tea/cat experience of the open houses, i cant believe that i missed the judy dwyer show, theres too much to see!