New Exhibition: ‘Under the Surface’ Paintings and Carvings by David West

Big Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

Big Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

For the very first time, Under the Surface brings together 70 of David West’s most important works from both private and public collections.  Spanning 60 years, it reflects the different strands of his development as a painter, sculptor and craftsman, deftly illustrating the progression and interaction between his use of paint and wood, in what is a landmark exhibition for this Dorset artist. 

Born in 1939, David West went to Sutton and Cheam School of Art (1956 – 1958) and Camberwell School of Art (1958 – 1960) where he studied painting and printmaking.  However, West found the emphasis on accuracy which was a feature of his student days too restrictive, and on leaving Camberwell he began to explore his love of decoration and strong pattern.

In the 1960s his work took an unexpected direction as he began to explore flexible ways to construct paintings within a three dimensional framework, which led naturally on to painting on wood.  Initially, wood was a substitute for canvas, but he soon became interested in its possibilities, and gradually there was more constructing and carving and less painting.

Gig and Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

Gig and Fish by David West © Maisie Hill 2017

His carved wooden models are full of acute observation and humour, and reflect the strong interest West has in architecture, and the self-contained world within buildings.  His dolls houses were inspired by watching his daughter’s imaginative play, and the idea that within the basic structure of a house is a place where imagination can be released.

Some pieces portray actual houses, such as Parnham House and Forde Abbey, others are pure inventions.  Later models include a shop and theatre, and Dorset County Museum is lucky enough to have The Spode Set, a miniature theatre carved in wood based on the ‘Spode Italian’ ceramic design.  West’s woodcut prints became a natural extension of his carving.

West’s move from London to Lyme Regis in 1981 inspired in him a love of the Dorset landscape and coast, and a fascination with the ebb and flow of tides and water.  This influence can be clearly seen in his work as he began to carve sculptures based on walks along the beach at Lyme Regis.  He has taken an active part in life in Lyme Regis, and in the 1990s had a significant role in the restoration of the Town Mill, where there is a room named after him.

In fact, it was the commission to carve and gild a set of organ pipe shades for St Michael’s Church in Lyme Regis which led to using gold leaf to develop the 200 drawings inspired by his trip to Japan in 2008.  Variations of footpaths, waterfalls, fishponds and mountain streams are among the many gilded carvings and woodcut prints in the exhibition.  These were followed by works related to the Dorset landscape and coast, a series of gilded carvings, ‘Night Waves’ and ‘Moon’, combining influences from both Japan and Dorset.

Dorset County Museum is pleased to be welcoming David West back following a successful exhibition at the Museum almost 30 years ago.

This exhibition is supported by the Mansel-Playdell & Cecil Trust and PGP

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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Damian Clarke plays Dulcimer and Hurdy Gurdy at Museum’s Lunchtime Concert

Damien Clarke playing the hammer dulcimer © Damien Clarke 2017

Damien Clarke playing the hammer dulcimer

On Thursday 16th February 2017 between 1.00pm to 2.00pm. Local touring musician, Damian Clarke will be playing Dulcimer and Hurdy Gurdy at the Dorset County Museum Lunchtime Concert

He has been performing since 1986, mainly with the international folk band “Pressgang” which he founded. He has toured in 12 countries and made several albums.

Damian, who is also an artist and lives in Dorchester, has appeared on television programmes including BBC’s period drama series ‘Wolf Hall’, playing his instruments from the past – the Hammer Dulcimer and Hurdy Gurdy which he has taught himself.  He is probably the only performer on these instruments in the UK who regularly plays concerts and sings with them.

He also has some great stories from his years on the road, playing in many interesting places. He plays a mix of folk songs from the British/Celtic tradition as well as some of his own contemporary songs.

The lunchtime concert is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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Spotlight Exhibition: MIX: artwork by Maddy Down , Helen Francis and Peter Runeckles

End of Summer by Maddy Down

‘End of Summer’ painting by Maddy Down

From 4th February 2017 to 25th March 2017, The Dorset County Museum will host an temporary exhibition showing the work of three local artists.  They all have a long association with the Museum through their voluntary work in various departments. 

Maddy Down, Helen Francis and Peter Runeckles work in a wide variety of styles and media including oils, watercolour, pastels, textiles and enamels.  They have arrived at this point on their creative journeys by very different routes.

Maddy Down‘s interest in painting was prompted by gaining a degree in Art History at Winchester in 2001.  She was brought up in the Yorkshire Dales but has lived in Dorset for 45 years. The Dorset coast, cliffs and landscapes are her inspiration.  She conveys what she feels rather than a purely literal response.

Helen Francis trained at Loughborough College of Art gaining a BA (Hons) in Textiles specialising in embroidery.  After graduating she worked at the Hampton Court Palace and the Victoria and Albert Museum as a textile conservator.  An interest in historic needlework and costume continues through her work as a volunteer at the Museum.

Influenced by her garden, flowers and everyday objects Helen makes still life pictures using fabric, paint and thread.  Layers of dyed silk are used to create depth and intensity of colour.  Mark making with hand and free machine embroidery are added to accentuate the design.

Peter Runeckles has been painting since his school days when he was taught by R B Talbot Kelly the wildlife artist.  Since then he has worked independently producing paintings and sculptures.  He also joined a print making group at Bournemouth Art College.  Peter’s works in this show include paintings in oil and acrylic, Humbrol enamels, water colours, etchings and screen prints.   Peter has exhibited previously in Poole, Bournemouth and Dorchester.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

An Exhibition of Merrily Harpur’s Artwork

Merrily Harpur at Work

Merrily Harpur at Work

Dorset County Museum is pleased to present an exhibition by Merrily Harpur, the well-known cartoonist and illustrator, her work having appeared regularly in all the national broadsheets, and in books by Kingsley Amis, Miles Kington, Gerald Durrell, John Michell and others.  She also found time to write the authoritative study of Britain’s mystery big cats – the panther- and puma-like creatures regularly spotted in our countryside, not least in Dorset.

Rodden the Wind from the Sea by Merrily Harpur

Rodden the Wind from the Sea by Merrily Harpur

However she has always been a secret painter of landscapes, and upon moving to this county fell hopelessly in love with its beauties and surprises – the unexpected changes of angle and perspective that West Dorset offers with each half mile travelled.  She paints en plein air or, more accurately, in situ – sitting in the car, enjoying the scent of turpentine and listening to Radio 3. If you spot a mossy, mud-bespattered car in an unlikely corner of a field or lane, this could be her – probably paint-bespattered – attempting to conjure up, in paint, the genius loci – the particular magic of our place.

She now lives and paints in Cattistock, where in 2013 she inaugurated the Fox Festival, and wrote the libretto for Nick Morris’s acclaimed oratorio The Fox That Walked on Water.

Merrily’s work will be on view from 16 January 2017 – 1 April 2017 in the museum’s Tea Room, and it will be FREE to come and view. Her work will be for sale during the exhibition.

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Meet your favourite Sci-Fi and Superhero characters at the Dorset County Museum

StormtroopersIt’s nearly time for Dorchester Christmas Cracker night. The event that officially kicks off Christmas in the County town takes place this year on Thursday 8 December from 5.00pm.

This year by popular demand, everyone’s favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie and TV characters will be back at Dorset County Museum. Come along to see a host of characters from the Superheroes from the Marvel Universe, Star Wars, Doctor Who and many more….

Delicious mulled wine and mince pies will be available to buy and the Tea Room will be open for tasty snacks and refreshments.  A browse in the Museum shop will reveal a wide range of gift ideas including toys, games, books and jewellery.  The current exhibition Speed to the West: A Nostalgic Journey an exhibition of 20th Century Railway Posters will be on display, with prints and railway memorabilia on sale in the shop for just a few more weeks – another fantastic opportunity to pick up a very special Christmas present.

scifi-and-superheros-at-dorset-county-museumEntry to the Museum on Cracker Night is FREE and everyone is welcome. All the galleries will be open on the night.

For further information and other forthcoming events contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Dorset County Museum to host Sci-Fi characters and Father Christmas on Cracker Night

Dorchester Christmas CrackerIt’s nearly time for Cracker Night again in Dorchester. The event that officially kicks off Christmas in the County town takes place this year on Thursday 3rd December from 5.00pm.

This year by popular demand, everyone’s favourite science fiction characters will be back at Dorset County Museum. Come along to see characters from the Star Wars films and Dr Who. Bring the children to see Father Christmas in his grotto – every child will receive a bag of goodies in return for a small donation.

Pliosaur meets Darth Vader

Delicious mulled wine and mince pies will be available to buy in the Victorian Gallery, and the Tea Room will be open for tasty snacks and refreshments. A browse in the Museum shop will reveal a wide range of gift ideas including toys, games, books and jewellery. The current exhibition St Ives and British Modernism: the George & Ann Dannatt Collection will be on display in the exhibition gallery, and prints of some of the works will be for sale – another fantastic opportunity to pick up a very special Christmas present.

Entry to the Museum on Cracker Night is FREE and everyone is welcome. The ground floor galleries will be open on the night.

For further information and other forthcoming events contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Lecture: John Craxton’s Crete by Ian Collins

Four Figures in a Mountain Landscape by John Craxton © estate of John Craxton / Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives

Four Figures in a Mountain Landscape by John Craxton © estate of John Craxton / Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives

On Friday 18th September, Ian Collins, Curator of Dorset County Museum’s John Craxton Exhibition and Biographer of the artist, is giving a talk at Dorset County Museum which will focus on the period of the artist’s career when he was residing and painting in Crete.

John Craxton (1922-2009) was one of the most interesting and individual British artists of the 20th century. After years of travelling around the Mediterranean after World War 11, Craxton settled in Crete in 1960. His life story, starting with wanderings on Cranborne Chase, was as colourful as his later pictures of the light, life and landscapes of Greece.

Ian Collins with Sir David Attenborough at the opening of the John Craxton Exhibition - Jonathan North / DCM © 2015

Ian Collins with Sir David Attenborough at the opening of the John Craxton Exhibition – Jonathan North / DCM © 2015

The exhibition at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester charts Craxton’s journey from Cranborne to Crete, from early paintings of dark and menaced war-time landscapes to joyful scenes painted under bright Cretan skies. The exhibition runs until Saturday 19th September.

All are welcome to the talk on Friday which starts at 7.30pm. Doors open at 7.00pm. The talk is free of charge, but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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Nash Ensemble Evening Concert at the Dorset County Museum

The Nash Ensemble, © Hanya Chlala/ArenaPAL

The Nash Ensemble, © Hanya Chlala/ArenaPAL

The celebrated Nash Ensemble, resident chamber ensemble at the Wigmore Hall, London are playing at Dorset County Museum for one night only on Friday 19th June at 7.30pm.

The programme consists of:

  • Mozart Oboe Quartet in F K 370
  • Stravinsky Three Pieces for String Quartet
  • Michael Berkeley Oboe Quintet ‘Into the Ravine’
  • Ravel String Quartet

The musicians are Gareth Hulse (oboe), Laura Samuel (violin), Annabelle Meare (violin), James Boyd (viola), Adrian Brendel (cello).

Sunlit Ravine by John Craxton 1982-5

Sunlit Ravine by John Craxton 1982-5

One of the pieces being played on the night, Oboe Quintet ‘Into the Ravine’, was influenced by paintings, including one given to the composer Michael Berkeley’s father in 1962 by local artist John Craxton, to whom the concert is dedicated.

Michael Berkeley and his parents Lennox and Freda Berkeley were close friends of the Craxton family for many years. In 1962 John Craxton commissioned Lennox Berkeley to write an oboe sonata for his sister Janet Craxton the oboeist. In return he gave Lennox a painting of a Greek Ravine, which later was to be the inspiration for ‘Into the Ravine’.

In 2012 after the death of John Craxton, Michael Berkeley wrote ‘Into the Ravine’ in memory of the artist.

‘Into the Ravine’ is a melancholy piece beginning with the oboe intoning three plaintive notes around which the strings gradually entwine. The final bars seem to imitate a solitary bird making a final lonely call before taking to the wing and disappearing into the clouds.

John Craxton, Hydra, Greece, 1960 - Wolfgang Suschitzky

John Craxton, Hydra, Greece, 1960 – Wolfgang Suschitzky

John Craxton’s work, including the paintings that inspired Michael Berkeley, is on display until 19th September in a temporary exhibition at the Museum, ‘A Poetic Eye: John Craxton on Cranborne Chase and Crete’. Doors will open early at 7.00pm on the night to enable a viewing of this intriguing exhibition before the concert begins.

There will be a raffle sponsored by Goldcrest Jewellers and refreshments on the night with all proceeds going to the Collections Development Centre fund at Dorset County Museum. The Museum has been successful in its bid to win £10.3 million of Heritage Lottery Funding but needs to find a further £3 million in match funding.

Tickets can be bought from Dorset County Museum’s shop or by phone on 01305 756827 and cost £30 each.

About the Nash Ensemble

Chamber Ensemble in Residence at Wigmore Hall, the Nash Ensemble is regarded as a standard-bearer of British music-making around the world and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary. To mark this achievement its founding artistic director, Amelia Freedman, devised a series at Wigmore Hall consisting of repertoire performed to great acclaim including some of the 193 commissions which it has premiered over the past half century.

Recent highlights include concerts in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the USA, including a residency at Princeton University. Recent releases include a CD of Hollywood composers for Hyperion, connected to the Ensemble’s highly praised 2013/14 American series at Wigmore Hall; Harrison Birtwistle’s The Moth Requiem for Signum Classics; and a recording of John Tavener’s Russian Folk Songs for NMC. The Ensemble has received two Royal Philharmonic awards “for the breadth of its taste and immaculate performance.”

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Discover the Art of John Craxton this weekend

'Poet in Landscape', 1941, Ink and watercolour by John Craxton

‘Poet in Landscape’, 1941, Ink and watercolour by John Craxton

John Craxton once described the county in saying “The Dorset landscape is not an obvious physiognomy but, like a person, has many hidden aspects – the mysterious enigmatic earthworks, tumuli and barrows, the atmosphere of conspiracy from the great days of smuggling still lingers, the deep, impenetrable forests with King John’s hunting lodge to prove that time is ever relative”

On the 15th May, Ian Collins will be re-visiting the Dorset County Museum with his talk exploring John Craxton’s early life and his passion of the Dorset landscape and history that was an inspiration for the work he produced. Whilst staying with his artist uncle and aunt in a cottage on the Cranborne Chase.

Ian’s talk takes place a 7.30pm on Friday 15th May (doors open at 7.00pm). The event is FREE of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

Ian Collins with Sir David Attenborough at the opening of the John Craxton Exhibition - Jonathan North / DCM © 2015

Ian Collins with Sir David Attenborough at the opening of the John Craxton Exhibition – Jonathan North / DCM © 2015

On the next day, Saturday 16th May a private tour of Dorset County Museum’s current exhibition, A Poetic Eye: John Craxton on Cranborne Chase and Crete. The tour will be led by the exhibition’s curator, Ian Collins

The tour is a great opportunity to see the exhibition up close and hear the story of John Craxton’s journey from Cranborne Chase to Crete, exploring his journey into warmth, light and colour. Following the tour, a brunch will be provided in the Museum’s Tea Room.

The tour starts at 11.00am on Saturday 16th May and tickets cost £10.00. There are a limited number of spaces available and places must be booked in advance.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Cecil Waller – Life and Landscape by Brian Davis

'Threshing, Burt's Farm', Minchington 1965 by Cecil Waller

‘Threshing, Burt’s Farm’, Minchington 1965 by Cecil Waller

In his lecture on Cecil Waller, which is one of the events related to the John Craxton Exhibition, Brian Davis will be giving an account of Cecil Waller’s career as a portraitist and landscapist. He will reflect on how perfectly good artists can come to be ignored or side-lined. What motivations and pressures influenced the art world in Waller’s lifetime (1908 – 1992) and what influences public taste and decides an artist’s reputation.

Brian Davis studied English at Cambridge and taught the subject in schools for the first half of his working life. During that time he was a pupil of the Russian harpist Maria Korchinska and later he studied History of Art at the Courtauld Institute. In the second half of his career he worked as a professional harpist and as lecturer in literature and the history of art. He has been Occasional Lecturer for the Tate and National Portrait Galleries, Visiting Professor to the University of Colorado and lecturer for the Adult Education departments of Cambridge, Bath and East Anglia Universities.

Brian Davis talk takes place at 7.00pm for 7.30pm on Thursday 9th April. The event is FREE of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.
For further information contact the Museum on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org