Wednesday, July 27, 2016

within the wall exhibition…

If you live in or around Bristol, then I strongly recommend that you check out this exhibition at the historic St John on the Wall church (in the crypt) in Broad Street. It runs from 27 July until 11 August 11am-2pm daily (why not come along to the preview at 6pm this Friday 29 July?).
It’s an exhibition with a difference…
Over the past 12 months, a group of people have met in the church and/or the crypt at 11.30am-1.30pm every Tuesday… to draw or write poetry or take photographs. It’s a very lovely, welcoming and diverse collection of individuals with a wide range of artistic abilities, experience and backgrounds… led by the brilliant Charlotte Pain, a wonderful artist in her own right (she would laugh at the description of her “leading” the group!).
The exhibition consists of sketches that group members have undertaken over the past year. Some people have some drawing or photographic experience behind them (but, perhaps, have let the habit lapse?). Others have hardly previously drawn at all. For some, it’s an opportunity to experiment. For some, the group’s principal benefit is the group’s sociability.
I joined this lovely group a couple of months ago – anyone/everyone is welcome to join – and have been incredibly impressed by the warmth of the welcome and its non-judgemental approach to art and creativity.
This is what Charlotte wrote about the project and the group:
“This project is about helping the public connect to buildings and locations. It is about breathing a new breath of life into churches, bringing community back within them and exploring their uses. It’s about getting people drawing and making. It’s about a belief that creativity can help us to strengthen our voices, nurture our mental health and help us connect to each other.
From a core group of people who rarely miss a session to random visitors to the city who have long left Bristol behind them, each drawing is a moment in the life of St John’s and of the people who have walked through the doors. With the support and open-mindedness of The Churches Conservation Trust the project has flourished.
We are a diverse group of people who have developed a passion for St John’s and have spent many hours drawing, photographing and admiring this special building. This is not only a celebration, but an invitation to the rest of Bristol to join us”.
As you might realise, Charlotte is a bit special!
I don’t want to embarrass people by highlighting their individual talents or what they bring to the group but, hopefully, this will provide a flavour: Mike has produced over 60 sketches over the past 12 months and his friendliness encapsulates all that group stands for; Brian is another of those gentle, generous, welcoming people and his photographs of the church are an inspiration; David is a brilliant artist (especially his watercolours!) who can draw beautifully and chat amusingly at the same time(!); Betty has been something of a revelation for me – every week, she produces her simple, intricate, pencil sketches (which remind me in some ways of Alfred Wallis’s naïve artwork from St Ives)(I suspect this is the first time she’s drawn since leaving school?); Jonathan loves coming to the group – he’s industrious, friendly and enthusiastic; Chris is always smiling, chatty and an inveterate photographer and drawer; Aran is one of the lovely church volunteers who has been “drawn” into the group… and then there’s also Christine, Anne-Marie and Dave etc etc.     
Membership of the group is completely free so, if you fancy having an excuse to do some drawing, then why not give it a try?
Please take an opportunity to pop into the exhibition (and also to see the fascinating, 14th century church itself).
Photo: some of the group working on the exhibition installation.

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