A look back at Open Studios 2022

November 27, 2022
By Bev Knowlden

Devon Open Studios is a county-wide invitation to view art and meet the artists behind the work. Each year, artists open their doors to the public and invite them into their personal studios or a shared space. It’s a unique opportunity to ask an artist about their process, their inspiration and themselves. It is also a chance to see some fantastic artwork.

This year, South West sculptor Bev Knowlden took part in Open Studios for the third time and she has agreed to give us a glimpse behind the scenes: a look at the event from an artist’s point of view. Bev shared the venue Lupton House, near Brixham, with seven other artists for Open studios 2022.

Her first task was to load her Mini with around fifteen large pieces of sculpture and twelve smaller ones. A feat in itself! In went Little Ones, Here Today Gone Tomorrow, followed by Spellbound, Flight of Fantasy and the rest. Preparations for Open Studios had begun weeks beforehand, with the selection of these works. Lupton House is an incredible venue. It’s a grand Grade II listed Georgian edifice with a striking white façade. This type of venue, however, does presents an artist with some challenges. There is no drilling into the walls of a Grade II listed building to hang your work, for a start.

The Open Studios artists spread themselves across three rooms in Lupton House, including a chapel-like space called The Sanctuary. Artists shared the responsibility of stewarding the spaces for two weeks. Open Studios is a fantastic opportunity to experience a wide variety of artwork. At Lupton, there was sculpture, painting, printing, weaving, glasswork and ceramics – a veritable visual feast. And there was time.

When people visit an Open Studios venue, they prompt interesting and often inspiring conversations.  Between visits, there is plenty of time to kill. If an artist is in their personal studio, they can spend that time working on a new piece – in Bev’s case, sculpting or casting the porous, fragile portraits she creates using her own unique process. Lupton, however, has no dedicated gallery space never mind an area which might serve as a studio so Bev and the others spent their time curled over steaming mugs trying to stay warm: pacing up and down and preparing for the day with many layers of clothing and even taking their own kettle. Anything to try and evade the seeping chill of unheated Georgian rooms!

Here today gone tomorrow

Every venue is a learning experience, as is every encounter. Visitors often ask Bev what inspires her to do what she does? It’s a multitude of things, from live models to photos of people she doesn’t know, images on the internet to anything that grabs her attention and fires a desire to capture it in clay.

[Here today gone tomorrow]

Like Here Today Gone Tomorrow, which was inspired by heart-rending images Bev came across of Orangutans in Borneo. Beautiful, intelligent creatures being squeezed out of their natural habitat to make way for palm tree plantations. The mass production of palm oil is altering the landscape and Bev wanted to convey the sense of hopelessness and absolute sadness she felt looking at those images. That physical act of disappearing and the fragmented technique Bev used to cast Here Today Gone Tomorrow, adds to its sense of frailty.

Open Studios is a time commitment for an artist. Unlike exhibiting in a gallery, there is no setting up and walking away. Yet Open Studios also offers an artist the opportunity to meet art lovers face to face and experience their artwork anew through their visitors’ eyes. Overall, the event was a success for Bev, who sold several pieces of work and is always thrilled when she’s stewarding and makes a sale. Little Fry was one of the works that went to a new home this year, a work inspired by a photo Bev’s Aunty Wendy at the age of four.

[Small Fry by Bev Knowlden]

It is always fascinating to hear a fresh interpretation of your art and many of Bev’s visitors comment that they have never seen anything quite like her work before. Perhaps you haven’t either? Each of our newsletters lists upcoming South West Sculptor exhibitions. Add the dates to your diary and come along to experience something new. There will always be a wide and enthralling variety of sculpture on display.  

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