20 Years of BOS

Our Patron, Philip Sutton

‘It’s a pleasure to be a patron to the Bridport Open Studios. It’s good that people can come and meet the artists who work all the year round in their studios. I wish you all a very good week.’

We are delighted that Philip Sutton RA is our patron as we celebrate the twentieth year of Bridport Open Studios. Not only is Philip a distinguished artist, he is also a friend and inspiration to many artists working in Bridport. His kindness, modesty, and generosity of spirit is an example to us all.

Born in Poole, Dorset in 1928, Philip grew up in humble surroundings in London’s East End, leaving school at fourteen and briefly worked in a drawing office before completing his national service during the Berlin Airlift. He then attended the Slade School of Fine Art, studying under William Coldstream with contemporaries Craigie Aitcheson, Michael Andrews and Euan Uglow.

Sutton’s optimism, his stylistic freedom and irrepressible use of colour swiftly attracted attention. Asked to become a Royal Academician in 1988, Philip has developed an international following and his work has been displayed at The Royal Academy, The Tate, The Globe, The Welsh Assembly, Kensington Palace, & The UK Parliament, with exhibitions in London, Paris, Sydney, and Chicago.

A retrospective exhibition of Sutton’s Paintings continues at Bridport Arts Centre until October 6th, and a collection of his charcoal drawings can be enjoyed in the Albembic Canteen at our friends at the LSI.


The Story so far…

20 years of Bridport & West Dorset Open Studios Open Studios

For many years artists have been drawn to Bridport and West Dorset, and the area has now gained a national reputation for its unique character and vibrant artistic community. As far back as 1865 Bridport boasted the first government funded art school in Dorset. Its most famous student was Francis (Fra) Newbery who went on to become one of the most distinguished directors of the Glasgow School of Art between 1885 and 1900, commissioning one of his students, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, to build the new Glasgow School of Art. Newbery also exhibited internationally with the Glasgow Boys, and promoted the work of his students so that the Glasgow style of Arts and Crafts became internationally known and emulated. Mackintosh and other friends and students visited Newbery in Dorset on sketching holidays and Newbery’s murals celebrating the ‘Spirit of Bridport’ can still be seen in the town hall.

Throughout the 20th century artists came to visit or live and work in the area. Both the landscape and the proximity of the sea were important factors, though no stylistic school of painting, such as happened in Newlyn or St Ives in Cornwall, occurred here. Instead the area seems to have attracted individuals working on their own ideas.

In the 1960s and 70s a new generation of artists took up residence in the locality, including the American-born abstract-expressionist painter John Hubbard and figurative painter Robin Rae – formerly a teacher at Liverpool School of Art, who studied under Francis Bacon and John Nash at the Royal College of Art. The experimental photographer John Miles also moved here; he studied painting at Wimbledon School of Art and then turned to photography under the influence of his teacher Gerald Howson.

The seeds of the current artistic revival were probably planted in the 1980s when both John Miles and Robin Rae taught at Symondsbury Art College, started by Peter Hitchin in the Old Manor in Symondsbury, just outside Bridport. The Art College was followed by the Oakhayes Art Residency, run by Ann Barnes in the Symondsbury Old Rectory during the 1990s, which attracted dozens of artists from across the country.

I was one of the final residents at Oakhayes, arriving in the autumn of 1998, and it was a formative experience for me to work alongside so many talented artists. Oakhayes closed in 1999 so I went looking for a new studio and soon found a space in an old factory on the St Michael’s Trading Estate, where I have been working ever since. A couple of years later I was joined by artists Andrew Leppard and Caroline Ireland and that was the start of St Michael’s Studios – now providing studios to over 20 artists.

The studios became the forefront of a cultural regeneration of the St Michael’s Trading Estate – now known as the Art & Vintage Quarter and offering a wealth of creative industries in addition to artists’ studios, such as carpenters, masons, upholsterers, signwriters, designers, many antiques and vintage shops and the ever-popular Red Brick Café. For more information go to www.enterprisestmichaels.org.uk

1999 was also the year Caroline Ireland started the first Bridport Open Studios event. Since then it has continued to grow over the years and the baton has passed from one director to the next. We are extremely appreciative of the support of the artists and of the many local (and some further) businesses who understand the crucial part that our artistic culture plays in the wider community.

Kit Glaisyer – Director of Bridport & West Dorset Open Studios

A Note about St Michael’s…

During the heatwave of Summer 2018, there was a devastating fire at St Michael’s Studios and fifteen artists there have lost their studios. Paul Blow, Suzanna Hubbard, Russ Snedker (42), Peggy Cozzi, Alastair Crawford and Andrew Leppard lost their entire studios to the fire. The studios on the floor below, although spared the flames, suffered extensive water and structural damage. Those artists include Kit Glaisyer (19), David Brooke & Caroline Ireland (35), Brian Johnston and Marion Irons. And in the adjacent Studio 6, artists Marion Taylor (5 & 10), Charlotte Miller (5), Anna Sullock and John Boyd (5) had to move out for safety reasons.

Luckily, however, the other end of the building was not damaged in the fire, so Sally Davies & Elizabeth Sporne (40) will once again be showing in their Studio in the Attic. And there is now a cluster of artists nearby, with Fiona Neylan & Jenny Penney (38) across the road, plus Jennie Hanrahan & Maggie Luck (39) next door in the Green Shack. Then, on the other side of the building in Foundry Yard, you’ll find sculptor Isla Chaney (41) and a group of painters: Ellie Preston, Rob Morgan & Russ Snedker (42) in Unit 6.

Also, you can now visit many of the St Michael’s Artists in new spaces around town, while others are exhibiting with other artists. Kit Glaisyer (19) will be showing in his new Bradpole studio, David Brooke & Caroline Ireland (35) are exhibiting at Chris Neaves’s studio on Gundry Lane. You can find Marion Taylor (5 & 10) showing with Katherine Lloyd (10) in West Milton and also showing with Charlotte Miller & John Boyd with The Artists of the Jurassic Coast (5) in Eype.

Many of the remaining St Michael’s Artists were locked-out of their studios for five weeks, and unfortunately several have been forced to pull out of Open Studios all together this year; they include David Smith, Steve Rose, Squirrell Bindery & Press, and Franny Owen.