Rising from the Ashes

I recently met two Open Studios artists who had to face the unimaginable. Last year, Susan Hubbard and Rosemary Lawrey had found the perfect spot for their artist studio, a huge farm outbuilding, in a lush valley near Pangbourne, with beautiful views, country scenes and animals posed right outside their windows waiting to be portrayed. A spacious building, with a large gallery space between their two workrooms, where they kept their works of art, brushes, easels, paints and printing equipment.

One morning in late November disaster struck; a fire broke out and the whole place was gutted. Both artists were left without a studio, many of their artworks were  lost and others were damaged by smoke. The artists’ energy suffered a huge blow. Their plans and dreams forever changed.  Rose tells me she lost over 20 pieces of work, including some from a recent exhibition at Blake’s Lock in Reading. Susan lost some twenty year old artwork as well as most of her work from the last three years, mosaics and abstract paintings, damaged by the smoke.

As an artist myself, I can imagine the initial numbness and the incredible pain of a life’s work disappearing before your eyes. Susan tells me that after the heartache, she decided to pick up her brushes and carry on.  She was lucky to find refuge at City Arts who offered her a temporary studio where she could resume painting, albeit very cold. Rosemary tells me she is less attached to a physical studio space as she paints on location, on walks, where her creative energy flows best. However, she saw her plans go up in smoke, not only artistically, but also her life dream of buying a houseboat was also curtailed. For now she has had to put her plans on hold.

After the fire, a quick decision was needed as to whether they would take part in 2017’s West Berkshire and North Hampshire Open Studios this May.  Rosemary decided to go ahead, showing her work from her garage once again in Hambridge Road, Newbury. Susan needed more time to rethink what to do and will not be opening a studio this year although she will exhibit at the Here! Here! exhibition at Blake’s Lock in Reading. Slowly, they are building up a new body of work. They have taken time to reevaluate their work and find new inspiration. As a Phoenix, they are rising from the ashes!

The Phoenix is famous, not only for rising from the ashes, but for its bright colours. Vibrant colour is a characteristic of both their work. You can see Rosemary’s colourful music-inspired abstracts on show at the Art in Music exhibition at the Corn Exchange, Newbury throughout the Newbury Spring Festival. Both Susan and Rosemary have cheerful, modern and inspiring work to fire the imagination at the Riverside Museum at Blake’s Lock in Reading from 4 – 13 May 2017.   

They are glad that West Berkshire and North Hampshire Open Studios is a strong support network. Susan found her temporary studio space at City Arts in Hampton Road, Newbury, through her Open Studios contacts and has now found a permanent space near Nick Speakman’s studio in Mortimer. She looks forward to welcoming visitors to it next year.  Rosemary is part of the group Artikinesis formed by various Open Studios members and also attends the painting sessions of Newbury Art Group at Speen and Highclere village halls.  Both artists will have stands in the art tent at the Bradfield Mayfayre on 1st May  where you can pick up your Open Studios 2017 directory guide and discover more about visiting them and all the other artists opening their studios this May.

Written by Isabel Carmona Andreu (Open Studios West Berkshire and North Hampshire)

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Rosemary Lawrey’s work: top left – 360 Degrees (acrylic), top middle – Art in Music (acrylic), top right – Flotsam and Jetsam at Blake’s Lock (acrylic), and lower left – Odiham Castle (oil).

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Susan Hubbard’s work: left – Meditation (mixed media), middle left - Herron (mosaic) and middle right - Autumn landscape (mixed media) and right – Garden (mixed media)

For a PDF containing the Open Studios logos click here.

Open Studios: John Brazendale chair@open-studios.org.uk, or admin@open-studios.org.uk or 01635 551981 


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