Horsham District Year of Culture 2019 plays host to the most unique of art exhibitions

At the end of 2018 the Year of Culture commissioned local artist Sarah Duffield to create a very special series of paintings to capture Horsham District’s landscape in her very personal style and ‘Coloured Places – The Multi-Coloured District’ was born.

The Coloured Places exhibition went live in Horsham’s Museum and Art Gallery on Saturday 28 September.

We caught up with artist Sarah to find out a bit more about her, see how she developed her work for the exhibition and ask her how she feels about the finished commissioned paintings.

Did you always want to be an artist?

 Other than the times I wanted to be a writer or a plumber I have always wanted to create art. I went to university and studied fine art and writing; I tried to be a writer, I got a job, a house, married and had children all before I plucked up the courage to make my living by selling my artwork. 

I work at home from a studio (it’s a shed with added windows) in the garden – freezing in the winter and a greenhouse in the summer. I appreciate how lucky I am to have a partner (Duncan) who supports my chosen career (he would like me to add here that he thinks I am amazing) and how lucky I am to be able to work at something I truly love. 

How did you get involved with the Year of Culture commission?

Jeremy Knight (from the Horsham Museum) put my name forward and suggested I be commissioned to paint an image of Horsham. I had a meeting with Nick Jenkins from the Council’s Year of Culture team who came up with an entire project of commissioning four paintings to reflect the District. It was all rather surreal at first but very exciting. To be honest I was over the moon that someone liked my work enough to even consider me for the project – massive thanks to both Jeremy and Nick. 

How did it feel having the four landscapes selected by the public – as opposed to selecting them yourself?

 I always love working on commissions, creating something special and meaningful for a client is a privilege. This commission was a little different to my usual ones in that there were literally hundreds of beautiful views to choose from; without the public’s help in the selection process I would probably still be tramping, undecided, around the countryside. I visited every place that was suggested to us (even bought new walking boots) and finally settled on the four views which were suggested most often and which were spread across the whole District.

I still have the list of suggestions – happy for folk to add to it and will paint more from it next year. 

Did you know all the locations already?

I knew two of the locations well – Beeding Hill and Amberley (the paintings named Looking West and Ambling) I had seen the ruins at Knepp (Rewilding painting) many a time from the car (which I suspect is true for many a resident) but I have to say that the place is truly amazing and definitely worth visiting – they have tree houses and deer!

I had never heard of the Council’s own Chesworth Farm (Worth the Wait painting) but found a lovely gem of a place, well loved and full of friendly people when I visited. 

We live in an incredibly beautiful area; I often think we are so used to the beauty we forget to look for it even when it’s right on our doorstep.   

 Do you have a favourite?

I fall in and out of love with all of my paintings while I work on them and usually the last thing I’ve worked on is the piece I love the most. I love all four of the pieces created for this project for different reasons. The colours and emotional connection to “Looking West” (its right on my doorstep), the childhood memories associated with “Ambling” walking along the river and visiting the museum in Amberley, the discovery of Knepp (it’s a bit like stepping into Narnia especially on a cold morning) and finally “Worth the Wait” because having no connection to Chesworth I found it the most difficult (I waited weeks for the trees to turn) and feel a huge sense of accomplishment every time I look at it.   

What is the medium you have used to create the commissions and do you always work in this medium? These paintings are created with water soluble oil paints: I try to be mindful of the environment and use paints that require no chemicals for mixing or cleaning. If I do want to use a thinner I use one made from orange oil, it smells rather lovely. I also like to work in charcoal (you can see some examples at the show) and pen and wash (watered down paint). 

What kind of painter are you? Always the trickiest question. I describe myself as an “abstracted landscape painter”. My paintings are based on real landscapes but they are not realistic: I like to use colour to express my emotional connection to a landscape in usually unrealistic colour choices. Practically, I am a very messy and slow painter, one painting can take up to six weeks to complete.

How does it feel now that you are setting up the showcase exhibition? Are you filled with pride or nerves?

I’m not as nervous as I thought I’d be – I’ve reached a stage when I can do no more and I have to accept that. This project has been considered, time consuming, difficult but also fun, empowering and most importantly for me it’s been an invaluable learning experience which will inform my artwork in the future. 

What advice would you give to any budding artists out there? I always tell my students that the worst thing that can happen is that you stick it in the recycling bin or paint over it, 90% of what I create ends up being recycled in some way. It’s important not to be precious with your creations; play and enjoy what you do, you’ll learn a lot more that way and grow without realizing it. 

The exhibition runs until 14 December 2019. Prints of the commissioned works are available to buy but they are limited.


Posted in 2019, Events, News.

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