Once a year there's a show packed with joy known as the IOTA open exhibition. It occupies a unique position in the hearts and minds of both artists and viewers across the Island and beyond with it's quasi-socialistic approach to it's content, like Cuba in miniature bravely standing up against more fashionable contemporary ways of doing things. All artists are welcome and the result is genuinely refreshing, bright and bold.
Another lesser annual event is me attempting to review it, a first for this humble new blog, and mention every single artist shown. This year I've failed before I've begun, as the ruddy body casts displayed from the ceiling and what appeared to be a litho of a trio around a table including Frank Sinatra weren't listed in the catalogue so I can only mention those in passing, apologies to both artists, as well any omitted or overlooked as I got confused by the catalogue order. As much as I'd like to focus on every detail in every piece I don't, instead a light sketch to whet your appetite is offered, to give an idea of the scope and encourage you to visit the show for yourself and make your own mind up.
A pair of textile pieces by Megan Whitty were the first to be seen, made with dark thread on calico these seem to be a mix of anatomy and architectural forms with a hint of geology to them producing an interesting result. Christa Kackney serves up an abstract painting and two portraits with a lovely touch of Bosch to them, whereas Angela Rumble drew inspiration from a different type of culture - the type you'll find in petri dishes, for three very tight portraits in monochromatic blues. Two photographs of Ramsgate seafront by Julia Westbury gave an interesting vision, making the modernist redevelopment of a seafront which has seen better days look a little like a radar station on the Bikini Islands.
Two very different styles from Shaun Carey, one a dauby painting, the others more frantically detailed almost like the graffiti which once decorated the Berlin Wall. Meanwhile Sonja Benskin Mesher is more Rothko-esque in approach, using mixed and found media to great effect. Gentle understatement lies behind Dawn Cole's "White Cliffs" drypoint series, and so subtle in effort as to suggest naturally textured paper. The local Saxon shore is briskly and energetically rendered by Valerie Thoresby with wild but accurate flourishes of paint in a trio of pictures. Tight micro-detail from Roy Eastland. Helge Hunter offers up sketchier forms this year and neatly so. An artist only known as J. delivers some of the most deliberately contemporary pieces in three photos of his work in generally domestic situations, which work surprisingly well.
Ramsgate stalwart Pat Castle shows only a single piece, of Almeria in oils, which some may recognise from her solo show at the old town gallery last year. Thoughful photography from Sarah Burns encapulating the emotion of her subjects succinctly. Bright decorative geometry from David Buckden, a similar brightness from the botanical offerings of Emily Tull although I worry about her eyesight given the fine needlework employed. Next to those Rebekah Sunshine is exploring new paths, shame we're only treated to a single piece. New to my eyes is James Hunt, two seemingly manipulated photographs, the third a deep daubed impression of Ramsgate Marina split into three canvasses but deliberately displayed out of order. Photography from Ady Kerry verging on photo journalism but with less obvious an angle. Painter John Hughes has two impressions of heads, both fade into the wall against the stunningly detailed "Autumn Landscape" which is both enchanting and charming.
Bright and solid still lifes from Ian White, two featuring an African fertility symbol, while Ken Saunders seems to concentrate on making each picture so very different from the last the only link being vitality and vigour. There's a story to Kate Vale's paintings, it not obvious what it might be other than there's a moral to them. IOTA regular Joyce Marriot delights again with her usual ease, as does old favourite Pete Buckey who playfully entitled his three "Westgit", "Margit" and "Ramsgit" because that's exactly how most of us pronounce them. Graceful studies of human form by Jan Hunt. A single piece from Daniela Flowerdew but totally delicious it is too. I imagine Brian Bushell was a Japanese calligrapher in a previous life, he makes every brush stroke look like a lazy flick of the wrist with the true detail only conveyed after closer scrutiny. Three more of his treasures are hung here.
Another new to my retinas artist is Stephen Dorsett, his paintings infected with a visual madness where no brush can keep pace with the synaptic lunacy therein. For the second year in a row I was the first to buy something and Dorsett's "Russian Life" is what I picked. Best go and see it because once I've paid up it's off to my Swiss bank vault.
Rare to see an untitled piece marked anonymous, although I have an idea who might be behind it, but amusing either way. A trio of worthy daubs from Jackie Russell who has a great eye for a palette. Sally Kidall comes up with a playfully unique version of footsteps in the sand. Painterly skills jump off the walls with Jonathon Stewardson's pieces, one cloudscape and two with a model who probably is that good looking in real life. Adjacent is a pair of simple but well executed paintings by Kristen Healy in red and black. More delicate work from John Powley-Kemp, solidly traditional and close to perfect. On first view they're vaguely abstract, but there's a deeper image hidden within like an aesthetic colour blindness test, very special.
A healthy loose impressionism from Tom Bowling. Folky wartime memories of anti-aircraft fire during an air raid from Ron Derain. Eight pictures combined from various artists calling themselves East Kent Cyrenians, an intriguing first offering. Three cheers for three canvases from John Newton, cracking artist and recently retired art teacher to some of the greatest art minds around these parts. A microscopic Man Ray by Ella Price, three bright ones from Shirley Rintoul her feline studies the best. Great rotoscopic photo of Viking Bay from Jenny Duff, stencilistic feel to the work by Daniel Smith, gentle vagueness from Terry Wetherilt, hopeful seascapes from Andrew Greatrex. Good to see Rob Norman still enchanted by his dog enough to include it in his work, solid work it is too. Fragrant work from Imogen Dent.
On to the sculpture, a giant coffee bean from Catherine Edwards, more humanist an approach from Stuart Thompson with "Sleeping Angel", his grip on both form and anatomy has come on impressively since last year. Delicate flowers from Sarah Rowlish, good bronze and wood work from Sally Carson, and a playful frog from Nina King.
Adrian Day's "Mazeopoly" is quite outstanding, it has eye, brush, colour and composition aplenty. So slightly pipping everything else to the painted post it takes my humble accolade "best of show".IOTAs Annual Open Exhibition "HeadTurner" runs until Sunday 14th May, open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, Free Admission, Wheelchair Access.
Further information 01843 853117.