From Word to Wonder

Artworks inspired by books

30th September to 28th October

From Word to Wonder

We all have a connection to a book. Whether it is a childhood story, an invaluable manual or a lifelong companion in thought, there are volumes we cherish and refuse to throw away.

The Wonderbook presents a collection of artwork that is inspired by such treasures. From the sultry and sensual summertime of Laurie Lee to the forensic models of crime scenes created by Frances Glessner Lee (the first female police captain in the US); the ponderable thesis of Carlo Rovelli’s quantum theory and entropy to the wildly important discoveries of Merlin Sheldrake and the wonderful mycorrhizal network. Creating artwork is an intensely personal journey toward freedom of expression and how we absorb, internalise, catalogue and express these inspirations is a magical journey in itself.

This exhibition pays homage to the undoubted support of the giants who chose words as their own form of creativity and the impact that those words had on the development and execution of these works.

There is a Private View for the show to be held on Friday October 6th from 6:30 pm.

Everyone is welcome to meet the artists and enjoy the work while having a glass of wine. We are also happy to have our super-talented Pizza chef Dan the Bakerman on hand to bake fresh handmade pizza for the evening.

Exhibiting Artists

Debbie Lee
Chris Edwick
Jindra Jehu
Jonty Sale
Johnny Bull

Debbie Lee

Debbie’s work is jam packed with a forest of ideas; some blooming while others shooting from the ground in enthusiastic reach to the sunshine. They range in size and medium. There are large, blooming, triptychs screaming for attention like the sound of a playground; innocent whoops and hollers of joy, all hands raised and waving in enthusiasm.

And there are smaller works, tiny, precious paintings designed for the nutshell gallery that seem to exude a mysterious intimacy pointing to a world of undefined reality.

Dare one enter through the small front door and engage with the residents bought to life by Debbie’s gleeful and mischievous intentions? What would you see?

• A solitary girl drinking tea in bed whilst the wrinkled face of a pug ambles by

• A levitating lady being hypnotised by a floating man

• A sorrowful bride wearingly waiting for the next episode in life

• A man with a gun and a dead bird trying to gain the attention of a seated won

• And a gallerist musing on her collection while a giant cat considers its latest prey

The sinister playfulness is inspired by the work of Frances Glessner Lee, the first female Police Captain in the US. Noted as the pioneer of forensic crime investigation as she recreated models in miniature allowing her to revisit the grisly crime scene with a daily fresh eye. The scrutiny of her examination allowed for the improbable to be suddenly apparent and perhaps even logical.

Debbie’s own version of a miniature thinkscape is set to provoke questions of absurdity which could be all too real for those who peer closely.

The Doll’s House scenario is also suggestive of the wonderful book by Jessie Burton, which tells the story of the life of Petronella Oortman and her commitment to furnish a stunningly detailed version of her own home which can still be seen at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Mystery and crime is often found in Debbie’s work, uncommon stories retold from her own viewpoint. Her concerns are not always the obvious thoughts of the usual reader. Her painting The Alienist, shows an aching sympathy to Caleb Carr’s depiction of the victims and also a nod to the psychological unravelling of the horror by the protagonist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler. The brutal perversion of the victims innocence is subtly portrayed in Debbie’s work but deep felt sorrow and an empathic tenderness is always evident, whether inspired by crime stories, fairy tales or even poetry.

William Blake’s famous work Jerusalem is a deep source of inspiration alongside the recent book by Amy Jeffs ‘Storyland’. The fantastic symbolism seen in the Transformations triptych is often portrayed using androgynous and innocent figures; childlike much like the central figures of traditional cautionary tales while the cosmic suggestions of the demonic and angelic remind us of ageless battles of divine morality.

The threat and anticipation of unknown outcomes lends a challenge to the viewer – if you are open enough then you can see the possibilities; both wonderful and sinister.

Chris Edwick

Only the ravishing, sensual experience to be had, immersed in nature matters now and painting is my language to try to describe this feeling.

I want to use this substance we call paint in such a way that it conveys the ecstatic bliss to be found on that hilltop, in that meadow, in that soft sky.

It’s not about impressionism, catching the moment of a view or about geography; landscape is an event of emotions, it’s the sensual joy in the experience of being there that matters and is the subject of the painting.

That joy is complex, subtle, rich in experience, philosophy, memory, nostalgia. I find some equivalence in words for that intensity of emotion in certain writers who also seem to know that joy.

In Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee is a master craftsman of words that convey this sensual, almost erotic, bliss to be found in nature; 

“The day Rosie Burdock decided to take me in hand was a motionless day of summer, creamy, hazy and amber coloured with the beech trees in heavy sunlight as though clogged with wild wet honey”

This deeply voluptuous experience of nature is caught with words, remembered and properly savoured, like the recollection of his first taste of cider;

“Never to be forgotten, that first long, secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples…”

He uses words to paint an ecstatic sensuality in these nostalgia laden remembrances of a hot, lush English summer landscape. He evokes an experience in nature that is intense, carnal, profound… 

That’s what I want to say about nature, too, whether in an abstract use of colour, shape and gesture or more recently with deeper and stronger allusions to the landscape. I want to remember and celebrate with a rousing and lascivious use of paint, how beautiful our country is; its value in its power to overwhelm the senses with delight.

With kinship in intention and affection, I sometimes like to use Laurie Lee’s words beside my paintings as titles in an act of homage, respect, admiration and appreciation.

and the whole of it humming with the wandering of bees...oil on canvas 75 x 100 cms

What matters is the joy in life.

Nursery rhymes are a perfect encapsulation of simple pleasures in words. They tease and delight our childhood minds with their whimsical, humorous and surreal playfulness.

Hey diddle diddle,
The Cat and the fiddle,
The Cow jumped over the moon,
The little Dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Dish ran away with the Spoon

I wanted to find equivalences of joy in painting shapes and colours that would respond to and echo the festive, light-hearted nature of these rhymes for the nursery.

I chose watercolour for this suite of paintings. With its light, immediate, delicacy, it’s the most poignant medium of all. Oil paint chronicles the story of the hour but watercolour catches that quick, brief glance of the moment and remains to salve the ache of its loss, a proof it was cherished.

The shadows and agonies of life hold no interest for me, at all. Life may be brief but this makes it profoundly precious. Each moment is rich in sensual experiences of sight, sound, touch and scent. Music, poetry, dance, painting, all spiritual revelries, enchant our lives and above all, the ecstasy of nature, the light of the sun and the moon.

“…and hand in hand on the edge of the sand,
they danced by the light of the moon.”

Actually that’s how I think life is or at least, should be; dancing hand in hand, on the edge of the sand; romantic, blissful, celebratory and in that spirit, I made these watercolours.

and they danced by the light of the moon...watercolour 56 x 76 cms

Chris Edwick

September 2003

Jindra Jehu

If you can comprehend the enormity of the assessment of our natural world made by Merlin Sheldrake in his book The Entangled Life, then as a creative thinker you have to embrace and react.
The learning of a connected form of life network, aptly entitled the ‘wood wide web’ which nourishes and communicates beyond our vision and recent comprehension is staggering. It offers permission to reach further and examine possibilities that enrich our creativity with surprising results.
Jindra’s work has embraced the riches that a new outlook can provide and it has enhanced her work substantially.

Tricked out of our expectations, we fall back on our senses. What’s astonishing is the gulf between what we expect to find and what we find when we actually look.

Merlin Sheldrake

It is this capacity to look deeper that is so exciting in Jindra’s new work. The willingness to truly explore and put faith in the findings is a vital part of creative exploration; not only the results but the process too.

Each of Jindra’s living sculptures is a partnership of faith and also respect. The faith is in the unknown, the dizzying anticipation of what unknown thing might happen. The respect is simply that there is a world far greater than previously understood.

Humility becomes a tangible thing.

It is in that humility that authentic expression is born, a regurgitation of all the wonder that she experienced in unfamiliar fields.

Hand in hand with the materials she uses she coaxes and cajoles, nurtures and becomes the energy that she witnessed; the inspirational moment of epiphany that started this journey.

The embrace of the unknown and the inspiration of others research is evident and staggeringly beautiful.

Jonty Sale

Photography, traditionally, has been used as a record of history, documenting notable moments with a journalistic intent. Even in our contemporary parlance, photography has been used as a prime motivational resource in the act of advertising and commerce, glamorising and seducing an audience to express a preference for one brand over another. Along with its younger brother ‘film’ it has become the visual tool of modern commodification.
There are artists using photography as a medium, of course, and quite successfully too. We are gifted with the beautiful work of the original practitioners of the medium; Dorothea Lange, Cartier-Bresson and the remarkable landscapes of Ansel Adams through to the American street ‘press’ photographer Weegee and the Magnum group. On a more contemporary note, we have celebrated the works of Cindy Sherman, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe and Sebastião Salgado. All these works connect to the audience through the power of the subject.
But what if the ‘subject’ is not merely an object?
The Wonderbook has been in conversation with Jonty Sale and admiring his stunning photographic work. It is difficult to pinpoint how the work communicates or what it is trying to say. They are enticing scapes of vast and seemingly endless activity.
The answer, it seems, lies in Jonty’s own experience as an archaeology student and the books of Italian physicist/philosopher Carlo Rovelli and his thesis ‘The Order of Time’

‘Archaeology has developed to become a complex mix of science, social science and the humanities, and it affords ways of interpreting the landscape without resorting to excavation: reading the landscape, often interpreting the human signs made on it. And landscape is a theatre of action; there are aspects of the landscape have relationships with other things and other actions – it’s not just the place, it’s also how you reach it, and consequently about how you leave it.

When I was younger, I completed an MA in archaeology, and now, as I grow older, I am aware that, based upon that foundation, my purview is expanding. During my MA year I attended a lecture about the excavations at Boxgrove, which, aeons back, was on the West Sussex coast. The excavations of a gravel quarry uncovered flint tools, evidence of butchered animals, and the remains of the hominid Homo Heidelbergensis, dating to c. 500,00 years ago. During the lecture a slide is shown of the section edge of a trench at the excavation, and I became mesmerised by it, regardless of its archaeological meaning and origin: by its ambiguous specificity. It was like a firework going off in my mind, a moment of revelation. Whatever anyone else in the lecture hall was seeing, I was seeing a simulacrum of a Rothko canvas. The notion became seared into my imagination: that one could take a documentary photograph of something as banal as a cross-section of soil, and that it could become detached, become a picture of something else entirely.

These two large photographs were born form my enduring love for a single place, a simple blackthorn hedgerow on a bend in a lane near home. Without any good reason that I knew of, I was attracted to it, drawn to it, and every time I passed by, the urge to look and engage was so strong. This tells me something of my photographic response to the world that I see – if I feel that way about something, I have a responsibility to it and I must follow that responsibility. Otherwise, I feel that I’ve let myself down, let the thing down, and let my emotion down, and I feel diminished and less well-off for that.

Considering these two images I sense an engagement with the notion of entropy, where entropy is the statistical measure of the disorder of a closed system (the closed system in this case being the landscape and its flora; the disorder all the possible forms of landscape and flora, in all their combinations; the statistical measure the likelihood, when the landscape and flora are seen from various perspectives and removes, of it being one thing or another).

This line of thought is directly drawn from reading about quantum physics, and how this might relate to and influence how we see and interact with landscape. Carlo Rovelli writes very engaging introductory books to the quantum world, exploring the physical realities of time and space, and our own ‘blurred’ perspective on these ideas. Given this blurring – that we understand only so much of the physical world, and perceive even less, even while we experience it– it can be hard to be sure what you are looking at, and where there is ambiguity, imagination can flourish.

Jonty Sale 2023

 

“The concept of time has erased layers one after another, piece by piece. We are left with an empty windswept landscape almost devoid of all trace of temporality … a world stripped to its essence, glittering with an arid and troubling beauty” – Rovelli

Johnny Bull

We all have thoughts; ideas and reminders whizzing around our head. Some of us take notes, others use apps on their phone and most of us simply hope for the best and convince ourselves that we will remember that  moment of epiphany.

Paul Klee’s ‘Pedagogical Sketchbook’ says

For the artist communication with nature remains the most essential condition. The artist is human; himself nature; part of nature within natural space.

Paul Klee

There are greater things at play than we can envisage or absorb and there is always a struggle to find a way of cataloguing thoughts with any sense of order.

Johnny does not have that problem.

With a career of design behind him and a habit of working to order and deadline, his creative playground is organised and recalled easily. His mental database of ideas is indexed and searchable by his own questioning mind. His mode of operation, though instinctive, relies on his system of visually filing the strongest memories and vital inspirations.

And what more obvious and beautiful way to do it than to lend your own creative skill to the filing process? Visual recall is one of the most powerful systems of memory identification.

It is possible to recall the exact place on a page where sits a favourite passage from a loved poem; the shape of the verse and even the colour of the paper. Yet in this hurtling world of instant gratification and commodifed pleasure there are countless missed treasures passing before us like a gameshow conveyor belt. How can we absorb, let alone remark on such a dizzying menu of cacophony?

Most of us rely on folders and files, perhaps shelves of black notebooks with the year carefully marked on the spine, a traditional style of boxing and sorting; treasure here, detritus cast aside. Johnny can pull a memory or an idea from the notebook with Shelley on the cover because the visual location is keyed in his memory. Nothing is tossed away, but abbreviated for recollection when needed

Johnny catalogues his ideas by using visual mark-making, he creates his own coded language and these notebook covers represent him at his very best; anecdotal, humorous and with a razor-sharp wit.

It is not just words, images make just as strong an impression. These covers of notebooks in their entirety create a sensual and deeply evocative collection of memories and enquiring thoughts. They are as readable as any historical saga or noirish thriller. They are seductive like a romance and it is easy to fall into their charming arms.

Works from the exhibition

the big ship sails on the alley, alley ooh…

Watercolour on paper   56 x 76 cm

£210

and the dish ran away with the spoon…

Watercolour on paper   56 x 76 cm

£210

how does your garden grow…

Watercolour on paper   56 x 76 cm

£210

how i wonder what you are…

Watercolour on paper   56 x 76 cm

£210

and the little dog laughed to see such fun…

Watercolour on paper   56 x 76 cm

£210

Piblokto

Digital print on paper   30 x 21cm

£49

Obliging Barstaff

Digital print on paper   30 x 21cm

£49

No ordinary Joe

Digital print on paper   30 x 21cm

£49

Monks and bar

Digital print on paper   30 x 21cm

£49

Juggling Lessons

Digital print on paper   30 x 21cm

£49

French Money

Digital print on paper   30 x 21cm

£49

Evening Train

Digital print on paper   30 x 21 cm

£49

Bysshe Bash

Digital print on paper   30 x 21cm

£49

Semblancetrip

Photographic print   50 x 192cm

£995

Semblantrip

Photographic print   50 x 192cm

£995

Colony

£225

Woman Breaking Through

Oil on canvas   120 x 100cm

£1750

Young Freud

Painting on glass   77 x 104cm

£1250

Wasteland

Painting on glass   83 x 109 cm

£1250

The Alienist

Painting on glass   77 x 96cm

£1250

Transformation

Oil on canvas   120 x 150cm

£2500

Fish Scale King

Oil on canvas   120 x 100cm

£1750

while time hung golden…

Oil on canvas   90 x 130cm

£1250

and the whole of it humming with the wandering of bees...oil on canvas 75 x 100 cms

and the whole of it humming with the wandering of bees…

Oil on canvas   75 x 100 cms

£1050

and the whole of it humming with the wandering of bees...oil on canvas 75 x 100 cms
and they danced by the light of the moon...watercolour 56 x 76 cms

and they danced by the light of the moon…

Watercolour on paper   56 x 76 cm (framed)

£475

and they danced by the light of the moon...watercolour 56 x 76 cms
come blow your horn... 56 x 76 cm watercolour on paper

come blow your horn….

Watercolour on paper   56 x 76 cm (framed)

£475

come blow your horn... 56 x 76 cm watercolour on paper