The Art Cafe launches ‘Scratching the Surface’ by Red Hot Press

Exhibition poster The Art Café is situated on Jewry Street, Winchester and dedicates itself to being a creative hub for the community. Their gallery helps support and promote local, national and International artists, bringing exciting work to a growing art scene in one of England’s most historical cities. The gallery exhibits ten collections a year, along with changing displays in their other spaces. Their current exhibition, ‘Scratching The Surface’, is a collaborative exhibition of work from thirteen artist members of Red Hot Press and guest artist Ali Yanya. I went along for the private view of its opening and to find out more about the Art Café.

'Cleaner' by Ali Yanya

‘Cleaner’ by Ali Yanya

The event was buzzing from beginning to end and had such a good turn out that, like penguins when they try to keep warm, we rotated ourselves in and out of the room so others good get in and have a look! Red Hot Press are based in Southampton and ‘exist to promote and develop an appreciation and understanding of Fine Art Printmaking’. They provide courses and facilities, professional development and create a number of events and exhibitions. There are over 40 pieces of work in the exhibition and what made it so enjoyable for me personally, was having so many artists’ styles in the collection. Each piece of work was numbered and we were given a guide which told us the name of the piece and the artist. The work is a mixture of etching and drypoint techniques and there are a few themes explored: ‘observations of the natural and man-made world; work inspired by differing perspectives and attempts to connect the viewer to an alternative reality; what it is to be human and our relationship to our surroundings and history’.

I Have Stood & Watched for Hundreds of Years

‘I Have Stood & Watched for Hundreds of Years’ by Jenny Goodhand

I found myself mostly drawn to the prints exploring the natural world. There’s a selection of tree and woodland prints by various artists, each expressing a different mood, moment, light and feeling. One I liked was ‘I Have Stood and Watched for Hundreds of Years’ by Jenny Goodhand, using etching and aquatint. I love all the twists, knots and the voice of the tree suggesting his age and wisdom. Another artist, Sheila Lockyer, shows a contrast of style using different techniques with an etching ‘A Gentle Breeze’ and a drypoint, ‘Into the Dark Wood’. The latter is much more abstract and blurred, emphasising its eerie atmosphere.

'Stargate' by Irene Smith

‘Stargate’ by Irene Smith

One artist’s work in particular caught my eye and drew me in, Irene Smith’s ‘Stargate’ and ‘No String’. Both are etchings with aquatint and her use of colour I found beautiful. Stargate’s mottled effect, with it’s subdued rainbow spiral, lends itself to the astral sense it depicts. ‘No String’ was probably my personal favourite. The female forms locked in spirals, with giraffes entwined and a greenish tint; just oozed something of nature and nurture to me. Upstairs I sat down to make some notes and enjoy a complimentary glass of wine and met one of the artists, Maureen Riley.

'Evening Passing' by Maureen Riley

‘Evening Passing’ by Maureen Riley

Maureen is a WSA Alumna and has three pieces in the exhibition. Her ‘Evening Passing’ is a beautiful mono print with yellow and browns, and an under layer of pattern. She told me how she had been inspired whilst sat watching the light dance along a wall and how it changed each evening.

The exhibition runs until 16th June 2015, so be sure to catch it while you can.

Whilst at the Art Cafe, I took the opportunity to look at some other art work on display. There are a handful of pieces by a local artist, Mark Michael. His work was exhibited prior to ‘Scratching the Surface’, but a number of his works are still on display upstairs. A sculpture-turned-painter, his lines are bold and the detail defined. He uses ‘humour and satire to counter-balance often challenging subject matter’ and although not for everyone, I loved his subversive voice and use of text in his work.

The Art Café are supporting the Winchester Short Film Festival by hosting various talks and events in the lead up to it and have recently started a weekly music night supporting emerging local and national artists called ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’.

To find out more information about the Art Café, you can visit their website here or Red Hot Press here.

You can find resources on printmakers at 760.92 and British printmaking at 769.942 in Library 2.

Robynne Willowby, May 2015.