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The area surrounding Firle and Glynde in Sussex is known for its historic artistic connections. In the early to mid-20th century the Bloomsbury group met and lived at nearby Charleston Farmhouse. This was a meeting place for artists, painters and the academics of the time who included Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant,Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. The house decorated by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who lived there with their children from 1916 onwards, remains an inspirational legacy in the use of palette, texture and form – a conventional property transformed by pattern and innovation.

 

Clockwise from top left: Duncan Grant’s Studio – Fireplace panel; Duncan Grant’s Studio – Mirror wall; Duncan Grant’s Studio; Door painted by Vanessa Bell (All photographs by Tony Tree C Courtesy of The Charleston Trust).

Nearby St Peter’s Church, Firle also has a stained glass window designed by John Piper depicting “Blake’s Tree of Life.”

The tradition continues. The Firle Artists are a group of professional and amateur artists, makers and designers who all live and work around Firle, East Sussex. The artists in this group periodically exhibit their work as exhibition cycles, and recent events have also included open artists’ houses and studios – their next festival event being part of the Lewes ArtWave Festival 2011. The work in the group is diverse. By way of example, Vanessa Mooncie creates silk screen prints that draw on children’s illustrations, fashion drawings of the 1940s and 1950s, showgirls, the circus and Commedia dell’Arte.

 

Clockwise from top left: The Striped Dress; The Birds; The Trapeze (All rights reserved, Vanessa Mooncie).

By contrast Carola van Dyke’s works apply a neon lens to the surrounding South Downs and local villages that gives her landscapes an odd fairytale quality, the perspective often quirky and tilted.

 

Left to right: Firle Church; Alciston View; Firle Place and Grounds (All rights reserved, Carola van Dyke).

In the Glynde, Ai Iijima, herself not part of the Firle group, uses the traditional skills of a blacksmith in her work as a trained artist. She works as a blacksmith’s apprentice at the Old Forge, Glynde, following her training as a silversmith in Japan and then in the UK at Camberwell College of Arts London and the University of Brighton. She combines the strength of  the material with unusual and delicate materials. All of her work looks at the cycle of life and death and opposing forces. She has created a series of scissors, works that use the everyday object to convey ideas about finality/beginnings, connection/separation by placing the natural and artificial elements next to each other. She says: “In Japan, a pair of scissors is sometimes associated with a ritual object; for example scissors are occasionally chosen for a wedding gift as the blades represent the groom and bride, wishing them to ‘cut’ through their future by working together… Each pair of scissors is composed of an individual theme. The form of the scissors is linked to each theme and will be cutting (breaking or connecting) something regardless of tangibility.”

 

Clockwise from left: Image of artist, Copyright © Merle Moustafa 2008, All rights reserved; Scissors, Copyright © 2009 Ai Iijima, All rights reserved; The Feather Scissors, Copyright © 2009 Ai Iijima, All rights reserved

Charleston: http://www.charleston.org.uk/whats-on/, http://twitter.com/CharlestonTrust

For Bloomsbury inspired letterpress stationery: www.annafewster.co.uk

Firle Artists: www.firleartists.co.uk or email [email protected]

Ai Iijima: http://www.iiji.co.uk/profile.html