110711 Malvern exhibition

An exhibition of thirty paintings by husband and wife artist duo, Sara Hayward and Paul Powis, has just opened at Malvern Theatres.  Sara’s distinctive paintings draw inspiration from her travels to places she has visited, for example, Venice and St Ives, whilst Paul’s landscapes are inspired by landscapes around the Malvern Hills as well as further afield in Italy and Spain. Sara Hayward studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art at Oxford University before going on to study printmaking at the Royal College of Art, London. Paul Powis trained as an abstract painter and became interested in landscape when he moved to Worcestershire from London in 1988. The exhibition runs until August 21st.

“As you enter the theatre, the paintings inspired by Venice which are hung on the main stairs, have an immediate impact due only partly to the richness of their colours. The apparent simplicity of these works belies the care with which the elements are arranged. Because these works by Sara Hayward are displayed together they successfully display the axiom “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Each work enhances the next by its proximity and together they create a beautiful aide-memoire for those lucky enough to have visited this magical city.

Sara’s other works, inspired by coastal environments benefit by a similar unity. They reminded me of the seaside holidays of my youth. The viewer is invited to look through the open window, as if on the first morning of a fortnight away. It’s sunny, the wind blows the curtain aside and all’s well with the world.

In the restaurant area are works by Paul Powis. These draw their inspiration from further afield. Adopting a subjective approach to the colours in his palette and introducing semi-abstract elements, lift these works above the mere representational. The colours “sing”. The spacial elements achieve a satisfying harmony. It is clear to see why so many corporate clients have bought Paul’s work. It’s a pleasure to see so many of Paul’s paintings together,” says Humph Hack in his review for the What’s On online review site Remote Goat.

 Also on display in the theatre are paintings by artists Nicola Clark and Tracy Jolly.

The morning after the night before 110116

So whose idea was it to cancel all Paddington to Worcester trains anytime after 8pm each evening just as any sensible daytripper or committed commuter starts to think about heading home? Study the train timetable and you’ll find the only option after 8pm is to catch a bus at 9.45pm that arrives 4 hours later in Worcester at 2am which is really practical (what’s the driver doing, pushing the thing?) or stay at home. Shocking.

Thus it was that with a minibus lift back to the Ruskin in Oxford I had the brain wave to stay over and catch the first train back the following morning to Worcester. You shall go to the ball Cinderella, you shall, I thought to myself. Of course I considered booking a hotel room, or a room in my old college, or asking a friend for a bed,  but the logistics of arriving after midnight and leaving at 6am meant I would be an unpopular guest. Aha! I suddenly remembered the family room we had years ago at the Oxford YHA when the children were young and we had been pleasantly surprised at the comforts and proximity to Oxford’s railway station; I seem to remember there was en suite, kettle in your room, and only the sound of trains thundering beneath your pillows to keep you awake at night. Would there be a room there? Handy for the station the next morning certainly; I couldn’t afford to miss that 6.56 train.

On the phone I asked the YHA receptionist if I could book the family room – barefaced cheek I know for just one (I’d have plenty of space to swing a cat and with the benefit of hind sight could at least have put the lights on). “I’m afraid our only family room is taken, but we do have a single sex dorm,” she said. With minutes to spare before I caught my train to Oxford, I took it; at least I’d have a bed for the night.

So, still on a high from my evening at the Saatchi Gallery I entered the YHA, toute seule, without the entourage of family as psychological back up. It was very late. The imagined canapes at the soiree had been  non existent which meant I had gone without food since lunch time. I was tired and ordered tea and a slice of coffee and walnut gateau. As I watched the Jamaican receptionist make my tea carefully and extract a piece of cake from the dome within the chilled cabinet, the sensible side of my brain was thinking: you’ll regret this, there’s too much caffeine in that m’dear, and if you were at home right now you’d be drinking chamomile tea; and quite frankly you should change your order now and have one of those prewrapped blueberry muffins. But it was too late, I was paying.

“I’ve booked you into F” said the receptionist. “F?” I repeated timidly. “Room 101, bunk F. It’s on the bottom, easier.”

I followed the signs to the bedrooms and snuck into a room that called itself a library. Judging by the number of books on the shelves the Oxford YHA entertains a lot of Dutch and German guests who generously leave their books behind. I suddenly remembered the last time we had come when we had witnessed a fracas between an English bag lady and an American bag lady, each accusing the other of rifling her locker (apparently these women stay three nights before moving on to one of three other YHAs in the vicinity in a continuous bag packing triangle).

I found room 101 and entered the pitch black and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness I made out three slumbering humps all on the lower beds. Someone was sleeping in my bunk but filled with prosecco and high on art and conversation I wasn’t about to argue. I failed to locate a socket for the buzzer alarm clock I had borrowed from reception and fumbled my way out of the room and returned to the desk to seek help turning my mobile into an alarm clock. Returning to the velvet black of room 101 I prepared to scale Everest; I managed it, but whilst my body slumped on the top bunk with tiredness, my brain kept going, fuelled by stimulating conversation and the very recent injection of coffee cake caffeine.

So I lay there for hours listening to the cacophany of sounds only deep silence of a shared dorm throws up: the snoring, the farting, the scratching, the traffic, the trains and the doors banging, thinking I don’t believe I’m doing this. The last time I had done this I was aged nine on a family trip to the YHA in the Lake District, for heavens sake in the days of cotton sleeping bag liners and daily chores.

Needless to say I had a broken night but awoke ahead of the alarm at 6am, as you do, slipping out and away to catch my train. Arriving and leaving in pitch black darkness I’ll never know if I catnapped above the nations’ bag ladies or Europe’s well travelled youth, but with my head filled with grander plans inspired by the  Ruskin Alumni Launch of the night before, I really couldn’t have cared less.

Ruskin Alumni Society launch 110115

Well, was it worth it? Yes, it was, definitely. With prussian blue pastel firmly embedded beneath my finger nails after a morning teaching I made a snap decision to catch the train that would lead me to the minibus that would take me to the Saatchi gallery for the launch; the prospect of being at the start of something, the sum of which would be greater than the individual parts, was too great a temptation.

Unfortunately as I sat in my railway carriage contemplating the space around me I had the stomach churning realisation, horror of horrors,  that I had left behind my make up bag ( AAAGH! so if the guys who saw me after 25 years thought I was wearing cheap makeup, understand this, I was, courtesy of a smash and grab sprint into Boots in Oxford); normally, you see, gentlemen, I wear Chanel (a kind gift to myself when I turned 40).

The Saatchi Gallery was awesome: a fantastic space for a really exciting range of painting, sculpture and photography and I loved every minute of it. I particulaly liked the 20′ high triangular faceted cardboard and white emulsion pair of Staffordshire dogs, the embroidered photographs by Maurizio Anzeri and the paintings  by the name of an artist I can no longer remember, but the abstract imagery, vocabulary and use of colour of which will live on in my mind forever.

The generous gallery space was soon filled with 100s of unfamiliar faces guzzling free flowing prosecco and I didn’t hold back either. The vast halls hummed with the buzz of creative networking , speeches, photographs: individual and en masse. The new Ruskin Master – a philosopher- was introduced looking young enough to be my son (I always thought they  had to look old, but then again I once thought that about policemen)  and the two hour stint was way too short a catch up time as the Saatchi staff then tried with great difficulty to break up our party and usher us all home.

I had many brief and poignant encounters with those I knew and those I didn’t; one unexpected highlight must have been bumping into Sarah Simblet, author of The Drawing Book,  in the ladies powder room (I had to check my cheap makeup hadn’t slipped), being able to tell her face to face I use her book all the time with students. It made my day, and you never know perhaps made hers too.

This was a tremendous meeting of minds and energy and a mere glimpse of what might be in the future. Thank you Ruskin, but after twenty five years of silence, and 140 years of existence, not before time.