Fairhurst Studios : Studies of Norfolk

Bella Bigsby, Claire Coles, Kate O’ Grady & Joy Miller

19th August – 4th September 2021

Bella Bigsby

Joy Miller

Kate O’Grady

Claire Coles

In 2020 the Fairhurst gallery expanded; taking over the neighbouring building and renovating it to become a fresh new gallery facing directly onto Bedford Street, with a handful of artist studios situated above. The fairhurst studios have created and allowed for new creative relationships to be formed as well as introducing a real liveliness to the gallery; now filled with the buzz of ongoing creativity. This exhibition showcases the work of our studio holders and each of their recent endeavours as they move outside of their studios in a gallery take over. 

There is a real sense of journey to the pieces on show; each of which have been drawn from or inspired by the local surroundings of Norwich and Norfolk. These initial influences have then been brought back to the studio in the heart of Norwich and worked into completed pieces by each of the studio holders in their respective styles and processes. The resultant showcasing of their works brings a diverse collection of studies depicting the Norfolk surroundings from abstract representations to detailed visions of flora and fauna. The exhibition becomes a  holistic depiction of the studio holders’ working process; from the initial conception and creation of their work in the fairhurst studios to now being displayed and presented in the gallery below. 

The exhibition not only highlights the different interpretations and presentations of Norfolk by the studio artists, but also aims to showcase the techniques and processes behind the creation. The ‘Fairhurst Studios : Studies of Norfolk’ exhibition will feature open studios, offering behind the scenes opportunities to view the artists’ creative spaces, where and how they work to produce the final outcomes which are on show. 

Working in oil on canvas, Bella Bigsby combines tangible elements of the world around her with an imagined nature drawn from memories and a love of the magical nature of myth and fairytale. Living and working in America for a number of years allowed Bella to hone in on her memories of her childhood home, helping shape her depictions of the Norfolk landscape, through emotional reflection and memory. Nature, animals and birds hold an air of familiarity, Bella is intrigued by how they are infused with layers of human history as well as their own unknowable narratives.

Claire Coles creates decorative surface patterns utilising a range of textile based processes such as appliqué and free machine embroidery along with painting and print, in her interpretation and documentation of her rural surroundings. Using silks, gold leaf, faux leather and suedes, Claire brings flora and fauna to life in her textural, collaged pieces. Nature is crucial to Claire, she uses her work to demonstrate the calming qualities it can inspire, highlighting its powerful replenishing nature. 

As an observational artist Kate O’ Grady responds naturally to her surroundings with careful observation to create veiled abstraction. Her interest is in the mark making and creating a sense of space. Working with mixed media, Kate believes that the honesty of the materials and process is paramount; the beauty she seeks to create usually happens by chance. It is the act of creation that is as important as the result for Kate. 

Joy Miller talks about her work, “My surroundings inspire me; the Norfolk landscapes, nature, seasons, colour & ever changing light. It’s all there in my work.” After an art foundation, Joy trained and worked as a textile designer and following a lengthy hiatus started painting again in a zoom class during lockdown and hasn’t stopped since. Exploring surface design, anything that catches Joys eye then flows out of her brush, squeegee, pencil or chalk. Some of her designs are printed onto silk, others onto paper; “I’m never really sure where something will take me but that’s all part of the fun I guess, immersing myself in a world of colour and patter”.