Stephen Park

I thought the Art Safari was a triumph.

I seem to remember rather drunkenly gushing about this into Gregs digital sound recorder, and was no doubt a little embarrassing. But I meant it and I can say again that it was a very optimistic event for me for several reasons which I shall try to list below.

Firstly I really enjoyed much of the work, particularly yours and your co-exhibitor who presented the glass harmonica and they worked extremely well together.

Your pictures benefit from being shown together, important qualities are evident that are easier to overlook when seen in isolation. Something about your handling of materials comes into focus.  I told you already I especially like the two newest small painting which employed a thicker paint.  I like the large red structure too.

I also very much enjoyed a couple of Mark Jessets paintings on paper, one of which I thought was particularly delightful.  All the work I have listed above, I was entirely convinced by and I felt it to be authentic in some way, having  a certain toughness in being precisely itself rather than a close approximation of something intended. There is a reason this is fairly rare which is too long and problematic to discuss here. It is not easy to discuss these things without sounding pretentious.

I don’t intend to go through all the work because it would be missing the point to do so. However I was excited about enough of it, and very sympathetic to most of the rest,  and that fact alone was well worth the journey and exceeded my expectations.

Moreover, I was amazed and delighted by the high attendance and the sense of occasion. Its no exaggeration to say that the venues were packed and that there was a collective buzz of enjoyment with the whole event.  It would please me to think that this was to be a regular occurrence, and that this standard could be maintained and that it could grow in size and perhaps be extended in duration.

You have certainly demonstrated that there is a sufficient audience for real art.  I wonder if it could be linked up with Dartmoor Arts in some way?  If you think of any ways in which I can support another Ashburton Festival please let me know.

Warmest regards.


Stephen Felmingham

The New Ashburton Art Festival 2014

On a late summer evening over a hundred people assembled in and outside artspace@57 at the top of East St in Ashburton, with a palpable sense of expectancy in the crowd that something new was about to happen at the opening of the New Ashburton Art Festival’s Contemporary Arts Weekend. Mark Jessett’s work ‘New Kinds of Treasure’ had been installed in the gallery, delicate narrow paper strips carrying bands of intense colour and gold, appearing like some immense effort to combine and sort colour combinations to communicate a mysterious code. As if in response to these enigmatic messages a saxophone began a lively New Orleans style jazz standard and led the crowd down the street, stopping the traffic, to the next venue.

This was the beginning of the Art Safari, a tour led at relaxed intervals by the sax and combining lively conversation, chance meetings, walking and drinking that allowed eight venues to open on the same evening, from a British Legion hut in the churchyard containing Andrew Southall’s uncanny installation of lenses and candles, to Karen Pearson’s well-observed photographs in the Green Ginger Café of her psychogeographical walks around Ashburton. The expectations raised at the beginning of the Safari were thoroughly met as the event went on into the dusk, with a series of critically-positioned, immaculately installed shows that raised the bar in terms of contemporary art practice in the South West to rival that of the other regional centres in Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth.

Highpoints of the evening were Robert Manners and Tim Didymus with their collaborative exhibition at Diligence, where Manner’s unerring formal sense and ability to marshal a range of influences in his paintings, prints and assemblages, from late modernism to naval dockyards, combined with Tim Didymus’s extraordinary sonic intervention with wine glasses that connected on a deep level with the works on the walls. As well, Juliet Middleton-Batts’ sign-written plaques (‘Badge of Honour’) at the St. Lawrence Chapel succeeded in conjuring forth aphorisms and declamations that resonated with the Dartmoor high chapel context she had chosen as her site. In conclusion, the opening and the weekend that followed showed what is possible: a highly successful, thought-provoking and energetic Art Festival that has set a very high standard for next year.

Dr. Stephen Felmingham
Plymouth College of Art



Claire Davies

Not In Isolation

On the Ashburton Art Safari

we jazzed to the saxophonist

and twisted North, East and West

in order to sample artistic delights.

Projections, paintings, collage and sound –

twigs in rainfall and water from abroad;

local libertarians and footfall recorded

from the old wooden bench in town.

These creative endeavours nourished

my senses and made me feel warm

in my shoes.  Or was that the cider,

as we danced, later, in a happy

communion of collaboration!