Welcome to Red Mud Arts Connecting, supporting and co-creating

The Art Box

A monthly column opening up conversations around the arts.

A new art column in the Roundabout, the parish magazine for North Tawton, Honeychurch, Bondleigh and Sampford Courtenay, designed to open up the conversation around the arts. Contributions welcome!

If you would like to contribute, please email ruth@ruthsmithgallery.co.uk.
February 2024 -

Gallery Musings – a jaunt to Penzance and Newlyn’sStorm Warning

This winter I went to an exhibition split between Penzance’s The Exchange and Newlyn Art Gallery. It was an exhibition on, of course, climate change… and amongst other things, it got me thinking about the role of art and science. Being an artist and husband being a climate scientist it was quite a good exhibition for us to go round together. It was interesting that husband’s favourite piece was a bit debatable on the ‘art front’, though absolutely not on the ‘science front’. It was a well-researched and well-communicated documentary on what coastal communities are doing about the climate crisis where they are. I too thought it was fantastic, and I gave it the most time of all the works in the show (partly due to its long format) but I wasn’t really sure what it was doing in a gallery. It was certainly artistic, and in some ways I believe anything is art if someone says it is (that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ‘good’) but this piece was very ‘educational’. Is the place of art to educate? I think its job is to ‘bring to light’, but should art ‘tell’ or ‘make think’?

My favourite piece was much more open to interpretation. An army locker type arrangement with camo-clad mastic-guns stacked like rifles on a stainless-steel rack. In-between them, laid out on a table, was a detailed map of a small section of coast with a clear plan of action. After a bit of reading, it became apparent that the ‘guns’ were full of sea grass seed in a type of natural cement that people have been using to plant under water in appropriate coastal locations. Husband and I chuckled and said ‘sticks most stones’ which is in the small print of the miraculous CT1 which you can use underwater.

This new understanding of what it was I was looking at shone a new light onto the camouflage. Suddenly it was not wolf in sheep’s clothing, but actually an attempt to blend in and be in harmony with nature. The army-type badge which at first glance appears like crossed guns, suddenly makes sense as two harmless and life-filled seeded-paste mastic-guns with sea grass flowing from the nozzles. In the context of our terrible wars, with people against people, this makes far more sense as a battle to unite us in caring for one another and the planet, bringing life instead of destruction.

Was it educational? It certainly took my thoughts on a journey, but did it excite me more to make my own connections through its strange poetry? Yes it did.

-       Ruth Smith 2024

Image: embroidered badge, a detail of
Costal Defence – seeds, spores, spats and sausages, 2023
By Something and Son (Andy Merritt and Paul Smyth)

December/January 23/24 -

As we enter the season of woolly jumpers and wet windy welly walks, here’s a few Autumn events and updates at Red Mud Arts.

We haven’t got another Gathering planned this side of Christmas BUT we DO have a Spoken Word, Poetry and Storytelling Evening Sunday 19th November at The Copper Key. We’ll be gathering for drinks and chat beforehand as a warm up of something we’ll be starting from the New Year, the last Sunday of every month, 4-6pm at The Copper Key, North Tawton. An informal relaxed space to gather regularly and share how it’s all been going. Sometimes working as an artist can be isolating and often it’s a job with no colleagues, so this is a chance to meet up with people in the same boat, to share the highs and lows and reflect on how the month has gone. It would be amazing to see you there!

Open Mics continue every 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7.30 at The Copper Key. It was pretty special to have guest poet, S’Phongo all the way from Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone at a recent Open Mic Night, as part of a tour of the UK with his poetry. If you missed it, head over to the Facebook page where you can find a short video.

Artist Crit Group continues every 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month, 7-9pm. Email ruth.helen.smith@outlook.com if you’d like to join!

Life drawing on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month, 7-9pm at the Community Centre has taken a short pause, but please get in touch if you’d be interested in joining as we’ll be starting it up again soon. Email ruth.helen.smith@outlook.com.

We’d like to extend a massive thank you to Durant Trust for approving our recent application for funding. We can’t wait to share more about this and get to work in putting it to great effect in inspiring and encouraging creativity in North Tawton!

Till then,
Red Mud Arts team

November 2023 -

In Oct 2021 I popped into the Ruth Smith Gallery for the first time. Having recently moved to the area and a gallerist myself, it was one of my first port of calls. I was met with the warmest of welcomes by a friendly artist, happy to chat and pass the time of day - I knew instantly that this gallery was a special place. Ruth’s vision for arty inclusivity for the whole community was evident in that first meeting, and her gallery is about so much more than art. Since that first meeting she has gone on to champion and help establish Red Mud Arts. See Octobers Art Box for more information.

As a new resident to North Tawton, I’ve been struck by how friendly the community is here. I’ve been welcomed and included by other creatives and residents of the town, in a way that isn’t always forthcoming everywhere. From Devon Artist Network, to Open Mic events at the Copper Key, it’s obvious this small community has a huge breadth of talent nestled within it. Working as an artist can at times be quite isolating, so to have this kind of community support is a real gift.

It is great to have had opportunities to connect with the local primary school, and the Red Mud artist meet-ups and critique groups. I’ve also been asked to join in with some local art exhibitions this autumn and winter too. Drawn By Nature is a show with 3 other artists; Janet Jarvis, Jo Purdue & Celia Olsson. All of us are visual artists, inspired by nature, the local landscape and it’s botanical bounty. The exhibition takes place on 11th & 12th of November at North Tawton Bowls Club between 11am - 4.30pm. It would be wonderful to meet you, so do pop along to say hello, and see what we’ve all been creating recently.

Then during December I will be moving my studio practice to the Ruth Smith Gallery. As a multi media artist, I’ve worked on a variety of mediums over the years. From tiny illustrated ceramics to large scale digital billboard type designs. I trained as an illustrator, and enjoy creating images in their many forms. I’m particularly inspired by the link between art and craft. My next collection of work will include the gentle art of quilt making, perfect for those long winter nights.

Within this theme I’m exploring Devon Folklore, local tales and fables, and would love to hear from anyone with a local story to share. My hope is to produce a series of linocut images, that I can print onto textiles to create my quilts.

If any of this is of interest to you, or you think you may like to get involved with more art locally, please come along to the Ruth Smith Gallery this December. I will be opening up the studio space on Wednesday mornings (6th, 13th & 20th) for coffee, biscuits and friendly chats between 10am -12noon. It would be great to meet you, it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel you’re creative, just a chat and a coffee is all you need to enjoy. If the events are well attended, we will spill over the road to Jen’s Café, and maybe grab a minced pie too!

So I look forward, and hope to meet more of you soon.
Kindest wishes,
Emmeline (artist and resident of North Tawton)

October 2023 -

One winter evening several years ago, where we used to live, some forty neighbours joined us for a ‘bring-and-share’ gathering. But it wasn’t just food we were sharing! It was talents and skills and resources! We’d discovered that many of our neighbours didn’t really know each other. So we’d looked for a way of helping them connect and feel part of a community. People were soon offering everything from how to use a potter’s wheel to coaching in English and French, hedge-cutting to curtain-making! Mutual support started happening!

Red Mud Arts is encouraging a similar sharing approach. Starting last year at the first Red Mud Arts get-together, this continued at a recent Red Mud Arts event at the Taw Valley Brewery, with people posting their ideas, offerings and requests on large boards. Offerings range from music theory to paper supplies, from bass playing to theatre workshops!

A synopsis of the creative-related ideas, skills and resources is now on the Red Mud Arts website: www.redmudarts.co.uk. Scroll down and click on the ‘Ideas Boards’ box! If there are talents and resources you’d like to add, please email the details to redmudarts@gmail.com . We can add these in, and then try to connect providers and requesters.

Recently a Red Mud Arts Facebook group was also set up to enable creatives to share and connect more directly with each other. Please do head over to ‘Red Mud Arts – Community Group’ and join it. It’s been wonderful to see it so busy with creative comings and goings already.

Creativity can enrich lives and bring joy, wonder, and new perspectives. Our hope is that by helping people to share talents, skills, resources and ideas in the creative sphere, Red Mud Arts can further encourage a strong sense of community and mutual support locally among established creatives, emerging talent, and those who like to support the arts.

Susi & Rob (local residents and co-founders of Red Mud Arts)

September 2023 -

Sunday 6th August saw a kind of first birthday for Red Mud Arts, with its fourth gathering. About 60 of us ambled up to Taw Valley Brewery for a sunny afternoon filled with live music, top-notch beer and an opportunity to skill-swap and bounce around ideas for future events. There was a pleasant symmetry with our first gathering, hosted at The Old Rectory about a year ago, where there were boards, pens, and paper, for people to suggest needs and ideas for what we could all help get off the ground. It was nice to reflect on what suggestions have been set in motion by those attending North Tawtonians over the last year: open mic nights, regular meet-ups for visual artists, spoken word evenings, youth arts events, folk nights, a dark room, cinema club… This time, everything felt bigger by about double, and it is exciting to see momentum building! Suggestions on this year’s (much bigger) boards saw more specific professional help needed and offered, and more ambitious ideas suggested (was that a ‘Mid-Devon Minack’ I saw?) There will always be more ideas than actually happen, but together we can definitely see more of them come to fruition, so let’s get together and do something really cool in North Tawton! Who knows what could happen. Let’s change the world!

If you would like to be involved in the exciting creative happenings buzzing around North Tawton and Red Mud, then please do get in touch and ask to be put on our mailing list to be kept in the loop.

Here’s to whatever’s next!


(North Tawton artist, do-er of Ruth Smith Gallery and co-do-er of Red Mud Arts)

August 2023 -

A hot, steep, uphill walk through a field of rattle clattering at my heels to the tune of birdsong brought me to Ashridge Great Barn, already humming with excited conversation and filled with art works. I’d arrived at Red Mud Arts’ exhibition. On two levels, large and small artworks were displayed prompting admiration and earnest discussion about techniques, skills and topics. Refreshments and cake contributions fuelled the talk as friends and strangers mingled, drawn in by a common interest in arts. ‘How do you work with green?’ ‘Why don’t you sign your paintings?’ were among the questions after each artist had spoken about their work and I left with my head buzzing with ideas and feeling good about the two weeks ahead of me. I am in North Tawton as the first of three Summer Artists in Residence awarded by the Ruth Smith Gallery. Creating new opportunities for artists like me, and those in Red Mud Arts, often begins with a few like-minded individuals discovering each other and recognising shared aims.

Supporting each other, developing friendships and building networks of contacts establishes a presence in your local community but it doesn’t need to stop there. Too often ownership of ‘The Arts’ is claimed exclusively by establishment institutions and organisations but the reality of art is that it is everywhere, created and generated by us within our communities; we make art part of our everyday lives, often without realising we are doing it. The carefully chosen hand painted signs above our shops & premises, the things we have in our homes, the sewing and crafting we do together in pub rooms and community halls and the gathering of like-minded folk sharing in the successes of others at exhibitions, open mic nights and performances. Sharing what you can do, learning from others, reaching out beyond your boundaries, is rewarding and making work alongside and in the company of others makes for happy lives. Thank you Ruth and Noah, and North Tawton for your friendly welcome and making my visit so fulfilling – my story of the town in stained glass will be full of joyous memories.

Jane Vincent, glass artist and academic, and resident artist at Ruth Smith Gallery (24th June – 9th July 2023).

July 2023 -

With this year’s Government decision to slash arts funding by half in higher education, it has become even more imperative for rural communities to keep local creativity alive – and not just alive but attractive, enticing, and vibrant.

The effects of the internet – that silent stalker of young minds – which can influence the way youngsters think, feel, and communicate, can also be kept in check by the arts. While modern technology can make our lives easier, research shows an excessive reliance can insidiously dull sensitivities and dampen creativity – the very cornerstones of artistic appreciation.

Old-fashioned boredom – a frequent precursor to creativity in the young – no longer exists. Reaching repeatedly for one’s smartphone can help keep the imagination behind bars. And who knows how the looming prospect of dependence on artificial intelligence will affect the brains of future generations of young adults?

As our local primary school is now putting mental health tuition on its curriculum, encouraging active creativity is even more important. Adults too need it in their lives – and now with the NHS in crisis, there is an even greater need to be more self-reliant on our own healing therapies.

To produce something from nothing or to appreciate another person’s artistic creation, is not only rewarding but nourishing too. It feeds the soul – be it with music, theatre, paint, clay, fabric, or plain old words moulded into poetry and creative writing.

Red Mud Arts aims to provide just this. The dedicated core of people behind the project are brimming with ideas to make the arts more accessible, especially to younger members of our community. The group has achieved much over the last year in formulating their plans and establishing their presence, so now is the time to support their future ventures in whatever way we can.

RMA supporter Anne Wilby, North Tawton.

June 2023 -

I agree with Arran Hawkins (May Roundabout) that poetry may be considered ‘niche’ and that it really shouldn’t be this way. Sadly, the problem stretches beyond poetry.  Many forms of art - literature, poetry, visual art, music - have the capacity to be intimidating.  What’s needed is an easy means of handling them, so that we can enjoy the experience. First, we need to rid ourselves of the idea that a piece of art must have ‘a meaning’ and that it is our job as receivers or consumers of art, to find it.  This is just not so.  People sometimes say that poetry belongs to those who need it. I think that is a good way of thinking about art.  Once a poem or a painting, or any piece of art is launched onto the world by its originator, in whatever form, it becomes the possession of those with whom it comes in contact.  It is the same when we hold our own views on a whole host of things.  We are looking for understanding and appreciation - what something means for us - not trying to guess what was in the mind of the creator. Over the years, (and thanks to a creative colleague) I have found the following technique handy when approaching art of most kinds.  I’d like to sketch out this approach here, hoping that you too might find it of use. There are just four questions to ask oneself.

1)            How does this poem, picture, sculpture, piece of music etc., make me feel? Does it make me feel happy, sad, angry, excited or even none of those (‘none’ is OK)?  The important thing is to acknowledge one’s feelings.

2)            How has the creator of this piece of art made me feel this?  What techniques within the particular discipline have been applied and have affected my feelings?  So, in poetry it could be the rhythm of the words, the length of the lines or the actual sound of the poem as a whole.  Does it seem soothing, excited, menacing etc?  All forms of art have their own ways of communicating, but you don’t need to be an expert to appreciate them. What is important is self-awareness of how your emotions have been affected and why.  Doing this puts us in control of the process – gives us confidence as we begin to be a part of the art process itself.  The famous art historian, Ernst Gombrich, called this ‘the beholder’s share’.

3)            What other things is it possible to find out about this artist, writer, painter or poet?  A quick look around the gallery, programme or a poke around on Google, will probably reveal interesting information about other work… created before or after the piece that you are considering.  All this may have a bearing on what you think, or how you feel, about this creator.

4)            Finally, taking these points together, what does this piece of art mean for you?  Is it passingly pleasant, unpleasant, or perhaps so profound you know you will return to it in your life, again and again?

I’d be glad to know if this works for you.

Dr Peter Brickley, North Tawton resident, formerly a tutor with the Open University.

May 2023 -

There is a certain pretense that comes with the word POETRY. A pretense that is most often regarded in a negative light. Poetry is 'niche'. Poetry is 'pretentious'. Poetry is 'intellectual'. Poetry is for professors of literature and word-nerds, angsty teens that will 'grow-out-of-it' and older folk who 'need a hobby'. It's not for regular people, surely?

               Well, I'm here to tell you that view is wrong. (How pretentious is THAT?!) Poetry IS for everyone. Anyone can write it, and I guarantee that everyone can get something out of it. What is poetry, really, other than song lyrics without the music? Rap without the beat? A story told in rhyme?

               My love of poetry came at an early age. My mum used to write stories and poems to read to my sisters and me. They were about things we could relate to. The fairy tale worlds that inhabited the wallpaper that graced my sister’s room. Staring up the nose of our dentist as he delved painfully about our gaping mouths. Being pirates and adventurers on the high Cornish seas. It was less Dylan Thomas, more Pam Ayers. But it was ours.

               My introduction to 'grown-up' poetry came during my angst-ridden teen years, and the discovery of Henry Rollins self-published poems of his touring years with Black Flag and Rollins Band. This muscle-head, heavily tattooed punk rocker from the crime-riddled streets of downtown Los Angeles was far removed from my experience growing up in a quiet Cornish town, yet his words spoke to me, and inspired me to start putting pen to paper.

               So I started writing. And I started to search out more poets. Keats and Whitman, and Edgar Allen Poe. Sylvia Plath and Thomas Hardy. Heck, even Spike Milligan and John Hegley! Philip Larkin's 'This Be The Verse' blew me away, and is still one of my favorites. (Go check it out! It's great!) Songwriting lyricists such as Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave galvanized poetry as popular culture to me. And of course, the master himself, Charles Bukowski, who, truth be told, I cannot ever get enough of.

               Cut to 30 years later, and I'm still writing, from my home in the town where Ted Hughes lived. My words were never to be shared, with anyone. And yet share them I did. First with my partner. Then with my best friend. And they in turn persuaded me to share them with our community. You see, that pretense that inexplicably goes with the word POETRY had polluted my view too. If I read these, I'm pretentious, and people will hate it. But I did. And they didn't. The feedback was fantastic. And people got things out of my words that I hadn't realized were even in there.

               It's become a bit of an addiction now, sharing my work, with friends and strangers alike. And enjoying hearing the work of others read aloud. I've been attending as many spoken word and poetry events as I can find in the local area. And I started a spoken word evening of my own, to showcase local Devon poets and writers and give them a platform here in North Tawton. Our first event last month was packed full, with a diverse range of readers, and a fantastically supportive audience, and people have been asking when the next one will be. Soon, I promise.

               Poetry may always be considered 'niche', but it really doesn't have to be this way. So for all those of you reading this who have never been to a spoken word event, or who write, but have never considered sharing it out loud, I urge you to get in touch, and come and join the next LEND ME YOUR EARS spoken-word, poetry and storytelling night at The Copper Key in North Tawton.

Arran R. Hawkins, North Tawton resident, writer, performer, artist and one of Red Mud Arts’ co-founders.

For more info or to get involved, email: lend.me.your.ears.2023@gmail.com.

April 2023 -

It was a fine Sunday afternoon in Iddesleigh, with a spotless cerulean sky and nothing but sun-warmed green stretching out to the crisp shoulders and hips of Dartmoor lying against the blue. The concert we’d just witnessed was nothing short of magical. Poems by Ted Hughes read by Carol Hughes, by Sean Rafferty read by Clare Morpurgo and by Michael Morpurgo read by himself, interspersed with chamber music played by Kerenza Peacock, Josh Michaels, Steve Doman, and Joe Roberts. One particularly powerful poem Michael read to their clear and heartfelt music was about the yew tree just outside the church whose deep ancient wisdom reminded us that ‘to be is enough’. On leaving, we paid our respects to the tree, and to the memorial of James Ravilious, the great photographer who captured rural life in these parts. I’m struck by the incredible artistic wealth here, its deep connection to a sense of place, and how clearly these creative friendships have galvanised and inspired one another’s work. It makes me excited about the artistic friendships I have here and reminds me how important it is to encourage and build each other up. We have some strong shoulders to stand on.
Ruth Smith, 27th February 2023

March 2023 -

In my early 30’s I put myself through a traditional art training in Italy. The first two years are about training the eye to see and the hand to comply. It’s methodical, the same as how a musician develops their ear and fingers or a cook develops their taste. This is very different to UK art universities where I believe you are taught to capture ideas, feelings and be impulsive.  There is definitely place for both schools of thought in this world. I believe that really looking, over time, enables us to question and understand. It’s very easy to ‘see’ a bird - our brain classifies it as bird and forgets - yet Darwin changed our theory of evolution by looking. Maybe this is more important today as phones provide click bait, pop songs are designed to have us hooked in the first 10 seconds and attention spans are shortening. Portrait painting from life takes a great amount of time from the sitter. The painter will however notice changes throughout the sitting, the way the light hits, if they are tired, happy, you can see the colour fill or drain out the skin, the posture change and you get to know the character. Oil paint allows you to paint multiple translucent versions of your sitter’s personality to create depth. Rembrandt was the master of this. Sargent wanted his paintings to look fresh, but still spent the same duration painting, then each day scraped off the paint until he captured the sum of all of those sittings. Humanity is timeless. For the viewer, artwork hung on the wall changes, we notice new subtilties, it talks us over time as we age and have different experiences under our belt.

Gemma Quickenden. To see Gemma’s work, visit www.gemmaquickenden.com

February 2023 -

Watercolour Investigations: Prussian Blue – Emma at Art Scribe, North Tawton’s watercolour makers.

The deep midnight colour of Prussian Blue has an interesting story. From dyeing the Prussian army uniform to starring in many iconic works of art from Hokusais' Great Wave to Picassos' Blue Period.

Prussian Blue has always been a much loved colour in my palette. Surprisingly to me, not everyone shares this love. Here are some reactions people gave when I excitedly announced we were adding it to our range of watercolour paints: “It's very staining”, “that's a hard colour to work with” and even; “I wouldn’t give it the time of day!” Well we did give it the time of day, many hours in fact.

Hand mulling is a traditional paint making process that suspends coloured pigments with a binder. It's a methodical, hands-on approach that allows us to become connected with the unique characteristics of the pigments therefore allowing us to add more colour, tweak the binder or control how much we mull. As Reg mulled Prussian Blue, I became mesmerised by the deep dark blue pigment as it changed from powder to paste then into the paint that flowed out across the glass slab in increasing circular movements. Like a black and magical mirror, the depth of the colour reflected back the room and ourselves, while streaks of brilliant electric blue shone through.

Eagerly I set about exploring what our freshly made Prussian Blue watercolour paint could do. My initial instinct was to work it with minimal dilution and use it over subtle yellows and bright greens to allow them to pop through the midnight blue-black and give contrast. I threw salt crystals upon the wet surface in order for abstract stars to appear. I worked wet on wet, dropping Prussian Blue into pools of Hansa Yellow to watch it creep and blend organically. When diluted with water, Prussian is a pale, cool greeny blue.

I then explored some more deliberate and formal colour mixing. The results were beautifully subtle and delightfully surprising. For the deepest darks you can't go wrong with adding Prussian to the mix. Try mixing Prussian with a Deep Crimson Red for dark shadows. When mixed with yellows and greens your green palette will expand a hundred fold! Depending on the yellow you use, Prussian mixes both vivid and earthy greens perfect for painting foliage. Skies and seascapes become atmospheric with interesting granulating effects when mixed with Graphite Black or Burnt Umber as greys, teals and earthy browns are produced. It’s worth going slowly though, Prussian Blue is indeed staining, so it can dominate a palette if you add too much. It can also leave interesting and subtle watermarks if you try to lift it once it’s laid down. Bear these factors in mind and Prussian Blue will reward you with a diverse and exciting colour and tonal range.

Prussian Blue will continue to be a favourite in my palette and I recommendexploring its qualities if you haven’t already. Finally, I invite the sceptics to give it another go and embrace its (magical) power!

Visit our website: artscribe.uk to learn more about our traditionally made watercolour paints and to see our full colour range available to buy, and follow us on Instagram: artscribe.uk

Emma Allan, co-founder of Art Scribe

January 2023 -


It’s easy to think that art is periphery, an unnecessary luxury, that it is unhelpful, it doesn’t do anything, and that it’s a downright waste of money. Consciously or subconsciously this seemingly logical conclusion is reached by many, but here’s what they miss:

Art is ‘useful’ on many levels. It unites, it mobilises, it inspires, it documents, it questions, it critiques. However, I would go further to say that art is necessary, and it is necessary precisely because it is unnecessary. Call me a dreamer, but is there not more to life than keeping warm, dry and fed? If that makes you suspicious of me sounding like an overly comfortable slug, unsympathetic to those who are only just holding on, then consider how the greatest art movements have been born out of the deepest struggles. Maybe this shows how much more important art is in times of dire need, and less meaningful to those who have it all. Art plugs us into what it is to be human and creates a space in which to share the full breadth of this experience. In homage to the author bell hooks (name in lower case) at London Art Fair this year, the gallery Aleph Contemporary pondered how the subjective realm of feeling is a universal language shared by all. Being human is so much more than survival and the accumulation of possessions. It is about experiences of joy, connection, love, sorrow, peace, fear, anger and compassion.

Contemporary Art is an expression of this human experience in relation to the here and now. It breaks through utilitarian biases and connects us in an open and free-thinking way to the present, involving us in a dialogue in which we can partake. This makes it empowering and therefore dangerous to power structures. It is no wonder that authoritarian regimes have historically clamped down on ‘degenerate’ art. Art is a protest against this and proclaims freedom.

Contemporary Art is relevant, current, exciting, important and engages us in what it is to be human now. We make history, which is why we must participate in the present.

- Ruth Helen Smith, June 2022.  An article written originally by Ruth for Aleph Contemporary in the summer.

December 2022 -


Olga Brereton at Ruth Smith Gallery, 15 November - 4 December

Olga Brereton infuses her work with light and air. You can almost walk between the layers of brushstrokes in the landscapes and wriggle your hands through the stems of her botanical drawings, with their sinuous yet hesitant and careful winding lines. Despite their meandering quality it is clear that their drawer knows about plants and their individual structures. The 'structure within anarchy' as she described, and the free handling of ink and paint coming together to create a cohesive whole is testament.

Olga as a child would play with her grandfather's gold chain, lowering it onto the tabletop to create infinite configurations. It seems that there her fascination with line began. The ability of line to mean something has fascinated us for millennia, and its potential to create an idea of space on a flat surface has been central to art since it began. Olga's paintings and drawings are an equal marriage between the flat abstract quality of the marks, and the sense of space and subject that they depict. One can flit freely between enjoying the formal design of the work to the flowers and landscapes they describe.

Olga's work goes further still. Not only can one enjoy the slippage between abstract and figurative, but it also feels as though one can slip between the marks themselves. Olga makes use of the white ground, be it paper or canvas, to shine through thin layers of paint and line drawings to create a light airiness to her work. It is possible to imagine the marks sliding off their support, like the gold chain off the table, and to be able to walk between the lines.

- Ruth Smith, November 2022.


To bring together creatives to socialise, support and co-create, and pursuing venue opportunities for an arts hub.
Who are we?

A collective in North Tawton who recognise the need for creative community. On the team is: Cathy Page, Ruth Smith, Rob Harris, Arran Hawkins, Susi Kirkwood, Sue Gray and Nigel Davies.