Tuesday, 09 August 2022

The Real power of art

The Real power of art

LIZ REAL believes in the power of art.

She discovered this during the coronavirus pandemic when the greetings cards she makes became so popular that she now sells them for charity.

Liz, from Caversham, is among 50 artists who have contributed to the Art Works exhibition, which opens at the Old Fire Station Gallery in Henley next Friday.

The show is the 91st annual exhibition to be staged by the Reading Guild of Artists and is designed to show the many benefits of art.

Exhibition secretary Trish Roberts says art not only provides pleasure but brings communities together, inspires people, lifts the spirits and supports good mental health as well as providing social and political commentary.

The exhibition features about 150 paintings, drawings, original prints, sculpture, ceramics and three-dimensional artworks.

Liz, who has previously exhibited at the Caversham Arts Trail, works in mixed media.

At the start of the pandemic she didn’t feel motivated artistically but that changed.

“I didn’t do much very seriously, then, after about a year, I finally got back into it,” she explains.

“I developed a thing at my own place — 12 Longhurst Close, Caversham, which is called Art in the Arbour. It’s basically just a mini-arbour I’ve got in my front garden.

“I’ve always made greetings cards, some of which are reproductions of my work, and in lockdown one or two people got in touch with me and said, ‘I know you make cards, could I buy a card from you because I need to send one to my mum who’s in a nursing home?’ or whatever it was.

“I kept thinking about it — I kind of felt totally helpless and thought, ‘What could I do to help?’ I’d always been interested in supporting Launchpad, which is a Reading charity that works on homelessness prevention, and I thought maybe I could sell cards for them.

“I developed this idea of a pop-up shop/gallery, where I give a percentage to Launchpad when I sell the cards or any art.

“One thing has led to another so, by arrangement, people who know me say, ‘Oh, I want to come and buy some cards’ and I can just pop them out.”

Liz says this has proved so popular that she has expanded and now include items for sale by other artists. She says: “I also instituted this thing called #firstwednesday, where I invite local makers and producers to join me on specific Wednesdays, so it’s a much more formal thing with more interest and a variety of stuff.

“ I’ve done a couple of those this year and I’ve got another one in September.”

Liz’s arbour even has a little “Air bee ’n’ bee” for insects, so is helping the local ecosystem.

She says she’s “a bit of a butterfly” herself as she works in mixed media.

“I do love to experiment with different techniques,” Liz says. “I have so many different ways of working. Some things just come from a technique and then I see something in what I produce. It’s quite wide-ranging, with embroidery, embellishing... I do a lot.”

One of her pieces to be featured in the exhibition is Wittenham Clumps on Castle Hill, a landscape watercolour.

Liz says: “I did some pencil sketching in situ and then came home and translated that into a painting.”

She says the guild enjoys exhibiting in Henley and the Old Fire Station Gallery is “lovely”.

“One reason is because we haven’t got anywhere to exhibit in Reading,” she explains. “There has never been anywhere really.

“We sometimes get the opportunity to exhibit in the museum and in the past we’ve exhibited at the university but there is a great lack of a permanent space for artists in Reading.”

• The Reading Guild of Artists’ 91st annual exhibition, Art Works, is at the Old Fire Station Gallery in Upper Market Place, Henley, from Friday, July 22 to Tuesday, August 2, open from 10am to 4pm daily. For more information, visit www.rga-artists.org.uk

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