Along beyond Weymouth, farther past Bridport, lies the coastal community of Lyme Regis, West Dorset. I remembered it mainly for Richard Austin’s amazing storm photos taken in January 2014, when the entire town seemed endangered. The local events calendar suggested otherwise, offering the Lyme Regis ArtsFest, a combination of Open Studios and sculpture parks spread throughout the community.
The theme is In Transition, which the event’s Artist’s Guide suggests differs from ‘change’: it is intended to capture the moment when ‘it’ is happening.
It begs an intriguing question: Can people change? For a couple of years, I’ve been adding topical articles into a Transitions collection in Pocket. I think that it is hard for anyone to break habits, perhaps impossible to change their temperament. But I’ve also seen that trauma and failure, life’s figurative storms, do change people. They may swing better or worse afterwards, but they are never the same.
‘good to see what the artist’s take might be. We packed the car and headed west along the coast highway.
Lyme Regis reminds me of Llandudno and the north coast of Wales. The steep pebble beach is bordered by a curving row of pastel guest houses. Ice cream and shellfish restaurants line the promenade, crowded with young families and elderly couples. We browsed the antique shops, walked out along the seawall. It’s all relaxed and leisurely, a nice feel that encourages a sit and a talk on a sunny afternoon.
There’s little evidence of storm damage today. Sections of the harbour look newly concreted, but shopkeepers say that the walls were put into place to prevent the land from subsiding, not to hold the seas back. Everywhere, there are long views of the cliffs along Jurassic shoreline, and the nets and trawlers of the local fishermen.
The arts exhibits were clustered in a few gallery locations and included some nicely original works. I liked Isla Chaney’s organic works, the intersecting curves and the way the captured the light; John Calder’s woodwork sculptures were nice along the cliffs, while Kathie Scott’s misty paintings reminded me of some favorite Whistler works.
The giant bird in the Malhouse and seaglass bowls in the galleries were also lovely. The cascading textile meant to simulate a landslide, the collages, and the plaster impressions were generally less successful in conveying an idea.
Most dealt with natural transitions rather than human ones, although the accompanying sketch books suggested that everyone thought deeply about their contributions.
And, as always, its fascinating to see original works develop as the artists work in front of you. I need to get back to my charcoals and watercolours, ‘see what I might do with the themes myself now that I have a bit more discretionary time.