Amongst the concrete and steel of Regency Square lies a door. A pink door that over looks the rest of the square and the West Pier. 33 Regency Square, aka Artist Residence Hotel and Gallery, home to an eccentric exhibition by Brighton based artist, Kate Shields. Kate has spent the best part of 6 months living in the shadows of a basement room as the ‘Artist in residence’, musing and painting with her only friends – a paint brush and a luke warm cup of miso soup. It just goes to show that through darkness comes light.
The exhibition consists of portraits on wood, each one is visually dream like, the effect of the oil paint on wood giving the images a fuzzy look, as though some of them are seen through a thin haze of smoke. They are off beat creations, like their subjects, a mixture of writers, artists and performers, the work as a whole brings together the more unconventional and refreshing types you might stumble across. Being in the space, especially when the sun has gone down, really gives the sensation of being in a woodland, surrounded by a mix of impish and beautiful faces with their small animal friends. There is also ‘The Tree of Secrets‘, which sits enigmatically in a corner, daring you to take a peep.
What really brings the portraits to life, for me personally, are the eyes. Kate has cleverly managed to capture thought in the eyes, which burst with content and enthusiasm. A lot of portraits can often come across as drab and wooden, but the only thing wooden about these, is the canvas.
Laura and Unicorn is a perfect example, and is one of my personal favourites. It is oil and gold leaf, on reclaimed wood and as Kate says, is ‘the rarest species of them all‘. There is a sense of mischief and shyness in the expression, which is captured perfectly. The paintings really seem as though they could be static ghosts, who could become animated at any moment.
I think that the exhibition space could have been put to full use. I think it would have felt like a total emersion experience, being able to walk in and sit and drink tea or eat breakfast amongst Kate’s non judging circle of friends. However, the opening area is small, rounded, organic and cosy, illuminated in a warm glow with dried flowers hanging from the ceiling like a garnish, bringing out the full flavour and potential of the pieces. The exhibition is polished off nicely by the large The 5 muses oil on wood, which features 5 of Kate’s models. Big things really do come in small packages, and Kate Shields’ work is no exception, and she’s ‘just very happy with it!’.
So if you’re having a wander by West Pier or wanting to kick back with a light beverage, the Artist Residence Hotel’s warm and friendly staff are more than happy to cater to your needs. The exhibition space is open from 9am – 9pm, and personally, I think it reaches it’s full potential just as it gets dark outside, and best of all, it’s FREE (tea being the exception, of course). There is a selection of prints and paintings available for sale, and also ‘secrets’, just ask in the reception for assistance.
(Exhibition open until 27/08/12)