Art exhibition in celebration of Denmans Garden

Watercolour artist Jo Dowers will the share the fruits of her year-long residency at Denmans Garden in a new exhibition running until December 22.
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“I hope it will be uplifting,” Jo said. “I hope that it will bring some joy. The paintings are not necessarily representations of the garden. They are feelings of the garden. They are impressions of the garden and I hope that people might be able to see their own gardens in them rather than just thinking ‘Oh, that's Denmans.’”

From pieces showing fine detail to that of a more abstract, looser style, the exhibition will reflect how Jo has chosen to represent the shape and texture so striking in the garden; the challenges of working in abstract and the central intention of evoking a memory of the place and spaces within it without relying on a literal representation. The exhibition A Sussex Garden – Reflections of an Artist’s Year at Denmans Garden (10am to 4pm, free entry to the show in the Garden’s Midpines Café) marks the culmination of Jo’s time spent documenting Denmans as the venue’s second-ever artist in residence, following on from the first Sue England.

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“I visited Denmans Garden about four years. I had just started giving art workshops. I've always painted. I did my fine art degree in the 1980s at Leicester Polytechnic and I had a great three years there. I worked in retail for many years but I always painted and sketched and exhibited and then I started teaching. Actually I first started teaching my neighbours. And then I had an exhibition where I had to give a workshop as part of the exhibition at Littlehampton Museum many moons ago. And then about four years ago I just began to grow and grow with it all and now I'm full time. My teaching takes up quite a lot of my time so it's always a question of balancing that with my painting time.

Jo Dowers (contributed pic)Jo Dowers (contributed pic)
Jo Dowers (contributed pic)

“Sue was the first artist in residence at Denmans and I went to see Gwendolyn (van Paasschen, chairman of the John Brookes-Denmans Foundation) at Denmans and asked would there be any chance of me following in Sue's footsteps. I had not done a great deal of plein air sketching for a while and the idea was just to go in and sketch. And there is just so much there – so much that you have to be selective otherwise you can be overwhelmed. I love the work of Ivon Hitchens – and he said ‘Don't try to find a picture. Find a place you love and discover the picture in that.’ And that thought kept me going. You feel that you want to try to paint everything in the garden but obviously you can't. You just have to find what inspires you as an artist.”

The paintings span the year: “But actually in October when I first started sketching the weather was just so beautiful that the sketches look almost summerish. There is a little wooded area where I used to like to sit, hidden away. I like being hidden away when I'm painting, like a little gnome! What attracts me is just the feeling of looking into and looking through.

“I am a watercolour artist. That's my passion but I've also done some acrylics on canvas and, as I say, I just hope that the exhibition will be uplifting.”