Chichester artist offers one-day show in aid of St Paul's

Chichester artist Anthony Freeman is offering a one-day art exhibition and sale of paintings, with all proceeds going to the St Paul’s Renewed Building Fund.

Anthony Freeman - Chichester from North-West
Anthony Freeman - Chichester from North-West

The exhibition is on Saturday, July 31 from 10.30am-4.30pm at St Paul’s Church Parish Centre, Churchside, Chichester PO19 6FT, with light refreshments available all day.

Anthony explains: “In retirement I now help out at St Paul’s Chichester and St Peter’s Westhampnett.

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“Back in the late 1970s I was the second priest to minister at the then new church of St Wilfrid in Parklands, and before that as a boy in Chichester in the 1950s I worshipped at the cathedral and at St George’s Whyke. So I’ve been about a bit in the Chichester churches!

“I love to paint because it is so absorbing. No matter how good or bad the outcome, the activity itself embraces you and leaves no space for outside anxieties or worries.

“My granny had taught me to paint before I went to school, and I passed art O-level, but only in my 40s, as vicar of a country parish, did I take it up again. Watercolour painting just fitted the role, and we had a lovely lady in the parish who ran a weekly group for mostly retired amateurs. In summer we went outdoors and painted local buildings and landscapes. Other times we met in her house and did still-life and portraits and imaginary scenes. The subject did not matter: it got me painting again.

“Then I moved, and without the support of the group I just gave up. Too many other things demanding my time. I was determined to start again when I retired, and with encouragement from the St Paul’s Art Group in Chichester, painting along with gardening are my main activities. Everyone in the group says the same: painting is a solitary occupation, but without the stimulus of the group, we just don’t have the motivation.

“The lockdown could have been a disaster, but we kept the group together with weekly Zoom meetings. We set ourselves a subject every week and shared the results of our labours online. I found that the imposed isolation gave me precious time to expand beyond watercolour and be more ambitious with acrylics and even oils.

“I began with watercolour because it is relatively cheap and unfussy and because it is finished quickly, and I lack the patience for a long drawn out project. But the downside of watercolour is that it is a transparent medium with nowhere to hide any mistakes.

“Acrylics and oils are opaque, so false starts can be painted over. I am lucky to have a study/studio to myself where I can leave half-finished work undisturbed.

“My favourite subjects are still buildings in landscapes, and I have a lot of pictures of local churches and of course Chichester Cathedral. These are mostly straightforward depictions that I suppose express my character—meticulous, cautious, careful—but occasionally I do something a bit wilder.

“These are usually acrylics, which I find give me more freedom because part of me doesn’t treat them as proper painting at all.

“One example started off as a silhouette of Bamburgh Castle and ended up as a fire and smoke-filled depiction of the sack of nearby Lindisfarne by the Vikings. Another is a fiery coloured expression of Goodwood’s Festival of Speed—the kind of event that holds no attraction for me whatsoever.

“Then there is what I call my forger’s corner where I copy details of famous paintings that I admire—Manet, Renoir, van Gogh—and most ambitiously Caravaggio’s Meal at Emmaus. The contrasts of light and dark are fantastic. I said that the activity is more important than the outcome, but it is always pleasing to have one’s work admired, and friends have been very kind about these particular efforts.

“It is also always a boost when people buy your paintings.

"The St Paul’s Art Group used to hold an annual exhibition in the Old Kitchen at the Bishop’s Palace, and we used to sell quite a lot of work, but that venue is no longer available to us. So this year we have produced a Calendar for 2022 in memory of one of our longstanding members who died in March, a month shy of her 90th birthday. Copies are being sold in aid of Sage House, run by Dementia Support at Tangmere.

“Sometimes my priestly and artistic sides overlap. In 2018 I was asked to paint something for St Paul’s Church, commemorating the centenary of the end of WWI. It’s a three-section acrylic painting on wood that fits into the wooden arches under the altar. Then at Christmas I used the backs of the three boards to paint a backdrop to our nativity figures. Both sets have been re-used each year since.

“My first exhibition and sale of art for charity was held at St Paul’s in 2018, in aid of BEATS (a local educational charity set up in the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia a decade ago). That was followed up by one at St Peter’s church, Westhampnett, in aid of parish funds. This month’s for the St Paul’s Renewed development will be my third. Part of me hates the presumption of asking people to pay good money for amateur work that is really only done for my own pleasure. But then I tell myself that nobody is being forced to buy the stuff, and if they do then it is all in a good cause.”