Archives for posts with tag: Lewes

Since my last exhibition two years ago (Michael Munday: Through Still Life) I’ve been working abstractly, leaving behind (mostly) images of ‘things’. So there are no stories in this exhibition – these paintings are about shape, colour, line, texture and, sometimes, they venture into the third dimension.

They can be divided into two categories: painted before, and after, a recent trip to Kerala, South India. There I was very influenced by the bright colours of houses, clothes, sky, advertising, temples, and of course, something of the iconography of Kerala. But nothing in the paintings is to be taken literally. Here is a selection from the exhibition.

The exhibition is at Martyrs’ Gallery & Project Space, Star Brewery, Lewes BN7 1YJ, UK. It runs from 3-25 June, Thursdays – Sundays, 12-5pm.

All paintings are 40.5 cm square, mixed media on panel, floating, in white frames.





































5 blocks















two lines

I’m showing nine abstract paintings from the last 18 months in a group exhibition, with Liesha Yaz, Marion McConaghie, and Noura Hardy, at Pelham House Hotel, St Andrews Lane, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1UW. Here are some of them. They are all 45cm square, framed in white.

There are no stories here – no narratives to be looked for; these paintings are about shape, colour, line, texture, and sometimes another dimension.
I love contrast: hard/soft, sharp/blurred, controlled/random. I use observation and play, chance and accident, distress and decay.

Among my many influences over the years are William Scott, Ben Nicholson, Antoni Tapies, and Kurt Schwitters. But you probably spotted that.

The exhibition runs from 19 August to the 14 October. Private view on Sunday 21 August, 4-6pm.

tracesTraces (sold)

Still life: for many years a favourite subject. From commissioned illustration way back in the 1970’s and ’80’s (often food) through to today’s paintings, I’ve loved the composition of the domestic. Initially those illustrations were supposed to suggest a concept (those were the days), but the ingredients – jars, bottles, glasses, bits and pieces from around the house – took on their own life. The shapes were enough to work with. The silhouettes became the material. No ‘meaning’. So working with, from, and through still life, came this series of paintings. All were painted over the last eighteen months, through the joy of shape; through observation, play, and accident. These have become progressively more abstract, yet underlying each is the nature of things.

This is an exhibition of a selection from the ongoing series: just ten paintings. Through still life.

Friday 17th to Sunday 19th July, 10am – 6pm. The Stable Gallery, Paddock Art Studios, Paddock Lane, Lewes BN7 1TW.


bonfireYes – the two words go together, like, well… they just go together. Ask any Lewesian or anyone who’s come into Lewes for Bonfire on any 5th of November. It’s the big deal here. The members of the Bonfire Societies work towards the 5th preparing floats, banners, the firework displays, and of course, the costumes.

I’m asked to be a judge of South Street Bonfire Society costume competition, mostly on the basis of having no Bonfire connection at all. I think about what to wear and decide on my best suit out of respect. My fellow judge is the radio producer, David Blount (he knows nothing, too – so we’re impartial, you see).

We watch a parade of members in their costumes – mostly colonial pre- American War of Independence and English Civil War, in different categories: Under 5’s (girls), 5-9 (boys, girls), 10-15 (girls, no boys!) and so on. Great imagination and craft have gone into the making of these costumes, and somehow we have to decide who gets the gold, silver and bronze medals. It’s tough. Young Thomas (4) gets a joint bronze. He chews the ribbon in contemplation of…

The Men’s, the final category, and there are only two contestants. In any normal situation, Benjamin would have won. In his perfectly recreated Civil War musketeer’s costume. But Tony (landlord of The Snowdrop Inn) sashays in as a Time-Travelling Steampunk Medicine Man! I say Tony but he’s hard to recognise: his face has been unzipped and opened out, revealing a ghastly skull encrusted with glittering cogs and wheels and gems, the brim of his topper topped with optician’s instruments and a raven’s wing, his leather-strapped coat writhing with worms of light… on his gauntlet is perched a brass multi-barrelled revolver…  No contest.


dancing men

Oi!  Men!  What is it about you and dancing? (Sorry – I’m addressing too broad an age range here. Let’s narrow it down). You guys – yes, you over 60: you went to the Palais, the Odeon, the Locarno, the Lyceum, the Marquee, the Flamingo, the Twisted Wheel, or wherever, didn’t you? Did you dance to Otis Redding, Georgie Fame, Zoot Money, The Animals, the Rolling Stones, Geno Washington, and to Tamla Motown, Blue Beat, rocksteady? Then in the late Sixties, to psychedelic stuff by Traffic, Floyd, Arthur Brown? Come on – you know you did! In that willowy, hair-swirling, floppyflared style that we called ‘idiot dancing’? Ah – there’s the rub! It’s the ‘idiot dancer’ memory, isn’t it? I sympathise.

(The hard sell: a new 10-week Contemporary Dance course in Lewes for men and women aged 60 and over. Contemporary dance technique and creative exercise. No prior dance experience is necessary; suitable for all abilities, over 60. Mondays, 5.45pm-7.15pm. 23 September – 2 December)

Venue: Cliffe Hall, Cliffe High St, Lewes.
Contact Lauren at South East Dance: 01273 696844 or

Sadly, the guest poet had to cancel, and, in a helpful and completely mad moment, I offered to step in. And now I can’t find my glasses as I’m about to read to seventy-odd children and adults, from a book of Basho’s beautiful haiku. It’s another Lewes Junior Film Club event: the films are poignant and very poetic – The Red Balloon and White Mane, both made in the 50’s by Albert Lamorisse. Before the showing, the kids sit at the tables in All Saints, drawing up storyboards (involving Lewes and – yes – a red balloon) and now (when it comes to it) I suddenly get nervous. I read a couple of haiku that I made up; we’re to make some up together on a big smeary white board.

Once on the Kisoji trail in Japan I stepped on a snake (apart from snakes and bears, there are very sophisticated toilets on the trail) so I tell them this:

Scared by a snake on the path–
How comforting is a warmed
toilet seat!

which gets a bit of a laugh. After the first film, the kids write messages on tickets hanging from a great cluster of red balloons, and then burst out into the sun in All Saints’ churchyard to launch them.

Silent stone walls.
Then a squeaking red eruption
Up! go the balloons


One red balloon
Drifts along the golden street
Looking for an owner

Seventeen syllables do not
a haiku make–

KDANGG is the sound of the garage door connecting with my forehead, in no uncertain terms. The sharp blow forces out a loud and vile oath, and I sink to the forecourt, moaning. Gill, sensitively, keeps well clear and silent, though in retrospect I think I would have preferred being smothered in sudden and huge sympathy.

The plan was to cycle along the seafront, though this could be postponed now, due to my life-threatening concussion. I sit on the concrete, staring. But it’s a golden warm autumnal day; it would be a shame to waste it in A&E, queuing for hours with railing-trapped children and drunks with axes in their heads.

So to Lewes Station and a train to Newhaven (this is not an endurance test). We take the cycle path that goes through the nature reserve and turn off at Tidemills, an old ruined mill and village, once home to 100 workers. The last residents were forcibly removed in 1939. From the beach you see the long black arm of Newhaven Harbour, lighthouse at the end silhouetted against a blue sky and glittering sea. Tiny figures climb the steps onto the harbour wall, only to be repulsed by barbed wire.

We cycle along the promenade towards Seaford Head, and stop at a little kiosk; it serves good espresso and has a blackboard, saying: ‘Frankies Forecast. Dry, Bright, Sunny, Clear & Warm. Light Gentle Breeze From the SW Gently Lapping Waves Carressing The Shoreline With A Welcoming Embrace…’

A little further we pass a bench with the inscription ‘Glad and Ron Wellden, now dancing together always in the hearts of those who love you.’

In my studio there’s a ‘wet’ corner, and a ‘dry’ corner. The dry corner is where I’m sitting now, typing onto this computer. I have a large monitor-screen, linked to a Macbook, and a big drawing tablet and stylus (I’m no good with a mouse). Surrounding me are lots of notes, receipts, junk and not-so-junk mail, CDs and other stuff that I could throw away (or file) in an hour. Which I don’t. The dry corner exerts a ‘default pull’ (the computer).

My wet corner is currently dry. It’s the art bit: a big drawing board with jars of brushes, bottles of watercolour, ink, pencils… I’ve been painting: flat and flattened still-lifes on thick rough-edged Khadi paper. I like domestic ingredients, pushed towards abstraction (but not quite there). I start with a big brush laden with Indian ink: make a shape. Look at it, decide what shape next, where, what colour, build the still-life as I go along. But it’s a nerve-racking process: it should be spontaneous, but it can go very wrong. There’s no correcting or over-painting with watercolours and ink – you just have to tear it up, start again.

I was watching a short film, courtesy of Creative Review, about how hand-painted signs in india are being replaced by digitally-printed ones, and how those highly-skilled (even visionary) artists are losing their livelihoods. Now, it seems, anyone with a copy of Corel Paint can take their design to a printer to produce a cheap banner or shop frontage, and make a big (often horrible) impact. I’m listening to internet radio on a computer, and Manu Dibango’s ‘Big Blow’ is generating extraordinary coloured patterns on the screen: unimaginably complex moving shapes, whirling and changing to each beat.

In the end, I ask myself: given the huge advances in technology – Photoshop (yes OK, I use it all the time), digital printing, CGI, 3-D movies, web sites, computer games – this huge bombardment of increasingly sensational visual stuff – are we getting desensitised to simple imagery? In the future, will anyone respond to marks made by a human hand?



(I declare an interest: some of my paintings will be shown in the Hearth Pizzeria, opening later in September, Lewes. Seen here is Still life: studio, with memento mori).

The cold of the grave creeping into my buttocks, a pigeon calling, a blackbird singing: I’m in the shade of a solid dark yew in the All Saints churchyard, drawing the sunlit gravestones in front of me. Many of the inscriptions have disappeared, they’re so old, and they’ve become an installation that is more sculptural than commemorative. That’s appropriate, too: the church of All Saints (first mentioned in 1148) has been an arts centre since 1980. And I declare an interest: over the years I’ve played in bands on this stage, had a birthday party here, helped set up the Lewes Junior Film Club adventures here, watched films from its utilitarian seats, drawn it, photographed it, and swept up in it many many times. I love the place.

Inside it’s plain, except for the ornate memorials to the benefactors of the Parish, the great and the good of their times. Iohn and Iane (where I=J) Stansfield – ‘of the Cliffe nere Lewis’ – face each other, kneeling, and separated by their plaque; painted face cracked and dark with age, Iane regards her husband suspiciously, eyebrows raised over divergent eyes. He’s a Gent., though, who ‘hopefvlly ended his mortall life’ in 1626. Iane ‘his deere wife’ died 24 years later.

The sound of the organ drifts through the empty place – above the stage, in an orange glow, a bowed figure playing is half obscured by the deep dark drapes. In the back hall, the mirrors reflect the sinister looping trapeze ropes hoisted up into the high ceiling.

In All Saints there’s salsa, can-can, ska, capoeira, film, drumming, the Oyster café, blues, comedy courses, zumba, art workshops, a toy library, theatre, Nature’s Rhythms… Iohn and Iane had no idea that the All Saints church would become such a lively and creative place. And ‘hopefvlly’ – that’s how we should live.

I’ve got to be really careful with this otter – it would be so easy to drop him in the snow, bang his head on the door frame or, worse, slide on the ice and go flat-on-my-back, broken hip and ottered face…

Sweating after our band’s first set at the Snowdrop, I go outside to watch the flakes whirling down: smokers huddle, but it’s cool on my face, and beautiful, coating South Street and bringing silence to the town. There’s a good turnout, surprisingly, on this coldest night, for the pub is warm, welcoming and, well, rocking. After the gig I drive home at 10mph, snow coming straight at the windscreen.

The next morning we crunch through the streets to the Linklater Pavilion, by the river, to meet up for the Junior Film Club event, which is to culminate in a showing of Ring of Bright Water. Not as many children as we’d hoped though – a film doesn’t have the same pull as a fresh deep coating of snow. We’re meant to have a talk about otters, but our expert is snowed in, so we set off on the path through the railway land, and the children start to pelt each other, then the adults, with snowballs; but they’re on the lower path, and we’re on the upper (and can throw further) so we’re winning. Shrieking and whooping, we arrive at the fire circle: three big logs over the fire support a cauldron of hot sloe-cordial, ladelled out to us all in paper cups, with home-made Swedish cinnamon biscuits. The Junior Film Club patron is Nigel Cole, director of Made In Dagenham, and he gives a talk about film-making, and working with animals in particular. He pitches his talk just right, and the kids ask bright questions, and give thoughtful answers. Then throw more snowballs.

The film is, well, 1969, so a bit dated, brown, and sentimental (a manly tear escapes my cynical eye at one point), but I like the otter, and of course, otters have returned to Sussex after a 30-year absence. Afterwards, we’re clearing up, and I’m strangely drawn to the stuffed creature that has been glassily eyeing the audience throughout the film. I volunteer to carry it back, through the streets of Lewes, to its temporary home, above the High Street.