The painter Philomena Harmsworth had her first “awestruck about a piece of art” moment at the age of 17, looking in a school textbook at the collection of sculpture in the garden of Farley Farm House. She realised that she was looking at something that she did not fully understand, and was deeply moved by.
It is fitting therefore that she is now holding an exhibition of her own at Farley Farm House in August. It took until last year for her to completely understand the sculptures. When she was touring the house and garden in preparation for her exhibition, she was confronted by the actual sculptures, and suddenly had an epiphany. She saw the Pemrose enjoyment of life.
The paintings in the exhibition are a Celebration of Sussex, and Sussex’s Celebrations. In particular the Fire Festivals – Bonfire Night and May Day – and the links and the differences between them. They are both about ritual, fire and dressing up. But one is more about destruction and death of the old year, and the other about birth and the creation of the new. The opposing imagery also links into her application of paint, a lot of layers of existence go into the paintings – the actual time taken, her moods, the weather (shadowy colours come out on overcast days), and mark-making changes.
Philomena has created paintings that work with the art already at Farley Farm House. The sense of humour of Picasso for example; and that he tried to catch the personality of a person, not just doing a straight portrait but trying to catch their intrinsic nature. The paintings also celebrate that Philomena sees the intrinsic nature of the world as a mathematical one. She loved maths as well as art as a child, and she uses this understanding to try to get to the essence of what she is painting; of the objects, the people and their stories.
So why is Philomena painting Sussex? The answer is that although she has now been here for a couple of years, it still feels like her new home. She also feels that the best way to understand something is to draw it. When she first arrived in Lewes, she could feel the medieval ancientness of the place, from something like a wrought iron gate standing like a ghost at the entrance to a school. Brighton has some of these echoes of the past too, walking where lots of people have been before; but has a happier, festive party feel. She wants to convey the feeling of discovering the mysteries and secrets of a place when you are a newcomer.
The exhibition starts on August 3rd and runs until September 21st at Farley Farm House.
Philomena Harmsworth’s new exhibition at “Le Vieux Four” patisserie, in Beaminster this spring, is about the twin themes of food and stories. The paintings are inspired by the stories Philomena heard in “Le Vieux Four” from both the customers and the owner, Lynette Fisher. The place began to assume a delightful intrigue which was capped by Lynette’s discovery of an old oven whilst restoring the fireplace, hence the name “Le Vieux Four”.
The first group of paintings are a Celebration of Food. The main theme is the creative connection between cooking and talking; how talking seeps into the food people are preparing. Once you start creating something, you are giving it life; making it glow. Everything feeds into creativity – tears and joy. The person talking is the channel that guides the stories into the dishes.
The second group of paintings is about the characters that frequent cafes and food places; who come for company and stories. A short story of Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells of someone who picks up snippets of people’s conversations and lives. It is an intense, condensed experience, which leaves you wondering about the characters. Philomena’s pictures are a similar experience. The people in the café weave their own stories – who is the lady in the meringue dress?
Philomena started to explore the relationship between people and buildings in her last exhibition “Kith & Kin”. This takes the exploration further – The people who frequent the building give it its character and life – or is it the other way round? The characters come in to tell their story; they make it part of the building’s atmosphere.
For this exhibition, Philomena has chosen to use glowing, sweet colours, for the liveliness of the café. This is contrasted against the dark, base colours of the structures. These structures are the grounding things in people’s lives – the dark side that makes you laugh harder and love deeper. The colours show the range of people’s psychological states.
Artists tap into thunder, like a conducting rod, and translate it into sounds and images. There’s not just thunder in Philomena Harmsworth’s pictures; but also music, movement, languorous lines, light and colour, darkness and silence. The silence exists in the eye of the storm, the absence of light or sound between lightning and thunder, and the thrill of expectation. Philomena’s new exhibition at the New Steine Hotel, Brighton, explores this dichotomy between thunder and silence.
She describes herself as a ‘method artist’. “I sketch and paint whilst immersed in the subject matter… Read more
The seasonal pictures use varying shades of blue, to echo that atmospheric time between day and night…
Artist Philomena Harmsworth and author David Stuttard will host a special celebration of Olympic Sailing coming to Dorset with a glass of wine, an exhibition of Philomena’s new Olympic-themed paintings and a few words from David on the ancient Greek Games
on Saturday 28th July from 6 – 8 pm at the Cove Gallery Weymouth’s
pop-up gallery at Weymouth Baptist Church Hall, Custom House Quay DT4 8BG
New work by Philomena Harmsworth
Gullivers Hotel, New Steine Road, Brighton, BN2 1PD, T: 01273 681546
Opening Night: Sunday 6th May 6-8
March 31st – June 10th
Philomena Harmsworth, the dynamic new artistic presence in East Sussex is preparing her latest exhibition, entitled “Sugar and Spice”. Her new set of paintings will be at the Gullivers Hotel a stylish boutique hotel Gulliver’s in Brighton’s trendy Kemptown, on Brighton’s water front, from 31st March to 10th June , as part of the Brighton Fringe festival and Brighton Open House.
This innovative collection has some very unusual, unique paintings. The thread that runs through all of them is “women”, and the many overlapping aspects within that theme: there are strong archetypal woman figures; from earth mothers to girls in frilly dresses playing with dolls. Several of the paintings toy with metaphysics; exploring the interplay between surface appearance of manners and civilisation, and the truth of the dark undertones that can lie beneath.
Bachelor of Arts: “Technical Arts, Theatre Design”: Wimbledon College of Art
Set Design: Designed and built sets for Italia Conti. Worked as a Scenic Artist for seven years on Film, Theatre and Television including:
Film: “Sleepy Hollow”, “A Band of Brothers”
Theatre: “Seven Year Itch” at the Shaftsbury Theatre
Television: “Big Brother” and “Eastenders”, to mention but a few.
I have also taught Art workshops for various groups:
Training Provider at NACRO College: 11-15 and 16-18 yr olds, where I supplied the “Plus” program and Bronze and Silver levels of the “Arts Awards” programme.
Taught art workshops for 4-7 & 7-11 year olds at an after-school club at the Community Centre, Battersea.
Taught art to adults at the drop in centre: “Asylum Welcome”
In 2008 I returned to Dorset where I grew up.
Solo shows at: “Le Vieux Four”, ‘January Nudes’, “New Inn”, Stoke Abbott
Group shows: “The Little Art Gallery”, “Space”, “Artemesia”
I also have a painting in the Bridport Museum Archives.
Director of the Bridport Open Studios 2010