Friday, 24 July 2015

Finding art in Rye and Hastings

Camber Sands by David Purdie
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that much of my own art takes as its starting point the built environment – after all, I live in a pretty extreme version of that and experience it on a daily basis.

But our trip to Rye was not limited by walls, and the outdoors and natural worlds that we found ourselves enjoying is clearly  an inspiration to plenty of artists working in the area.

That first walk down to Rye Harbour saw us, as mentioned before, take tea and cake at the Avocet Gallery and Tea Room.

The cake was delicious – and the art on display was appetising enough to have me smacking my lips at the range of high-quality works by local artists who had been inspired by the varied land and seascapes.

I came away with a delightful limited edition, signed and numbered print by Sue Scullard, an illustrator and artist whose woodcuts are simply incredible in their detail.

They’re also very small – which is particularly handy when you’re running out of available wall space in your own private gallery.

Out of a superb selection, I chose a print of a woodland scene – anyone who has been following this blog will know that I have a growing fascination with woods and forests, so it was a perfect picture.

The Edge of the Wood by Sue Scullard
But it wasn’t the only art that we saw – or that I picked up – although it was the most expensive, at £55 (plus what it’s costing to have it framed in plain oak, which seems an appropriate choice).

Find out more about the gallery – and they are constructing an online shop – at

Sue's own site can be found at

We had ambled up and down the High Street in Rye on the Friday evening, by which time all the shops were safely shut. But it had given us the opportunity to see what was around.

There was a general art gallery – and next door, a gallery belonging to photographer David Purdie.

A few doors down the street, another photographic gallery displayed works that had had colours so heavily saturated that John Hinde postcards would have natural by comparison.

It hurt my eyes every time we passed it over during the course of our stay.

But David Purdie’s gallery, on the other hand, drew me inside.

Red Hut by David Purdie
Making your work pay is not always easy for artists. In David’s case, his superb photographs are available in a number of ways, from signed prints, to posters to greetings cards.

It’s a long time since I bought any photography to display at home, but I was more than happy to spend under £20 to buy a specially-made frame that holds three of the greetings cards.

Like the print, it fits into a specific spot – indeed, on the wall in my little bit of study/studio space, thus adding additional inspiration.

And since the three photos I picked – groynes at Winchelsea Beach, an old fisherman’s hut next to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, and dunes at Camber – are united by the sea, which I love so much, it was entirely apt.

It was amusing talking to David: he moved to the Rye area from London – not far where we’re based. After some years in the area, he finds it quiet – we’re desperate to get to somewhere where you can actually hear yourself think!

You can find out more about David’s work – there is an online shop, and he also runs photography workshops – at There’s also Twitter for keeping informed about the gallery – at @PurdieGallery.

Not that this was the end of the artistic aspect of the trip. On Monday, with the wind lashing in and a constant drizzle falling, we’d headed through the grey to Hastings.

Initial disappointment had given way to pleasure and interest when we’d discovered the fabulously-named Rock-A-Nore Road, a designation given it in 1859 and derived from a former building “lyinge to the Mayne Rock against the north”.

It borders The Stade – a Saxon term for ‘landing place’, where Europe’s biggest beach-launched fishing fleet is based and where you can find the incredible old net shops – black-tarred, tall, wooden buildings that used to be used to store the nets and other fishing tackle.

Misty Morning by Andrew Dennis
Later, wandering along one of the winding streets of the old town, we spotted a gallery with pictures in the window of the net huts.

This was the Old Gallery, and it largely serves as an outlet for work of self-taught local artist Andrew Dennis.

The Other Half spotted instantly why his pictures of the net shops would particularly appeal to me. Such was the way in which they caught my attention that I picked up another small print.

This is already on the wall – a simple, black frame picked up for next to nothing in Cowling and Wilcox last weekend does the job very well.

To find out more about Andrew’s work, visit

These were not the only artists’ work that we admired during the trip.

Pill Box, Rye Harbour by Brian Yale
The Rye Art Gallery was a revelation, with a small exhibition in one of the rooms upstairs, as well as the sale rooms downstairs.

My favourite work on display was the acrylic painting, Pill Box, Rye Harbour (2002/3) by Brian Yale.

Deceptively simple, it seems to me to contain the past and the future in the region’s familiar shingle landscape: humanity’s interventions in the landscape returning to that landscape as nature reasserts itself.

The gallery has a website under construction at

So, while we’d headed to the coast with literature in our minds, we found far more art than expected – and this just gives you a hint of what can be found in the area.


  1. Hi Amanda, thanks for such a kind write up! Do come and say hello in the gallery next time you venture out into the sticks.

  2. Hi David – entirely my pleasure!

    And we'll certainly pop in again the next time we're in the area.