|Saturday May 25th
Over the final weekend I visited as much of the Fiveways trail as time and tired feet allowed. This area saw the birth of the Artists’ Open Houses movement over thirty years ago, and since then Fiveways has become the most famous of all the trails. Unlike other trails, their policy of ‘houses only’ means no studios, shops, galleries, cafes or anything other than the domestic space features here. This year Fiveways created their own independent magazine / brochure, featuring each venue at two pages each. It will be interesting to see where this new offshoot of the movement takes us next year. Fiveways is probably the most affluent part of the city, with some jaw-droppingly wantable houses and gardens. These heavyweights host some of the most assured and confident exhibitions of the whole festival.Beginning at the top of Preston ParkTheresa Winchester and Friends 
So much to enjoy in every room, each surface showcasing another artist’s work. Winchester uses the Columbian printer, seen last week at bip-Art, to produce her illustrative work inspired by fairytales, myths, children’s stories, poems, animals and birds. Other highlights include Erin McAirt’s delicate etched toy theatre scenes and Mick Hulme’s woodcarving, especially the minutely observed oak leaves and acorn swagsEva Wibberley and Friends 
My second group show today, offering painting, ceramics, turned wood, handmade paper – variety abounds. I was most struck by Sue Haseltine’s oil “View From Cissbury Ring”, and Debbie Zoutewelle’s large scale work, especially her sepia-tinted oil and biro woodland painting, “Towards the Light” and her abstract “Earth Energy.” Ben Barker’s ceramics in black and gold have an ancient Greek feel. A thought – as I headed upstairs, I did find it rather too dark to be able to see the work clearly.Art at 23 
A beautifully staged garden offering Plants for Parkinson’s, and a friendly open fire and some fab Victorian stained glass windows to admire. Plenty to enjoy, including some natural driftwood and pebble sculptures and a show of AR Barker’s vintage watercolours, some dating back to 1919.
Through the park to another of Fiveways’ imposing Victorian villas with one of the biggest groups showing. As a rest was needed, up the shocking pink steps for tea and a slice of a huge lemon drizzle cake [£2.50] in the terraced garden.
Amid the traditional home crafts of patchwork, textiles, mosaics and rugs, two contrasting painting styles stood out: Kate Osborne’s chickens emerging through sunlit drifts of watercolour wash, and the delicate detail of Japanese artist Sumiko Davies, inspired by English wild flowers.
122 Beaconsfield Villas 
A venue hosting a group of award winning painters. I liked Perdita Sinclair’s “Talking Head” in black multiple frames, and “The Birds” nude – her ‘line drawing mixed with completed oil’ style appearing unfinished, yet not needing any more to finish the story.
Hummingbird Studio 
This buzzing Beyond the Level venue, a centre for teaching, making and exhibiting, is one of those venues not qualifying for Fiveways membership, yet situated on its territory, right in the middle of a residential street. Ceramicist Bebe Bird has it all covered; from the life sized piggy family in the window down to the teeniest little jugs, and Tim Gill’s stained glass goes from strength to strength; his Art Deco-style sunlit birds in flight is gorgeous.
The Cake House 
Well named; the view through from the road to ladies enjoying cake in the kitchen was very inviting. Plenty to love if you’re looking for cushions, button brooches, hairclips and beanbags, and the rainbow staircase and Clair Letton’s children’s book illustration style make this a very family-friendly house. Her “By Moonlight” and “Looking at the Moon” are both images I wanted to study and enter – close peering revealed how harmoniously the appliqued elements of the mixed media pieces blended with the painting.
The Art of Opposition 
Up to Fiveways then round to this Independent. Nothing dainty, pretty or cute here – this venue hosts some difficult and stark images. May Ayres’ large ceramic Tony Blair war installation and pieces inspired by incidents at Abu Ghraib prison are among the angry and attention-catching responses to the 21st century in clay, paint and words.
Philippa Stanton – Synaesthetic Art with a Shed 
Does exactly what it says on the tin. I understand actor/artist Stanton creates a different mood-set in the shed each festival. I’ll be talking more about the Brighton shed in a later article, but this is a charmer. Inspired by the American settler style, it has an atmosphere all its own, and is created just for the love of it. A step back in time, an atmospheric experience surrounded by the artist’s collections and inspirations.
Stanton paints smells and taste – her “Gin and Tonic” nails the blue/white/silver glitteryness of the drink. Guest Holly Bell’s ceramics, green and lavender washed glazes, are all fresh simplicity with a subtle raised design of leaf, flower or bird.
Thirty One 
Another independent. If you have very little time, this house could serve as a taster for some of the artists [including Polly Finch, Stephanie Else and Kellie Miller] who are also exhibiting elsewhere this year, some at their own studios. I enjoyed the mini-beachfront garden and studio shed, too.
Jo Sweeting 
A stonecarver and teacher, with fascinating workshop shed in the back garden, Sweeting’s hand-carved art ranges from hefty monumental pieces to simple single-lettered beach pebbles. See some works in progress, demonstrations and examples of the methods and tools used to produce her work. An engrossing open house, with a real sense of the artist living and working right here.
41 HPA 
Independent. Graham White’s work at first sight appears to be oil painting – and then you realise that colour and shape are created by collaging coloured strips of paper cut from magazine pages to produce land, sea and sky images. The lovely conservatory is showing stained glass miniatures, with tea and cakes in aid of the Martletts Hospice in the Italianate garden, complete with archways.
There must be something about printmakers – they all seem to love showing how they produce their work. I watched a small-scale lino cut being used on the tiny printer [a baby version of the great Victorian Columbian I saw at bip-Art] to produce a neat print, and it’s fascinating to watch the hands-on work in progress. My favourite image here is Kitty Cava’s “Heavenly Blue” flower print.
The Ceramic House 
Something different – here, the house itself really is a work of art. J Kay Aplin’s home is steadily being transformed into a showcase for her ceramics – to call them tiles doesn’t do them justice. Kitchen, bathroom, inside and outside walls … all display her powerful, richly coloured and three dimensional abstract images, featured in many magazine articles. The kitchen tiles look as if some great green sea creature has wrapped its tentacles round the walls.
Lots to see here; take a trip into the garden and find the Cave, a dark grotto beneath the house hung with lit ceramic pods filled with magnified miniature scenes, and up to the entirely ceramicised bathroom. Aplin and her guest ceramicists work in such varied styles; I loved Delfina Emmanuel’s white porcelain corsetry and the delicate sea creature- inspired gilded pastel ornamental teapots.
The Cicada House
A little extra – previously next door to The Ceramic House, this house has moved and thanks to a helpful notice by the new owners I found their new venue just at the end of the road. Not in the brochure having only moved in a month before, they have presented a stylish and welcoming exhibition of Nick Orsborn’s cicada jewellery and paintings. Lovely glass of Pimm’s, too.
109 Stanford Avenue 
Finally today I dropped in at the original Open House – Ned Hoskins, creator of the idea some thirty years ago is showing a homage to Jeff Keen plus some of Hoskins’ paintings inspired by his own designs for a London Underground mural.
Sunday May 26th
I started at the other end of Preston Park today, for a look at the lower half of the Fiveways trail.
Sylph Baier 
Described as ‘a vibrant house, buzzing with arts and crafts’ – suits it perfectly. The garden is transformed into a cafe [tea and cake £4] with children’s play area. Pass the shell-roofed chicken house on the way to the garden room, showing the highlights: Baier’s functional tableware ceramics are all smooth curves and fifties colours, and Jessica Coote’s creative hand-embroidered pictures are inspired by the Sussex countryside.
The House of Mander 
Right next door, this Independent is about as far from the usual Brighton artist’s open house as it’s possible to get. No cushions, cupcakes or,polite watercolours here – this house has to be seen.
The charred firepit and the tale of the daemonwain tacked onto the Yeti cart in the front garden announce that you’re about to enter an artist’s world. My notes say “mysterious, spiritual, stories, religion, death, crucifixion, skulls, installation, concrete, stylised heads, ancient people, fire pit, iron, wood, broken, film set, antlers, Viking re-enactors, rusted metal … ” and for me, this mass of impressions sums it up.
We went back that evening for the closing party and a conversation with Brian Mander which ranged around prehistoric dawn of consciousness, masked ritual and last night’s lunar eclipse – just some of Mander’s inspirations. I’d visited his previous event, For the Love of Sarah, and am intrigued to discover just what he’ll do next.
31 Havelock Road 
More of Holly Bell’s subtle pieces as seen at Philippa Stanton’s, then to the glamorous red-walled room upstairs for Frances Doherty’s fantastical ceramic plant-inspired pieces with real sculptural presence. I was pleased to enter the competition to win a piece of an exhibiting artist’s work here.
Where trails collide – the next three houses are all listed in different sections of the brochure, despite the fact that they are neighbours, which makes it a little difficult to follow!
Rosalie Dodds and Guest Artists 
On an increasingly hot day the chance to sit for a while in this cool, calm interior was very welcome. I admired Dodds’ rough-textured monochrome striped stoneware and Maggie Feeney’s strong near-abstract landscapes and skies.
Number 11 
Independent. Loved the white coral and sea urchin pierced ceramic lamps displayed in a dark and mysterious setting – the bathroom! And my favourite kitchen, with its yearly growing multi-tiered cake stand and glass jugs of fruit juice serving refreshments for a donation for children’s art materials.
All Colours Permitted 
Beyond the Level. Agnes Chevalier’s intricate woodland scene embroidered pictures [“Green Man”] and Francoise Koestler’s fabulous stylised hand-painted silk cushions, scarves, wall hangings, bed-covers – everything textile that can be decorated with irises, leaves, birds and many more nature-inspired images [“Blue Pond”].
David Williams and Guests 
Another wide selection of work here, with the painting taking centre stage, especially Williams’ hyper-realistic nature studies with the colour contrast turned right up. Loved his “Coastguard Cottage Garden” and Sally Grimshaw’s “Seven Sisters”. Then through the lush little garden to visit the artist’s studio.
The Pink Bird House 
Independent. Through the pretty front garden, dotted with Claire Rose’s mosaics and hangings in the shady tree, to a wealth of craft, textiles and pots here, including some quirky steampunk and recycled cutlery.
47 Southdown Avenue 
Home to artists and collectors. The brochure image says it all – I enjoyed Steve Jordan’s dynamic, energetic film still / snapshot-style paintings, always paired with Jane Jordan’s re-imagined, patterned revived furniture, each unique – especially the “Ferns in Red” chest, washed with shadowy leafy burgundy shapes.
Towards Fiveways itself for a pair of venues, both featuring the hard stuff – some serious metalwork.
Art in Nature – at 202 
Colour and animals everywhere here! Ten artists share the space. Chris Brooks’ animal sculptures start with the inspiration of the natural driftwood shape, which is then evolved with metal embellishments – the otter and ostrich figures stand out. Then to the garden to enjoy his metal water sculptures. Metal and wood are matched harmoniously with paintings; I noted Alison Ingrams’ Art Deco “Skomer Puffins” especially.
Anvil Ironworks 
And finally today to this small working forge tucked behind a residential terrace. Pass if you dare the humungous metal spider creeping down the wall by the gate – a ten-foot Shelob coming to get you – and into the grassy space behind. The curly-fleeced ram, enormous crab and giant prehistoric fern fronds take you into a metal fantasy world. Watch the artist blacksmith Paul Wells at work at the forge, too.
Monday May 27th
Bank Holiday Monday saw Hove Arts all opening for a final flourish, so I took in a few last venues and revisited some of day one’s houses on the way home.
Art @ the boundary 
Evolved from last year’s Art @ All Saints, and the Sussex County Cricket Ground backdrop of the new venue suits it just fine. Persevere to find the suite round the back of the ground, and you’ll find quite a variety. Royston Hawley’s moody, threatening sea and sky oil paintings are a great foil for Polly Ballantine’s black and gold formal Oriental animal studies, and Nicholas Dunn-Coleman is showing a fascinating look at the art of the bookbinder. You can see exactly what goes on beneath the covers when a book is created by hand, and watch the process as happens. Some elegant hand-made books too, and a Victorian Bible rebound in leather for a new lease of life.
Nigel French and Guests 
French’s photography fills this busy show, standouts are the Brighton alphabet made up of photos of letters taken from around the city, together with Iconic shapes of urban landmarks. There’s an unexpected chocolate helter-skelter by Jen Lindsey-Clark to marvel at, too.
51 Wilbury Road 
They’ve colonised the whole of this imposing Hove town house this year. We started in the basement flat for Nick Lucas’ characterful children’s illustrations and tea and cakes on the terrace, then up to the main house. I was struck by two artists working on a hearty, energetic scale, here – Alain Guy’s hefty, grotesque and memorable heads of ancient-world warriors and John Beetham’s flamboyant great paintings of flowers, architecture and landscapes.
Dion Salvador Lloyd 
A return visit to for a glass of wine and a chat about how it had all gone this year. Lloyd’s private view is always a big draw, and it’s good to be able to sit quietly and see the work in tranquillity here at the end of the festival.
And finally … a last visit to The Wolf At The Door  where we began it all a month ago.
Next stop: Christmas 2013!
But before then, there will be plenty more Artists’ Open Houses and Studios to visit and enjoy. The website will be featuring further events wherever they may be – we’re not just about Brighton and Hove.
So please let us know if you are holding an event, or if you’ve seen any particularly interesting houses by sending details to email@example.com.