Artist Interview: Alice Freeman

Alice Freeman is a recently elected RWA Artist Network member. She studied at Byam Shaw School of Art before graduating from Camberwell College (UAL) in 2013. Her practice incorporates drawing with etching and sculpture and she works from BV Studios, Bristol. 


RWA: What are you working on at the moment?

AF: I work with etching and sculpture, allowing them to influence one another. At the moment I’ve been looking at different kinds of coral and jellyfish. Because of their unusual forms, it’s been possible for me to play with a variety of ideas. Recently, I found these amazing photographs of deserted towns in Syria, all bombed-out. They’re really incredible images and I wanted to start doing an etching series with those. I’m very interested in things that repel yet at the same time attract. The jellyfish can arouse feelings of disgust but you kind of want to prod them at the same time. It’s a similar idea with the Syrian buildings in that it’s a horrible subject matter but they’re actually really beautiful on a sculptural level.


RWA: Where do you find inspiration?

AF: Anywhere. The jellyfish idea came when I went to the aquarium. Looking at buildings is very new to me, as I am normally inspired by nature –usually something that’s biological. The Syria images just popped up on my computer, on my news feed and after the initial wave of sadness I was intrigued by the forms the photos created.


At University you try everything. I started etching in my second year and before that I did a lot of oil painting, but I never felt very connected to it. I stepped into the etching room and it was an amazing atmosphere. Everyone was running around – so many health and safety risks going on. It was just wonderful and I fell in love with it – the processes, and it’s all so scientific. If you get something wrong, you’ve ruined it, but it’s kind of exciting at the same time.  My process always begins with a drawing or sometimes a sculpture. I’ll make something and think “I’d like to draw it”, and then I’ll etch it on to the plate, but it’s a long process to get it there.


I usually have a tiny notebook on me. Nowadays, though, if I see something I really like I just take a photo of it and work from that. You just don’t have time in today’s society to start drawing something there and then and you’d get so many odd looks if you did, which is a real shame.

RWA: What does the RWA mean to you?

AF: It’s such a long standing thing. I think it’s wonderful that it’s been around for over 150 years. For Bristol, to have the RWA is brilliant, and so to be part of it is just incredible. Having the support and opportunities the RWA offers, and having the opportunity to show work there, is fantastic.

RWA: What would be your dream project?

AF: I would love to create huge sculptural, organic forms that would sit permanently in nature and withstand the test of time. If money and time were no object I’d just be in here working all the time. It would be wonderful.


RWA: Who is your hero?

AF: That’s quite tricky. Maybe Louise Bourgeois. She was such a strong, female character who worked right up until the end of her life, experimenting across a wide range of mediums. Art was everything to her. It was a way of communication, escapism and therapy.

RWA: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

AF: I guess it would be from one of my art teachers at Camberwell. She told me don’t make work you think people want to see. Make work you want to create.


RWA: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

AF: At the moment I’m teaching myself to code. I find this new language really interesting so maybe I would be doing something in that. But I just can’t imagine my world without art in it. It’s a horrible thing to have to think about!

I grew up in St Ives and there were probably certain opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I’d have lived elsewhere. Because of that, I think it was possibly more likely for me to become an artist, but I don’t know how much of an effect it has had on my actual art work. Colour is such a significant part of St Ives. Naturally it has had a big impact on many of the artists who live and work there. However I tend to mainly work in monotone! I think colour is one of the most difficult things to work with. I find it so hard. I do think to some extent my work wouldn’t suit colour, I think it would take something away from it.


RWA: If you could own any piece of artwork which would it be?

AF: It would be one of Eva Hess’, just one of her little studio pieces. She’s my absolute favourite artist.

RWA: How do you see the future of the RWA?

AF: Well I’ve only been a member for three months so I’ve still got to get used to everything. I think the RWA is always going to be very prominent I see it as always being something that’s there and something that’s part of Bristol. I think it’s brilliant that it’s bringing in contemporary artists and I think that’s the way to go; to keep the old but combine it with the new.

Alice Freeman will be exhibiting as part of the the Artist Network Exhibition at the RWA from Saturday 23 April –  to Sunday 15 May 2016. She will also be exhibiting at the BV Open Studios Friday 22 April, Saturday 23 April and Sunday 24 April. Alice also has an upcoming show at the Centrespace Gallery in Bristol for a collaborative exhibition entitled Foreign Lands. The exhibition will run from 2 June – 9 June 2016.


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Artwork of the Month: April

This month’s work from our permanent collection has been chosen by Alice Mumford RWA:

‘I was asked to write a piece for Artwork of the Month and scrolling through dozens of postage stamp-sized reproductions from the RWA collection, one jumped out at me – Jack Chalker’s Landscape, Westham House. After a few days I tested this first fleeting judgment, and again it said ‘Stop!’ I knew nothing about Chalker, but I decided to look first and find out later.’

Chalker, Jack, 1918-2014; Landscape, Westham House

Chalker, Jack; Landscape, Westham House; Royal West of England Academy

‘With some paintings, the more time you spend with them, the more they reveal about themselves and their creator. I felt something was communicated to me beyond the initial image of a barn, tree, field and big, billowing sky.

The barn or farm, with its small, arched doorway is a wonderful Suffolk pink, like a Cedric Morris painting. But unlike Morris’s comforting rural scenes, there are more contradictory emotions at work here.

Jack Chalker’s painting draws us in through the point of most contrast; where the shadow of the small shed meets the bright light falling on the bigger building. Once drawn there we want to go into the building. It makes us inquisitive: What’s inside? Is it lived in? Why are there no windows? We approach at eye-level; there is no road, river or path leading to the barn so it makes us feel as though we have just stumbled across this simple dwelling. We are drawn closer, but then the fir trees against the barn with their strong dark uprights seem to act like bars stopping access to the building.

Of course, the title Westham House should give us a clue as to what the building is. If it is a house then surely we have approached from the wrong side. What of the smaller building next to it? It acts as a smaller echo of the bigger gable and again it is mysterious. Can we make out a doorway? Both buildings have an air of aloofness about them.

The pink walls, the large trees and the lush pasture in the foreground make it seem like the quintessential British landscape, but only at first glance. The green pasture is slightly acidic, reminiscent of Graham Sutherland’s greens and against the Suffolk pink it seems to give an air of discord and a warning not to come closer. There is a big tree, possibly an oak, on the left. The foliage is so heavy that it bears down on the little shed. The shadows on the little building, the underside of the tree and the doorway are so dark that they give a suggestion of melancholy.

The sky in Chalker’s painting is the place of freedom, a soaring of spirit, you can fly off in that sky with its wonderful, big generous marks, creamy whites and gentle blues and greys. Here, you feel, he finds freedom from the weights and troubles of the earth.

It is the contradictory messages in the painting that captivate me.’

Landscape, Westham House is on display for the month of April on the upstairs landing.

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Interview: Printmaking with Sophie Rae


Sophie Rae is an illustrator and printmaker based in Bristol. She regularly runs workshops in the city and works freelance for a variety of clients. We caught up with her following one of her family printmaking workshops at the RWA.

Where did you study and how did you get into printmaking?

I studied illustration at the Arts University Bournemouth. However, it wasn’t until my final year at university that I began experimenting in the print room. They have these rollers (points to hand-held roller) and I just thought they were amazing. I’ve been playing around with them ever since.


Did you start teaching straight away?

No, not straight away, it was maybe a couple of years after I got here (Bristol). I teach all ages! I do kids and adults workshops. The printmaking I do is quite a versatile process – you can do really, really detailed prints, multi layered prints and cut all different types of stencils, so it’s good for adults too. You are able to make something very specific if you want, or there’s the possibility of making something a bit more abstract.


Is this what you do full time? And where do you work on your own projects?

I mainly teach workshops and make prints to sell and sometimes do illustration commissions. The amount of time I spend on teaching varies massively. I teach at lots of different places around Bristol, including at schools. I have a studio at Hamilton House. It’s great and central and there’s lovely people there. I’ve had a studio there for a few years now and I can’t imagine working anywhere else, or imagine leaving it any time soon!

What were you doing in today’s workshop?

Today was abstract printing with stencils. We have used lovely printing inks and these special printing rollers, which are quite squishy so they allow the ink to get into all the corners of the stencil, giving you a nice sharp line. People were playing around with drawing different shapes, cutting those shapes into stencils and then they would layer up different shapes on the page to create a multi-layered, colourful print.


Why do you think being creative is important for families and kids?

I think it gives them time to play around and experiment. Doing something new and learning a new process gives you a real sense of satisfaction. I think it’s a really rewarding and important thing for parents and kids to do together, because they get to have fun and help each other out.

Is that something you remember doing as a kid?

I guess I don’t remember going to workshops when I was younger. I don’t actually really remember having those opportunities, which I think is why I find teaching workshops now so great. When I see parents bring their kids along I’m like, “that’s so nice!” I have to say, getting invited along to schools as ‘the artist’ is really strange!



Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

At the moment I’ve  got work up at Bocabar on the Bath Road. Then I will be exhibiting at Pramer Arts, which is just north of Bristol  and is a really lovely place. After that I’m going to have a few bits at Musgrove hospital, near Taunton, which will be for a shoreline exhibition.

Sophie will be teaching a Colourful Collage Workshop at the RWA on Thursday 2 June, 10.30am. Find out more about Sophie’s work on her website

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Judith Greenbury RWA, 1924 – 2016

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of one of our Academicians, Judith Greenbury.

Greenbury, Judith, b.1924; Brill, December 1973

Greenbury, Judith; Brill, December 1973; Royal West of England Academy

Judith Greenbury studied at the West of England College of Art in Bristol, under the tutelage of George Sweet, followed by the Slade School of Fine Art in London.

More recently, she became known for her travels around the country to paint piers from Eastbourne to Tenby. She has on her journey depicted the piers of Clevedon, Weston-super-Mare, Cromer and Blackpool amongst others. These works have been compiled into a publication by Sansom & Co entitled ‘Piers and Seaside Towns: An Artist’s Journey’.

Over the years, Judith showed her work in several solo exhibitions including the Alpine Gallery, London. Her work has also been seen in numerous mixed exhibitions: The Royal Academy, New English Art Club, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Royal Society of British Artists are institutions which have shown her work. Indeed, two of her works were displayed at the RWA last autumn as part of our 163rd Annual Open Exhibition.

She died on 4th April. She continued to paint in her studio room in her house right up until her final illness.

Her watercolour of Brighton from our permanent collection is currently on display in our foyer.

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Important info for Saturday gallery visitors

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Orchestra Life Drawing – important information about gallery activities on Saturday 9 April

Interested in figurative drawing? Join the RWA and the New Bristol Sinfonia this Saturday for an untutored life drawing session with a twist!

Between 3.30pm and 5pm the orchestra invites audiences to sketch the assembled musicians in rehearsal before their concert that evening. This will be a wonderful opportunity to capture the human form in the stunning surroundings of the galleries, all for the price of the exhibition admission.

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Chairs will be provided, but you will need to bring your own sketchbook and dry materials with you for drawing. Due to space limitations, the use of easels and drawing boards will not be possible.

Visitors to the exhibitions should be aware that, although the galleries will be open to visit, the orchestra rehearsal will present a very different experience and atmosphere during these hours, which some visitors may find disruptive.  

If you would like to take part, email

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Hidden Talents at the RWA

BBC Get Creative is a celebration of the amazing arts, culture and creativity that happens every day across the UK.

In celebration of creativity, and the power and importance of creative activities for many people all around the country, the team at the RWA have shared their own creative passions and explained why being creative means so much to them.

“I love hand stitching because the process matches my preferred pace of life in that it’s quite slow! For me, stitching is like drawing in pure colour and beautiful things can be made from the smallest of scraps!”

Sophie Bristol, Drawing School Manager



“In my spare time, I love writing stories. I write a lot in my job but writing fiction feels like a total luxury. I prefer to write in a busy café and fill notebooks with ideas, characters, overheard conversations and sometimes sketches. I can lose myself in writing for hours – when I am in the zone, I disappear down a rabbit hole and emerge feeling like my brain has been to a day spa.”

Holly McGrane, Marketing Manager   



“I finally mastered knitting in my late 40s and I’m now seriously addicted. As well as enabling me to create things, I find knitting immensely relaxing, taking up the part of my brain that would normally be fretting about work so that I can switch off: it’s basically a form of meditation, but with an output!”

Alison Bevan, Director



Oranges, Suze Eyles


“For me photography allows me to study life – it’s like a slice of time.”

Suze Eyles, Head of Finance and Administration



“I learnt to play the piano and guitar when I was young. I ditched the piano (mistake) and focused on mastering just the 6 strings. I became a MASSIVE pop star but then gave it all up to concentrate on playing the humble ruler (as in the thing you measure and draw straight lines with – not a king or prime minister or something.) Twangggg!”

Joel Edwards, Learning and Participation Manager



“I inherited my love of fabric from my mother, who is an upholsterer, amongst other things. She taught me to sew when I was very young and a few years ago, I started dressmaking. I love the process of it, from cutting out a pattern and transferring markings to fabric, to winding a bobbin and easing a sleeve. To create a wearable, lasting garment, there are no stages which can be skipped, which forces patience and precision from me, neither of which I have naturally. It’s creativity with known boundaries and rules which, once learned, can be mutated in a thousand different ways.”

Jess Kirkby, Membership Administrator


As part of the BBC Get Creative weekend, the RWA will be offering a morning of free creative fun for children and adults with a special free Scribble and Sketch session plus 2-for-1 tickets on exhibition entry (under 16s go free). Also on this day, you can try your hand at embroidery with the Bristol Embroiderers Guild who will be teaching basic stitches in the building.

Read more…

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Stewart Geddes RWA

Stewart Geddes is Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees and an RWA Academician. He studied at Bristol Polytechnic under Alfred Stockham before going on to the RCA. His work is in numerous public collections and he has shown widely in the UK and abroad. He works at BV Studios in Bristol.


RWA: What are you working on at the moment?

SG: I always work on a group of paintings concurrently. I typically have about half a dozen paintings on the go at any one time. I have to allow gestation periods and put paintings to one side to allow surprising outcomes to emerge. Currently I’m working on some larger works – about 4 to 5 feet long and around 3 to 4 feet tall. I’ve just got a feeling at the moment that I want to work more physically with paint. Sometimes it is the complete opposite and it’s about something much more intimate and quiet. At the moment, though, I’m feeling more expansive.

RWA: Where do you find inspiration?

SG: The work is embedded in experience of the urban landscape. In the tradition of Picasso – of not seeking, but finding – I walk around a city and things suddenly rear their head at me. It might be a drainhole cover, it might be the combination of colours in a series of houses, or the surface of the pavement. It’s usually something fairly mundane. If I’m looking down at a pavement or at the façade of a building, it’s almost like I’m looking at the surface of a painting. Particular colour combinations that I extract as I’m looking around can be important, but also surface, edges – where one thing ends and another begins.


I think the current language formed itself primarily in London several years ago. There has been an incremental shift in the work since being in Bristol. Bristol itself is a demarcation between the urban and the marine and the pastoral. Because of that, I think slightly more forgiving properties are creeping in to the work.

I mainly record my ideas through photography and sometimes brief note-taking. It’s not a matter of copying but using notes as a trigger. Even if a painting starts off being quite closely related to something I have seen, there is a point when the painting has to become separated from that ‘trigger’ and negotiated on its own terms. I’m not trying to copy something, I’m trying to translate something. If you copy, you don’t get a perspective on it. By displacing it, you get a new insight into the original.

Recently I have been adopting a shuttering technique that you use when you pour concrete. I G-clamp bars of wood to a surface and then spread out a large quantity of paint and pull it with a sort of squeegee. Sometimes the paint might have something like marble dust in it to give a gritty surface. I am very mindful of not mimicking something, but running a process in parallel to something.


RWA: What does the RWA mean to you?

SG: It used to mean a fusty old institution whose relevance was in question. It had been through all sorts of trauma – during the Second World War it had been taken over by American troops, and then the tax office had it for another ten years or so. When it was reluctantly returned to the artists, they were living hand to mouth, trying to survive. It seemed to me that it wasn’t as vibrant as it had once been. There was, however, a constituency within the RWA (people like Alfred Stockham and Derek Balmer) who were trying to address that. So they invited me in and I became an RWA in 1996. I felt it would be fantastic to see it become important again.


In some ways, the greatest thing about the RWA is that we own the building; and the worst thing about the RWA is that we own the building! It costs a huge amount just to keep the doors open. But the building really expresses in the most simple and powerful way a commitment about how important the visual arts are. The light in those galleries is very very special.

I have become part of a community of artists which I find very interesting. I don’t agree with everything and I’m sure people don’t always agree with me, but things are only healthy when you have a debate – you’re in trouble when you think you’ve got it sorted. I’m delighted to be part of that debate.

RWA: What would be your dream project?

SG: To paint. To do what I do. On a purely personal level, it’s to carry on. I find this the most fascinating of activities. I love teaching but if I’m not in here enough I get anxious and actually feel that I lose something that I could bring to the table, in terms of art school teaching. In terms of potential projects at the RWA, I’m very interested in exhibitions that look at post war British, modernist painting and the contemporary situation.



RWA: Who is your hero?

SG: At the moment it’s the West Ham forward Dimitri Payet because he is the most fantastic footballer and for one of the few times in my life, West Ham are hugely successful. He is making me fantastically happy! In an artistic sense, it’s really unoriginal but someone like Piero Della Francesca. To make painting of that curiosity, luminosity and timelessness, I think that’s an extraordinary achievement. I don’t know much about him – I don’t know if anyone knows much about him – but for me that makes it all the more powerful, because it’s not an egotistic thing. The person disappears and we are left with the work, and I find the work so extraordinary.

RWA: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

SG: Alf Stockham said to me as a student “Make your work a joy of study”. I also remember him saying, “Anonymity – that’s what you want, because then you’re free to make the work that you want to make.”


RWA: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

SG: Left mid-field for West Ham (because I’m left footed).

RWA: If you could own any piece of artwork which would it be?

SG: A 19-teens Matisse or a Vermeer. I like The View of Delft.

RWA: What other jobs have you done?

SG: Nothing too dubious! One of the jobs I always remember having done, because my knees remind me on a daily basis, is that I used to clean antique carpets. I was in my early twenties and I remember that we were on our hands and knees, scrubbing Persian rugs. An older guy who worked there told me to be careful of my knees, but you think you’re indestructible at that age. I wished I’d heeded his advice. I remember wading around in my welly boots, pushing biotex into this rug with a roller, and the next week it was in the Ashmolean Museum with a ‘do not touch’ sign hanging on it!


IMG_4475.JPGRWA: How do you see the future of RWA?

SG: I’d like it to be seriously regarded for the contribution it makes: to be respected for the intelligence and visual richness of its exhibitions.


Stewart Geddes will be showing work in the exhibition Material Fact at studio 1.1 london alongside Deborah Westmancoat. The exhibition will run from 8 April – 1 May 2016. For more information, visit here


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