Discover more about the exhibitions held at Mall Galleries through interviews with artists, photo essays, prize winners lists and video and audio content. Mall Galleries publish content from all Federation of British Artists Art Society Exhibitions.

Picturing the World in Pastels


Pastel Society exhibitor Richard Rees PS travels the world as an architect, and documents the places he visits in vibrant pastels.

Clevedon Pier, Somerset by Richard Rees PS: Oil Pastel, 49 x 68 cm - £750

'Visiting a new city or seeing a piece of historic architecture inspires my artistic practice' says new Pastel Society member, Richard Rees. 'I take a sketch book and camera with me on my travels to record the most interesting sights, and use these records to form works of art in oil pastel. I'm drawn to distinctive patterns, colours, and shapes, so even though my works in this year’s Pastel Society exhibition depict locations as far flung as Somerset and Yemen, they are linked by this overarching focus.'

Canary Wharf at Night by Richard Rees PS: Oil Pastel, 39 x 33 cm - £300

'In my UK scenes, it was the patterns that spoke to me. I liked the floating grids of light at Canary Wharf and the mysterious river reflections. For Clevedon Pier, Somerset it was the curved and gridded structure of the supports for the pier, dark against the blue Bristol Channel behind. For  Falmouth Boats 2, I liked the dancing rhythm of the sails and their contrast with the sky, sea and land.'

Falmouth Boats 2 by Richard Rees PS: Oil Pastel, 50 x 65 cm - £800

'At Eguisheim, a medieval village in France’s Alsace wine region, I found traditional timber frame structures, overhanging roofs, and pastel colours which looked like they had come straight out of a fairytale.'

Street in Eguisheim, Alsace by Richard Rees PS: Oil Pastel, 60 x 48 cm - £750

'My fifth oil pastel in the Pastel Society Annual Exhibitoin 2019, which is open from 5 February to 16 February 2019, is of Shibam in Yemen. It is the only place I've depicted that I have not visited, and as the country is now caught in the grips of a tragic civil war, it is currently impossible to do so. This World Heritage Site City is unique in having hundreds of eleven storey mud towers, dating from the Middle Ages. I was captivated by photos of the patterns these created and added my own colour interpretation.'

Shibam, Yemen by Richard Rees PS: Oil Pastel, 52 x 65 cm - £650

'Although I am still travelling a lot, my next subject is a series inspired by the Thames Bridges in London. Each work will gradually reveal more of the building's structure, forms, and variations. I'm also working on depictions of a Pueblo settlement at Mesa Verde, and a multi-windowed façade in Berat, Albania.'

Discover the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition Online Now

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Shibam, Yemen by Richard Rees PS

Introducing Dachan


Dachan is a renowned Chinese contemporary artist who is also a poet, calligrapher and painter. The artist uses traditional Chinese watercolour and inkwork, and a variety of traditional scripts in his calligraphy to introduce ancient practices into the world of modern art.

The Art of a Spiritual Era Brightens All Living Things: The Art of Dachan World Tour Exhibition is a series of exhibitions showcasing the ink wash paintings and other works by this artist. It represents a global journey of spiritual culture, guided by the theory of unity through art. The tour began in 2016, and these works have so far been exhibited in the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Russia, Italy, Germany and India. Dachan’s work will be complemented by a video allowing visitors to experience the world of Buddhism through virtual reality technology, creating a truly immersive experience.

Dachan’s works are rich in content and highly individualistic. Their poetic, calligraphic and pictorial aspects are intimately integrated. By using traditional practices in a contemporary manner, Dachan assimilates the spirit of Chinese modern art with a Zen sensibility, using ink wash methods rooted in Chinese culture to portray the changelessness of life. It is hoped that the language and vitality of his works lead viewers to have a more positive and joyous outlook on life.

Find out more about the Exhibition

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Behind the Scenes: Leanne Rutter AROI's Travel Paintings


Leanne Rutter AROI shares the stories behind her paintings in the ROI Annual Exhibition 2018, and how the institute helped to kickstart her art career.

'My relationship with the ROI began in 2009 when I exhibited with the society for the first time. I was fresh out of university and fairly unsure of my place in the world. One year later, I received both the Phyllis Roberts Award and 3rd prize in the Winsor & Newton Young Artist Award at the ROI Annual Exhibition. That recognition and support has been so useful for my artistic progression, and I hope to become a member of the ROI soon.'

'My paintings in this year’s exhibition reflect my love of travel, from the deserts and vast lakes of Southern Africa, and the lush jungles of Mexico, to resplendent woodlands in California and beyond. Here are some of the stories behind the works.'

'Before I left for South Africa, a friend taught me how to tattoo. Possessing this skill has changed so much for me - the way I travel, the people I meet, and my whole relationship with art and process. I had been going through a period of disenchantment, but through tattooing my creativity rushed back. While painting could feel lonely, I was suddenly working with interesting people every day. Tattooing funded my travels, and my travels inspired my art, helping me to love painting in a new way.'

Needless, Malawi

Needless, Malawi by Leanne Rutter AROI: Oil, 40 x 40 cm - £2,200

Needless is a scene from the last night of my most recent trip to Malawi. Often referred to as ‘the warm heart of Africa’, I’ve made some of my dearest friends there. It’s a country of great beauty, where you find a strong sense of community and joy in life, in spite of the widespread poverty.

On the final night of the trip, I was working alongside a tailor. The tailor was making several garments and I was finishing a large tattoo of a baobab tree. Suddenly we were plunged into darkness as the power failed. You’d think this would be a disaster, but somehow the blackout made us both concentrate; blackouts are a regular feature of life in Malawi, and work must go on regardless.

Both the tattoo and the clothes turned out beautifully, and that night is emblazoned on my memory. The resulting painting shows ‘two people who earn their living with needles, practicing their craft in my tiny flat under improvised light sources’ says the recipient of the tattoo, Ashley Malpass, from the Malawi Peace Corps.

Poaching Patrol, Malawi

Poaching Patrol, Malawi by Leanne Rutte AROI: Oil, 45 x 55 cm - £2,300

Poaching Patrol features Reto, a Swiss man I met who wanted a sleeve tattoo depicting creatures that creep in the Malawian night. Reto works to protect elephants and other animals in the vast forest of Thuma from poachers and charcoal-burners.

Without the support of teams such as Reto’s, there would soon be no wildlife left in this region. It’s not just elephants that are in danger, antelope and warthogs are targets for poachers as well. But elephants have so much emotional intelligence that they visibly grieve for fallen family members in an incredibly distressing way.

Reto’s job is hard and often lonely, with little respite. There will always be new snares, new poachers, and new horrors to behold after a long night of searching the through the dark trees. Working with local communities instead of against them is vital.

Desert Corax, California

Desert Corax, California by Leanne Rutter AROI: Oil, 15 x 40 cm - £2,000

I fell in love in San Francisco, and we travelled to the desert together. I recall the sunset as the saturation seemed to seep out of the landscape into the glowing skies overhead. A single hare. The imperious sharp silhouettes of Joshua Trees. Clambering up vast boulders. I felt so utterly present and in awe of the spell-binding stillness and silence. We made art and gazed at the skies.

See more works from the Exhibition

ROI 2018: Interactive Map

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The Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 brings together works inspired by locations all over the world, from Las Vegas and Venice to Doncaster and St Tropez. Mall Galleries Digital Manager Liam Kilby plotted these locations for us on this brilliant interactive map. Can you find an exhibition artwork inspired by a place near you?

Based on the titles of works, this map reveals 85 locations around the world where members of the ROI and guest exhibitors have found inspiration, and the paintings they created there. All these works and more will be on display at Mall Galleries from 28 November to 9 December 2018. 

Help us improve this map

While our best efforts have been made to accurately plot locations, please let us know where improvements can be made. Email suggestions to

Discover the ROI Exhibition 2018

Making a Meal of It


The Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 reveals a common interest among contemporary oil painters in portraying mealtime scenes. As cultural shifts lead people away from regular sit-down meals with family, it’s fascinating to see how these trends are reflected in our exhibition artworks. Several exhibitors portray the anonymity of the worker’s lunch break. Others focus on the intimacy and scope for humour within the age-old ritual of family feasting.

Mall Galleries' Digital Content Creator Beatrice Bowles-Bray went behind the scenes to find out more about the paintings from the artists.

Andrew Farmer is part of a group of regular FBA exhibitors called The Northern Boys, who go on painting trips together. They had planned to paint in London for a few days, and while Andrew was waiting for the other artists to arrive, he painted Lunch at St Pancras. ‘I spotted a solitary figure eating lunch on the concrete benches outside the station and felt that sudden urge to get painting. From my time studying in London I could see myself in the figure - that need to get away by myself for some quiet time.’

Lunch at St Pancras by Andrew Farmer: Oil, 40 x 50 cm - £450

‘The painting evolved rapidly; more figures were added as they came and went through the station. I wanted to convey the feeling of isolation I feel when I'm in the city, as well as a sense of being happy in one’s own company, but the painting could be read in a multitude of ways. I'm always conscious of leaving enough to the imagination that viewers can project themselves into the composition.’

Robin Mackervoy ROI is also a member of the Wapping Group of Artists, who paint scenes of London and its river. ‘There are small pockets of calm and rest in London’, Robin says, ‘green spaces where office workers relax with friends or reflect away from the bustle. Aside from Spitalfields, my favourite spots for observing this are Southwark and St Pauls cathedrals.’

Lunchtime, Spitalfields by Robin Mackervoy ROI: Oil, 40 x 35 cm - £600

‘The juxtaposition of tall architecture with the natural shapes of tree and grass, and warm colours against cool colours, together with varieties of light and shade, provided the setting. The eating figures adds a story within a story, and they stand out for their smallness in the grand scale of the scene.’ 

In contrast to these scenes of diners dwarfed by the magnitude of their built environment, other works of art in the ROI Annual Exhibition 2018 look back to the tradition of families eating together.

Fish Supper by Susan Bower RBA ROI: Oil, 43 x 49 cm - £2,200

‘I frequently paint people eating and drinking, often with my pets looking on’, says Susan Bower RBA ROI. ‘I have four children and six grandchildren and seem to spend a lot of my time cooking for them all!’ Fish Supper reflects Susan’s love of seafood. ‘Living in Yorkshire near to the east coast we have access to wonderful fish and have had countless fish suppers over the years’, she says.

Susan’s mealtime scenes are often inflected with humour. Going Vegan comically touches upon the tricky topic of special dietary requirements. ‘My daughter is a staunch vegetarian but my husband is a dedicated carnivore’, she says, which no doubt makes life around the dinner table complicated. ‘I’m just relieved Georgie didn’t go Vegan’, she adds. Susan’s minimalist composition allows the viewer to imagine the bemusement on the faces of the waiter and diners, the empty table an indication of their struggle to find vegan options on the menu.

Going Vegan by Susan Bower RBA ROI: Oil, 46 x 50 cm - £2,200

La Colazione, Tuscany shows a family at breakfast, with a view of the Tuscan landscape in the background. ‘Early mornings in Tuscany have a gentle light and warmth that has created a special setting for this composition’, says Pier Luigi Baffoni Hon Sen ROI. ‘I find the subject of people eating together inspiring because of the atmosphere of pleasure. Such scenes also provide great variety for the artist - a combination of figure, still life, and even landscape painting!’

La Colazione, Tuscany by Pier Luigi Baffoni Hon Sen ROI: Oil, 66 x 91 cm - £3,500

Although these paintings present the act of eating in different styles and from different perspectives, each recognises that, at a basic level, eating is an opportunity to engage with the wider world. That could mean sharing our space with strangers or demonstrating the world’s largeness by our comparative smallness. It could also signify the special shrinkage that occurs when a family dining room comes to feel like the whole world.

Discover the exhibition online now to see how other artists have touched on the theme of food and more. The ROI Annual Exhibition is open at Mall Galleries from 28 November to 9 December 2018. To purchase a work of art contact or call 020 7930 6844.

Browse the Exhibition Catalogue


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Susan Bower RBA ROI

Behind the Scenes: From Farm to Frame


For the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018, the society asked artists to consider the theme of ‘Community Spirit’. Many of the selected works explore this concept’s resonance for individual artists, and it’s fascinating to note how many exhibitors responded to the idea of community through food - from food production and farming to the social interaction of meals shared.

Mall Galleries' Digital Content Creator, Beatrice Bowles-Bray, got in touch with the artists to find out why they chose to focus on food and farming.

Kitchen Table Still Life by Lachlan Goudie ROI: Oil, 135 x 112 cm - £7,500

‘My studio is on a small dairy farm, so I’m surrounded by food production and farming activities’ says artist Nigel Fletcher. ‘My window looks out onto the farmyard and the cows in the barn opposite. I have all the smells and sounds of the farm with me while I'm painting - I love it!’

The Old Bee Hives by Nigel Fletcher: Oil, 50 x 30 cm - £1,200

‘I painted The Old Bee Hives whilst exploring a neighbouring farm. I’d been trying and failing to find a suitable subject to paint, and was about to give up when I spotted this scene out of the corner of my eye. I set up my easel with all the usual excitement, but as it was harvest time I kept having to move out of the way of a tractor driving past to bring grain from the field to the barn.’ 

Community Spirit Allotments by Roger Dellar PS RI ROI: Oil, 56 x 56 cm - £1,200

Roger Dellar PS RI ROI’s painting Community Spirit Allotments is similarly inspired by the harvest and fresh produce. ‘People working together for the common good; it’s a scene that’s close to my heart’ he says. ‘It’s good for people to pull together, get to know each other, and produce fresh food. That element of physical exercise is missing in many people’s lifestyles.’

The Red Colander by Lachlan Goudie ROI: Oil, 59 x 59 cm - £1,950

Exhibitor Linda Alexander ROI’s focus on fruit is purely aesthetic; ‘I love the natural world with its extraordinary shapes, textures and colours’, she says. ‘I try to illuminate these features with sunlight; sunlight brings warmth to the subject as well as blue tones from the sky and often extraordinary lighting effects. Green Apples illustrates all of these points.’

Green Apples by Linda Alexander ROI: Oil, 52 x 52 cm - £1,750

‘I was drawn to the apples as a subject because the leaves were a beautiful shape, encircling the fruit. It gave the painting a lovely rhythm. I liked the textures in the subject; the smooth apples, the gnarled stem, and the veined twisted leaves. And then there's the sunlight on the whole thing which gives it all energy and heat.’

Poplars Farm Workshop by David Curtis VPRSMA ROI: Oil, 53 x 53 cm - £2,350

Fleur Robertson shares Linda’s appreciation for the aesthetic of fresh fruit. ‘I feel that pears have personality, perhaps because of their torso-like shape’ she says. ‘Maybe that’s why they’ve drawn not just my eye, but those of many artists in the past – they even take centre stage in Caravaggio's revolutionary Still Life with Fruit on a Stone Ledge, considered to be the first still life painting in western art.’

Candlelit Pears by Fleur Robertson: Oil, 24 x 24 cm - £300

Artist Colette Clegg and her husband moved out of London to a farm when their children were little. 'We wanted them to have a childhood like we had experienced, with space to run around, lots of animals, and growing food rather than depending on supermarkets. We have a thriving vegetable patch, growing everything from cucumbers and curly kale to beetroot, beans and pumpkins. I'm always on the lookout for interesting subjects to paint, and while it’s tempting to got to exotic places to paint, sometimes the best source of inspiration can be right under your nose. Our kitchen garden offers unlimited ideas.' 

Chioggia Beets by Colette Clegg: Oil, 35 x 35 cm - £595

'I never really liked beetroot when I was growing up, but when we started growing our own beetroot we discovered how delicious it is. Chioggia beets are our favourite; the leaves are a dramatic contrast of vivid green and purple, and digging them out is like prospecting for rubies. I harvest them early in the day so I have time to paint them. Many mealtimes have been delayed due to my creative endeavours. The squishy, juicy consistency of oil paint makes it the perfect medium for my vegetable portraits.'

Discover the exhibition catalogue online now to see how other artists have touched on the themes of food and community. The ROI Annual Exhibition is open at Mall Galleries from 28 November to 9 December 2018. To purchase a work of art contact or call 020 7930 6844.

Browse the Exhibition Catalogue


Behind the Scenes: Stately Houses in the ROI Annual Exhibition 2018


‘Ever since I was a small boy I’ve been enchanted by stately homes’ says artist Chris Bennett ROI. ‘I saw them as storybook worlds surrounded by storybook gardens. Exploring these spaces with my parents, staring fascinatedly up at paintings of people dressed in wonderful costumes, is one of the reasons I became an artist.’

From the Orangery, Belton House by Chris Bennett ROI; Acrylic, 50 x 70 cm - £1,600

Chris’ fascination with stately homes continues to this day. In the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 (28 November to 9 December 2018), the artist is exhibiting work inspired by Belton House, Ickworth House, and Kentwell Hall.

Belton House is a National Trust property in Lincolnshire recognised as a paragon of Carolean architecture, and the most complete example of a Tudor period English country house. Thousands of visitors explore the house and gardens each year, including Chris Bennett ROI, who was inspired by the majestic setting to paint these stunning works.

The Sundial, Belton House by Chris Bennett ROI: Oil, 50 x 70 cm - £1,600

‘When I first watched the television programme ‘Moondial’ I was captivated by the setting, Belton House; I always wanted to pay the place a visit. When I finally got there, it was love at first sight. The first thing I had to paint was the ‘moondial’ itself, seen against the long shadows of the late afternoon sun.’

Statue in the Orangery, Belton House by Chris Bennett ROI: Oil, 33 x 39 cm - £800

‘Stepping inside the orangery at Belton House was another instant beguilement’ says Chris, ‘this time for the spellbinding presence of a marble statue, gleaming brightly against the dark foliage. The sculpted figure seemed almost to be alive under the shards of light filtering down through the canopy of leaves onto the cool surface of her body, innocent among gentle explosions of green.’ 

Chris was also inspired by Ickworth House, a National Trust property in Suffolk known as one of England’s more unusual stately homes. The neoclassical design features a vast 105-foot-high central rotunda with an iconic portico, flanked by narrow wings in the Palladian fashion.

Dome of Ickworth House Behind Trees by Chris Bennett ROI: Oil, 33 x 39 cm - £800

‘Ickworth House is very local to me, and my wife and I often go for walks there’ says Chris. ‘Visitors stroll through this enchanted parkland and stumble upon the building itself, which hides somewhat among the trees.’ In his painting, Chris captures this sense of discovery. ‘It’s an extraordinarily happy place, populated by families, children on scooters, dog walkers, couples young and old, and hikers’ says the artist. 

Door at Kentwell Hall by Chris Bennett ROI: Oil, 33 x 39 cm - £800

The final port of call on Chris Bennett’s artistic tour of England’s stately houses was Kentwell Hall, which dates back to the Domesday Book of 1086. This stunning moated mansion has been used as a set for films, television, and now painting, as Chris put paint to canvas to show us the building’s beautiful entranceway. ‘The doorway, with its mullioned windows bathed in the morning sunshine, seemed like something from a dream’ says Chris.

Chris Bennett ROI isn’t the only artist exhibiting in the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 to be inspired by stately houses. During a recent Spring bank holiday, David Curtis VPRSMA ROI drove his 1979 VW campervan in a Classic Car Run organised by his local village. The first stop on the route was Normanby Hall in Lincolnshire. Normanby Hall is a council-owned property and gardens, offering visitors free access all year round, including family activities and environmental education.

‘After a tour of the fabulous gardens, I came upon a series of Victorian greenhouses which led to the servants and gardeners’ quarters’ says David. ‘I felt the scene could be a memorable work if I could prevail with the complexity of the drawing, and the close tonal effects pervading the composition. I think the finished painting evokes a sense of past times; the gardeners’ room would have been a refuge from the busy outdoor working environment.’

The Gardeners' Room, Normanby Hall by David Curtis VPRSMA ROI: Oil, 54 x 70 cm - £3,250

From exquisite architecture and art, sweeping parklands and carefully cultivated gardens to the quieter, humbler spaces, and the communities past and present which maintain, support and enjoy them, stately houses offer us so much scope in the way of inspiration. Chris Bennett ROI and David Curtis VPRSMA ROI’s paintings in The Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018 reminds us of this fact.

See Chris and David’s paintings on display in the ROI Annual Exhibition at Mall Galleries from 28 November to 9 December 2018. If you would like to purchase an artwork, you can do so by contacting or calling 020 7930 6844.

Browse the Exhibition Catalogue


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The Sundial, Belton House by Chris Bennett ROI

Behind the Scenes: Derek Robertson's Migration Paintings


In this year’s 55th Annual Exhibition by the Society of Wildlife Artists, The Natural Eye 2018, artist Derek Robertson is exhibiting five works painted on site in the Jordanian desert, among the graveyards of refugee boats in Sicily, and in the Jungle Camp in Calais. They are, in Derek’s words: "a field study of adversity: a nature expedition through dystopia”.

Bird Studies in Dystopia by Derek Robertson: Watercolour, 45 x 55 cm - £1,250

The works are part of a larger project by Derek, titled Migrations, about which he says: 'I am privileged to spend my days in wild and beautiful places painting birds. I am fascinated by them; by their abstract shapes, their song, their behaviour, their migrations. I have sketched them, and helped in scientific studies of their migratory journeys from the Arctic right down into Africa. Four years ago I watched as 'The Summer of Boats' unfolded into a refugee crisis, and I saw newscasters reporting from beaches on Mediterranean islands as desperate people came ashore. I recognised these islands as the same places I had travelled to watch and sketch migratory birds and now here were people in a similar state of immediate survival, taking the same lines of flight as the birds I portray.'

Graveyard of refugee boats, Sicily by Derek Robertson: Watercolour, 45 x 55 cm - £1,250

'Through the course of a year, I travelled through the UK and Europe, through the Mediterranean to the Middle East. On my travels I spoke to refugees, locals and volunteers, and I sketched what I saw; the people, the places, and the birds. One of the interests that ecologists have in birds is that they are important environmental indicators; if the populations or migration of the birds change, this points to change in the environment that could be of grave concern. The issues are complex, but academic studies draw a link between climate change, conflict and refugee crises, which all cause further social and environmental stress. In these complex systems, ecologists look to the birds to indicate what might be happening to our world. They are telling us something we can now recognise for ourselves, and how we address the intertwined issues of climate change and refugee crises will define who we are and what societies we live in for generations to come.'

The Desert is Full of Promises by Derek Robertson: Watercolour, 45 x 55 cm - £1,250

'I documented what I saw on my travels and expressed these interwoven topics through a series of paintings back in the studio, but often the stories I heard and the things I saw were difficult to express and too hard to portray. I often concentrated my attention on the details and the surface texture – the ephemera of the boats and camps and studies of the birds that I found there. The project challenged me artistically and personally, and I often found myself very far outside my comfort zone. I taught art classes in refugee schools and organised art activities for unaccompanied children in some of the camps. I was mugged in Sicily, caught in a riot in Calais, and escorted off sites by armed police and soldiers, but my experiences were matched by the inspirational humanity of the many refugees and volunteers that I met.'

We Used the Apps to Guide Us by Derek Robertson: Watercolour, 26 x 26 cm - £500

Derek's works are on display in The Natural Eye 2018 from 25 October to 4 November 2018. You can find out more about the exhibition and browse the catalogue online here. If you would like to purchase one of Derek's paintings, please call 020 7930 6844 or email You can also find out more about Derek's project Migrations here

We Followed the Phone by Derek Robertson: Watercolour, 26 x 26 cm - £500

Browse the Exhibition Catalogue

Jill Moger SWLA: Inspired by Spires


Jill Moger SWLA describes the inspiration for and creation of her huge ceramic sculpture of the Hydrothermal Vent that can be seen in The Natural Eye 2018.

"I was first inspired to make a ceramic sea chimney whilst watching a video of a manned submersible dive down to a volcanic rift valley in the Pacific ocean. Massive and multiple spires of solidified lava hove into view - strange, mystical shapes culminating in pinnacles and chimneys with multiple stacks up to tens of metres high. They looked sculptural - the unique and strange life forms teeming all over the surfaces were so beautiful that I felt the urge to try and recreate a version of it.

I found many references to hydrothermal vents online, plus a few books on the subject and set about learning as much as I could. The life on and around a hydrothermal vent is fascinating and largely unique. The scientists who discovered them in the late 1970s had not expected to find life two miles deep in total darkness, with extreme pressure and temperatures of around 750F.

How does life thrive there without photosynthesis? With chemosynthesis. Mineral-rich fluids erupt out of cracks in the earth’s crust and react chemically with the seawater. These chemicals feed the billions of microbes which in turn feed the populations of higher animals. Sometimes the chemicals symbiotically maintain creatures, as with the striking and unique red-plumed Giant Tube Worms (Riftia). The microbes within the worms survive by converting the chemicals and minerals (importantly, hydrogen sulphide) into sugars which in turn feeds the worms. Vent Snails, Brachyuran Crabs, Yellow Mussels and clams graze on the microbial film on the vent surfaces. Squat Lobsters, Yeti Crabs (yes, they are hairy!), Zoarcid Fish and octopuses scavenge and prey on each other. Most of the life here is white or colourless - why expend energy on colour production in total darkness?

It took several months to work out the best way to make my ceramic sea chimney. It needed to look tall but be small enough that I could easily reach the top with a step ladder. I prefer to make life-sized sculpture so I aimed for a height of six to seven feet – perhaps a young eruption with young life. I knew that a multitude of four to five foot long red-plumed Giant Tube Worms would not work and neither would Giant Clams the size of dinner plates!

It was not going to be possible to make my chimney in one piece, not only because of the modest size of my kiln but also because of the vagaries and unpredictability of clay. Unless the structure is an even thickness throughout, large clay forms can warp, slump, crack and always shrink during the long firing processes. These possibilities need to be allowed for.

Following several scribbled sketches, I settled on making the main shape in a number of parts that fit together in a kind of three-dimensional jigsaw.

The basic clay needed to be rough, strong and thermal shock-resistant. This created another problem because different clays shrink at different rates. The rougher clays only shrink about 6%, whilst the white stoneware and porcelain that I use for fine work shrinks by 16%. This meant that the finely made life forms, when attached to the basic chimney, would fall out in the firing! I was going to have to do some careful mixing of clays to achieve a more even shrinkage between them.

The chimney is made of ten pieces – three at the base, two in the second layer and three upper storeys. The subsidiary chimney has two parts and sits neatly at the base.

Each piece was separately made by building up the walls with internal supports and the life forms were added along the way.

Tube Worms, mussels and shrimps were all made in small batches so that I could place them en masse on each piece of chimney to achieve some balance and harmony. The more singular species such as fish, octopus and crabs, I placed on or amongst them as appropriate. The exact positioning of animals evolved as I worked.

I placed thick polythene between the sections of chimney wherever they touched in order to be able to take them apart easily when ready for the first of four firings.

Each was coloured and glazed using the same palette, with lustres added where useful for example the shrimps have the illusion of looking slightly transparent.

After all the firings the fitting back together of such a comparatively large ceramic structure had its difficulties, but with a little chipping, filing and some internal reinforcements, all was well. I hope you enjoy looking at it."

Jill's work will be on show as part of The Natural Eye 2018: The Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition (25 October to 4 November).

View the Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition Online Now


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Hydrothermal vent life - Pompeii worm, yeti crab

SWLA Project : KYST - My Home Island of Bornholm


KYST (‘coast’) is the name of a project Ben Woodhams SWLA has been working on in 2018 on the Danish island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea - his home for the last ten years. KYST takes the form of a series of 52 consecutive walking tours following Bornholm’s coastline, one for each week of the year, with each walk no more than two or three kilometres.

"Each week I start the walk from the same spot where I finished the week before. The concluding walk in the last week of the year (Friday, 28 December) will take me right back to where I started on Friday 5 January – the pier arms of Rønne harbour, Bornholm’s point of entry and exit.

Vang Harbour, Bornholm

Each walk begins at dawn and ends at dusk. During each journey I move slowly – clockwise – along the coastline and observe and record my experiences as I go with the aim of making some sort of physical record of my journey on that particular day, on that particular stretch of the coastline. Everything is completed on the day, in the field, between the sunrise and sunset, and everything I produce is part of the project - also the disasters and disappointments, of which there have been many.

Example of Woodhams' 'slice paintings'

During the course of the journey, I have passed through rocky, deserted shores, sandy tourist-filled beaches, small fishing villages, and built-up areas and industrial fishing harbours. On some of the journeys I have been completely alone, on others surrounded by people. In midsummer I was out for over 18 hours, in midwinter less than seven. So far I have been out in freezing snow storms, baking summer heat and torrential rain.

Pissebække, Bornholm

KYST is a journey through time and space, a voyage of discovery and exploration, with Bornholm as a gigantic clock face, sundial or calendar. Each walk is a story of a day, of the changing weather patterns and tidal flows and the rising and setting of the sun. By physically moving through the landscape I move through periods of geological time, in some places passing through millions of years with just a few steps. The arrival and departure of migratory birds, the flowering and wilting of vegetation, even the coming of the tourist hordes, all tell a story of my journey through the year and around the island.

Walking to Vige Harbour, Bornholm

I am fascinated by the process of observation and the way in which the physical act of looking – really looking – creates a deep physiological connection between ourselves and our environment. I am equally fascinated by  how we respond creatively to this process of observation, and the relationship between the objective physical act of observation and the subjective act of interpretation. And I am deeply fascinated by how this process unfolds within the natural environment and the passing of time and space.

While birds have been the focus of my efforts, I am equally fascinated by changes in the sea and sky through the day, and the landscape itself. I’ve been painting lots of ‘slice paintings’ where I split up a sheet of paper into different timed segments, and I’ve also experimented with letting elements of the day itself (the wind, the frost, the rain, the traces of birds and insects…) somehow decide the course of the drawing.

Eider Studies, Tejn Harbour

On the KYST day itself, I upload some images on my Instagram account and on returning I collate the images and write a blog of the day on my website, including a GPS map of my route. Next year, I will be producing a book and touring an exhibition of the KYST project."

Ben's work will be on show as part of The Natural Eye 2018: The Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition from 25 October to 4 November.

View the Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition online now

Apply for a Bursary from the Society of Wildlife Artists to do a similar project

Image credit

Ben Woodhams SWLA