By Jules Chan, Second Year Law
Come and meet some of the 100 artists exhibiting at the West Bristol Arts Trail. You would be forgiven for thinking you stepped in to an alternate universe where the sanitized and alienating world of high-end art galleries never existed.
The Trail, which runs for a preview night and subsequent weekend every year, sees artists open up venues and homes, and presents an open and democratic opportunity for artists to display and sell their work directly to the public, free from the exorbitant cut (sometimes up to 250%) that commercial galleries often take. That was the thinking when Anna Wilson started the project all the way back in 2008, since then, the trail has grown but the ethos has remained the same.
I could review the art, but that would be missing the point. The art on display is as openly and democratically diverse as those that make them: a coalition of self-confessed hobbyists, part-time studies, and full-time artists who have dropped everything for the passion of creation. It is about knowing the artist as much as it is about knowing the art.
Take a stroll through those exhibiting at Clifton High School, and you might have run in to Lloyd Lewis, whose self-portraits not only reflect a technical style reminiscent of Lucian Freud, but also the culmination of his personal journey, rekindling the self-confidence to paint, and display his works publicly.
Turn around, and you might be captivated by Chris Dye’s mastery of watercolour light and landscapes, or the geometric prints on display by Emma Studd, who left her job at the high school to pursue her creations. It’s her first year displaying at the art trail, and she speaks with a passion so infectious it’s difficult not to get swept up in shared excitement towards making it in art.
Then there’s something to be said about the approach taken in having the artists themselves open up their homes to the public. Walking through artists like Bob Bromfield’s apartment, and seeing the very same window that inspired his illustrations elevates the pieces in to something more relatable than what the best profile piece could ever offer.
Although the growth of the trail has meant that the number of venues and slots for artists who want to participate has been limited, for students looking to exhibit next year, the advice from most artists is the same: apply early on in January, focus on building up a well rounded commercially viable portfolio and, most importantly, don’t judge yourself too harshly. Everyone starts somewhere, and it’s difficult to imagine a better place, or community of artists to start with than those of the West Bristol Arts trail.
Featured Image: unsplash
Did you check out the West Bristol Arts Trail this year?