Quality artworks on show thanks to Henley Arts Trail

Tony Johnson looks at some of his favourite pieces by the borough's artists

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The first May bank holiday weekend of 2019 saw the arrival of the Henley Arts Trail.

We’ve covered many of the venues located in Wokingham Borough and as ever, the competition to be included in the paper was high and we’re pleased to feature more of the artists and creators than any other newspaper in the borough.

My pick of the trail

This year it was close, but two works stood out for their political relevance as much as for their artistic content.
The first of them was Mick McNicholas’ Sympathy for the Devil.

In this ambiguously titled work, it’s left to the viewer to decide whether Theresa May is the one we should have sympathy for, or whether it is she who has sympathy for Satan. Either way, this depiction of the PM stands out as the picture of the show.

The day after the photo had been taken, when Mrs May visited Charvil Village Hall where it was being exhibited, apparently one of her “minders” stood in front of it. When Mick asked if he was trying to block the view, another “minder” came across and also stood in front of it.

A few whispered conversations into their jacket cuffs later and the PM was whisked away – never having seen it.

This is a real shame since, whatever you think about her in her ‘day job’ as Prime Minister, Mrs May does have a good sense of humour and if she’d seen it she’d probably have bought it too. For one reason (or the other).

Ho-hum – such is life.

Louise Spiers – “Wokingham 1959”

The second was Louise Spears’ vintage steamer trunk.

This features Ordnance Survey maps of the area from 1959 and the attention to detail in order to get the maps to fit the trunk is meticulous.

All the joins and cut lines match up superbly – so that you can track each and every road as they wend their way across each surface. If you’ve an eye for detail, you’ll enjoy the precision of each cut-out – around the rivets, locks, hinges and handles – they’re all outstanding.

Politically, the contrast between the built up areas of 60 years ago and today couldn’t be more stark. Given this week’s Local Election results, not only would Wokingham Borough Councillors do well to study Louise’s work, some local MPs might want to take note too.

On the Trail

It was a pleasure to travel round the arts trail again – meeting newcomers and greeting those who’d returned for another year.

JJ Vizern’s studies of Pearson Road in Sonning caught the eye, not only for their local interest but for the notable “face” appearing in the lower right corner of the study we’ve featured.

Likewise, Chris Hughesdon’s work in progress was of interest – particularly if the PM was going to visit, in which case I suggested he might like to change theleading ‘E’ of the second word to an ‘A’.

However the show isn’t just for exhibiting or for commenting on, it is an opportunity to purchase what’s on display too and the City Bag being shown by Babs Hughesdon was first snapped, then snapped up immediately after.

Painting Watercolours on Canvas wasn’t only a book, it was a whole new technique for Liz Chaderton and she was really excited to have got hold of the printer’s first proof copy of her new book a couple of days before the show.

It’s not often an artist can combine practicality, creativity and a certain satisfaction in the way which Susan Thomas managed to with Hang Up Your Clothes – a message, or perhaps a permanent reminder, to one of her children when they turned 18 with this wall-hanging of past indiscretions.

As ever, there’s never enough time, space or (in 2019) energy, to cover every exhibitor at every venue, so with regrets to the exhibitors who missed out this year, I hope everyone enjoyed the show and these visual reminders of who was displaying what will act as a happy memento of a great weekend.

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