Ashdown Gallery – a little gem tucked away in Forest Row.
The Ashdown Gallery and Arts Studio is a professional art gallery located in the heart of the Ashdown Forest, one hour from London Victoria, and showcases the work of local, national and international artists, carefully chosen for their outstanding skills. It is a thriving and vibrant gallery with exciting and innovative artwork of a standard not often seen outside London. The gallery has established a reputation for offering a vibrant selection of original paintings and is a friendly welcoming venue for all art lovers.
Earlier in the summer ingénu/e caught up with owner Cathie Hubert.
Cathie, tell us about your background.
I am an a painter, I come from Nice in the south of France and I have a background in marketing and communications as well. I have worked as a journalist, art teacher and events organiser whilst all the time working on my own art.
What led you to open the gallery?
Ashdown Gallery was formed originally as a partnership of three in 2009. All three of us were artists and we were involved in artists’ groups and group exhibitions, but felt that we needed a good professional art gallery in such a vibrant area as Forest Row. I have never met so many artists in so small a community. So we started one.
I’m now running the gallery on my own and although it is hard work to manage everything, I am so happy to do it, as I have been able to give the gallery a strong and focused direction over the last two years and I can see now the results of the change I decided to make to have a strong identity and attract art collectors. So the Gallery now specialises in paintings and ceramics with a few sculptures when we meet a good sculptor.
What is the ethos behind the gallery?
Firstly, the vision was always very much to create an art gallery with an ‘open feel’, friendly atmosphere, and to make art available and accessible to all – part of everyday life. We always hoped to be able to bring people through the door who might normally be inhibited entering a gallery, and it is the case nowadays as we have collectors and people starting to collect art because they love the gallery. And so it happened and I am very happy with this!
Secondly, the gallery organises many art workshops (printmaking, drawing, watercolour) and thus plays a vital role in the development of knowledge and understanding of all the visual art forms. Most of our solo exhibitions include an artist demo or talk and we are currently preparing a series of small art history sessions with Richard Heys for the public on each Saturday after Easter. We also regularly do art workshops for children called Arty Parties, all taught by artists. So lots of art education.
As far as the art on show is concerned, we work with professional artists only, emerging or confirmed, and we show mainly semi abstract modern work, mostly colourful, as I like colour and vibrant art.
And also I have very close supportive friends who help a lot, which is very precious to me.
What makes the gallery different?
A client once came in and said to me, “The gallery is a gem for the eye and soul”, which made me very emotional as this is what I also like feeling when I look at a work of art.
What I have been wanting to achieve for the past two years is to give artistic pleasure and joy to the visitor and hope at the same time they feel a deep connection one way or another with what they are looking at. All this in a relaxed friendly atmosphere. Art for me is immediate and must give joy and pleasure first.
We change the exhibitions every 3 weeks except in summer, when we always have a summer exhibition in July and are closed in August. So there is always something new on the walls.
I also have a passion for ceramics and we are currently displaying a very varied range from famous artists to local ceramicists, all different all creative and cheerful.
Lastly, I like working with a core of faithful talented painters with whom I have established a trusting, friendly relationship and whose work I entirely support at all times. What pushes me to choose an artist is the passion I feel for his or her work, no matter where they come from, and I like nothing better than helping a talented emerging artist find his way to enthusiastic buyers. And what motivates me is creativity, change and talent.
May and June saw solo exhibitions with two fantastic artists I have been working with for a while now, the talented flower painter Tina Davies from Brighton in May and the amazing Lorna Holdcroft from Fletching in early June. Tina and Lorna sell out each time they show their work!
Ashdown Gallery took part in the first SEEART Fair in Tunbridge Wells, showcasing some of its best artists: Carne Griffiths, whose striking work graces the summer issue’s front cover, works primarily with calligraphy ink, graphite and liquids such as tea, brandy and vodka. Other artists featured were Lorna Holdcroft with her stunning Sussex landscapes, John Button’s beautiful poetic still life work, Tiffany Lynch’s exquisite illustration work, the big oil paintings of Tina Davies, Moira Mctague’s delightful etchings and Nikki Monaghan’s charming landscapes and coastal scenes.
For more about the gallery and its artists, visit www.ashdowngallery.co.uk.