Stunning Local Art at Torquay's Abbey

(Last Updated On: September 17, 2018)


A new joint exhibition in Torre Abbey, The Artists of St Ives and the Torbay Artists’ Collective, is something anyone with an interest in art would be mad to miss.

I went along and was amazed at the range of art on display – and by the quality, too, of so much of it, our local artists as well as some major Twentieth Century names.

The Artists of St Ives in the museum itself includes some intriguing small-scale pieces by the likes of Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth alongside, for example, a striking post-cubist piece by Patrick Heron.

Meanwhile, in the Spanish Barn the work ranges from minutely exact representational painting to abstract and abstract-expressionist, playing with form, shape and colour. Landscapes and seascapes are hung alongside geometric patterns of striking colour, like Nora Doherty’s vibrant shades of blues. I was particularly struck – as were plenty of others – by Justin Williams’ delightfully realised and evocative paintings of Spanish street scenes. I spoke to Justin’s father who, with charming self-deprecation, told me he was surprised at people’s responses to his son’s work as it was, he reckoned, so ‘low key’: in fact that’s part of the impressionistic paintings’ appeal, I think – their subdued, quietly toned exactness.

Again, if you haven’t seen the exhibitions, and if, like me, you sometimes feel starved of new art to enjoy in the Bay, hurry along to the Spanish Barn in particular: I really can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.


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Apart from five years studying in Oxford I’ve lived most of my life in London where for many years I was Head of English in a prestigious girls’ school, but since taking early retirement and heading West to be nearer to my two daughters - settling in Torbay with my wife, Anna, in 2011 - I’ve worked in the voluntary sector. I took on the role of Service Provider, for example, promoting the Red Cross Torbay Navigators Project, while now I’m a Trustee and part of the Media Team for our local Healthwatch. I’m a governor at Torquay Academy, too, giving me the chance to stay up to date with what’s happening in the world of education. Other interests, aside from friends and family, include art and art history, reading - from contemporary fiction and poetry to Elizabethan/Jacobean literature - history, politics, cooking, walking, and music, in particular Bob Dylan, the blues, and early Elvis. I love writing, too, with one novel published so far – Elvis in Wonderland – and another, Who’s There?, that still needs plenty of work!