Black Swan Arts Press Releases

Curled black painted paper pinned to a wall
Brown strips of wood evenly spaced

Date published: 4 April 2022
Lucinda Burgess, On Repetition
Long Gallery
4 June – 3 July
Preview Friday 3 June, 6-8pm

On Repetition

A new show at Black Swan Arts by artist Lucinda Burgess incorporates works in steel, charred wood and glass as well as more sculptural works using Indian Khadi paper.

Lucinda’s primary focus in ‘On Repetition’ is materiality – she is particularly drawn to its natural, often delicate and always changeable character. Each material is chosen for the degree to which it can transform; it may be highly reflective such as glass or graphite, or capable of undergoing radical visual transformation – for example, polished steel to rust.

Another key aspect of Lucinda’s vocabulary is her enactment of Søren Kierkegaard’s observation that “There is no such thing as repetition.” By repeatedly subjecting matter to the same process – or by repeatedly placing the ‘same’ object in different contexts – she reveals that it is all too apparent that nothing can be repeated; that every attempt to do so arrives at an outcome that is totally unique.

In Same, for example, two sets of steel angles, identical in size and material, are placed in different contexts: one on the wall, the other on the floor. Despite their close proximity, the difference in location totally alters the viewer’s perception: the one on the wall looks like modernist art, the one on the floor more like a cattle grid or a foot grille.

Drawing on her deep interest in oriental philosophy, Lucinda’s work emphasises the fact that the visual field is in constant movement and stresses the very experience of looking; she accentuates the importance of first-hand experience, as opposed to our current culture’s emphasis on mediated
experience. As the viewer walks around one of her pieces, the colours may dance about in a sea of reflections or the shapes may transmute as the eyes move. The key message of her work is that, experientially, there is no stasis; that, ultimately, the idea of a ‘thing’ that lasts is just that: an idea, a useful and necessary tool for navigating the constant flux of sensory data.

Lucinda first trained as a painter, then combined painting with teaching and, following that, she became involved with oriental philosophy, spending some years in a monastic setting. Continuing this pattern of dramatic change, she next went on to become a successful landscape designer, winning several awards (including two gold medals) at Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows, as well as an Association of Professional Landscapers award for her large-scale plant installation at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Since 2010 she has resumed her fine art practice, working primarily in three dimensions.

Lucinda holds a BA in Fine Art from Bath Academy of Art, a postgraduate qualification in art teaching from Goldsmiths, University of London, and an MFA (with distinction) from Bath School of Art and Design. Her art has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including in London, Liverpool, Bath, Bristol and Athens. She has won several funded residencies including the Porthleven Prize in 2014 and a residency at Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall, in 2019, and her work was selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2018 and the Aesthetica Art Prize in 2019. She is currently working closely with Bartha Contemporary in London and enjoys a place in their online showcase. She has been invited to exhibit in Berlin later in the year.

Sculpture showing a folder elbow

Date published: 4 April 2022
Simon Hitchens, Beyond Body
Long Gallery
30 April – 26 May
Preview Friday 29 April, 6-8pm

Beyond Body

A new exhibition by Simon Hitchens at Black Swan Arts in Frome sets out to test the boundaries of what it is to be human by investigating the porous relationship we share with the non-human world of rock.

Simon Hitchens takes the notion that there is the possibility of a state or being, sentient or otherwise, that is post-human and explores this through a comprehensive body of work which questions differences between animate and inanimate. He says: ‘I am fascinated by the interconnectedness between the human and the non-human, what passes and what outlasts, as a means of exploring our relationship with impermanence.’

By working directly with rock and morphing that with the human body, Hitchens has made a series of hybrid works – uncanny and speculative beings which seek to re-conceive the human. These works become zoomorphic reformations that display strange living qualities, visceral unions between rock and flesh that comprehend the geological world and the flesh world as united.

His sculptures, paintings and drawings investigate the essence of the things we perceive – the physical, natural world and our place within it. They seek to understand the sublime qualities of rock: physically as the very earth that supports us and geologically as the almost ageless constant that resonates through time, giving perspective to our transient lives on this planet. They ask: what makes a being sentient? Is a mountain or stone a being? What is it to be a thing, and can a thing be without necessarily being human?

Hitchens graduated in Fine Art from the University of the West of England in 1990 and has exhibited widely since then, as well as undertaking private commissions and numerous large-scale public commissions. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Sculptors (of which he is currently a trustee) in 1998, he is a Royal West of England Academician and is the fourth generation of artist in his family.

Abstract red wavy lined drawing by Daniel McGrirr
Monochrome drawing featuring a dark sphere in front of a horizon by Guy Watts

Date published: 6 February 2022
Guy Watts & Daniel McGirr, A Duet of Lines
Long Gallery
5 March – 3 April
Preview Friday 4 March, 6-8pm

A Duet of Lines
A new exhibition of pen and ink drawings at Black Swan Arts explores nature and the universe.

Guy Watts and Daniel McGirr both specialise in producing meticulous drawings. However, there is a huge difference in the scale of their mark-making.

Frome artist Guy Watts works at a tiny scale. Each drawing is composed of hundreds of fine pen marks, which build up to create detailed images that are both dreamy and complex. His desire to draw was triggered at the age of 27 with the sudden clarity of vision that came when he acquired his first pair of glasses. Guy’s precise drawings can take two or three months to complete.

Bristol-based Daniel McGirr works at a much larger scale, although he makes marks of corresponding subtlety and accuracy. His abstract drawings are inspired by the natural and manmade world, although he focuses on the process of creation as opposed to overall subject matter and theme. The end result is organic forms and patterns using a form of mark-making that utilises precise edges and angles. Daniel endeavours to challenge people’s perceptions of art and what can be achieved through painstaking detail.

Both artists bring a degree of obsessiveness to their practice – for example, not allowing certain lines to touch one another or simply being willing to reproduce repeating lines hundreds of times in one drawing. This helps to give their artwork a three-dimensional quality.

Abstract strands of light across a dark landscape

Date published: 10 December 2021
Slow Time, Somerset Art Works
15 January – 27 February
Preview: 14 January, 6-8pm

Slow Time: Somerset Reacquainted Tour

As part of the final chapter of the Somerset Reacquainted tour, a new exhibition of solargraphs at Black Swan Arts explores the passing of time.

‘Slow Time’ is the result of a project recording the passage of time initiated during the first lockdown. Led by Somerset Solagraphic Society, set up by artists Janette Kerr and John Gammans, and supported by Somerset Art Works, this extraordinary exhibition features long-exposure photographs of the Somerset landscape created using nothing more than recycled drinks cans made into pinhole cameras.

Over 100 participants placed 150 pinhole cameras containing light-sensitive material in locations around Somerset and left them in situ for five or six months. The resulting images have been slowly shaped by landscape and the movement of the sun, slowly creeping higher with the passing of the seasons. The actions of the environment, like rain and other elemental detritus, have also found their way into the images, yet there is an absence of any moving objects, such as people, animals or cars. The sun’s progress is recorded as an accumulation of lines arcing and streaking across the image, leaving a ghostly exposure of the landscape seen in slow time and out of phase with human inhabitants.

As the pandemic unfolds our perception of time is challenged as daily routines, plans and schedules are laid to waste. Suddenly not having to be anywhere means that we have no option but to be present. Present in the eerie stillness of life we start to reflect and take stock, find new ways to spend our time, and begin to notice those elements that ordinarily pass us by unnoticed.

Part of the Somerset Reacquainted Tour, the solargraphs are being shown alongside a collaborative book, initial ‘sharings’ and objects from the project, contributed by 63 artist members from Somerset Art Works.

The preview will take place on Friday 14 January from 6–8pm – everyone is welcome to come along.

Black and white portrait of Malcolm Lloyd

Date published: 26 August 2021
Black Swan Arts, new Chair of the Board of Trustees: Malcolm Lloyd

Malcolm Lloyd is probably best known in Frome for his 15 years at Frome Community College, where he was the Community Education Co-ordinator. He was responsible for the creation of:
  • Littleoaks Day Nursery
  • Frome Association for Holiday Activities (FAHA)
  • Frome Education and Training Enterprise (FETE)
He also led the Adult Education programme which, at its height, attracted over 1,200 students a week.
He has worked with a variety of other organisations including:
  • ECOS (The European Community of Stones)
  • The Opportunity Playgroup
  • Frome Toy Library
  • Frome Youth and Community Centre
He also found time to be a Town and District Councillor (briefly).
Following his retirement in 2010 Malcolm helped create Frome Community Education. A Community Interest Company which today, eleven years later, is still providing adult education classes for the community. A keen golfer, Malcolm has been Club Captain at Orchardleigh, as well as Seniors Captain three times! He had his first hole-in-one at the end of July this year!
Malcolm came to Frome in 1988 and quickly became a regular at Black Swan Arts (and its then vegetarian restaurant). The College Community Education classes ran a two week exhibition of work. These emphasised their three main strands:
  • art classes
  • pottery
  • textiles (as provided by Frome Textile Workshop which had evolved from a Community Education class)

The Pottery classes are still a major part of the programme with 11 classes a week still being offered.

Malcolm’s wide range of interests meant that ‘Frome Comm Ed’ became known for an eclectic programme of activities including:
  • Family Learning
  • Education Extra
  • The Heart of Frome, the town map that still hangs in the children’s section of Frome Library
For a few years it became a centre for language tuition for the MOD. With over twenty part-time staff at one time, Malcolm lead a team that certainly made things happen. Many of whom progressed to bigger and better things. Running the College ski trips and accompanying Parachute Theatre Company to Glastonbury are particular feathers in his cap.
Coloured print featuring light shining through trees.
Black and white etching featuring silver birch trees.
David Parfitt working in his studio.

Date published: 16 May 2021
David Parfitt, 20 Miles
Exhibition dates: 30 July – 26 September

A new exhibition of paintings and prints by Somerset landscape artist David A. Parfitt at Black Swan Arts in Frome reflects on our connections with nature, place and home.

Most of the work in ‘20 Miles’ – a mixture of dramatic, sometimes almost abstract, watercolours and striking monochromatic monoprints – has been created in David’s studio during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. ‘Somerset is my home,’ he says. ‘I am from here and I work here. Special memories of past and present pervade my work. The places I paint constantly return to me – they are special and are all within 20 miles of my studio in Coleford. This is me.’

The new works – which feature the trees, wetlands and woods of Somerset – explore the tension between the restrictions that have been placed on all of us over the past year and the desire to get out into the natural world. David says: ‘On the face of it not much changed to my solitary working life, but then again everything was different.’

By staying close to home, David rediscovered places on his daily walks around the village, making new connections and creating new memories. Conversely, he also longed for his regular autumn and winter walks around the Mendip hills and Somerset wetlands.

This has resulted in subtle variations in his practice: ‘The marks I make in my paintings seem to reflect an anxiety. They are less defined, sometimes uncertain, and I am making more work from memory.’ He adds: ‘Does this mean I have travelled 20 miles in advancing or improving my work? I am not sure, but I do know that I have not physically travelled further than 20 miles in the past 12 months.’

David describes himself as a landscape artist working with watercolours and monoprints. His paintings are representational, but his intention is ‘to make things that have a sense of place without looking overly contrived or deliberate’. His method involves working quickly, drawing seemingly haphazard marks with a brush and combining these with loose washes without getting overinvolved in detail. At the same time, he is also ‘thinking about the painting and letting it speak to me, rather than purely replicating the landscape image in front of me’.

Even before the pandemic, David was spending an increasing amount of time working in his studio, although he passionately believes that an essential part of the process is to work on paintings outdoors to capture colour, form and composition. However, these days he takes with him a sketchbook, a small box of watercolours and a camera, using the sketches and photographs to make studio-based pieces where he can give more thought to experimentation or just work purely from memory. Some of his sketchbooks will be on display as part of the exhibition.

David’s monoprints involve a totally different way of working to watercolour: the removal of colour allows him to concentrate on tone, extreme contrast and mark making. He says: ‘These elements are revealed both in the wiping of ink from the plate and by marking and drawing on the plate itself. There is a mechanical process to it all which I find therapeutic, although I am never confident of the result!’

David A. Parfitt was elected a member of the Royal Institute (RI) of Painters in Water Colours in 2011 and is currently serving as the organisation’s honorary treasurer. He won the Neil Meacher RI sketchbook award in 2012, the Frank Herring award in 2014 and the Winsor & Newton/RI award (for the group of paintings judged to be the most outstanding contribution to the exhibition) in 2016.

Here for culture

Date published: 27 April 2021
Culture Recovery Fund update
Arts Council England

We were delighted and relieved to receive £54,000, awarded as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure they have a sustainable future.

We’d like to let you know some information about what we’ve been able to achieve with this funding. It’s worth pointing out that some of this was given to make up the deficit in income – like most arts organisations we lost most of our income in 2020 from not being able to hold exhibitions and from being unable to charge tenants rent. We are also still in the process of delivering work with our funding – the programme doesn’t end until the end of June, and we will produce a final report after that. As with many other organisations, we’ve tried and failed with some things but succeeded in places we didn’t predict.


We were able to fund two Arts Managers for a contracted period to help us with planning exhibitions and future collaborations.

We have been holding exhibitions partly online and in our downstairs spaces of the Black Swan Arts building, between lockdowns:

  • Small & Affordable
  • Jewellery & Leather Showcase
  • In Pursuit of Spring, Somerset Art Works
  • Frome Open Art Trail

We launched our online shop to enable a wider audience to view and buy original artwork.


We’re focused more than ever on the part we have to play in this vibrant and generous community. Alongside hosting group exhibitions which serve a wider range of artists from around the county, we are also in discussions with local organisations so that we can continue to work together, share the load and be more effective for our community.


We have been working to explore and develop the possibilities around future workshops and the package we can offer to those in our community.

IT and AV equipment

We’ve been able to update our IT equipment and software to be more secure and future proofed.

And we have purchased audiovisual equipment to help us with online delivery to continue alongside physical exhibitions. It’s been amazing to see engagement from those further afield so we want to continue to provide that as an option.

Health & Safety

Like everyone else, we have had extra costs to make our building safe to our creative tenants, visitors and volunteers. As we continue to open up our building we are constantly evaluating what the risks and requirements are.

Black and white photograph showing a woodland path.

Photograph by Paul Newman

Date published: 14 February 2021
In Pursuit of Spring
Exhibition runs: 27 March – 8 May 2021
Collaboration with Somerset Art Works

Black Swan Arts have joined forces with Somerset Art Works for their first exhibition since last year’s coronavirus lockdown. ‘In Pursuit of Spring’ has been inspired by poet Edward Thomas’ account of his journey by bicycle between London and Somerset to meet the arrival of spring in 1913.

Responding to various themes in Thomas’ book, In Pursuit of Spring, such as hope, change and renewal, around 50 Somerset Art Works members have created artwork to illustrate the Somerset leg of Thomas’ journey. He enters the county near Farleigh Hungerford and travels west through Norton St Philip, Shepton Mallet, Wells and Glastonbury, eventually arriving on Cothelstone Hill in the Quantocks on 28 March, as the storm clouds of the Great War gathered. Thomas was killed four years later at the Battle of Arras. The work will be displayed alongside text from the book which is published by Little Toller Books of Dorset.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the natural world has been an important consolation for many of us. Now, when we all need a sense of hope and renewal, Thomas’ descriptions of springtime Somerset – the ‘noble elms’, verdant banks teaming with celandine, pennywort and cranesbill, the calls of larks and linnets – are a poignant reminder of the beauty of our county. This exhibition brings together Thomas’ text with contemporary images and representations of Somerset, and is a wonderful way to celebrate the reopening of Black Swan Arts – almost 108 years to the day since Thomas completed his journey.

As well as the physical exhibition, Black Swan Arts will host a carefully curated online exhibition, including short films about selected artists. If coronavirus rules allow, there will also be a series of art workshops – details to be announced later. All the work will be for sale.

Here for culture

Date published: 12 October 2020
Culture Recovery Fund
Arts Council England

Black Swan Arts receives lifeline grant from Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund

Black Swan Arts has been awarded £54,000 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure they have a sustainable future, the Culture Secretary has announced today.

Black Swan Arts is one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving urgently needed support. £257 million of investment has been announced this week as part of the very first round of the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England.

Black Swan Arts is a Community Arts Centre which has been serving the people of Frome and the surrounding area for over 30 years. With exhibitions, shops, studios and a courtyard café, their vibrant and varied programme features contemporary and innovative art from local and regional artists.

With no external funding, Frome’s arts centre is completely reliant on donations and earned income, which has been severely affected by Covid-19 this year. The grant will enable them to remain open, make up this lost income and, equally importantly, review a new business plan that will make Black Swan Arts more secure both in the short and long term.

Hans Borgonjon and David Daniels who made the application want to put Black Swan Arts back at the heart of the community with a programme of innovative, cutting edge workshops and events.  The exciting range of workshops will be aimed at all audiences and every community group, something for everyone – school children, adult learners, career changers, business developers, anyone who wants to discover their creativity.  Workshop plans include exciting sessions on Robotics, Ceramics, 3D printing, Life Drawing, Chocolate Making, Drawing and Music on an iPad as well as more traditional crafts like Leatherwork, Jewellery making, Illustration, Creative Writing and Painting.

They will be aiming to provide as much content as possible through live-stream and online, as well as safely opening the doors to the much-loved arts centre in the centre of Frome.

“Within these challenging times for everyone we will provide an inspiring learning experience.  This funding means we can make a huge variety of creative learning accessible to everyone.”  David Daniels

“A great benefit of this award is that it provides us with time to think, plan, and open doors to make good things happen again.”  Hans Borgonjon

“We are incredibly grateful for this support – it means an awful lot for us, as a small, volunteer-led, unfunded arts organisation.  It will enable us to continue to work with local artists and makers, and continue as a valuable community resource for Frome.”  Rebecca Morland, Acting Chair of Trustees at Black Swan Arts

“This funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation. It will protect these special places, save jobs and help the culture sector’s recovery.

These places and projects are cultural beacons the length and breadth of the country. This unprecedented investment in the arts is proof this government is here for culture, with further support to come in the days and weeks ahead so that the culture sector can bounce back strongly.”  Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This life-changing funding will save thousands of cultural spaces loved by local communities and international audiences. Further funding is still to be announced and we are working hard to support our sector during these challenging times.”  Chair, Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota

Three stitched and felted bees in small round cases.

Date published: 20 December 2019
Fifty Bees 4
Exhibition Dates: 8 February – 14 March 2020
Preview: Friday 7 February, 6–8pm
Location: Long Gallery

In a new show at Black Swan Arts in Frome, Somerset artist Lydia Needle has sculpted fifty British bees in wool and stitch, and fifty other artists have created responses to each bee.

In the fourth incarnation of her project ‘Fifty Bees: The Interconnectedness of all Things’, Lydia Needle has created fifty life-size bees to represent fifty of the 275 bee species in the UK. The project was devised to showcase the plight of the British bee. So far she has created 200 sculptures, but she is aiming to complete 275 – one for each of Britain’s bees.

She sculpts the beautiful needle-felt bees from wool, embroidery thread and vintage Kamibari gold and silk thread. The bees are housed inside a range of vintage containers, including old tins, match boxes and antique jewellery boxes.

Each tiny bee is paired with a companion piece created by another artist, maker, writer or musician. The work might be about the habitat of the bee, their lifecycle or behaviour, or the flowers on which they feed. The aim is to give a fuller illustration of the diversity of the British bee population, how endangered they are (many species are on the brink of extinction) and how pollinators are deeply interlinked with our own ecosystem.

Additional images from the shown can be found on the exhibition page.

Thick paint on canvas, red on top of white and black streaks. Abstract and textured lines.

Date published: 1 December 2019
χάος (Chaos) – Barry Cooper
Exhibition Dates: 3 January – 1 February 2020
Preview: Friday 7 January, 6-8pm
Location: Long Gallery


A new show at Black Swan Arts in Frome combines painting with music to create a stunning visual spectacle.

Barry Cooper’s Χάος – Chaos takes as its inspiration six violin sonatas by Belgian composer Eugéne Ysäye. The pieces are extremely challenging for the listener, but Barry has transformed them into visual interpretations on large canvases. He aims to ‘reach beyond the visible, into the world of paint through the music, deep into the canvas, layer by layer, brushstroke by brushstroke to an imagined fourth dimension: length, breadth, width and time’. The result is distinct new body of abstract work with some occasional figurative echoes. The artist will also paint a large painting live during the exhibition which will continue his interpretation of Ysäye’s sonatas.

Barry studied philosophy at University College of North Wales at Bangor and later studied painting at the Royal College of Art in London. Since the mid-1970s he has been working with choreographers, composers and musicians, as well as the Rambert Dance Company, to produce paintings and sculptures that he describes as ‘a sort of hieroglyph, a record of the movement’. He says: ‘I am habitually drawn to the painters, composers and writers who are inventors; they appear to step out of the universe of their discipline and into a world which cannot be fully grasped or understood in their own time.’

His work has been shown widely in the UK and abroad, most notably on the Greek island of Paros and in Nairobi, Kenya. But Barry is possibly best known locally for his sculpture at Frome Community College, where he spent a year as artist in residence during the 1980s. This culminated in the European Community of Stones (ECOS) project – a collaboration with sculptor Laurence Knee of an amphitheatre surrounded by 12 monoliths from each of the original 1992 member countries of the European Economic Community. Aerolith, a two-tonne stone sculpture in the form of a dolmen, is also sited on the campus.

Barry’s work can also be seen on the Sustrans cycle track from Wells to Glastonbury. Syrens is an eight-mile long musical instrument consisting of nine waymarkers or standing stones, which was produced with artist/musician Laurence Parnell. Each stone has a recess cut into the top to accommodate a bronze scissor-arch and a bell, all of which are tuned to a different note.

The preview will take place on Friday 7 January from 6–8pm – everyone is welcome to come along.

The artist will appear in conversation with David Chandler on Saturday 11 January from 2–4pm. This event will be bookended by solo violin performances by Katalin Kertész.

Find out more about the exhibition.

Black and white photograph showing a pair of scissors and a paper flower alongside floral border.

Date published: 20 October 2019
Corinna Sargood ‘Pictures & Dioramas’
Exhibition Dates: 23 November – 21 December
Preview: Friday 22 November, 6-8pm
Location: Long Gallery

A new show at Frome’s Black Swan Arts by artist Corinna Sargood explores her life in Mexico, Peru and the dark world of fairy tale. ‘Pictures & Dioramas’ is an extraordinary collection of painted wooden dioramas, brilliant embroideries, prints and artist’s books. It offers a rare insight into some of the personal and never before publicly displayed work of this exceptional talent. 

Pictures & Dioramas 

Corinna Sargood has spent a large proportion of her life not only illustrating stories but also living a life full of extraordinary tales. She spent three months in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, living with a tribe, painting and drawing exquisite botanical images. From there she travelled to Mexico where she has spent around a quarter of each year living with her husband, woodworker and collaborator in art, Richard Wallace. 

Mexico continues to inspire new work, with its rich and tumultuous history, the immersion of art into the everyday, the ceremony and religion, the colour, people, plants and animals. This spirit is embodied in her intricate and multilayered wooden dioramas and embroideries, as well as in a playful and educational colouring book on the uses of cacti. Corinna has also created a wonderful embroidered puppet theatre (with woodwork and engineering by Richard) which tells the history of the Conquest of Mexico, complete with Papantla flying men, gods, saints and conquistadors. 

Other new work includes a box of embroideries: ease the lid of a mysterious black box made by Corinna’s daughter (Rosy Gray of Black Cat Bindery) and a world of Old Testament stories is revealed, created by Corinna’s skilled but unconventional eye and hand. Full of colour and life, they retell the tales with humour and wry irreverence. 

Corinna’s illustrations are familiar to many, particularly through her collaborations with Angela Carter who was a dear friend of many years. Together they explored in words and pictures the dark world of fairy tales and the power of women to disrupt the patriarchal narrative through magic, insight and sometimes violence. Some of Corinna’s original linocut illustrations for the Virago Book of Fairy Tales will be on display, plus limited edition illustrated copies of Carter’s story ‘The Tiger’s Bride’. 

Come and explore a hidden world of magic, mystery, travel and history and glimpse a rare insight into a fascinating life. The preview takes place on Friday 22 November from 6–8pm – everyone is welcome to come along. 

Black Swan Arts is holding two free events alongside the exhibition: on Wednesday 4 December, 6–8pm there will be an artist’s talk and live demonstrations of the work, and on Saturday 7 December, 2–4pm there will be a children’s day with live demonstrations and stories. In addition, on Sunday 15 December there will be lunch and mini box theatre workshop, 11am–4pm (maximum 10 people; price to be confirmed).

Visit the exhibition page.

Black and white photograph showing a pair of scissors and a paper flower alongside floral border.

Date published: 2 August 2019
Fiona Hingston, Somerset Art Works (SAW)
Exhibition dates:  7 September – 6 October
Preview: Friday 6 September, 6-8pm
Location: Long Gallery

The English Woman’s Flora

A new show at Frome’s Black Swan Arts by artist Fiona Hingston explores the beauty of Britain’s vanishing wildflowers.

Part celebration and part lament for what is and increasingly isn’t to be found on the land she calls home, Fiona Hingston’s new body of work, ‘The English Woman’s Flora’, includes more than 200 wildflowers made from masking tape and graphite, based on popular pocketbook ‘The Observer’s Book of Wild Flowers‘ (W.J. Stokoe, 1957).

For twenty years Fiona has recorded aspects of the landscape through drawing, photography, found objects and book works. She lives and works in a village on the edge of the Mendip Hills and sees her practice as a slow archaeological enquiry into place and the passage of time. Over the past few years her observations have become disrupted by the growing awareness of a quiet erosion: silent barns, decaying farm buildings, monoculture crops and vanishing flora and fauna. She sees this local loss as directly connecting to wider issues of commercial standardisation and a diminishing of both environmental and cultural diversity.

Fiona received an MA in Research from the University of the West of England in 2006. She was shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2008 and 2013, and won the Innovation in Drawing Award at Drawn 2013 at the Royal West of England Academy. In 2014 she won the Hauser & Wirth First Prize at Black Swan Arts Open, and was also winner of the Martin Bax Award and Public Vote in 2013.

Fiona’s work on ‘The English Woman’s Flora’ has been supported by Somerset Art Works’ Artist Development Programme, which has enabled her to explore her practice through mentoring, research and dialogues. The show takes place during Somerset Art Weeks Festival (21 September–6 October), which sees a diverse programme of art, workshops, talks, films and installations involving more than 300 artists in over 100 locations across Somerset.

Visit the exhibition page.

Black and white photograph showing a pair of scissors and a paper flower alongside floral border.

Date published: 18 July 2019
Black Swan Arts Open 2019
Deadline for entries: 13 September
Exhibition dates: 18 October – 16 November
Preview: Thursday 17 October
Location: Long Gallery

Call to artists

Black Swan Arts in Frome is one of the South West’s most popular art galleries and the annual Arts Open is the most visited exhibitions of the year. They are inviting submissions for 2019 from all artists – professional, emerging, student or amateur – and work created in any type of media (up to 2m³ in size) can be entered.  It must be original, produced within the past 3 years and gallery ready. Entries should be made online via the BSA user-friendly submissions programme; the fee is £13 per picture and up to 4 works per artist can be entered.

Prizes of nearly £4000 will be awarded, including the £1000 prize supported by Hauser and Wirth Somerset; the Sue Conrad Prize of £1000 for work on paper; the Lynda Pelly £500 prize for an artist under the age of 30; the Black Swan Arts Prize of a Solo Show; the People’s Choice Award; the Mount Art Award; the Postscript Prize; the Kobi & Teal exhibition and others.

As usual there is an experienced panel of esteemed judges including Robert Devereux, art collector and entrepreneur; Katharine Fry, winner of the Hauser and Wirth Somerset Prize 2017; the multidisciplinary artist of the Museum of the Moon Luke Jerram; artist and curator, Sandra Porter RWA and Elly Hawley, a Director of Hauser & Wirth Somerset.  The digital submissions are assessed by the panel and up to 100 works are selected. Prizes will be presented by the judges at the Opening evening on Thursday 17 October.

The Black Swan Arts Open is an open submission exhibition celebrating the best of original contemporary art by established and emerging artists. Works selected will be exhibited at the Long Gallery, Black Swan Arts Centre from Friday 18 October to Saturday 16 November 2019. Black Swan Arts is situated between Frome Library and Frome Museum, next to a large public car park.

Black Swan Arts is a visual arts charity run by passionate volunteers and is constantly striving to create opportunities for artists and to promote arts within the community.  The Black Swan Arts Centre demonstrates the on-going major commitment of the Frome-based gallery to the development of artistic talent and to the building of strong links with the community, locally and regionally, supporting excellence in the South West.

Find out more about the exhibition.

Enter the art open
Image made with small repeated marks to form a concentric geometric whole from two halves. Black and wood effect.

Date published: 22 April 2019
Sandra Porter – All Things Being Equal
Exhibition dates: 1 June – 3 July 2019
Location: Long Gallery

All Things Being Equal

A solo show by artist Sandra Porter opens at Black Swan Arts in Frome on 1 June.

The exhibition, ‘All Things Being Equal’, features a series of small- and large-scale drawings, collages, prints and paintings which explore grids, stripes and recurrent schemes – images that are similar but not the same. Sandra’s work involves ‘ever evolving improvisations around the grid and the search for a synthesis between the horizontal and vertical together, with the all-important negotiation of monochrome, colour and definitive mark’.

Sandra finds inspiration in architecture – from the cupolas of St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, to the marble stripes of Siena Cathedral and, most recently, the humble corrugated iron ‘bothans’ seen on a trip to the Isle of Skye. ‘It seems to me that I see examples of “my work” all over the place!’ she says. ‘I soak up influences wherever I go.’ Sandra began by making representational prints and drawings but her work has gradually become more abstract. However, it still acknowledges its architectural origins – qualities that are evident in the Aequitas, Caraid and Didymus prints which feature in the exhibition.

After leaving Chelsea School of Art in 1981 with an MA in fine art painting, Sandra worked as a teacher and lecturer. She studied intaglio printmaking techniques during the 1990s at Morley College under the late Dorothea Wight, which has gone on to underpin both her own art practice and her teaching career. Sandra moved back to West Country twenty years ago to work at Wiltshire College. She left in 2012 to concentrate on her own work, and now teaches and works from her studio in Norton St Philip.

Sandra became a Royal West of England Academician in 2017 and she has been a member of the Bath Society of Artists since 2016. Her work is in public and private collections, including the Tate and V&A Libraries and UK Government Art Collection. She has exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally, and her work has been selected for, among many others, the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize, the Royal Academy Summer Show and Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.

Find out more about the exhibition, preview and Q&A session with Sandra Porter and Professor Anita Taylor.

Drawing of a young man wearing a gas mask
Mixed media with textiles sewn into newspaper
Four cat prints, each in monotone. Clockwise, pink, yellow, blue and grey.
Red and orange octopus swimming in the ocean, made from plastic bottle tops.

Date published: 11 April 2019
Black Swan Arts Young Open, prize winners
Exhibition dates: 30 March – 27 April 2019
Location: Long Gallery

Black Swan Arts have announced the winners of their prestigious Young Open art competition. The winning entries are on show in the Long Gallery and Round Tower at Black Swan Arts, alongside the judges’ final selection of 166 artworks (from more than 400 entries).

In the 16–19-year-old category, the winners won a one-to-one session with a local artist. These were Laura O’Brien for Identity (graphic design and animation workshop with David Daniels), Felicity Sloane-White for Mummy and Filly (printmaking workshop with Chris Pig), Poppy Thomas for Is That It? (ceramics workshop with Kim Birchall) and Paopao Yang for Breath (printmaking workshop with Sandra Porter). Highly commended were The Green Velvet Coat by Isabella Weir, Untitled by Amy Diment and Matilda by Arial Fiske de Gouveia. The winners were from Frome College, Bryanston School and Cambridge University.

In the 12–15-year-old category, the winners also secured a one-to-one workshop. These were Lily Wood for Digital Illustration (photography workshop with Dan Hopkins), Astrid Rogers for Orla (painting and collage workshop with Nicky Knowles), Charlie Matthews for Octo-plasty (sculpture workshop with Toby Holmes) and Bethany Pass for Lights (drawing and painting workshop with Kay Lewis Bell). Highly commended were Red Fox by Edie Ray, Web of Life by Alice Holden and Self-Portrait by Daisy Wellsted. The winners represented Frome College, Hardenhuish School, North Hill House, Oakfield Academy and the Steiner Academy.

In the 8–11-year-old category, the winners of Postscript vouchers for £25 were Lucy Greig (Mrs Quirlock’s Emporium of Herbal Supplies and Rare Plants) and Catherine Mocke (Liquid Fire). Ebba Palma (Colour Pop Cat) and Nell Ttwheam (Little Bird) were awarded with Studio Prints vouchers for £25. Highly commended were Self-Portrait by Sean Markey, On the Lookout! by Edie Petherick and Monster Times by Xavi Bennett. The winners represented All Hallows School, Kilmersdon Primary School, Oakfield Academy and Warminster Prep.

The show continues until Saturday 27 April. There is a children’s art trail to follow around the building, and visitors who vote for their favourite artwork will be entered into a raffle to win an Ellenbray voucher.

Read more about the exhibition and see the winning pieces.

Koi carp print
Skeletal figures in bright colour mixed media

Date published: 25 March 2019
Black Swan Arts Young Open
Date: 30 March – 27 April 2019
Location: Long Gallery

Aspiring young artists have been busy creating hundreds of amazing artworks for this year’s Black Swan Arts Young Open. The competition provides an exceptional opportunity for young people between the ages of 8 and 19 to have their work curated, judged and exhibited in a professional gallery space.

The judges have made their selection of 166 pieces (from an incredible 408 entries) which will go on display in the Long Gallery and Round Tower at Black Swan Arts in Frome.

Four winners will be chosen in each age category: the 8–11 winners will receive vouchers from Studio Prints and Postscript, and in the 12–15 and 16–19 categories the winners get the opportunity for a one-to-one workshop with Amanda Bee (painting and monoprinting), Kim Birchall (ceramics), David Daniels (animation), Toby Holmes (sculpture), Dan Hopkins (photography), Nicky Knowles (painting and collage), Kay Lewis Bell (drawing and painting), Chris Pig (printmaking) or Sandra Porter (printmaking).

This year’s judges have been impressed with the originality and artistic excellence of the work submitted. The panel includes Frome Town Mayor, Councillor Rich Ackroyd; young Bristol-based artist Rhiannon Davies; Graffiti artist Graham Dews (aka Paris); Tina Gaisford-Waller from Winstone’s Hunting Raven Books in Frome; and visualisation and concept artist Matt Wellsted.

The show opens on Saturday 30 March at 12pm with the prize-giving ceremony and continues until 27 April. Visitors get a chance to vote for their favourite artwork and have their name entered into a raffle to win an Ellenbray voucher. There will also be a fun Art Trail to follow around the building.

Ceramic piece by Peter Hayes. Tribalistic style with mother of pearl finish.

Date published: 8 February 2019
Peter Hayes
Date: 16 February–23 March 2019
Location: Long Gallery

A new exhibition of small and large-scale sculpture by ceramicist Peter Hayes is opening at Black Swan Arts in Frome on 16 February.

Peter Hayes is an international artist working in ceramics, bronze and glass. He has been at the forefront of contemporary ceramics for decades and has been an influence on many artists working in ceramics and other materials. His work has been shown all over the world and appears in many international collections.

Peter now lives and works in Bath. He was born in Birmingham where he attended the Moseley School of Art at age 12 and then went on to Birmingham College of Art in 1961. He has travelled extensively in Africa, working as a ceramic artist with tribes and village potters who inspired him with the exquisite work they were producing using very limited technology and tools. His unquenchable curiosity for the world then led him to India, Nepal, Japan, Korea and New Mexico where he found similar skills. He has since gone on to develop the techniques he learned, including working with bronze, glass and stone alongside clay. He is now in the process of setting up a new workshop/studio in Uidaipur, India.

Peter’s pots and sculptures are primarily concerned with the opposites of rough and smooth which he creates by building up layers of texture and then burnishing and polishing the surfaces. He pushes the boundaries of ceramics to its limits and sometimes beyond: ‘In practice I go by the seat of my pants. I have always worked this way, not going by any particular rules or methods.’

Recently he has been working on large scale forms which he places within the landscape. He says: ‘My main aim is that the work should not compete with the landscape but evolve within the environment. With the elements of time and erosion, the individual piece takes on its own developing surface.’

The exhibition runs from 16 February to 23 March.

Date published: 13 December 2018
Black Swan Arts Young Open
Date: 30 March – 27 April 2019
Location: Long Gallery

Black Swan Arts is now calling for entries for its hugely successful Young Open 2019 competition which will be on show at the Frome-based art centre early next year.

The Young Open, now in its sixth year, provides an exceptional opportunity for young people between the ages of 8 and 19 to have their work curated, judged and exhibited in Black Swan Arts’ Long Gallery, Round Tower and cafe for hundreds of visitors to see.

Winners in two of the age categories (12–15 years and 16–19 years) have the chance to take part in a one-to-one workshop with a professional artist. The Workshop Prize is a unique element of the Young Open, with local working artists and craftspeople from different disciplines offering nine brilliant individual workshop prizes. Each of the sessions is carefully tailored to develop the skills and broaden the artistic abilities of the winners in both categories. Winners in the 8–11 year category will win £25 vouchers from Postscript and Studio Prints.

This Young Open competition demonstrates the ongoing commitment of Black Swan Arts to the development of local artistic talent and to building strong links with the community. In the six years since the competition was launched, it has proven to be enormously popular with young artists, their families, schools and the general public: over 1,050 works of art have been entered and more than 800 young artists have taken part; 150 schools, clubs and youth groups have been involved; and the five exhibitions to date have received over 9,000 visitors.

Submissions in all forms of art and craft are welcome, including painting, drawing, collage, ceramics, jewellery, textiles, photography, video/animation, metalwork, carpentry and sculpture. The cost is £5 for one entry, £8 for two entries, £10 for three entries and £12 for four entries. The deadline for entries is 22 February. Entry is online at

The exhibition will continue from 30 March to 27 April at Black Swan Arts.

Eleanor Bartlett piece created with tar

Date published: 7 December 2018
Eleanor Bartlett ‘Matter’
Date: 5 January – 9 February 2019
Location: Long Gallery

An exhibition by artist Eleanor Bartlett is opening at Black Swan Arts in Frome on 5 January called ‘Matter’.
Eleanor paints with materials such as tar and wax to produce highly textured and immersive works that have an extraordinary three-dimensional presence. From childhood, she has been fascinated with rivers and open water and this is reflected in the textures, form and sentiment of her work.
Eleanor says: ‘In the sense of non-representation, the materials here carry the weight of the idea. The tar wax and metal paint are totally involved in the resolution of the painting, suggesting a democratic order of all form explicitly described in matter.’

The preview will take place on Friday 4 January from 6–8pm – everyone is welcome to come along. Eleanor will also be taking part in an artist’s Q&A, ‘Does art have to mean anything?’ on Friday 1 February from 6–7pm.

Photograph of the 2018 Art Open judges during the preview
  Photograph by David Chedgy

Date published: 19 October 2018
Black Swan Arts Open, winners announced
Date: 19 October – 24 November
Location: Long Gallery

Black Swan Arts in Frome has announced the winners of its sixteenth annual Art Open show, which has won plaudits from judges and visitors who have praised the exceptional standard of this year’s work.

The Black Swan Arts Open is an annual competition for original artwork by established practitioners and emerging artists, and has established a reputation for attracting some of the very best contemporary artists and artworks. This year the work includes painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, photography, sculpture, moving image, multi-media, digital and textiles.

The 2018 panel of judges – Steve Burden, artist and winner of BSA Solo Show 2016; Sue Conrad, Local artist and benefactor; Michael Eavis, Creator of Glastonbury Festival; Debbie Hillyerd, Director of Education, Hauser and Wirth Somerset and Johnny Messum, Director of Messums Wiltshire chose Kay Lewis Bell as the winner of First Prize supported by Hauser and Wirth Somerset. Highly commended was awarded to Judith Jones, Eleanor Bartlett, Zsolt Dudas, Judith Jones, Mark Somerville and Emma Tuck. The Sue Conrad Prize for Work on Paper went to Deborah Westmancoat.

The Black Swan Arts Solo Show Prize, chosen by the Black Swan Arts Programming Group, went to Davies, Monaghan and Klein for their video ‘Never Eat the Cone’. Their show will take place in 2020 in the Long Gallery. Highly commended was awarded to work by Lucinda Burgess, Judith Jones, Toby Holmes, Bill Prosser and Peter Haugh

The Mount Art Local Art Prize went to Peter Haugh for ‘Lounge’, the Postscript 3D Prize to Tom Baskeyfield for ‘The Lion (and the Dragon)’ and the Kobi and Teal Prize also went to Peter Haugh for ‘Lounge’.

The Frome Town Council People’s Choice Award will be voted for by visitors and awarded at the end of the show on 24 November, so drop in, enjoy the exhibition and pick your favourite piece. There are 90 artworks to choose from. All the work on show is for sale so it’s a fantastic opportunity to buy a unique piece of artwork and support your local arts centre.

It’s great to know there are so many brilliant artists who live and work in the area, and I’m thrilled to be asked to join this year’s judging panel.

Michael Eavis, Creator of Glastonbury Festival

Portrait of Michael Eavis

Date published: 22 August 2018
Behind the Scenes at Black Swan Arts Open: Michael Eavis
Date: 19 October – 24 November
Location: Long Gallery

As submissions flood in for the prestigious Black Swan Arts Open – there are just a few weeks left to submit your entry – we’re taking a closer look at the judges selecting work for this year’s art competition.

The Black Swan Arts Open is an annual competition for original artworks by established practitioners and emerging artists. Now in its sixteenth year, it has established a reputation for attracting and selecting diverse and innovative pieces. The 100 successful entries will be displayed in the Long Gallery at Black Swan Arts in Frome from 19 October to 24 November.

The panel of judges responsible for shortlisting the artwork changes each year. This year’s panel includes Steve Burden, 2016 winner of the Black Swan Arts Solo Show Prize; artist Sue Conrad; Debbie Hillyerd, director of education at Hauser & Wirth Somerset; and Johnny Messum, director and founder pioneer of Messums Wiltshire.

The final judge, Michael Eavis, is well-known to the people of Somerset and around the world as the creator of Glastonbury Festival, which takes place on Worthy Farm in Pilton. It all began in the late 1960s, after watching the Bath Blues Festival with his girlfriend, Jean, in a field in Shepton Mallet. Michael decided to have a go himself and started booking bands to play on his family’s dairy farm.

T. Rex headlined the first Glastonbury Festival in 1970 which was attended by around 1,500 fans. Since then artists as diverse as David Bowie, Van Morrison, The Smiths, Elvis Costello, Radiohead, Blur, Oasis, Coldplay and the Foo Fighters have headlined the event. However, music is only one of the activities on offer – the festival also embraces theatre, comedy, cabaret, poetry, art and design.

The Festival did not make a profit for several years, but when it did Michael began to look for good causes to support both locally and internationally. Nowadays, each festival aims to raise £2 million in aid of Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid, as well as hundreds of causes closer to home. Within the local area, social housing is Michael’s top priority.

Michael is delighted to be one of the judges for this year’s Black Swan Arts Open. He said: ‘It’s great to know there are so many brilliant artists who live and work in the area, and I’m thrilled to be asked to join this year’s judging panel.’

Find out more or submit an entry. There is a £12 charge for entries – this covers the admin costs of running the competition. The deadline for submissions is 14 September.

Volkhardt Muller, still from film featuring a couple on a hillside

Date published: 26 August 2018
Volkhardt Müller – The Plantation
Date: 8 September–6 October 2018
Location: Long Gallery

A new exhibition by multimedia artist Volkhardt Müller, ‘The Plantation’, opens at Black Swan Arts in Frome in September.

Volkhardt Müller won the Black Swan Arts Open 2017 prize of a solo show in the Long Gallery for his single channel video work, English Themes After Claude Lorrain, which explored the landscapes of Devon in the context of the picturesque and the sublime.

The resulting exhibition, ‘The Plantation’, includes video, mixed media and print. Its subject matter is plantation forests which are cultivated to maximise a single crop, usually conifers. Unlike the self-sustaining pastoral idyll, the core principle of the plantation is perpetual intervention and repetition. He says: ‘The plantation is needy and connected, fragile and overwhelming. Its effects are all around us, but it is not something we commonly choose to enjoy.’

Müller trained at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design. As well as being a maker of objects, installations, print and video work, he works as a collaborator on performance and educational projects. He teaches, presents and facilitates creative work from participatory art in the community to university level.

Since moving to Britain, his long-standing interest in how landscapes are created and proliferated has focused on the ways in which rural and urban concepts are interconnected – how notions of landscape contribute to the construction of cultural identity and the enshrinement of societal status quo. He says: ‘I like to know where I am located within my immediate environment and the people who shape it. At the same time, I am aware of how important it is to think further and beyond.’

The show runs from 8 September to 6 October, with a preview on Friday 7 September from 6–8pm – everyone is welcome to attend.

If you would like the chance to win a solo show at Black Swan Arts, the closing date for entries to this year’s Open is 14 September. The successful entries will be displayed in the Long Gallery at Black Swan Arts from 19 October to 24 November.

Sue Conrad, judge for Art Open 2018

Date published: 16 August 2018
Behind the Scenes at Black Swan Arts Open: In Conversation with Sue Conrad
Date: 19 October – 24 November
Location: Long Gallery

With the deadline for the prestigious Black Swan Arts Open competition now less than a month away – the Frome arts centre is accepting entries until 14 September – we’re taking a closer look at the judges selecting work for this year’s show. This week we’re in conversation with artist Sue Conrad who is sponsoring a new prize this year for Works on Paper.

Sue Conrad studied constructed textiles at Goldsmiths College in the 1960s and later went on to complete a master’s degree in multidisciplinary printmaking at the University of the West of England. She became a teacher and taught art and design in various schools and further education colleges in Glasgow, Somerset and Wiltshire.

In her own work, she is continuously experimenting with surface, texture, line and form to build layers of meaning. She deals with the themes of distance, decay, solitude and man’s relationship to the natural world. She says, ‘One does not merely look at these paintings, one voyages through them.’

Q. Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist?
A. I never imagined that I would ever be called an artist when I embarked on my creative journey. Embroidery was my passion, and I spent many hours on the intricate possibilities of stitch. These studies were purely technical and not in any way experimental.

Q. Where and what did you study?
A. The course at the Hammersmith School of Art covered all aspects of textiles, including ecclesiastical embroidery, hand and machine embroidery, fashion and basic design. I completed my intermediate certificate and then moved on to Goldsmiths.
The advanced diploma in art and design at Goldsmiths was new in conception and we were encouraged to move away from the traditional image of embroidery. Central to the course was the huge emphasis placed on drawing – the stitch was no longer a stitch, it was a mark.

Q. How was art practice changing then – it seems the rigid boundaries between art and craft were starting to change in the 1960s?
A. When I first started at Goldsmiths there was little, if any, opportunity to work across disciplines, such as with the fine art department, sculpture or ceramics. As embroidery became more popular and established as an art form, there were fine artists who wanted to come and experiment with those with embroidery skills. Likewise, we were encouraged to take part in life drawing studies within the fine art department.

Q. Who were your early influences, and who do you follow with interest now?
A. As part of my training at Goldsmiths, we spent a whole day a week drawing historical textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This obviously guided my early work in stitch. More recently, I have been influenced by Keith Vaughan, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Anselm Kiefer and Alberto Giacometti.

Q. What triggered the shift from your early interest in textiles to paint and print? Or does this still inform your current practice?
A. The shift came about as a result of my changing circumstances. For almost 30 years I was involved in running a business with my late husband and also teaching part time. This left little opportunity to further my own practice. However, circumstances changed again and I decided to return to art, graduating from Winchester School of Art with a degree in visual art – this time specialising in paint and print.

Following Winchester, I completed an MA in printmaking at the University of the West of England, so I am keenly aware of surface and texture; etching proved to be an inspiring and enriching experience. My previous training in stitch continues to inform my work: scratching, hiding, covering and scratching again reveals different layers. This is very similar to fabric collage when using fine fabrics and stitch.

Q. Your most recent work has been inspired by a series of voyages along the west coast of Norway – what was it about this maritime landscape that appealed to you and how has it manifested in your work?
A. Having found a quiet and private area on the boat, usually in the bar, I would work in my sketchbook, recording the impact on my senses of the power and beauty of this remote maritime landscape, and the sometimes turbulent activity of the weather and waves around it.

My sketchbook became more special as the voyage progressed, superimposing one image over another as we sailed through the fiords, observing different kinds of snow reflecting different light. Sometimes the view would be totally obliterated as we moved slowly through a veil of horizontal snow. I became more and more experimental and meditative, often reflecting upon the empty overwhelming land.

On my return to my studio, my imagination was empowered by memory and strong feelings, and images gradually emerged. The process is one of layering, scraping, erasing and re-establishing, while at the same time reaching into the well of memory and the subconscious.

Q. Your paintings are not literal representations but neither are they non-representative abstractions – how do you navigate the blurred line between realism and imagination, memory and feelings?
A. I find the process almost always starts with a ‘chance’ encounter of some kind. Whatever it is, it embeds itself in my psyche and starts resonating there, activating my imagination. I have no idea what it is about, where it is leading or why it is important to me.

How do I know what I am doing if I don’t know what I am trying to do? I can only infer that at some level of my unconscious I do know, and I allow these deeper voices to surface before I interfere too much and bring the process to a premature conclusion.

I do not navigate the blurred line, the blurred line navigates me. In fact, I love the blurred line, the mist, the fog and the unknown. My paintings are memories of my journey through life and are the result of layering and changing surfaces and encounters.

Q. Some of your work has been inspired by Salisbury Plain. Why do you think so many artists are drawn to this landscape?
A. Living in Warminster and lecturing in Salisbury, I was immediately attracted to this wonderful local landscape. I spent many hours walking and drawing in the area, in particular on Scratchbury Hill, an Iron Age hill fort surrounded by other Bronze and Iron Age monuments. This area of chalk landscape was once the seabed, and there are opportunities awaiting the observer to discover shells or fragments of other siliceous organisms.

It is a landscape that represents more than just the visual aspects of the scenery. It is a rich historical record of material features and human activity dating back to times for which there are no written documents. The underlying geology and soil structure have determined the natural features, while the utilisation of the land by man has played a significant part in shaping this particular hill. Its beauty and diversity reflect changing patterns of population and settlement, trade and communications, and war.

I used mixed media in my renditions of this immediate landscape, often incorporating found materials including chalk and even cow pats. I am concerned about issues relating to man’s insignificance in the landscape and of distance and separation. Strong feelings of solitude and silence are conveyed in my paintings, allowing the viewer to pause and contemplate issues relating to time, death and previous lives.

Q. What was Black Swan Arts Centre like when it first opened in 1986, and what artists were shown in the gallery?
A. I remember it as being rather small and cosy with a roaring log fire beneath the inglenook. The food was excellent, being run by Scoffs, if I remember rightly. They later moved to Bath.

The craft shop was a jewel in itself, selling bespoke items of jewellery, knitwear, glass and ceramics, all on a sale-or-return basis. Most of the exhibitors were local, some coming from as far afield as Bristol and Cardiff. To this day, I wear a special pair of silver earrings bought from the gift shop 28 years ago.

The main gallery attracted visitors from the whole of the South West – in particular, I remember two stunning shows, one by David Hockney and the other by Norman Ackroyd.

Q. How do you feel it is going now, over 30 years on?
A. My most recent experience was showing in ‘Back to Blue’ in the Round Tower – an exhibition about the local woollen industry – which was organised by Carolyn Griffiths. It was a well-received show with excellent footfall.

Q. What prompted you to sponsor a prize for a Work on Paper at this year’s Open?
A. As I live and work in Frome, and I would like to help and support emerging artists, I decided to donate a prize of £1,000 for the next 10 years to the Black Swan Open. I limited it to works on paper in order to encourage practices that are important to me – mainly drawing, painting and printmaking. In particular, I hope to encourage observation, mark-making and freedom.

Woodland path painting by Claire Cansick of the Arborealists

Date published: 20 June 2018
The Arborealists and Guests featuring Paul Nash
Date: 21 July – 2 September 2018
Location: Long Gallery & Round Tower Gallery

Trees in the limelight

A major new exhibition of trees in contemporary art at Black Swan Arts in Frome will feature work by forty-three Arborealists, some of international reputation, and six guest artists, as well as the painter Paul Nash.

The show will be the largest exhibition the group has staged to date. United by their subject, the Arborealists employ a diverse range of working practices: scale, medium, philosophy, style and technique. The results are, by turn, dramatic, contemplative, expressive, abstracted, hyperreal and surreal. The work demonstrates that trees still have a deep relevance in contemporary art and retain their power to move us all as a vital element in our landscape, lives and well-being. This exhibition reaches far beyond an arts audience.

In Britain, trees as a subject have inspired artists from Gainsborough and Constable through to the Pre-Raphaelites, the Neo-Romantics and the Ruralists. Piet Mondrian and Victor Pasmore used the tree as a device to create abstract art, and Paul Nash famously stated that he loved and worshipped trees and believed they were people – as beautifully demonstrated by his work in the show.

Trees provide a wonderfully versatile subject for artists, not only in terms of the rich variety of character, form, texture and colour, whether individually or collectively, but also in terms of the wealth of association they have come to embody over many centuries through myth, folklore, religious and symbolic significance.

The Arborealists were founded in 2013 by artist and curator Tim Craven following the seminal exhibition ‘Under the Greenwood: Picturing the British Tree’, staged at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, in the heart of the New Forest. The Arborealists are a loose association of some sixty professional artists of diverse art practice who share the subject of the tree. There are no rules and no subscription. The group is far flung, with members from Wales and the borders to East Anglia, London and every southern county from Kent to Cornwall. Outposts include Yorkshire, France, Italy and Ireland. The group enjoys a national profile and have already staged nine acclaimed exhibitions in the UK and France, with many more planned for the future, including site-specific projects. They have also produced two illustrated publications to complement the exhibitions.

The guest artists include Ashleaf of London, Gary Cook, Jennifer Newbury, Emma Tuck, Clive Walley and Jim Whitty.

Full exhibition listing including preview dates
Associated events

Bronze being melted in a kiln
Another image showing bronze being melted in a kiln

Date published: 25 May 2018
Chemistry of Bronze
Date: 26 May – 15 July 2018
Location: Long  Gallery

A new exhibition at Black Swan Arts in Frome celebrates bronze sculpture and showcases the bronze-making process.

The ‘Chemistry of Bronze’ exhibition, which has been curated by Hans Borgonjon, features the work of five established UK artists producing bronze sculpture: Melanie Deegan creates delicate sculptural work inspired by the natural world, Helen Gordon creates quirky and amusing animal and figurative sculptures, Fred Gordon produces fluid wildlife sculptures, Charlotte Hern focuses on portraiture, Sara Ingleby-MacKenzie’s work captures the spirit and form of people and animals, and Shane Whitehead specialises in unique hand-built bronze guitars.

The exhibition will also give visitors a rare insight into the workings of the long-established bronze foundry, Art of a Fine Nature, based in Shepton Mallet. Foundry owners Jon and Hester Privett collaborate closely with the creators to cast finish and patinate bronze sculptures in all forms and sizes for artists in the UK and abroad. Artefacts, tools, videos, photographs and demonstrations of the techniques and processes involved in bronze casting using the 6,000-year-old lost wax method will be featured.

Visitors can also watch bronze-casting demonstrations in the courtyard at Black Swan Arts on Saturday 26 May at 3pm and Saturday 7 July at 3pm. The exhibition continues until 15 July.

Find out more…

Cicatrix poster featuring a mannequin wearing a gas mask

Date published: 13 April 2018
Date: 14 April – 19 May 2018
Location: Long  Gallery

A new exhibition exploring the scarred landscape of Salisbury Plain has opened at Black Swan Arts in Frome.

‘Cicatrix: Call and Response’ is a First World War centenary project incorporating drawing, installation and film. The work presents an alternative insight into the First World War legacy. Henny Burnett, Prudence Maltby and Susan Francis are Wiltshire artists whose collaborative partnership is concerned with the effects of the military presence on Salisbury Plain. Their work is united by the concept of scarring – the physical wounds left behind, seen as part of this unique landscape; and then the other scars – obscured but clearly evident as memories mapped within those who have experienced conflict.

Salisbury Plain is a chalk plateau covering 300 square miles in the heart of Wiltshire. This landscape of extremes is owned by the Ministry of Defence and has been used as a training ground since 1898. Evacuated villages serve as a vital training ground, abandoned by their inhabitants and frozen in time. Neolithic barrows exist alongside First World War trenches; soldiers’ graves, reflecting the nationalities which came to this area to prepare for war, rest beside the remains of Anglo-Saxon warriors.

For the artists, Salisbury Plain presents an empty canvas on which to express the work that is ‘Cicatrix’. Prudence Maltby’s evocative drawings use layer upon layer of mark making to map geographical and psychological scars; Henny Burnett’s work has its roots in the gathering and documenting of artefacts and found materials given up by the land; and Susan Francis presents a series of films revealing hidden images and messages within the silently watchful trees of the Plain. The artists will discuss their work at a talk in the Long Gallery on Saturday 28 April at 2pm.

Cicatrix is a member of the First World War Centenary Partnership, led by Imperial War Museums, and forms a network of regional, national and international cultural and educational organisations. For the project’s four year journey, reflecting the centenary of the First World War, Cicatrix is supported by Wiltshire Council, Arts Council England and the Artists’ International Development Fund.

Linocut by Carry Akroyd

Date published: 16 November 2017
Found in the Fields
Date: 02–30 December 2017
Location: Long  Gallery

A new exhibition of lithographs and linocuts by Carry Akroyd and ceramics by Richard Phethean, ‘Found in the Fields’, will be on show during December in the Long Gallery at Black Swan Arts in Frome.

Over the past 25 years Carry Akroyd has been creating paintings and prints that reflect and react to the sudden agricultural modernisations that have transformed our landscape. Some of her images are a lament, while others express the sheer joy derived from the natural world. They both reflect the landscape of today with roads, pylons, planes and wind farms, but also reveal how the natural world exists alongside us.

Carry’s colourful works all contain extracts of John Clare’s poetry. She feels that ‘His eye, mind and heart reach across time in his writing.’ Carry will present a talk on the poetry of John Clare and how he inspires her work on Saturday 2 December at 2pm.

Richard Phethean’s work has grown out of the domestic ware oeuvre but has become more sculptural in the last 10 years. His new work has been partially inspired by the exploration of planes and surface seen in the cubist work of Braque and Picasso which depict the abstraction of ordinary domestic objects such as jugs and vases. He also draws on the ceramic traditions of English country slipware and ancient Minoan ceramics. He throws and alters these sculptural forms in coarse textured terracotta and decorates using layers of brushed clay slip and hand-cut paper stencils.

The show has been curated by Miranda Leonard of the Restless Gallery. The preview takes place on Friday 1 December from 6–8pm – all welcome.

Art open photo 1
Art open photo 2
Art open photo 3

Date published: 18 October 2017
Fifteenth Black Swan Arts Open
Date: 02–29 November 2017
Location: Long  Gallery

The prestigious Black Swan Arts Open exhibition opens this week in Frome featuring an impressive range of contemporary, original art.

The judges – writer and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup; Dea Vanagan, director of Hauser & Wirth Somerset; Stephen Snoddy, director of New Art Gallery Walsall; Gary Sangster, director of Drawing Projects UK and trustee of the Arnolfini; and Seamus Nicolson, winner of the Black Swan Arts Solo Art Show in 2015 – have selected an exceptional body of work from the 900 entries received this year from over 480 artists, the highest figure ever.

The artwork covers a variety of media, including painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, photography, sculpture, moving image, multimedia and textiles. All the work on show is for sale and prices range from £90 to £12,000, so the exhibition offers a great opportunity to pick up some unique and affordable artwork.

The shortlisted artists have the chance of winning a series of impressive prizes, including the Hauser and Wirth Somerset First Prize of £750, the Black Swan Arts Solo Show Prize, the Mount Art Student Prize, the Postscript 3D Prize, Sam’s Kitchen Deli Local Artist Award and the Babington House Mentoring Award. Black Swan Arts would also like visitors to get involved and vote for their favourite piece in the show for the Frome Town Council People’s Choice Award.

Everyone is welcome to attend the preview night on Wednesday 1 November, which will also feature live DJs and music in Divas Café from 6–9pm. So, come along, enjoy the buzzing atmosphere, mingle with the artists and, most importantly, buy some extraordinary art.

The Open is an annual competition for original artwork by both established practitioners and emerging artists, and has established a reputation for attracting some of the very best contemporary artists and artworks. The show continues at Black Swan Arts until 29 November.

Photograph of work by Ellie Mawby
Somerset Art Weeks (SAW) logo

Date published: 29 July 2017
Ellie Mawby, Somerset Art Works Creative Pathways Bursary Artist
Date: 23 Sept – 7 Oct 2017
Location: Foyer and Divas Café

Themes of air, atmosphere and pollution in handmade paper and ink.

Graduated with BA (Hons) Contemporary Arts Practice from Bath Spa University, Ellie Mawby works with paper, ink, textile and mixed media. Her work will draw attention to the public’s unawareness of the serious issue of pollution and its effects on both a local and global scale. It offers a sense of peacefulness to engage the viewer to ponder about the simplest stroke of black ink, the intricate marks or traces of lines.

‘I hope to achieve further exploration and an exchange of ideas and proactive ways to visually communicate as part of the Creative Pathways Bursary, and I envision that my art practice will benefit from gaining insight and new perspectives from receiving mentoring and support’ says Ellie.

Photograph of work by Cameron Scott and Nick Weaver
Somerset Art Weeks (SAW) logo

Date published: 29 July 2017
Cameron Scott and Nick Weaver, ‘Proportion and Perspective’
Date: 23 Sept – 7 Oct 2017
Location: Pop Up Gallery

Work in wood: figurative relief carvings in lime; unique furniture in reclaimed or found materials.

Nick makes practical but unconventional and unique furniture, often using reclaimed or found materials. While some of his pieces start with an idea for which the right wood has to be found other pieces are inspired by the nature of found timber.

Cameron taught himself to carve after acquiring a set of old chisels. Cameron makes figurative relief carvings in lime wood telling stories from his life – the people, places and memories that influenced and inspired him. His latest carvings tell of his recent move from Lancashire to live in Frome and incorporate images of Somerset and the South West.

Photograph featuring work by Fiona Campbell
Photograph featuring work by Angela Morley
Somerset Art Weeks (SAW) logo

Date published: 29 July 2017
Fiona Campbell and Angela Morley
Date: 16 – 22 Sept 2017
Location: Round Tower Gallery

Fiona Campbell and Angela Morley will be transforming the Round Tower with sculptural forms rooted in the natural world; wrapped, woven and layered.  They have been exploring the materiality of paper and leaf forms in different ways. ‘We both ‘prospect’ for our materials – found and reclaimed, respecting the preciousness of the environment’ explains Angela.

Fiona is interested in life forms, micro primal structures, nature’s cyclical persistence and interconnectedness ‘often blurring boundaries between drawing and sculpture’.  Angela has been developing a new body of work based on leaves; stretching abstract forms back to the cusp of functionality.  Their work will span 2 venues: Black Swan Arts, Frome in East Somerset, and Clayhill Arts, near Bridgwater, West Somerset.

Workshops ‘Organic Forms’ (booking essential):
Wed 4 October 1-3pm with Angela Morley
Sat 7 October 1-3pm with Fiona Campbell)

Photograph of sketch books

Date published: 12 July 2017
Drawing together
Date: 22 July – 3 Sept 2017
Location: Long Gallery

Black Swan Arts in Frome is hosting a prestigious touring show of artists’ sketchbooks, SKETCH 2017, over the summer.

The SKETCH competition and touring exhibition aims to promote the diversity and importance of drawing and the role of the sketchbook in contemporary creative practice. The works on show in SKETCH 2017 have been selected from an international submission of over 500 sketchbooks. The panel of judges included painter and printer Tom Hammick, sculptor Peter Randell-Page RA and Gill Saunders, a senior curator from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Meryl Ainslie, founder and director of Rabley Drawing Centre in Wiltshire who launched the SKETCH Open Sketchbook Drawing Prize in 2005, says: “The handling of a sketchbook takes us to the heart of the space inhabited by the artist. The turning of a page brings a flow of ideas: fragments of images to come, references to places visited, experiences absorbed and thoughts provoked. It is a unique and privileged position, the prospect excites and the time spent rewards.”

To run alongside the show, a half-day sketchbook workshop, ‘Grow with Your Sketchbook’, which is aimed at young people aged 8+, is being led by artist Duncan Cameron and curator Aya Kobayashi. The workshop, which is sponsored by Visual Arts South West, takes place on Saturday 22 July from 10am to 12.30pm and aims to give young people the chance to get creative during the summer holiday.

Participants will work from an array of interesting natural objects (which will be provided) and respond to both the sketchbooks on show and Duncan Cameron’s work. The workshop will cover observation, collecting evidence, mark making and annotation through an experimental booklet of sketches in mixed media. Tickets cost £16.50.

Date published: 28 June 2017
Visual Arts South West summer workshops at Black Swan Arts

As part of the much celebrated national touring exhibition ‘Sketch’, showing at Black Swan Arts, 22 July – 3 September, Visual Arts South West are sponsoring the following workshops to give young people the chance to get creative during the summer holiday at Black Swan Arts.

Grow with your Sketchbook’ will run on Saturday 22 July, 10am-12.30pm, Long Gallery, Black Swan Arts, £16.50 pp.  A half-day sketchbook workshop led by artist Duncan Cameron and curator Aya Kobayashi, aimed at young people aged 8+.  In response to the exhibition of sketchbooks and Duncan Cameron’s work, participants will work from an array of interesting objects provided, linked to nature.  The workshop will cover observation, collecting evidence, mark making and annotation through an experimental booklet of sketches in mixed media.

Start with a Sketch to Glove Puppet-making’ on Wednesday 9 August, 10am-12pm or 2-4pm, Long Gallery, Black Swan Arts, £16.50 pp.  A half-day workshop led by Greg Stephens (Cornelius Clifford puppets) and artist Fiona Campbell, aimed at children aged 5+ accompanied by adults.  Children will be making simple glove puppets initiated by sketches inspired by the exhibition ‘Sketch’ and resources provided, using found materials eg. fabric, faux fur, foam, beads, buttons, wire, pipe cleaners.

To book one of these workshops visit

Further workshops linked to forthcoming exhibitions at Black Swan Arts during Somerset Art Weeks are planned to engage the local community.  These include Organic Forms Workshops

by Angela Morley (Wednesday 4th October, 1-3pm, book: and a Family Friendly workshop run by Fiona Campbell, (Saturday 7th October, 1-3pm, book:

Black Swan Arts are also excited to be working with Visual Arts South West as a guest editor of their newsletter in July.

Fiona Campbell
Ellie Mawby
Nick Weaver and Cameron Scott
Angela Morely
The Future Can

 Top to bottom: Fiona Campbell, Ellie Mawby, Nick Weaver/ Cameron Scott, Angela Morely and Mariella Frostrup one of this year’s BSA Open judges

Date published: 30 May 2017
Fresh Face of Black Swan Arts

Black Swan Arts is going through some exciting changes that build on its growing reputation as one of Somerset’s leading arts centres.

The fresh face of the Frome-based venue starts with a brand-new website – – just one of many ways forward to a promising future.

Black Swan Arts’ Friends’ Scheme has been given a new lease of life by volunteer Friends’ coordinator, Rachael Holtom. A ‘studio safari’ in June for Friends will involve visits to several local artists’ studios, including Janette Kerr, David Parfitt and Kim Birchall, and end with tea and cake in Fiona Campbell’s sculpture garden.

Forthcoming exhibitions for the second part of 2017 kick off in the Long Gallery with ‘In the Absence of Truth’ (17 June–15 July), a powerful exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Ricky Romain and text assemblages/books by Heather Fallows inspired by human rights issues. The preview evening takes place on Friday 16 June at 6–8 p.m.

This is followed by a national show, ‘Sketch’, which runs from 22 July to 3 September, with a preview evening on Friday 21 July at 6–8pm. The touring exhibition of artists’ sketchbooks, selected from over 500 international entries, aims to promote the importance of drawing and the role of the sketchbook in contemporary creative practice. There are just three other venues for this spectacular exhibition – Marlborough, Plymouth and Lancaster – so this is a must-see show this summer!

Award-winning textile artist Gladys Paulus will be exhibiting her ancestral project Hinterland in the Long Gallery (16 September–14 October) with a preview evening on Friday 15 September at 6–8pm.  Black Swan Arts are collaborating with Somerset Art Weeks, with three exhibitions addressing this year’s festival theme, ‘Prospect’.  In the historic Round Tower Gallery, Angela Morley and Fiona Campbell will be showing new work in ‘Ephemeral and Eternal’ (16 September–7 October), the Pop-Up Gallery will host Nick Weaver and Cameron Scott with two contrasting views of wood (23 September–7 October), and Somerset Art Works’ Creative Pathways Bursary Artist, Ellie Mawby, will be showing in the foyer and cafe area.

The ever-popular Black Swan Arts Open (2–29 November) will be judged this year by a prestigious line-up, including Mariella Frostrup. The deadline for entries is 8 September and submissions can be made online via or website from mid-July. This will be followed by the Christmas show (2–30 December) which will feature Carry Akroyd and Richard Phethean.

The four popular studio shops at Black Swan Arts offer visitors the opportunity to watch crafts people at work and buy directly from them. Lila Streether paints botanical subjects and landscapes in watercolour – living on the edge of the Mendip Hills gives her plenty of inspiration. Jewellers Linda Sandeman and Yasemin Sweet offer an exciting mix of contemporary and filigree jewellery in Studio 2. Suzi Waterworth designs and makes fosse beads – porcelain charm beads and jewellery to collect, combine and coordinate. West Australian-born artist Jack Perkins works in many different mediums including brush, black ink and fine liners to striking effect.

Black Swan Arts recently participated in BBC’s nationwide ‘Get Creative Day’. Artisans and MA students from Bath Spa University offered drop-in taster workshops for adults and children, and the whole building was buzzing with creativity. Numerous families visited the workshops trying out new skills and making wonderful artworks to take away.

Further workshops linked to forthcoming exhibitions, including ‘Sketch’ and Somerset Art Weeks, are planned to engage the local community. These will involve a range of talks by visiting artists and art/craft activities at the centre. Black Swan Arts are also excited to be working with Visual Arts South West, as a guest editor of their newsletter.

Photograph of Ricky Romain
Lost voices 10 by Ricky Romain

 Top to bottom: Portrait of Ricky Romain by Robert Golden, ‘Lost Voices 10’ by Ricky Romain.

Date published: 19 May 2017
Event: Ricky Romain – In the Absence of Truth
Date: 17 June – 16 July 2017
Location: Long Gallery

A powerful new exhibition at Black Swan Arts in Frome called ‘In the Absence of Truth’ showcases paintings and works on paper by Ricky Romain and related text assemblages/books by Heather Fallows.

The work of both artists is inspired by human rights issues, focusing on the themes of asylum, sanctuary and immigration. Ricky believes that engaging with contemporary human rights issues makes ‘the truth’ a potent element in a work of art, particularly in this age of alternative facts and post-truth politics.

He hopes that this honesty of purpose gives the work an indisputable integrity: ‘An artist’s relationship with the truth is complex and intriguingly nuanced. Sometimes it is mystifyingly precarious; often it is more concerned with a poetic truth that depends on mutual understanding and empathy.’

He asserts that works of art can be rallying points, absorbing the thoughts and interpretations of those who give their time to understand and appreciate them. This ‘collective deciphering’ can be silent and secret or vocal and vociferous. Whichever way comment is manifested, he suggests, it is usually part of a collaborative search for honesty of intent and sincerity of expression from both artist and audience.

Ricky has been an artist for nearly 45 years, working with pigments and glazes that he mixes himself, as well as Indian ink, paint and gesso-primed canvases to create a surface that can be scratched into. For the last 17 years, he has become preoccupied with humanitarian causes. His work has been exhibited in galleries nationally and internationally, including the International Secretariat of Amnesty International and the European Council of Human Rights building in Strasburg. He will be hosting a panel discussion on human rights on Thursday 29 June in the Long Gallery at Black Swan Arts at 7 p.m.

Ricky is also a classically trained sitar player and has performed regularly in the UK and Europe. On Saturday 15 July, he will be performing a recital at Black Swan Arts at 3.30 p.m.

Heather Fallows is a freelance artist who works with a variety of materials and found objects to create assemblages and text-inspired works. She is interested in the origin of language and the genesis of its meaning and formulation, and often uses poetry to inspire her work.

For many years, Ricky and Heather ran their own art gallery in Axminster, supported by Dartington College, showing exhibitions of their own and other artists’ work. They have worked on a series of educational and community projects throughout the UK, often using human rights issues to inform participants’ artwork.

The Future Can

Date published: 28 April 2017
Event: Steve Burden – ‘Utopian Myths’
Date: 13 May–10 June 2017
Location: Long Gallery

Black Swan Arts in Frome is hosting a new exhibition of paintings by the winner of the Black Swan Arts Open 2016, Steve Burden, inspired by dystopian themes associated with housing estates.

‘Utopian Myths’ features work informed by Steve’s childhood growing up on the Pepys Estate in Deptford, south London. As well as the architecture and history of the estate, he also explores social issues affecting urban spaces, such as security, isolation, control, gang culture and population density. He says, “Growing up in an urban jungle, surrounded by out-of-scale concrete fortresses, has inevitably informed my development and visual aesthetic as an artist.”

Now based in Wedmore, Somerset, Steve graduated from Goldsmiths College with First Class Honours and Bath Spa University with a master’s degree in fine art.

Photo-collage forms the bedrock of Steve’s paintings, but layering is also an important aspect of his work, both in terms of building up layers of paint and accumulating multiple readings, so creating a more complex narrative. In some works, layers of paint are removed, allowing the pigment to leach and take on the patina of stained concrete. This is followed by areas of overpainting during which parts of the image are obliterated. He also experiments with the viscosity of the paint and the way it can be dragged across the surface, allowing some areas to permeate whilst obscuring others.

‘Utopian Myths’ runs at Black Swan Arts from 13 May to 10 June, with a preview evening on Friday 12 May from 6–8pm, which all are welcome to attend. Steve will also be taking part in a Q&A session on Thursday 18 May at 7.30pm as part of this year’s Museums at Night initiative (

The painting, Abattoir, which won the Open, is going on tour as part of the ‘Alternate Visions: Undiscovered Art from the South West’ exhibition organised by Pallant House Gallery. The show opens at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery on 3 June and then moves on to Falmouth, Cheltenham and Poole.

The Future Can

Date published: 24 February 2017
Event: Society of Graphic Fine Art
Date: 4–25 March 2017
Location: Long Gallery

Black Swan Arts in Frome is staging an exhibition of drawings by a prestigious national art society, the Society of Graphic Fine Art. The exhibition includes work showcasing traditional and contemporary techniques in all drawing and printmaking media and in a wide range of sizes and media.

The show forms part of an initiative by SGFA to showcase recent work by members in different parts of the UK.  The SGFA also organises a biennial at the Bankside Gallery on London’s South Bank and an annual open exhibition at the Menier Gallery, Southwark.

The society was established in 1919 to promote good drawing and draughtsmanship. It is the only national art society dedicated exclusively to drawing and currently has a membership of over 130 professional artists. This exhibition shows both traditional and contemporary drawing techniques in a wide range of sizes and media.

For more information on current membership and events, see  The show runs from 4–25 March in the Round Tower at Black Swan Arts. The official opening takes place on Friday 3 March – all are welcome to attend.

Black Swan Arts Studios

Date published: 15 February 2017
Soaring Towards the Exceptional Black Swan Arts looks forward to an exciting future

After a hugely successful 30th anniversary year in 2016, celebrated with fantastic arts events including 1000 Postcards, which attracted a record number of visitors, Black Swan Arts Centre is looking forward to an exciting future. 2017 is set to be the start of exceptional development and growth. Trustee Alex Webb says: “We are listening to the community and trustees are actively putting together an exciting, engaging development programme to enhance the visitor experience.

It has been a miraculous and often turbulent journey for Black Swan, which opened in 1986 in a disused ex-public house, believed to date back to the 17/18c. The original building was joined to the Round Tower (an old wool drying house – early 19thc) by an extension in 2000. The Arts Centre has undergone several setbacks, but through sheer hard work and public support, it has pulled through. Now thriving, Black Swan is a vibrant, dynamic Arts Centre, which raises cultural levels in Frome and reaches all ages and audiences.

Black Swan Arts continues to work towards being a hub for the community and for local, national and international artists, showing high quality, accessible art. A vital part of the centre is the provision of studio and workshop spaces, where visitors can see works in progress, as well as the ever-popular café and shop. A charitable Arts organisation run by a dedicated team of trustees, volunteers and a part-time member of staff, Black Swan’ s vision is to keep expanding its reach and potential. Fund-raising is part of this plan and a renewed Friends Scheme has been developed.

Seamus Nicholson, winner of Black Swan Open 2015, is currently showing photographic work ‘ exploring the peripheral everyday’ inthe Long Gallery. Coming soon (18 March – 15 April), Bath Spa University’ s MA show ‘ The Future Can’ t Wait’ showcases work by post-graduate artists who will give talks, welcome schools to the gallery and engage with young people. Frome Art Society return for their popular exhibition (22 April – 6 May). Last year’ s Open winner Steve Burden returns for a solo show (13 May – 10 June). Human rights artist Ricky Romain will be showing in June, leading to a major touring exhibition ‘ Sketch’ coming to Black Swan (22 July – 3 Sept), followed by textile artist Gladys Paulus’ ‘ Hinterland’ in the Long Gallery. Collaborating with Somerset Art Weeks Festival ’ 17 themed ‘ Prospect’ , the Round Tower Gallery will show Fiona Campbell and Angela Morley’ s new work entitled ‘ Ephemeral and Eternal’.

Always popular, the Black Swan Open and Christmas shows will round up the year. “Our aim is to provide an inspiring, inclusive and welcoming artistic hub, where the community and visitors from afar can enjoy and engage in aspirational and occasionally challenging art. A place where artists and visitors might rise above the mundane, even soar towards the exceptional,” says Amanda Sheridan (Chair of Trustees).

Black Swan’ s new website currently being developed will reflect these values

Black Swan Arts Press

Black Swan Art is revitalising its Friends group and inviting local art lovers to join.

Black Swan Arts, Fromes innovative contemporary art gallery, is revitalising its Friends group and inviting local art lovers to join.

The Friends are a key pillar of support for the centre, providing crucial financial assistance and acting as advocates for the free-admission gallery which promotes local artists.

Black Swan Arts hosts approximately 20 shows each year from painting, craft and sculpture to photography, drawing and textile-art. There is also a cluster of studios. Art societies from Frome often display their work in the galleries and the centre organises community art, such as last years Secret Swans project which saw swan-inspired art decorating the town. We are so grateful for all the help our Friends give, said Rachael Holtom, the new Volunteer Co-ordinator of the Friends group, To say thank you we offer a variety of benefits, including regular newsletters, invitations to show pre-views, a 10% discount on work purchased in the galleries and studios, an annual visit to another gallery or artists studios, as well as chances to meet Trustees, find out more about where we are heading and get more involved. Above all, Friends know they are helping the creative community of Frome.

We welcome donations of at least £25 for new members and I really look forward to meeting new Friends