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Architectural recognition for The Art Room
The Topsham Society has selected Deborah Wood of the Art Room to receive the 2011 ‘Enhancing Topsham Award’. The Society was established in the 60’s to promote the sympathetic development and preservation of the historic and picturesque estuary town of Topsham.

This Award, initiated in 2005, recognises and celebrates new developments and projects which enhance and improve the town. It has been given to Deborah Wood for sympathetically converting a run-down workshop known as 8A The Strand into a contemporary art gallery.

The conversion took place in the summer of 2011 and was largely carried out by Deborah Wood (the Director of the Art Room), Andrew Paterson of Laburnum Construction and a small group of volunteer helpers. The work took eight weeks and involved careful restoration of the walls and ceiling discreetly hiding all the service pipes and wires, insulation, lighting, heating and decoration.

To quote Deborah: “To be the custodian of any historic architecture is a great responsibility. A sensitive and considered approach is essential to keep the character intact whilst creating a new purpose and life for the building.

“A recent visitor to the gallery said how elegant and welcoming it was. It's wonderful to know that the residents of Topsham are also happy.”

Above: Deborah Wood, prizewinner in the Topsham Society award

"Inspiring and original"
Graham Rich is an artist represented by the Fine Art Society who was a colleague and friend of Peter Thursby for over 17 years.

"Congratulations for such a warm and delightful evening. You are mining a local seam in a very inspiring and original way. I came home feeling a sense of integration as to my place in the world and a view of things that makes me very comfortable with who I am and in what I believe. Graham's validation of that tradition of the Teacher/Artist hit the spot for me, in this more fragmented world where the false god of celebrity is leaving behind such a way of life. Also, I find the spirit of 8A to be one of enrichment and harmony - soon it will be forgotten how it was when you took over?"

Above: Graham Rich delivering gallery talk on Peter Thursby. Sunday 4th September

LINKS to other sites

Zoe Cameron: Zoe is a British Figurative Painter, living and working in Cornwall

Cornwall 100: representing the best of art in Cornwall today

BargainArts: art materials available from shop in Ottery St Mary and via website

See also THE ART ROOM Blog for further news and opinions about art

Above: The Roger & Margaret Dean exhibition in February 2012

Visitor Comments

Mo Thursby: We knew it would look good, but WOW - it is SUPERB! Congratulations, we just do not know how you have done it!
Everything is just right and darling Peter's work looked marvellous - and so comfortable!!
THANK YOU. I feel so moved!

Above: The opening of the new gallery premises at 8A The Strand, Topsham

Congratulations! Superb space, excellent hanging and good conversation.

Fantastic! Topsham has waited far too long for this, congratulations!

Lovely show, wonderful to see such an inspiring space

A lovely exhibition, well done we'll be coming again.

How wonderful to have a gallery like this in Topsham, and with such mind-blowingly wonderful artists, thank you.

A wonderful space and some stunning work, thank you!

It's great to have a real gallery in Topsham, excellent exhibition - Pat Fishwick

Above: Tessa Rubbra exhibition, November 2013

A Voice from the Chorus
In remarking the Second Anniversary of establishing itself in our Town, certain words of appreciation must transcend the personal and private and be offered as a warm tribute, in the public forum, to the vision and integrity of purpose with which M/s Deborah Wood has brought The Art Room into our lives. It has become a companionable friend within the community, giving us the opportunity to “see” the world anew and thereby allow us to reflect upon how and where the tradition of Painting now stands within our Western culture.
In these times of flux and economic savageries, swathes of change are undercutting many of those social pillars which have upheld the way we have perceived and understood the world around us. Whilst things must change, even if not to remain the same, perhaps we should consider how our current perceptions of art and all things visual might also be changing? It might well be unsettling to ask where now are our Exeter School of Art & Design, our Falmouth School of Art (in its Golden Age), our Bath Academy & Sydney Place of yesteryear – a few examples of those vital springs and fountainheads of creativity which once flowered in the best of liberal traditions, helping create the visual architecture of the 20th Century in the sense of establishing the place of painting in our daily lives.

Above: Work by Peter Thursby at the opening exhibition of the new gallery premises at 8A The Strand, Topsham

With the above wholly personal thoughts, I suggest that the series of Exhibitions at The Art Room, which M/s Wood has brought to us, often accompanied by stimulating Gallery Talks by some of the artist themselves, represent a fine platform of quality and historical perspective upon which to take stock of how our lives have been shaped by the Painters which she has presented to us. 



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These so often have been painters who, quietly and modestly, have stuck to their painting and their teaching of generations of students, decade on decade, letting their work and lives speak for themselves – without some of the hullaballoo and commercialised celebrity that can seem to cloak some more recent examples of the “artist in society” (not that such later work lacks integrity but rather that it seems to have emerged from a different stable in which the artist has become bigger than their work).
I consider that we have much to thank M/s Wood for, in bringing to The Art Room and presenting with great skill the works, for example, of Clifford Fishwick, Michael Garton, Robin Rae, Francis Hewlett, Valerie Barden, Robert Organ, Benedict Rubbra, Zoe Cameron and Robert Jennison – all highly significant figures within the tradition of which I speak and regardless of any personal opinions or judgments in any particular case. 

Whilst one might ponder whether or not such 20th Century ways of painting and teaching are passing into history, we cannot but appreciate the commitment of M/s Wood to those values which she has founded The Art Room to present for our benefit, giving us our own work to do in the process as each Exhibition has unfolded – all this achieved despite the harshness and uncertainties of these strange times.  I express these thoughts as being wholly personal and non-judgmental - tot homines, quot sententiae  - but to record what I believe The Art Room has brought & continues to bring to Topsham for the benefit and enrichment of us all. 

Tom Epton – February 2011

Above: Work by Peter Thursby at the opening exhibition of the new gallery premises at 8A The Strand, Topsham

"The subjects ... reveal a quality of wisdom and quiet suggestion that is the mark of Robin Rae's humanity ...

"Robin Rae's paintings are good companions for a very long journey. They are not susceptible to the passion of a one-night stand. This is to the good! If we seek not the obvious, the superficial or the 'easy option' then these paintings are works to live with as they grow slowly into the psyche.

"Day by day they prompt development of one's outlook, one's emotions, the whole atmosphere and sensation of being alive. In their 'stories' they carry mysteries that do not threaten but by their very nature raise powerful questions which are presented for you to answer - not by glib answer but rather by reflection and unconscious insight. Words become inadequate and superfluous.

Robin Rae"The subjects appear simple, sometimes on the edge of the surreal, but reveal a quality of wisdom and quiet suggestion that is the mark of Robin Rae's humanity as well as of his curiosity about the world. These paintings do not flee one's mind or imagination but implant themselves within us, not as viruses but as inner signposts to which we are invited to respond as best we might. We have been given work to do!!

"Robin Rae is a good painter. In his innate modesty and the simplicity of his professional and personal life this might be, perhaps, the only recognition for which he has striven to achieve and to which he continues in current and future work so to aspire. Within his own long journey, I suggest that he has indeed now 'arrived', thereby gifting us the privilege to look upon his works and draw deep-rooted responses from our own individual 'view of things'.

Above: The recent Peter Thursby exhibitiion in the new gallery

Gallery talk by Benedict RubbraA short note of warm thanks for the quite excellent talk by Benedict Rubbra and for the way you had set up the whole evening. It was very companion-able and BR came across as a lovely man with such a strong humanity and sense of purpose - Tom and Jill Epton

Superb space, superb work, I hope this gallery is a great success.