The Artists Open Houses festival (AOH) is the UK’s first and now the largest event of its kind. Around 200 houses and studios in Brighton, and beyond, throw open their doors to the public over four weekends this May for the 2023 edition.
There is a joyful garden party mood in the air for Artists Open Houses (AOH) 2023. Naturally, the Coronation has added to the festive spirit, but there is the post-Covid effect at work here, too: More people than ever are beginning to appreciate that art can be enjoyed both inside and outside, and Open Houses in Brighton & Hove, plus surrounding areas, are responding with some exceptional art in some very beautiful places, from city courtyards to large wine estates and hilltop windmills.
This year’s cover artist Daisy Jordan is ‘fascinated by non-human primates’ and, for the AOH brochure, she’s let loose a colourful troop of monkeys over Brighton’s rooftops. You can see more of her charming puppetry, cardboard assemblages and paintings at The Studio Gallery (West Hove).
IN THE GARDEN
Open Houses that also show art in the open air are a great alternative activity to the Coronation celebrations. Gardens to add to a trail include Stuart and Mark and Friends , a large meadow garden with mosaics in Fiveways. Seven Dials has Alizeti Creative , which boasts a beautiful garden to accompany the display of mosaic sculptures, Japanese fabrics, ceramics and jewellery. Both offer the added attraction of homemade tea and cake. Hove’s Art in Bloom , features painting, plus sculptures in ceramic, paper and bronze, all hung in a walled garden. Along the coast in Ovingdean, Mike Levy Pots and Prints invites visitors into a purpose-built home studio, surrounded by a lush garden, where domestic tableware, large garden pots and tiles, posters and cards are for sale. There are more ceramics even further along the coast, in Newhaven, at South Heighton Pottery garden, along with homemade food.
Pick of the bunch for days out include The Secret Garden Kemp Town , a huge oasis of green hidden from the city by a high flint wall. A tiny-but-charming café serves excellent food by TABLE, and visitors can marvel at the monumental, crash-landed figures of David Breuer-Weill. Dymocks End Studio (Ditchling) is an award-winning Sussex Downs-garden boasting an orchard and an ancient well. This hidden, peaceful place is the setting for sculptures and fabric installations. Or you can enjoy a Venezuelan Garden Music Concert at Encounters (West Hove), with food to accompany.
BESIDE THE SEASIDE
Patsy McArthur (Kemptown) is an established artist known for her superb renderings of figures in water, this year set off beautifully by her home, which is flooded with light and boasts views to the sea. Debbie Lawrence (Kemptown) introduces a new collection of paintings and prints, with a focus on explorers of the sea and swimming through abstract lands. To be enjoyed along with sea views from the garden café. Swimscape and Musicpots (Kemptown) features the colourful oil paintings of sea swimmer Alli Harmer Williams, who captures the spirit of her fellow swimmers and the energy of the sea.
Sarah Arnett: The Little Picture Palace (Seven Dials) sees the renowned designer showcase colour and exoticism in fabrics, wallpaper and fashion items. She promises cocktails in the garden and surprise weekend entertainment, too. RAPTURE at the Regency Townhouse (Brunswick) aims to revolutionise exhibition economics with its profit-sharing model. Matthew Burrows of @artistsupportpledge fame will be giving a talk as part of a programme of RAPTURE events. Known for its controversially colourful paintjob, Sam Hewitt’s House (Dyke Road) is full of the acclaimed artist’s drone-inspired street scenes. Finally, architectural ceramicist Kay Aplin’s unusual tile-adorned house (and hugely popular AOH venue) The Ceramic House Gallery (Fiveways) hosts contemporary Irish ceramics and sound art, plus a collaboration between artists in Estonia, Ireland and the UK.
ALTERNATIVE EVENTS & UNUSUAL FINDS
There is much patriotic (and wild) fun to be had at Beacon Hill Windmill in Rottingdean. More Tales from the Windmill is an event that brings together 3D illustrated lanterns, puppet theatre, animation, paintings, books, fortune-telling, live folk music, and a 3D Coronation kit to cut out and colour. Not to mention the 50s-style television live-stream of King Charles being crowned. Alternatively, try a Chinese brush painting demo at Delicious Delights (Fiveways) immerse yourself in a sound installation and see handmade recorders at The Yellow House (Hanover); take Vintage Afternoon Tea at The Claremont (Hove); marvel at AI Assisted Portraits by Kaniskult at Art Rascal (Kemptown).
At Varndean School (Fiveways) you can see GCSE ceramics, which was named an ‘Area of Excellence’ by education review charity Challenge Partners. Plus, student performances. Drawing Together (Kemptown) is showing pieces by a community art group run by senior residents that promotes independent living and community engagement. A Room of Our Own (Central) is showing works by Figment Arts artists, a group of learning disabled, neurodiverse and autistic artists, including Café faux pas a funny animated short exploring autism and (mis)communication. Visitors are invited to take part in a collaborative artwork, which will be developed throughout the festival.
Joining the AOH family this year is Laura Waldusky (Kemptown), who creates painstakingly precise line drawings on paper, some made into 3D sculptures; Home James at 76 (Fiveways), showing printmaking, ceramics and crafts, with an open garden; and The Way of Seeing (Portslade), featuring experimental photos from the Sussex countryside, plus much more.
Keep an eye out for alternative dates to the ones listed for the festival, as many houses will open for the bank holiday’s too.