Purbeck Art Weeks proving to be a valuable stepping stone for Dorset artists

'View at Studland' Judy Tate

'View at Studland' Judy Tate - Credit: Archant

Now firmly established as one of the highlights of Dorset’s arts calendar, the Purbeck Art Weeks Festival offers local artists a chance to showcase their work to a much wider audience.

At the heart of the Festival is Rollington Barn, an historic stone barn near Corfe Castle, where each of the artists is represented by at least one piece of work. It is also where artists whose studios are not open during the Festival can show several pieces. This is the must go to venue if you want an exciting taster of all the art on show during the Festival, which this year runs from 23 May – 7 June. For many local artists Purbeck Art Weeks, or PAW, has proved to be an important spring board for their career. Sculptor, Moira Purver and painters Judy Tate and Sinead O’Neill are all at different stages of their professional development and each credits the Festival with helping them achieve their ambition as artists.


Moria Purver

Moira Purver’s first taste of sculpture was modelling clay at school aged 17. She didn’t actually take up sculpture until later life when she moved to Purbeck in 2008 and attended a life drawing class. “By chance I met someone from my own village and they did bronze resin casting,” she recalls. This inspired her and by the May she had a number of pieces ready to exhibit in the Quarr Gallery in Swanage and in the Rollington Barn Exhibition as part of PAW. “Exhibiting with PAW gave me the confidence to spread my wings and try for national exhibitions,” she adds.

Moira has always loved music and dance and her works have included a couple doing an Argentine Tango and her most recent sculptures are inspired by Ester Tal of Mi Flamenco who, having seen Moira’s work, asked to collaborate with her. “It was an exciting experience to be able to work directly with a professional dancer,” she confesses. “The power and strength of Ester’s dancing could not fail to inspire.”

Moira initially models her work in clay or wax, and then casts it in bronze or bronze resin. Pieces ranges from small hand held sculptures to larger outdoor pieces. She was thrilled to have her life size sculpture ‘Self-Contained Man’ accepted for the Royal West of England Academy exhibition in Bristol. Her work has also been exhibited in galleries in London, Dorset, Devon, Hampshire and Somerset and has featured in outdoor sculpture trails such as at RHS Wisley.


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Judy Tate

Painter Judy Tate has been exhibiting at PAW for five years and credits it with helping her to establish herself as an artist. “I cannot imagine how else I would have made that first step of becoming an artist who sells her work,” she says. “PAW facilitates meetings with other artists who share their knowledge, experience and provide mutual encouragement, and that’s really helpful when you are starting out.” Artists can get to know each other through the PAW Artist’s Forum. Through it Judy was introduced to Moira, who in turn encouraged her to send her work to the Society of Woman Artists (SWA). Last year Moira achieved full member status of the SWA after several years of having her work accepted. Now Judy is hoping to follow in her footsteps. Last year her pieces‘On the Edge’ and‘The Blues’ were shown at SWA’s annual exhibition in the Mall Galleries, London. Both pieces are about mood and emotions - an assemblage of colour, line and texture. “Societies like the SWA and The Pastel Society can seem like intimidating London-based bodies. I would have been unlikely to submit paintings without Moira’s encouragement,” she adds.



Sinead O’Neill

As Judy continues her journey, Sinead O’Neill is a young Purbeck artist who is just starting on her road to discovery. Sinead has been exhibiting at PAW for just three years. Last year she entered a painting into theBBC One Show’s Art Competition and was shortlisted in the 18+ category. The painting was then hung at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. “Without doubt PAW gave me the confidence to enter the competition,” she says. Sinead’s desire to be an artist has not always been an easy path to follow. Having started a diploma in art and design, bullying left her anxious and depressed. It took her several difficult years to get her depression under control, but throughout she continued to paint and draw. Eventually she asked about taking part in PAW and through her involvement has met a number of more experienced artists, including Moira. “Meeting other artists at various stages in their career has given me inspiration to pursue my art and to make it more than a hobby.”

Sinead says she is inspired by the local area and loves the sea. “I spend hours just watching the water, or watching the light scatter through the leaves in a wood. Both places hold a peace and calm that settles the mind. Painting these places is a way for me to bring that feeling into my home, and I like being able to share this with others.”

For the last couple of years Sinead has shared an open studio with Moira during PAW. This has given her the space to exhibit more of her work and to learn the ropes of setting up an exhibition. “Being able to chat about anything you’re unsure of is fantastic, and it has taught me everything on the practical side of art that I know.”

The theme for PAW 2015 is ‘Out of the Depths’ a subject which emerged from artists discussions and from what lies within and around the Isle of Purbeck: the quarries, the mines, the sea and the links that artists have with the area. Artists are free to take up the theme or not, but (as in 2014) there will be a competition and the winning image will feature on the cover of the main PAW brochure and the events programme.



Take part in PAW 2015

If you would like to get involved with PAW 2015 (23 May-7 June) why not get in touch?

At their website purbeckartweeks.co.uk you will find all the information you need. The closing date for artists to take part in this year’s festival is 31 January 2015. Artists who join PAW are advertised in a free brochure with a map of where their studios are, and benefit from the overall publicity given to the Festival’s additional music, dance and literary events throughout 2015.



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