The Forest’s arts life has become particularly active. The arts groups Cinderford Artspace, Far Open, Canopy, and Dean Forest Museum are thriving, and the local landscape has been the inspiration for much of this new artistic world.

High Street Newnham has become a vibrant centre for arts in the Forest. The Sanctuary and the old printing press workshop have developed into artistic studios, and the George has been restored as a place for artistic exhibitions.

Last week, the Sanctuary was the venue for ‘Artists’ Talk’, an opportunity to hear local artists talking about their work in the context of ‘place’. Landscape is central to the work of these local artists, with the Forest and the River Severn inspiring their works.

Landscape and mythology around the Severn have a long history. There is a tradition of work by the Lydney born composer Herbert Howells 'Missa Sabreniensis', a celebration of the River Severn. There is a wooden effigy of Sabrina, the ancient goddess of the river, at Tintern station. Catherine Fisher wrote in her biography of a Gloucestershire poet ‘Minsterworth meadows where Ivor Gurney walks in sunlight, unforgotten'. The first painting I acquired after moving to the Forest over 50 years ago was by Doug Eaton, of views of fishermen wading into the Severn at Aylburton, a timeless view of local people and landscape. Dennis Potter’s ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ recalls his childhood in the Forest, and in ’A Fortunate Man’, the story of a Forest doctor by John Berger, the photographs of a remote village community by Jean Mohr are crucial to the narrative. Landscape is integral to all these works.

The exhibition now showing at the Sanctuary is ‘Drawn to Landscape’, works by artists Bev Campbell and Perienne Christian and jeweller Uschi Arens Price, who shared their methods and techniques at an ‘Artists’ talk session.

Their stories were of landscape and visual arts which were more than just ‘visual’. The works were Forest and river, scenery and sound, with artwork influenced by sounds and nature.

At the Artists’ Talk session Bev Campbell, Perienne Christian and Ushchi Arens Price describe the influence of sounds and landscape on their works at the ‘Drawn to Landscape’ currently open. Ushchi is a sculptor in silver, and describes the imaginative way in which she creates works of art with an array of specialist tools and techniques to create flamboyant jewellery. Bev and Perienne are artists who specialise in imaginative ways of presenting rural scenes.

The ’Drawn to Nature’ exhibition at the Sanctuary, Newnham High Street, is open 11am to 5pm to Friday this week. The next exhibition will be Still Moments (paintings and ceramics) from 23rd March to 27th April 2024.