Monday, 16 September 2013

Ten Years, Ten Artists - Sarah Young

Being both an exhibitor and an organiser at Brighton Art Fair can make for an ambivalent relationship. Its a little like holding a party, trying to make sure of thorough preparations, hoping that everyone has an enjoyable time, and then finding it difficult to remember to enjoy the party yourself. You can feel far too responsible for everything - when really all you can do is your best beforehand. People sell work at different times throughout the weekend - some people do brilliantly on the private view but might not make any other sales, others don't sell any work at all or the sales come in after the show's finished. We hope that everyone does equally well but that is of course impossible.

We are veteran exhibitors at various art and craft fairs and often there is at best a coldly professional atmosphere between exhibitors and organisers or in some cases mutual distrust and deep hostility. This was one of my main objections to starting the fair, but what is lovely is that on the whole exhibitors, whether they find Brighton Art Fair financially successful or not, value the show for it's ethos and feel. Many or even most exhibitors seem actively to enjoy the show, a state of affairs we previously considered perverse or even impossible! Brighton Art Fair right from year one has had a great atmosphere, the visitors are actually interested in the art and want to meet the artists, and the artists are happy to meet their public as well as engage with the other exhibiting artists. Many artists and visitors do come back to the show over many years, and to some extent feel a sense of community with Brighton Art Fair if only for a few days.

Exhibiting at Brighton Art Fair is again a double edged sword for me because its difficult to create new work whilst designing the graphics for and helping to organise three, sometimes four fairs. But it is an opportunity for me to try new things out and get feedback about what works or not, new prints, new methods are all tried at BAF. I first showed my paintings at the show and fellow exhibitors' response to my efforts really helped me to feel a little more confident about them. I try to use the shows to produce something a little new each year. BAF provides an opportunity and a deadline to create, and an audience for the work created.

We've never really seen ourselves as 'event organisers' and perhaps we're not as 'professional' as some, but I think that being first and foremost artists and makers we have helped (along of course with the artists and our art fair team) to create an art fair with soul that is valued by both exhibitors and visitors alike.

You have a tiny window once a year that allows you to notice the development of fellow artists work over the years. Its lovely seeing the gradual changes, blossomings and growth in confidence.

Also coming upon a really wonderful application that makes your heart lift!.

But the most positive and important thing for me, that has come from these fairs has been the real friendships we've made. Firstly with Phil and Tessa who we really didn't know well when we all rather rashly decided on this course of action. Eight years later Phil was Jon's best man at our wedding!

Then my inestimably valued and special friendship with Anne-Marie (she has to put up with a lot!) came about purely from the show. Also the opportunity to get to know Chris (our nephew and organiser of our lovely helpers during the actual shows) far more than we would have otherwise.

And of course being in my beloved Brighton and going to the pub for much needed beers after a long day at the show! 










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