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Cambridge Open Studios 2020: Your guide to the city's window art discovery trail

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Maps have been created of a new art trail opening in Cambridge and the surrounding villages that can be followed by anyone out on their daily stroll.

Cambridge Open Studios has had to change itself this year because of the Covid-19 crisis, so instead of being a group of artists opening up the workshops to the public, they will be exhibiting in their windows and front gardens over the four weekends in July so that passers-by can still enjoy their work.

The group has published maps which show art hunters where these gems are hiding, but don’t give any clue about what kind of artworks will be discovered on the trail or the identity of the artists. It aims to bring people closer to their local artists and the project is being put on in a spirit of discovery, according to one of the organisers Kate Green.

Cambridge city map of where Open Windows artists are displaying their work (37691214)
Cambridge city map of where Open Windows artists are displaying their work (37691214)

Two of this year’s artists spoke with the Cambridge Independent about the work they will be showing.

Kay Sonnex, artist (36127614)
Kay Sonnex, artist (36127614)

Kay Sonnex

After a lifelong career in nursing, Kay has taken up painting and some of her most recent subjects have been portraits of NHS workers which she has given to the subjects for free to thank them for their dedication to the health service.

Kay says: “I'm a new member and was looking forward to Cambridge Open Studios but I’m excited to be able to do open windows. We are in Great shelford. My house is right on the street so I will just be able to put paintings in the windows.

“I love landscapes. I'm very inspired by the sky and fields and Cambridge itself, so I have painted a lot of those scenes. But during the lockdown I have concentrated quite a bit on portraits that I have been painting for NHS heroes.”

Kay has been painting these portraits as part of a project started by artist Tom Croft on Instagram. Artists are matched with NHS workers who send them a photo of themselves in their work clothes. The resulting pictures have opened up a view on life inside hospitals and surgeries during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kay says: “The initiative was started on Instagram to support the NHS heroes - nurses, doctors, health care assistants. You would put a little sign up on Instagram saying you wanted to be matched with an NHS worker and they contact you. Then you paint their portrait and you put it on social media with a little explanation about how the Covid pandemic has affected them and at the end you send them their portrait.”

Kay Sonnex, artist (36127621)
Kay Sonnex, artist (36127621)

She is currently putting the finishing touches to the third portrait, which is of a member of staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

“Working on this project has been lovely,” says Kay. “I have just finished my third one. I have been very pleased and I've been painting in oils. It has given me a great encouragement to help because I'm a retired nurse as well. I worked for Addenbrookes for over 30 years so it has been great to give something back to them.

“I used to work in gynae oncology where I was a lead nurse practitioner, diagnosing and treating women with suspected cancer. I retired three years ago.”

The first portrait was of a trainee GP in Edinburgh and the second of a plastic surgeon in Birmingham who normally worked on breast reconstruction surgery for women after breast cancer but during the pandemic reatriend to work on a Covid-19 wards and intensive care.

“it's been a very distressing time for her,” says kay, “So it was lovely to do her portrait because she is a friend of ours as well. I'm also painting her daughter who is a house officer at Addenbrookes. She works in orthopaedics and was sent to work in the Covid wards. Her name is Eve Robertson-Waters. I don't know her that well but Ithe picture sent shows how hard it must have been her hair is all over the place and she looks really tired and flushed because of the masks.

Kay Sonnex, artist painting NHS heroes (36127623)
Kay Sonnex, artist painting NHS heroes (36127623)

“Because she is local I’m hoping to be able to drop it around to her and see the reaction on her face - from a distance, obviously!”

Creating the portraits has been of personal significance to Kay. “It has meant an awful lot to me because for health reasons I couldn't go back to work. I did get the email asking if I wanted to return to work but unfortunately I have chronic back problems which has meant I couldn't. SoI’ve been pleased I can do something to support the NHS along with the clapping outside we have been doing as well. The people I’ve painted have been so delighted that people are taking an interest in their story.”

Kay is planning to display lots of her landscape pictures as she is particularly inspired by local views and scenes in Norfolk and Suffolk where she likes to visit on holiday.

“I've also got some Norfolk scenes because we have holidayed there a lot. And we also love Suffolk. I particularly enjoy painting the beach huts and anything with sky and open fields. I've also painted a lovely tranquil scene of the river in Cambridge.

“I find that painting consumes you. I could be out here for hours and if it wasn't for my husband coming out here with cups of tea and telling me it is lunchtime i would bury my head in what i'm doing and i just love it. I love playing with the colours and mixing paint and having an end result I like. I love going to art museums and looking around for inspiration.

“When I was young I did O Level and pottery so I have always enjoyed it but it was only about ten years ago I decided to have another go. It was a learning process but I always wanted to do it. I didn;t really have the energy when my three sons were growing up and I was working full time.

“I’m excited to see what happens with the Open Windows exhibition and to see if anyone wants to buy the paintings.”


Jo Davies, artist (36127605)
Jo Davies, artist (36127605)

Jo Davies

Jo Davies is a professional ceramic artist specialising in wheel-thrown porcelain. Her practice includes hand-making a fine porcelain design range of vases, vessels, lighting and unique objects.

She has just moved to Cambridge after living and working in london for many years and is hoping to introduce her art to a new audience.

“ I only moved to cambridge just over a year ago so I was hoping to be part of ipoen studios but i think this is a nice solution to social distancing. 'm going to set my living room as an exhibition space,” says Jo.

“I work in ceramic so I can’t push a painting against the glass and hope people will see it. Instead. I will be encouraging people to go against every polite fibre in their body and look through my front window. That's the plan. The room will be largely as I have it normally with my books and shelves but with a nice display of my porcelain centrally located and a few of the objects hanging as well.

“I also have a car which is a Nissan Cube that is bright white and sits on my drive. I have some idea of turning that into a White Cube as a play on words as the White Cube gallery. The seats go down completely flat inside so one idea was to have a white piece of MDF board and do a formal display inside the car. On the first Saturday I was going to invite a few people I know to have a socially distanced drink out of the back of the car boot. I haven’t completely decided yet.

Jo Davies, artist (36127607)
Jo Davies, artist (36127607)

“I will have the Cambridge Open Studio flag outside. I have just moved from London so a lot of my mailing list is London-centric but hopefully they will come to cambridge for a day out and I will be flagging up other artists to them who are taking part in open windows. My house is opposite Histon Baptist Church on Station Road.”

Jo describes her work as “ forming connections between object and audience by making shapes that appear soft and inviting to touch”

She explains that each design is inspired by many factors but the ergonomics of human interaction with each design plays an important leading role. Every piece is hand made by Jo on the potter’s wheel and is a reflection of the shape of her hands as well as her design intentions. Many of her pieces are vases or lighting.

Where to find artists displaying their work in villages surrounding Cambridge (37690201)
Where to find artists displaying their work in villages surrounding Cambridge (37690201)

“I have been working with clay for about 20 years, “ says Jo. “I started by making sculpture and it was about how the material stretched and moved. I went to the Royal College of Art in 2005 and I started to develop the work in terms of function. That's why the work has this arty edge of functional ware. I like the way that clay as a material moves, particularly porcelain which is a very fine particled clay and on the wheel it tends to have an almost liquid texture. That is beautiful and awful because it makes it really difficult to use it in some ways.

“Vessels and vases are my thing. It's a way to make something that is sculptural but useful as well so it can justify its existence.”


To download the maps visit camopenstudios.co.uk.

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