Suffolk's Young Artists: Alice-Andrea & Freddy
PUBLISHED: 10:00 19 September 2016
Alice-Andrea Ewing and Freddy Morris's work is steeped in traditional bronze casting and local landscape, but also looks forward to creating a contemporary art scene in Suffolk. Lucy Etherington meets the couple as they prepare for their latest exhibition
I’m in a large barn with moth-eaten rugs, swallows nesting in the hayloft and a cauldron of wax bubbling on a stand. This is Freddy Morris’ studio, one of many in a ramshackle cluster of farm buildings on the edge of a stretch of reed beds. His partner Alice-Andrea Ewing’s space, neater and painted white, is next door. It’s raining lightly, but they work here all year around in all weathers, putting up with strange scuffling noises and spiders dropping randomly from the rafters.
Butley Mills Studios is principally a foundry run by the sculptor Lawrence Edwards. He hired these two young artists three years ago – both from Suffolk although they didn’t know each other – and trained them using the Italian Lost Wax method of bronze casting. The pair fell in love with the process, and each other, and started making their own work which is proving extremely popular here and in London. It’s a ridiculously romantic backdrop, but I wonder why these young artists aren’t trying to make a go of it in London rather than this wild, out of the way spot.
“We love the space and the landscape,” says Freddy. “Neither of us thought we’d come back, but after seven years struggling to pay studio rent in London, it’s worked out perfectly. I’m constantly learning and evolving through working for Lawrence, I have this huge studio, three times the size as my one in London and a third of the price, and time to make my own work.”
Alice-Andrea agrees. She read history of art at Cambridge and, like Freddy, swore she would never move back to Suffolk, where she grew up. But the opportunity came up to work for Lawrence and she too was inspired to cast her own work in bronze.
“I came out of academia desperate to make things. Also I think it has changed here since I was growing up,” she says.
“Young artists are beginning to realise that Suffolk has all this affordable space and fantastic light, but also a really smart cultural audience. We had SNAP at Snape, and I’m currently helping set up a contemporary gallery in Saxmundham. We’re trying to get our friends to come up here. I think it’s going to happen.”
Despite their youth, their work is seeped in traditions of bronze casting as well as a deep appreciation of and connection to the land. For their latest exhibition, Landscapes in Bronze and Print, they’ve teamed up with a printmaker they both admire, David Mitchell, who is in his 80s.
“You’d never know,” says Alice. “He’s very sprightly: he keeps us on our toes.” Alice’s Organics series casts fruit and nuts from gardens in bronze, the results somehow evocative of 17th century Dutch still lifes. She is also a painter and has managed to cast abstracts, in their frames, in bronze.
Freddy makes intricate sculptures with artfully tangled branches of local trees. Some look so delicate, as though you could lift them with a finger, but are surprisingly weighty and solid. He was originally a stone carver, “a relatively slow process,” he says, so loves the sudden transformation of casting.
The last time I met Freddy, he was living in a tree house at the Alde Valley Festival, making moulds from the surrounding trees. Like old-school artisans, they’d also built their own kiln out of a shopping trolley and extractor fan which they took to festivals and Snape as part of a local school project.
I ask them what it’s like living and working together as a couple.
“Temperament-wise it works really well,” says Alice-Andrea. “Freddy is really calm whereas I’m quite manic. There have been a few times when he’s brought me back down to earth.”
“Alice is good at pushing me,” Freddy says. “She’s also really organised, getting us residencies, doing the website and doing our latest show.” The peace and quiet does get a bit much sometimes, and they often drive to London to hang out with friends, but on the whole they enjoy being here.
They’ve moved in to a house in Woodbridge where Alice-Andrea used to live on a boat – “Romantic in summer, not so much in winter!” – and have bought a lurcher puppy to join them on long walks through the marshes. He’s not here on the day I meet them – he’s currently being trained to behave in the studio space. “Although he can’t chew bronze,” Freddy points out. “He saw his first pour the other day,” Alice-Andrea says proudly. “I hope we haven’t scarred him for life!”
Alice-Andrea Ewing, Freddy Morris & David
Mitchell: Landscape in Bronze and Print
August 18-24, The Garage Gallery, Aldeburgh,
Opening: August 18, 6.30pm-8.30pm
Open daily 10am-5.30pm