A NEW art exhibition in Alresford will explore connections to nature and surrounding environment.

Connected is a joint exhibition between local artists Maria Murray and Amanda Bates, who both live near Basingstoke.

The exhibition will take place at The Lightroom, The Dean, from April 22 to 24. The first night of the exhibition will be a special viewing, including refreshments, music and a sealed bid auction. The artists will donate all funds received from this auction to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Appeal. The DEC brings together 15 leading UK charities raise funds quickly and efficiently at times of crisis overseas. The artists are also donating 10 per cent of all art sales to the DEC.

Both Amanda and Maria use their life experiences with relationships, grief, adversity, and joy to inspire their work, which is made using unusual techniques.

Amanda's work features drawings made from her own photographs, taken during walks in the Hampshire countryside. Landscapes and nature have been her focus over the years, and for Connected her pieces depict trees. She seeks out subjects with visual drama, and those that echo traditional tales.

Hampshire Chronicle: Amanda Bates

“Trees hold or evoke countless stories," Amanda said. "The old stories, with their ancient, stylised wisdom, are an important part of mankind's diminishing connection with the land. My own connection with the land is something I am trying to remake, and trees are a good symbol for that, with their long lives and connecting roots.

“Making a drawing is an intrinsically connecting process, so the drawings can be seen as an extended connection in themselves. Whether I work from life or from photographs, I want to capture the experience of being there. It's atmosphere and the intrinsic character of a place that I’m after, the intangible sense of the moment.”

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Amanda uses a variation on traditional pen and ink and illustrators' scraper board. She uses light-fast pigment inks on a kaolin-coated board, which allows her to add and remove ink - effectively drawing in both positive and negative, black and white.

Maria’s current collections are created using scanography. She uses a flatbed scanner to scan real flowers, giving the finished images a very unique look. Many mistake them for oil paintings. Maria says it is like combining the old masters and modern technology.

Hampshire Chronicle: Maria Murray

Her pieces for Connected, are mostly of flowers she has grown in her garden. Her florals are posed just like people, using years of experience as a portrait photographer.

“I am absorbed by our connections,” Maria said. “The connection we all have to each other, to ourselves, and to our partners. The floral portraits I create often illustrate a story - something that I may have experienced, heard, or something I feel strongly about or resonate with. The human condition fascinates me. Psychology weaves its way through my work.”

Both Maria and Amanda have used art to cope with life’s challenges. Maria battled endometriosis all her life which caused secondary infertility. She had a hysterectomy at 41, which prompted a huge life re-think. Maria and her husband also became carers for his mum, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease during the pandemic.

Maria said: “I knew that with all those life changes, I had to change my way of being. I had to find a way to relieve stress and find some peace. Discovering gardening, and subsequently creating art really helped with that. The garden is my place of peace, and inspiration. Nature & art have been the things that kept my mental health intact.”

Amanda, a mother of two, was diagnosed with young onset parkinson’s 12 years ago, when she was 39. She has been drawing all her life and she admits the diagnosis worried her.

Amanda said: “The thought of not being able to draw felt like the worst thing that could happen to me. But Parkinson’s hasn’t stopped me drawing yet. Quite the opposite - it gave me the impetus to leave work and become a full-time artist. Art has helped me cope with Parkinson’s in many ways.”

Ticket details for the special viewing on April 22 can be found online.

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