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Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Orford's art of war and nature
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

Lighthouse by John Barker
Detail of Lighthouse by John Barker, who has a studio at Butley Mill

A group of Suffolk artists has spent a year trying to capture an important landscape in paint and sculpture.

The Stone Eye group worked at the Orford Ness shingle spit which was a restricted military testing area for most of the 20th century.

The National Trust opened the Ness to the public in 1995.

"It has a very evocative atmosphere which really appealed to me," said Heather Hodgson, who's one of the artists exhibiting work.

The artists' group is made up of John Barker, Joan Hodes, Heather Hodgson, Ali Hollingsworth, Martin Laurance and Katharine Roney.

They spent over a year sketching and painting on what locals call "The Island", although it is connected to the mainland at Aldeburgh where an exhibition was held in November 2009.

"What I really loved about it was its wildness and its very natural beauty," said Heather Hodgson, who has a studio near Woodbridge.

The Stone Eye group's Heather Hodgson and Joan Hodes
The Stone Eye group's Heather Hodgson and Joan Hodes

Her oil, watercolour and acrylic paintings emphasise vivid orange, yellow and red colours.

"I know there's a great history of the war stuff, but somehow that escaped me or I chose to ignore it to concentrate on Orford Ness as a nature reserve.

"For the first six months I just went there and sat and walked before doing any drawing or painting and then it seemed to flow naturally."

Joan Hodes, who lives in Orford, also places the emphasis on colour:

"I think I paint how I feel. If it's a day which seems to be red, then it's red. If it's a blue or stormy day, the colours change completely.

"The skies are stunning and you know all the little bits of wire and all the unexploded ordnance where you're not supposed to go off the path because you'll get blown up? I love all that.

"I make a lot of drawings and I paint in the studio. I tried to paint outdoors but it's too windy and things blow over.

"And people come and talk to you. It's lovely to talk, but you want to work!"

Reclaimed by nature

Duncan Kent of the National Trust
Duncan Kent at the Peter Pears Gallery in Aldeburgh

Orford Ness is owned by the National Trust and its warden Duncan Kent said:

"Having an exhibition in Aldeburgh was an excellent opportunity for us to be able to communicate to people about the fragility of the internationally important vegetation shingle habitat and why we have to restrict access from the northern end."

The National Trust does allow access via ferry from Orford Quay for which there is a charge.

"People who come over and sketch for pleasure are very welcome. We get quite a lot of interest from photographers and we've started photography tours," said Duncan.

"We're not tidying the site up, so people can experience it in its derelict nature and see nature gradually reclaim the military artefacts that are there."

Visit the National Trust: Orford Ness website for full details about the history, wildlife and projects taking place on Orford Ness.

For more details about the artists' work you can ring Duncan Kent at the National Trust's Orford office on 01394 450900.

Some of artists show at the following Suffolk galleries: John Russell Gallery in Ipswich, Aldeburgh Contemporary Arts, RE+NEW in Woodbridge and the Jolly Studio, Orford.

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