The magnificent Fulham Palace was the setting last weekend for a unique convention of some of the world's finest animal artists. Reporter ADAM COURTNEY went along last Friday and discovered an incredible collection of works, many of which were produced by local, up and coming talent....
With artists often having to pay thousands of pounds for the privilege of having their work showcased in galleries, life, for the unestablished fraternity at least, can be tough.
But, in a unique event at Fulham Palace which ran last weekend, animal artists from both ends of the scale were brought together by a group of buffs intent on displaying the very best work the genre has to offer – at a fraction of the normal cost for the creators.
Barnaby Parker, Jamie Polk, Susie Reid Thomas and Mel Stenhouse hosted the inaugural Animal Art Fair, which invited artists from as far afield as Kenya and New Mexico and from as close by as the Fulham Road, to show off their creations and negotiate directly with the buyer.
So, as well as established stars like Philip Blacker and Hamish Mackie, up and coming local talent, like 28-year-old Davina Bosanquet, who has a studio at the Gas Works in nearby Waterford Road, were able to unveil their work for a quarter of the average gallery charge of £8,000, without having to pay commission.
"As an artist, you want your name to be out there," said Davina, who has produced some superb equine pieces. "And the great thing about this event is you know that the household names will be followed here by their fans, leaving you to tap into that.
"And, because this is a niche exhibition, the people coming in are genuinely going to be interested in animal art."
Another Fulham artist, Dominique Salm, of Pellant Road, is a friend of organiser Barnaby, and played a key role in the birth of the concept.
Dominique, 37, said: "We both thought there was a gap for something like this, we exchanged ideas and he just ran with it. It is going brilliantly. I had heard of a lot of the artists here but never met them, and this gives me the opportunity to do that."
Much of Dominique's pieces were constructed in Kenya, to where she was invited to stay at a lodge by a stranger who had seen her work and only wanted some paintings in exchange for his hospitality. The result of her trip was inspired collection of lions, ostriches and other African wildlife, all, interestingly, without background.
"Animals have always made me laugh and I wanted to convey that in my work," she explained. "Everyone does these serious, majestic pieces on animals but I wanted something a bit more fun and I think you can show that better on a blank canvas."
Another local artist, Patricia Rodwell, of Colehill Lane, is also a dog sitter by day and conveys her passion for canines with her stunning photography.
"I have adored them all my life," she said. "And it's great to show off my passion here with a big group of like-minded people."
A couple of Patricia's subjects look slightly startled in the photos, which she puts down to the powerful lighting in her studio.
"It makes them fall asleep, would you believe, and they are a bit bleary eyed when I wake them up!"
Organiser Barnaby, who began collecting animal art at university before developing a successful business career, has already agreed to a second exhibition at the palace next year and has high hopes of expanding his concept around the world.
"At the moment we are making a very small profit but we are working on getting some commercial partnership.
"We feel it is unusual to have a niche fair such as this and it is bringing a lot of people together, which is great for them and for us."
*The exhibition is running at Fulham Palace on Saturday and Sunday between 10am-6pm. Tickets cost £10 on the door and all art can be purchased.