Every now and then, an artist’s style fits one of our issue’s themes so well that it seems as if it were meant to be. When Sarah Edmonds got in touch, we knew she was the perfect match for our ‘adventure’ issue. “I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time adventuring in Wales,” she says. “I was always seeking out nature, finding things under stones and watching birds.” This love of wildlife inevitably found its way into Sarah’s work. “Then I studied English at uni – I loved wordplay and creative writing – and I happened upon the idea of doing a chart of all the different tits: the blue tit, the great tit, the long-tailed tit…” Tits were closely followed by boobies, peckers and hooters.
Sarah’s design for our cover is a nod to the exhibition that she’s bringing to ONCA Gallery this month: Alphabetown. “Whenever I go to a new place I like to pick out all sorts of details of the buildings I see, but also bring in some of my imagination. Alphabetown is all about that idea of invention: what would you do if you could invent a town?” In the exhibition, which she has already held in Worthing, and then in Oxford, Sarah uses the alphabet as a starting point to come up with some of the different landmarks and buildings that might exist in her make-believe town. ‘A’ is for aviary, for example. ‘L’ is for lighthouse. ‘X’ is for… “Xanthe’s Xylophone shop”.
The exhibition is highly interactive, with a few gaps left for visitors to help fill. “When people come through the door, they’re met with half-tourist-information-centre, half-town-planning-meeting,” Sarah explains. “They can look around all the sights and landmarks of the town – which are my paintings – and there are lots of noticeboards and postcards and prompts, for instance: ‘there’s a job centre, make up a job for the noticeboard’.” The suggestions are suitably imaginative… “Rainbow taster. Smoothie hooverer. Jaguar rider. Jacket potato chef.”
“The idea of a town is so universal,” says Sarah. “You learn about towns and buildings and buses and shops when you’re small, but then you go on to move to different towns as an adult, or even think about regeneration and community, so people want to add suggestions of what would make their ideal place.” Previous Alphabetowns have included dinosaur shops, tea houses, treehouses, and “the best one: a question shop. A little girl came in to the Worthing exhibition and sat for about half an hour, drawing and furiously writing, and she invented this amazing idea where you go in one door, and you sit in the lobby and you wait, and you have a healthy snack, and then you think of your question. And then you go up the stairs, all the way to the top, and you tell the person your question and they give you an answer. And then you go out through a different exit.”
Alphabetown will be coming to Brighton from the 15th to the 23rd, and Sarah will be running workshops throughout the week. So what would you like to see in your ideal town? Bring your best ideas.