Top Norfolk artists in the frame for charity

Keiron Pim Fancy buying paintings by Norfolk’s top artists and helping local good causes at the same time? If so, a new charity art sale could be the answer. KEIRON PIM meets gallery owner Ethna Dillon.

Keiron Pim

It is a chance to pick up collectable works by Norfolk artists at bargain prices, and help local charities at the same time.

Ethna Dillon's inaugural Christmas Art Sale has attracted contributions from painters including Colin Self, Susan Gunn and John Kiki, all of whom have submitted pieces that will raise money for three good causes: Nelson's Journey, Balloons4Hearts and the Bryan Gunn Leukaemia Appeal.

The only constraints for submission were that the pictures should be 6in square, artists could submit up to six works each, and the prices should be £500 or less - and after initially wondering whether the idea would take off, Ethna is delighted with the results.

“I just thought that Norwich needed its own charity art exhibition. All the artists I have approached have been really positive and keen to be involved. For a lot of them their initial reaction was 'I can't do a picture that small!', but when the work started coming through it was such good quality.”

Twenty per cent of the cost from each artwork sold will go to whichever of the three charities the buyer chooses. The show was inspired by the annual Secret Postcard sale at London's Royal College of Art, in which thousands of postcards designed by artists go on sale for £40 each. The difference there is that the artist's identity is only revealed after the postcard has been bought, meaning that buyers can pick up a Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin for a fraction of what their work would usually cost.

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Ethna's show is taking place in the established exhibition space at her home in Cotman Road, Norwich, and promises some striking bargains from local artists.

“Most of the paintings are between £180 and £300, which is far less than they would usually sell for,” says Ethna.

“For example, John Kiki's paintings are all £250, when usually one of his of this size would sell for £500. Vanessa Pooley doesn't sell for less than £1,000 but she is selling hers for £500. Bruer Tidman is selling at £250, Richard Scott is selling at £285.”

They are four among 22 artists who have pledged paintings to the sale. It opens to the public on Sunday, December 7, with viewing hours from midday to 4pm, and again on Monday, December 8, from 6pm to 9pm. After that anyone who wishes to see the show can do so by making an appointment with Ethna, and she adds that there is no pressure to buy.

All the charities have a direct effect on the lives of people in Norfolk. Nelson's Journey is a Norwich-based organisation that supports bereaved children, while Balloons4Hearts is dedicated to raising money for a new specialist theatre in East Anglia so that people with heart trouble need not travel all the way to Papworth in Cambridgeshire. Bryan Gunn's Leukaemia Appeal has raised huge sums of money for leukaemia research ever since Bryan and Susan Gunn's two-year-old daughter Francesca died in 1992.

In recent years Susan has established herself as a renowned artist, meaning that her highly-prized works are sure to be among those quickly snapped up.

But there are eye-catching paintings on offer from a host of other artists, so that there is likely to be something to suit everyone's taste and budget.

“There is so much talent in Norfolk. I really wanted it to be different and quirky, and I'm really hoping that it will be a success so that we can do it again next year.”

All the pictures have been framed the same way, set between plates of glass in a square black frame. Ethna hopes that the distinctive look will add to their value.

“This might sound ambitious but I'm hoping that they will become collectable, that people will see the look and know that it has come from this show.”

t The Ethna Dillon Art Christmas Show is at 34 Cotman Road, off Thorpe Road, Norwich, from midday to 4pm on Sunday, December 7, and 6pm to 9pm on Monday, December 8. Call 01603 472663 to arrange a viewing appointment at other times.