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Meet Rochester artist Ruth Dent

PUBLISHED: 12:34 11 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:34 11 April 2015

Ruth Dent

Ruth Dent

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Ruth Dent makes limited edition scarves created from her own original artwork: bold and expressive abstracts inspired by music, literature, poetry and live performance

Rochester artist Ruth Dent first came to my attention when I saw her beautiful designs for scarves, which also form the basis for an entertaining blog she writes.

Ruth now works in a studio 48 steps above Rochester High Street overlooking the Cathedral and Castle, using daylight bulbs to compensate for the restricted light from the east-facing window. She’s been here 18 months, having previously worked at her house in Plaxtol, and she regularly visits France, where again she uses a studio that’s tucked beneath the eaves.

Like many Kent artists, Ruth does not miss living in the capital, but she does enthuse about the ease of getting into London’s galleries, while also being able to enjoy orchards, footpaths and countryside.

Ruth had worked in IT in London before deciding to concentrate on art, which 
saw her taking an Abstract Art course at college in Tunbridge Wells. Spurred on by her tutor, she completed a Foundation Course part-time and then graduated with a first from the former Maidstone College of Art.

Meanwhile Ruth was on her way and she tells me that her formal art training opened her mind to lots of possibilities which she found stimulating, while also admitting that formal art training need not be for everyone.

While her signature silk scarves play an important part in Ruth’s portfolio, these were originally adapted from acrylic paintings on canvas, photographed and then digitally printed.

Ruth’s impetus for this adaptation was to get her work out “in a different way, to a wider audience.” The scarves are a limited edition of 480, sold through various outlets, including her own website.

I asked Ruth how she chooses her subjects: “In a way they choose me,” she says, citing the example of how her son singing in Rochester Cathedral Choir led her to work on a final-year project inspired by Choral Evensong.

It was the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer in 2012 and her work was admired by the Precentor, who invited her to present work for the Cathedral. The finished piece, ‘abstract with meaning,’ was exhibited for three and a half months in Rochester Cathedral.

It has a notable spiritual aspect and indeed the work went on to be exhibited for a month in both the cathedrals of Worcester and Bradford.

Ruth is enthusiastic about the possibilities of melding art and craft in her work. Inspired by William Morris, who declared that things should be beautiful, Ruth enthuses about the Bloomsbury group and asks: “Why shouldn’t the inspiration behind art be taken into things used in the everyday?”

I ask Ruth how long it takes to create a work and she tells me that one project inspired by the music of Benjamin Britten took her nine months, while a painting “can take anything from several months to an afternoon.”

She adds: “You may need to put a painting away, or you may walk past it each day and then see what work is needed.

“Last year I worked on the movement of light in opals, corresponding to a song I was interpreting. I went down to Whitstable and worked for about four days, spanned over four weeks and ended up with six prints. It was a pleasant surprise.”

Ruth says her most exciting work has been her scarves, which is supported by her blog ‘Travels with my Scarves,’ inviting people to write in and send a photo to share, and also the Evensong project, as it became so much more than it started out.

Were she to have to choose just one artwork from the National Gallery to save, Ruth would save the Wilton Diptych: “It has to be that, because the colours are wonderful - that combination of colour and imagery – and the fact that it was painted by an unknown so long ago.”

And if she had to choose to paint in just one colour, she would choose Indian yellow, because it is so bright and vibrant.

Ruth is currently working on a piece to celebrate the centenary of the publication of Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out, which should be on show in October.

You can see her work at the Nucleus Gallery in Chatham until 29 April and keep up to date with her monthly newsletter on her website for other places to view her art. n

Get in touch

Ruth Dent’s work will be on view at the Nucleus Gallery, 272 High Street, Chatham ME4 4BP, 01634 812108, until 29 April.

For a studio visit by appointment, email ruth
@ruthdent.com or or call 07767 824825; sign up to the monthly newsletter at www.ruthdent.com

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