Silk Top Hat Gallery

Contemporary art gallery providing a showcase for original British paintings, prints, sculpture and crafts in Ludlow town centre. Open Tuesday – Saturday 11.00 am – 4.00 pm.

Simon Dorrell

s-dorrell-quartetSimon Dorrell has been exhibiting here since 1988 and almost every year since then; his last exhibition here was in Autumn 2015.  He tells us that, at the moment, despite, or because of, having so little time to paint, he is enjoying it more than ever before.  As art editor of the international gardening quarterly Hortus (to which he has contributed a succession of highly-acclaimed fine line drawings) his work is well known to thousands of subscribers around the world.  He also works as a garden design consultant, and was responsible for designing the much-praised new gardens at Hampton Court, Herefordshire.  He says, ‘I started my career as a painter of gardens before graduating to landscape – principally farmed landscape; not altogether surprising, since I was born into a farming family in the Severn Valley in Worcestershire.   I have always been interested in the abstract qualities inherent in the ritualised pattern-making of the predominantly arable landscape of my boyhood – a landscape not unlike the Welsh border country around my home near Presteigne.  It is this potential for abstraction that attracts me to a particular tract of land, and I work in a representative style in order to make this characteristic of landscape as accessible as possible.  A lifelong fascination with architecture, particularly domestic architecture, and its relationship to gardens and to landscape provides the inspiration for many of my paintings and drawings.  There are oil paintings of the border landscape around my home in the Lugg Valley near Presteigne, and also paintings in ink and gouache of vernacular architecture, small farms in the Wye Valley and studies of hill country in Radnorshire and Snowdonia.  Winter work included paintings of a hawthorn and a crab apple, meticulously detailed studies made in the water meadows adjacent to my home.  The fragility of beautiful trees is reflected, hopefully, in their depiction.  A continued fascination with the phases of the moon is represented here also.’

In 1993 Simon Dorrell and David Wheeler (editor of Hortus) bought and began the restoration and development of Bryan’s Ground and its gardens.  Since then their garden has attracted much publicity in national and international newspapers and magazines, notably The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, House and Garden, Perspectives on Architecture, The New York Times, Garden Design, Country Life and Japan’s leading garden design title.  In 2003 the garden was ranked among the ten best contemporary gardens in Britain by The Independent and in 2015 as one of the ten ‘dreamiest’ gardens in Britain by Gardens Illustrated magazine.  Bryan’s Ground is open regularly to the public

Simon Dorrell was born into a farming family from Bewdley in Worcestershire in 1961.  He attended an Arts Foundation Course at Hereford College of Art before taking a degree course in illustration at Maidstone College of Art from where he graduated in 1984.  He spent a year working as a freelance illustrator in London before returning to Herefordshire to devote more time to painting on a full-time basis.  He moved to a remote house in mid-Wales where he undertook the restoration and development of a four-acre Edwardian garden.  Six years later he moved back over the English border to Stapleton near Presteigne

img184-315x400Simon Dorrell’s work was first seen in London in 1982, when he was twenty, since then he has mounted many shows in the capital and the provinces with one-man shows in London, New York and Zurich.  A selection of his paintings was reproduced in Garden Design magazine (USA) and following his 1992 New York show, the Blue Guide to Museums and Galleries of New York described him as ‘one of England’s premier garden painters’.  He has been exhibiting paintings at Glyndebourne Festival Opera since 1998, in 2000 producing a suite of drawings of the garden at Glyndebourne to illustrate ‘Glyndebourne: A Garden for All Seasons’, by David Wheeler.  In 2009 he was one of ten distinguished artists (including David Hockney and Mary Fedden) commissioned to produce a painting to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of Glyndebourne Opera.

In 199l a book of his paintings and drawings was published entitled ‘Over the Hills to Broadway’ accompanying David Wheeler’s descriptions of Cotswold gardens.  He has provided illustrations for many books including ‘A Starter Garden’, Rosemary Verey’s ‘Secret Gardens’, Mirabel Osler’s ‘A Spoon with Every Course’, the best-selling ‘Penguin Book of Garden Writing’ and for two books by the renowned English plantsman Graham Stuart Thomas.  In 2009 he illustrated ‘At the Bright Hem of God’: the best-selling book on Radnorshire by Peter Conradi.