Ocean Studios and Radius:50mi



Contributor Juliet Cornell visited Ocean Studios as it hosted one of its Pop-Up Exhibitions


Ocean Studios has recently become part of the Real Ideas Organisation, a Social Enterprise organisation that is also responsible for the development of Devonport Guildhall, Column Bakehouse and most recently the reinvention of Market Hall as a digital hub.

The Studios can be found in the Cooperage Building, the old red telephone box outside is an easy landmark to guide you. They are open to the public Wednesday-Sunday 12- 5pm. The building is visually lovely; the gallery has a huge glass wall with doors that open into an industrially grand quad, simply wonderful for busy Private View evenings.

My first impressions of Ocean Studios were a smiley and welcoming greeting by one of the team, Francesca the Project Coordinator at Ocean. She was enthusiastic, helpful and knowledgeable and answered my questions happily. During my visit an exhibition entitled Radius 50:MI was in the gallery.  Curated by Rachel Darbourne and Leigh Mason, it featured contemporary jewellery and small scale metal artifacts from some of the regions most exciting artists and makers. All the contributing makers were from within a 50-mile radius of Plymouth, hence the title.
Visually there was a plethora of bespoke, one off pieces of jewellery to take in, some of the work was available to purchase at very reasonable prices. Although each artists work was distinctly different there were many aspects of the display that pulled them together as an ensemble. The tiny pieces were displayed in such a way that the exemplary quality of the craftsmanship was obvious; in fact the gallery felt more like an intimate jewellery salon than an art space.

Rachel Darbourne herself was overseeing the exhibition when I visited; it was wonderful to have that opportunity to meet one of the curators and artists alongside their work. There was such variety in the approaches and styles of the artists exhibiting, truly something for all tastes. Katy Luxtons work really stood out at the far end of the gallery, it fascinated me with its mathematical shapes, like Spirograph in 3D, reproduced in vivid colours. On a personal level I was touched by the work of Stacey West because it seemed to conjure seascapes, landscapes and the urban built environment, which are aspects I associate with strongly, Chloe O’Brien, works with narrative and communication another huge interest of mine.

It is difficult to pick out a few when I was impressed by so much, but when working with such small pieces it is like picking through your grandmothers jewellery box to find your favourites rather than visiting a large scale gallery. I believe it’s the sign of a good collection when it makes me wish I could return for a second look. Many of the pieces of work were thought provoking, challenging and in some cases, I felt they were subversively redefining what it is to wear adornments rather than existing as simple embellishments. I love it when contemporary work feels like it belongs in a design museum and that was exactly my response to this exhibition.

Katy Luxton’s work

Chloe O’Brien

Radius 50:MI was a great example of local talent and all of this work deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. The briefness of this exhibition was a disappointment for me, but that is the nature of ‘Pop – up’ shows and it has to be acknowledged that by having frequently changing exhibitions, regular visitors to the Royal William Yard will always have options and reasons to pop in to Ocean studios and see what’s new when they visit one of the many restaurants that surround the Cooperage building.