H-Art Festival 2013: The call of the wild

Hello art lovers!

It is September again and it means that summer laziness is finally over. No more sleeping late, bye-bye to all night parties and time wasting. Mal and Rita are ready for some action! With all students back in schools and universities, the city life is much more varied and active. And the beginning of calendar Autumn in Hereford is, as usual, extremely busy. At this time of year, all Herefordians are truly able to think about is art.  Don’t misunderstand us, Hereford folks are very down to Earth and hard-working type of people for the remaining 11 months of the year. But with the ever popular h.Art festival happening all around the city and with hundreds and hundreds of tourists, it is almost impossible to pay attention to anything else.

h.Art logo
h.Art logo

Last year, we promised our readers that we would return and we have kept our word. If you’d like to read the reviews from 2012 edition, please click on the links below.

h.Art Artist market reviews:

h.Art Herefordshire Open Exhibition reviews:

h.Art magazine cover
h.Art magazine cover

The Art Festival has grown again this year. More artists, more venues, more visitors – and more walking for the art lovers. We have noticed that the festival is slowly leaving the Herefordshire and venturing into Wales and Worcestershire.  We had a chance to travel by car from Hereford to Worcester and we noticed at least 6 signs inviting us to  stop and visit private workshops and houses of artists participating in the h.Art festival. Last year, going the same route, we noticed only two signs along the road. Rita is especially pleased with this as Hereford doesn’t get much love and exposure in the national media, despite being nearly an idyllic place to live. Honestly speaking, if Hay-on-Way can be internationally known thanks to their Book festival, then Hereford has equal chances of re-introducing itself to the world as the town of art, music and creative individuals.

h.Art 2013 in numbers is very impressive: Hereford Times estimates that more than 15.000 visitors arrived to Hereford in 9 days between 7th and 15th September, the festival had 119 venues housing 154 artists (local and guests coming from all over UK), and 12 stand-alone events like church exhibitions, artists markets, grand openings, talks, workshops and meetings. As usual, the biggest celebration took place in the same center of Hereford and the highlights of the festival included: Apple Store Gallery on Bridge street, Aylestone Court (Artsite 3 and Artspace Gallery Open Exhibition), Castle House (Fizz Watkins Contemporary Works exhibition), Hereford Cathedral School Art Exhibition (fine art and textiles produced by its 11-18 year old pupils), Hereford College of Arts (collection of work from BA Hons Artist Blacksmithing alumni together with cross-section of final year students work from higher and further education programmes), Herefordshire Young Open Exhibition in St Peter’s Church in The High Town, The Old Mayor’s Parlour at  23 Church Street, (Karl Hamilton-Cox exhibition),  The Courtyard Centre for the Arts on Edgar Street (contemporary art and The Limes – ecological project  to save old Lime Trees in Hereford) , The Herefordshire Open Exhibition in Hereford Museum and Gallery on Broad Street and The Three Amigos at 53 Stanhope street (Steve Richards, Raymond Gordon and John Feeney).

h.Art Map
h.Art Map
Hereford venues for h.Art Festival
Hereford venues for h.Art Festival

Detailed map of the  festival can be found here:

Click to access map_guide.pdf

Guide to h.Art festival 2013 can be downloaded here:

Click to access guide_2013.pdf

It is impossible of course for us to visit all sites and exhibitions and to write reviews. We are not even sure if the readers would be  interested in reading so many entries dedicated to just one art festival! That’s why, we have allowed ourselves to choose the most interesting people (and places) from our point of view and write about them on our blog. This entry is dedicated to two remarkable artists that take their inspiration, surprisingly, from the same source despite huge differences between them. We have mentioned one artist on Vanadian Avenue before, the other have been introduced to us by a mutual friend and we have never met him before.  Let us tell you this: art has a fantastic way of bringing the audience, artists and journalists together, creating an incredibly strong bond between us all. Ladies and Gentlemen, without any further delay, please let us introduce you to a very special review of h.Art Festival inspired by African culture, life, tradition and wildlife.  This blog is entitles “The call of the Wild” and features two distinctive artists: Martha Musonza Holman and Karl Hamilton-Cox.

If you ever meet Martha is person, you’d be surprised how strong and powerful she is. We are not talking about physical strength, but the dynamic and energetic personality that brightens the world around her and lifts your spirits. Mrs Holman is not only an artist, but co-founder of Love Zimbabwe Charity, business woman, art dealer, writer, teacher and spokeswoman (not to mention that she is also a mom of three and runs an entire household!) We have met her for the first time in May 2013 during the Love Zimbabwe Spring Event at All Saints Church in Hereford and it was a life changing event.  Please click on the links below to learn more about Martha’s NGO and how to support the Love Zimbabwe Charity:  https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/love-zimbabwe-spring-event-in-hereford/

Sophisticacated dsiplay - wire and beads animals
Sophisticated display – wire and beads animals
The biggest animal made from the beads and wire. The giraffe was about 20 cm tall (nearly 8 inches)
The biggest animal made from the beads and wire. The giraffe was about 20 cm tall (nearly 8 inches)

When we found out that Martha has been selected to participate in the h.Art Festival, we have been ecstatic! Becoming a part of such a prestigious festival is not an easy thing to do, as the h.Art is known for its selective process. As we haven’t seen each other in several months, we went to the All Saint’s Church to say hello. To our surprise, we have been greeted by somebody else, and Martha was nowhere to be seen. Our concern has been quickly resolved by information that  Martha was invited to another festival (The Abergavenny Food Festival) and unfortunately couldn’t attend both events in one single day. The young gentleman replacing her, was in fact her son and he did a splendid job speaking about the artwork and advising customers.

Zebra or a horse made  from especially polished beads and  artistic wire
Zebra or a horse made from especially polished beads and artistic wire
Detailed loook at the Safari decoration from Love Zimbabwe's stand
Detailed loook at the Safari decoration from Love Zimbabwe’s stand

As usual, Martha’s stand has been filled with beautiful hand made jewellery, metal animal sculptures, wood carvings, masks and our favorite wire and beads animals from Kotwa village. All items have been carefully placed on large hand woven blankets and arranged to represent real Zimbabwean wild life: safari, animals accessing the water, animal gatherings, hunting and others. The most sophisticated scene involved more than 200 wire and beads figurines gathered in a enormous circle showing the most popular African species.

Metal power - collection of garden sculptures
Metal power – collection of garden sculptures
Metal sculptures available for purchase - this was the buyers' darling, a metal whild boar :D
Metal sculptures available for purchase – this was the buyers’ darling, a metal wild boar 😀
Anybody wants a butterfly?
Anybody wants a butterfly?

The hanging gallery has been filled with Martha’s unique Batik fabrics and shawls. Batik is an ancient way of dying cloth using manual wax -resist dyeing technique and creating patterns with a sharpened tool. Batik originated in Yogyakarta and Surakarta in Indonesia, but quickly became popular in Egypt, Middle East, China, Japan and all over Africa. Martha’s batik clothing is contemporary and can be classed as tribal. The patterns on her clothing include animals, floral prints and traditional Zimbabwean dancing and hunting figures.

Martha's newest batik clothing with elephant
Martha’s newest batik clothing with elephant
Luxurious batik with traditional Zimbabwean pattern
Luxurious batik with traditional Zimbabwean pattern

If you are interested in learning more about Martha’s art and life, please turn to BBC2 Radio. Recently, she has been invited to record an interview with Jeremy Vine. The program is still available online so please listen to it here:

Martha being interviewed by Jeremy Vine for BBC2, picture used with permission
Martha being interviewed by Jeremy Vine for BBC2, picture used with permission


How many artists do you know that create their artworks on real leather?  We haven’t met anyone like that yet, so visiting Karl Hamilton-Cox’s gallery was a bit of novelty for us, especially if his exhibition was organized in a completely new exhibition hall. The Old Mayor’s Parlour at number 23 Church Street is a beautiful XIV or XV century building, located very close to Hereford Cathedral. It has been recently refurbished and renovated to the highest standards and serves as a small gallery or conference room for the Hereford Council. The space has been used in the past to display crafts and needlework, but the venue made its official debut this year for the h.Art festival. We have never been inside the gallery and we have to admit, that the interiors are simply amazing. Ceiling and walls are decorated with coats or arms (City of Hereford and family crests of previous owners), filed flowers and wild wine. Despite now being painted entirely in white, the reliefs make a really strong impression on the visitors.  Another great thing about this place is the unique fresco depicting Hereford Castle. The fresco was painted around 1657 in black and white and looks absolutely stunning after restoration. It is easy to miss, so don’t forget to raise your heads when passing through the doorway!

Entrance to the Old Mayors Parlour art Gallery
Entrance to the Old Mayors Parlour art Gallery
Beautifully decorated interiors of the art gallery
Beautifully decorated interiors of the art gallery
Hereford Castle fresco inside the gallery
Hereford Castle fresco inside the gallery

Yet, even the greatest gallery is nothing without the great art. The organizers couldn’t choose a better place for Karl’s artwork. The contrast between the ancient building and the contemporary art is striking but harmonic. Nothing seems out of place and the viewer can fully appreciate both the gallery and the artworks. On the other hand, Karl Hamilton-Cox is an extremely talented painter and nobody would feel disappointed even if he had exhibited in a garden shed. He has been living and creating his art in Herefordshire for about 20 years now and is well known in the artistic circles in the county.

Karl Hamilton-Cox posing for a picture on Sunday, 8th of September 2013
Karl Hamilton-Cox posing for a picture on Sunday, 8th of September 2013
Karl's paintings inspired by Africa and wildlife
Karl’s paintings inspired by Africa and wildlife
Small framed prints were available to buy for onlu 15 pounds
Small framed prints were available to buy for only 15 pounds

Karl’s art can be classified as nature realism and covers a wide range of subjects: wildlife, tribal, pin ups, erotic and automotive among others. We were truly surprised when he told us that he was self taught (he is an engineer) but he polished his natural skills with art courses from West Dean College near Chichester, Hereford College of Art and Malvern Art College. Mr Hamilton-Cox had a very busy summer with his own solo exhibition in Chicago and several exhibitions in the UK lasting from June to late September. If you have missed the chance to see his artworks live, please take a look at his galleries online:

Fine art America: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/karl-hamiltoncox.html
Saatchi Online:  http://www.saatchionline.com/artistkarl

or visit his official website at: http://www.artistkarl.com/Artist_Karl_Hamilton_Cox.php

One of our favourite pictures - pin up entitled "Wet dog"
One of our favorite pictures – pin up entitled “Wet dog”
Erotic/pin up artwork painted on leather were incredibly popular with both sexes! "Boudoir Dreams" series cost 550 pounds per piece
Erotic/pin up artwork painted on leather were incredibly popular with both sexes! “Boudoir Dreams” series cost 550 pounds per piece
Smaller artworks desplayed on a wall. Two paintings in the upper row are entitled "Silk lady" and "Naughty chair"
Smaller artworks displayed on a wall. Two paintings in the upper row are entitled “Silk lady” and “Naughty chair”

Karl was incredibly kind to tell us about his work, he even showed us several sketches he has been working on in the art gallery  and explained why he loves to paint on leather (he finds the medium perfect for his art!) He loves animals and tries to portray them as realistically as possible. We have to agree, his tiger and lion portraits are detailed to the last whiskers and we were a bit afraid the cats are going to roar straight into our faces 🙂
We also liked his pin up collection especially “Naughty chair” and “Wet dog” paintings. His automobile paintings were very popular among older visitors who apparently owned the classic cars in their younger days.

Classic cars on canvas
Classic cars on canvas
Visitors talking to Karl's assistant about his paintings
Visitors talking to Karl’s assistant about his paintings


We hope you enjoyed reading this review, we had a  real blast writing it!

Please return soon as we have several very interesting artists waiting to be introduced.

For now, have a lovely week and support local artists!
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz


  1. murgatroydandbean

    Hello Rita & Malicia!
    Good to see you’ve been enjoying H.Art again this year. Your reports always provide an interesting read.
    You kindly wrote about Murgatroyd & Bean in your report on H.Art last year and I wondered if the following exhibition which we’re taking part in in Ledbury this week might be of interest to you?. ‘Sew On & So Forth’ at The Weavers Gallery, Church Lane, Ledbury (nr the Market House). Runs until 29th September. Link here: http://murgatroydhoots.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/sew-on-so-forth.html
    Best wishes 😀

    1. Mal and Rita

      We would love to! However Rita is currently undergoing an thyroid operation and will have to remain in hospital for two weeks. We are heartbroken to miss your event:( If you plan anything in November-December, please do drop us a line and one of us will try to visit – Malicia

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