WHILST politicians are pulling up the Brexit drawbridge, three Tynedale artists are joining hands across the sea with their European counterparts.

Enrique Azocar, Gilbert Ward and Claudia Sacher are working to establish a cultural exchange between Enrique’s Hexham studio gallery and a gallery in Germany.

From September 16, visitors to galerie#23 in Velbert-Langenberg, near Dusseldorf, will have the chance to see pieces by the Tynedale trio and German artist Katharina Lökenhoff, and hopefully there will then be a reciprocal visit by German and East European artists to Hexham in a ‘twinning’ arrangement.

The idea came through Katharina, who introduced Enrique to the gallery’s director, Doris Stevermüer.

Chilean-born Enrique, who opened an upstairs gallery at Legion House on Hexham’s Beaufront Park last November, said: “I invited her to come here and, luckily enough, she accepted and came over this spring.

“I asked if the gallery could be part of a cultural exchange, with the possibility of bringing artists to show here, and she was really delighted with the proposal.

“This matters because we would like to maintain links with Europe. This is a great opportunity, as we have amazing local artists.”

Enrique will be flying out next week with some of his latest conceptual landscape paintings, whilst Claudia is transporting some of her large-scale drawings.

Gilbert is staying put in Tynedale, but is giving his two friends a number of wooden sculptures from his ‘Baker’s Dozen’ series, which have been at Cheeseburn Sculpture over the summer, to display as part of the exhibition.

Gilbert, who lives in Fourstones, agrees with Enrique about the vital importance of cultural cross-fertilisation.

“Culture always binds people together and it’s the best way to maintain a peaceful relationship with each other,” he says.

“Art can cross any borders. A good thing is we all learn from one another. A small number of people working very hard can change the way the whole world thinks, especially in the arts, and it’s a privilege to be part of that.

“It needs saying that cultural contact has a large part to do with the peace we have had for 50 years throughout Europe because people find it easy to transmit ideas from one nation to another, only to find they have more in common that that which divides them.”

Claudia is similarly excited by the prospect of this Anglo-German cultural exchange.

Having moved around the world during her career, she knows the importance of art without borders.

Born in Oberhausen, Germany, she studied graphic design at the University of Essen before continuing her art in Iowa City in the States.

After returning to Germany for a couple of years, she moved from Essen to the North-East in 1999 and works from her studio at her home in Hexham, although much of her large-scale drawing is done outside in parks, parking lots and other open spaces.

“I think around Hexham there are so many interesting artists out there and yet they are hidden away.

“This might be a nice opportunity to bring them into the daylight,” she says.