Mary Chamberlain and Tim Steward at Darl-e and the Bear in Woodstock

Tim Steward must have looked like King Canute on North Cornwall’s Tregardock Beach, trousers rolled up to his knees, the waves washing over his feet as he frantically tried to get the surging seas down on canvas.

Day after day, month after month, his abstract efforts continued unabated, like a personal fight to see who would give in first.

“I’d go out on any given day and see what came to me. It’s quite a severe place Tregardock Beach with its rugged black cliffs, like a cauldron, so all a bit bonkers and very immediate,” he remembers.

Tim Steward hard at work on Tregardock Beach

“But I had the greatest respect for the sea and was very wary of it because it’s quite dangerous there with big surges and quick weather changes and currents.”

It was a new departure for Tim, having jacked in his day job as an urban and planning designer to concentrate solely on his art in Littlemore, lockdown then providing the perfect opportunity for he and his wife – fellow artist Mary Chamberlain – to debunk to Cornwall to devote time to their art.

Tim Steward

But what would emerge? Plenty as it turns out, most of which you can now see adorning the walls of Darl-e and the Bear‘s extensive space in Woodstock, usually a mix of exhibitions and commercial but highly acclaimed contemporary artists.

“it’s about love really because art works on all sorts of different levels”

But when owner Julie Wigg got in touch with Tim and Mary, the couple suggested a dual gallery take-over, and Julie jumped at the idea.

“We knew we would be really stretching ourselves, but Cornwall felt so alive so we threw everything aside, including caution,” they laughed, “and just went with our instincts.”

Mary Chamberlain and Tim Steward at their exhibition Presence Darl-e and the Bear in Woodstock

Judging by the sold stickers littering their work, their exhibition Presence has been a huge success already, Mary’s large movement based paintings connecting beautifully with Tim’s coastal representations.


Based on studies of her four year-old god-daughter, Mary’s figurative works are about the message behind them and what the fragments reveal, set against an exposed background. “I have to have privacy to work and I had that in Cornwall,” she says. “There was a studio in the house there and I was surrounded by the sounds of nature. It was heaven,” she remembers.

“The resulting works are about coming undone and protection and the conversations and relationships around that. But you could say it’s about love really because art works on all sorts of different levels.”

Mary Chamberlain’s work at Darle and the Bear

Tim’s work, much of which has been collected by Jeremy Mogford for The Old Parsonage in Oxford, is much more about the physicality and feeling behind the rough seascapes he faces, and how they make us feel about ourselves. “You can really feel the charge and energy of the sea here,” Tim says looking around the exhibition dotted with his paintings. “It’s such a cathartic, sensual space and we’ve really embraced that.”

On one wall a film plays depicting award-winning Rambert dancer Angela Towler‘s movements along the banks of Port Meadow in Oxford: “It’s almost like theatre and opens the space up, while my work tends to draw people in, so the film provides a great contrast,” Mary says.

Mary Chamberlain and Tim Steward outside Darl-e and the Bear in Woodstock

So how do they feel about their joint show in its totality? “Who knows if we will ever work like. this together again,” Mary says looking around her, “but we are really proud of what we’ve achieved. We are so delighted because Julie took a risk with us and we hope it’s paid off.”

Presence runs at Darl-e and the Bear until Sunday (November 28) but on Saturday 27th November Tim Steward will be working live in the gallery all day and available for questions.

While on Sunday 28th November at 11am, Mary Chamberlain and dancer Angela Towler discuss the exhibition and their collaboration.