Artist puts her Pett upbringing in the picture

Paintings by Lorna Vahey on show at the Conquest Hospital
Paintings by Lorna Vahey on show at the Conquest Hospital

AN ARTIST has put herself in the picture with an eye-catching exhibition of her memories of growing up without the trappings of modern life.

Lorna Vahey has been painting most of her life and but decided to draw on her upbringing in rural Pett Level in the 1950s for her latest venture.

The mother of two grew up in a rural cottage with water drawn from a well and no electricity or gas.

Her parents had a small holding and lived off the land growing vegetables and making their own clothes where they could.

Lorna eventually went to study fine art at Brighton Art School but never forgot her early pastoral existence which has inspired her latest work.

Her memories of events and characters from these early years around Pett have inspired Lorna’s exhibition at the Conquest Hospital which runs until September 3.

Organised through the Arts in Healthcare charity, the exhibition features 42 of her paintings.

They are mostly oil and watercolour on panels. There are scenes of picking hops in surrounding fields, swimming at the sluice, family celebrations, winter evenings when gypsies would come in to sit by the fire and dinner time at Pett School.

Lorna, who now lives in Emmanuel Road, Hastings, said: “Growing up in Pett then were really interesting times.

“We had very little modern amenities and had to use oil lamps.

“We had a well and we ate what we could grow. I have a lot of happy memories from the time and I think they come through in my paintings.”

Lorna’s painting are all for sale and cost between £300 and £1,500. A donation of 20 per cent of any sale will be made to the charity.

Arts in Healthcare was created in 1988 by the former Hastings and Rother NHS Trust and originally known as the Art in Hospital Project.

Its purpose was to integrate the arts into the healthcare services and environment for the therapeutic benefit of patients and staff, making the arts more accessible to a large sector of the local community. Since the merger with Eastbourne Hospitals NHS Trust in 2002, Arts in Healthcare operates its services across the East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust.

Margaret Richards, curator for Arts In Healthcare, said: “Lorna’s work has a dream quality.

“Her exhibition is very narrative and tells a story.

“I think it’s interesting to see so many of her works together.

“They kind of document her life and her early life in particularly - the detail and characterisations are fascinating.

“She is very talented and her work has gone done very well at the hospital.

“A lot of people have been very intrigued and patients, staff and visitors really appreciate it.

“Putting arts into the hospital does soften the clinical environment. There is definitely a therapeutic benefit.

“We have 500 paintings throughout the hospital.”

The exhibition is open daily.

The next exhibition is part of the Coastal Currents festival and opens on September 13. For more details visit