Creative Connections exhibition – Southampton City Art Gallery

Creative Connections exhibition – Southampton City Art Gallery

by Martin Brisland

Last night (May 25th) saw more than 250 people attended the launch of the Creative Connections exhibition at Southampton City Art Gallery. This is a National Portrait Gallery led project to explore the city through portraiture and runs until 30 September. The standard is excellent and this is definitely not one to miss! There were speeches from Leader of the Council, Satvir Kaur; Head of Culture, Carolyn Abel; artist Pete Colding and Cantell students. It was a superb evening that showed how much talent, energy and culture exists in this city.

Charcoal drawing of Markus Liebherr
Markus Liebherr by Lexie from Cantell School, charcoal on canvas

The exhibition features existing works from Southampton’s art collection and new work created collaboratively by local artist Pete Codling and around 30 Year 11 students from Cantell School. The students created artworks using charcoal based on inspirational people from or those connected to Southampton plus interesting biographical information. Ones that caught my eye included Markus Liebherr (1948-2010) who financially saved Southampton FC; musician and poet Greg Gilbert (1977-2021); wheelchair rugby player Aaron Phipps (b. 1983); Sean Hodgson (1951-2012) who served 27 years for a murder he didn’t commit and Will Champion (b.1978) the drummer with Coldplay who attended Cantell School himself.  

Of particular note is a very large and impressive drawing called The Kinship by Pete Codling. It was inspired by the story of the nearly 4,000 Basque child refugees who arrived in Southampton in May 1937 after escaping the Spanish Civil War.

They were looked after in bell tents at a camp near today’s Southampton International Airport before being taken in by families all over England. Codling’s work echoes the famous Guernica painting by Pablo Picasso, regarded by many as the most powerful anti war painting ever.

For more about the child refugees visit

As part of the Creative Connections project there will be a series of art workshops, tours, events and talks over the summer. To book or find out more visit or call 023 8083 4536.

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The Kinship by Pete Codling