Norwich Castle Open Art Show 2012 — our regional answer to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition — opens tomorrow. IAN COLLINS sets the colourful scene.

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They say we don’t make things in England any more — but nobody told East Anglia’s immense company of artists, who continue to produce amazing creative riches.

A brace of blockbuster shows at Norwich Castle from tomorrow begins with a fresh take on the much-loved 20th century master Cedric Morris.

Morris co-founded the bohemian East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, teaching artists as diverse as Lucian Freud and Maggi Hambling, but was even more distinguished as a painter and plantsman in his own right.

He lived to the grand old age of 93, long surviving most of his contemporaries, and now, to celebrate the acquisition of a choice group of pictures from the artist’s estate, the Castle is showing him in the new light of a key alliance from his youthful heyday.

Cedric Morris and Christopher Wood: A Forgotten Friendship looks at two players in radical art circles in 1920s London and Paris. The former then settled to his paints and plants over long decades in Suffolk; the latter jumped under a train at the age of 29.

But the work of Morris and Wood is also being shown in conjunction with our regional answer to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

Vision and Reality: Norwich Castle Open Art Show 2012 takes its title from a favourite maxim of Cedric Morris. He said: “There must always be understanding between the painter and the thing painted, otherwise there can be no conviction.

“This might be called ‘vision’ and ‘reality’, as opposed to realism. Reality is knowledge and realism only the appearance of knowledge.”

This year’s Open Art Show judges — John Wonnacott, John Lessore and Humphrey Ocean — have shown great conviction in their own careers as leading British painters.

They had to choose between almost 750 pictures submitted by more than 320 artists from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex – with their resulting exhibition encompassing 140 talents working in many media and vastly varying styles.

Living and working in East Anglia is clearly good for the spirit. Kit Wade’s Golden Trees, Purple Sky is one of many works of exultation.

From her caravan in a field near Harleston, Dee Nickerson admires the plants, animals, contours and colours of the Waveney Valley year. Her joyful picture A Flock of Pigeons is typically pleasing.

An altogether eerier effect is produced in Emma Buckmaster’s Evening, with jackdaws gathering around a gaunt church tower.

The weirdest and wildest part of East Anglia has to be Orford Ness – that wasteland off the Suffolk coast which is constantly moulded by the tides and has rather lately shifted from nuclear testing ground to nature reserve. Martin Laurence’s latest imagery of a long-closed spot stands out in this open exhibition.

Jane Ironside has produced a brilliant interior scene called The Cherry Thieves which contains a banner tribute to Norwich Castle but might also salute Mary Fedden – one of the best-loved artists in Britain, and frequent visitor to East Anglia, who died in June a few weeks before her 97th birthday.

And the name of Geoffrey Burrows is always a cheering sight on the roll-call for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The Spixworth artist has been a fixture of more Piccadilly spectaculars than I can possibly remember.

Amid an art world that so often shrieks and shouts, Mr Burrows is a quiet Norfolk master. His still-life painting Spring Treat and his railway homage Evening Weybourne are typical showcases for gentle skill.

Alongside such a veteran, it is good to see a range of newcomers – such as the young Norfolk artist Louis Hudson, maker of thoughtful abstract paintings.

And while coastal and country landscapes are understandably a big draw for artists living in such a lovely region, our architecture also offers monumental inspiration. Of course, we have an unrivalled congregation of medieval churches, but Norfolk and Suffolk hold major modernist landmarks too.

Jeremy Taylor’s painting of Nelson Court on the UEA campus honours a great centre of modernism which turns 50 next year.

t Vision and Reality: Open Art Show 2012 runs at Norwich Castle until December 9, Mon-Sat 10am-4.30pm, Sun 1pm-4.30pm, special exhibition admission £3.50 (£3 cons), £2.60 children, under-4s free, 01603 495897, www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk

t All works are for sale.

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