Our new book, ‘The Soul of the Sea’, in shops June 9th 2013. The images were originally part of an exhibition held at The Gallery, Mansell Street, Guernsey in October 2008. They are painted on a large scale and my aim was to evoke the romanticism of Hugo’s story as well as the lyricism of my husband’s poetry. I wanted to develop the flow and immediacy of my earlier Lamia series in colour and to do this I had to take risks with the paint allowing it to take shape on its own terms. I love the life force and expressive potential of watercolour and ink. My work now sits somewhere between illustration and pure painting. At times on my Fine Art degree course illustration was a bit of a dirty word; something that tutors warned us to stir clear of in our discipline; however, it was something I was always drawn to. I am greatly inspired by the dark brooding works in ink of Victor Hugo himself and used shapes and imagery echoed from his work in these paintings.
The goldfish bowl sculpture studio Falmouth College of Arts June 2000 was the setting for my favourite piece of the graduating class of 2000’s Fine Art degree show. Laid out across the painted floor, my friend Pete Root’s miniature metal city glittered in the light; built entirely from metal tacks carefully laid one against another: it was a magical sight. Figurative and abstract at the same time, tiny, sprawling, mysterious, dark and extremely beautiful, I will never forget it. Pete was a lovely person, extremely funny and very, very talented. He helped me sell my first painting and I admired him not only as an artist but as a person too. Pete and his beautiful girlfriend and fellow artist Mary Thompson were tragically killed in Thailand whilst cycling around the world earlier this year. Their lives were brave and spectacular and their memory and the inspiration they gave and give to so many lives on.
Victor Hugo was a resident of our beautiful Island for many years and wrote some of his greatest works here. His book “The Toliers of the Sea” is set in Guernsey and brilliantly showcases his huge, crashing, romantic view of the world. The book is wild like the ocean Hugo so loved and also as I imagine Hugo was himself, untamed and at times ferocious. I love this quote by Jean Cocteau which brilliantly captures and indeed characterises the great man. A few years ago, I had the extreme pleasure of drawing in Hauteville House as I prepared to illustrate Hugo’s book (it was turned into an epic ballad by my husband titled “The Soul of the Sea”). The staff very kindly allowed me time in the rooms alone to sketch and soak up the atmosphere. As the morning light steamed through the windows, I imagined Hugo walking around the corner to meet me. It was as if I was in a time machine, and his presence was oh, so close.
An image of my beloved H taken with my Diana Camera before I realised that what you see through the view finder is not necessarily you see framed when you get that image back. Still, I do love my Diana Camera, the square format, the dreamy focus and the hit and miss nature of all the images. This links to the previous post in its framing too but most of all I just love those beautiful little chubby legs. My darling H sitting still for once. I photograph my children everyday, I love to record them. Photography really matters to me, a physical link to light that was bouncing around yesterday, last year, last decade, what could be more magical than that?
When I do venture back into Oils it doesn’t always work but there is something rich and succulent about working in this media. My paintings work best when I begin with an idea rather than an image. The painting evolves on the surface and I push the paint around to come to a conclusion that satisfies me (as much as this is possible).
When I was a little girl there was a period of time when a friend and I believed we were witches. We would watch the film ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ over and over and I would sit in my Grandmother’s kitchen in the dark and endeavour to take off on her kitchen broom. We inhabited this idea completely for what seemed like an age, talking about our coven’s secret meetings in the woods and how we had flown across the rooftops at midnight. It seems funny now but I do believe there is something inherently powerful and magical in femininity and indeed in the creative process of woman themselves. Sometimes when I paint I feel like I am mixing a potion or invoking an incantation. Now I have a daughter of my own I feel that link with her even more powerfully.
Witchcraft has been portrayed negatively throughout the ages as has the idea of the hysteria surrounding it. For myself could there be a more terrifying portrayal of man or woman than Abigail Williams in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’.
This image is again one of ambiguity, I love the idea of levitation and have used in various ways in my work. The image is dark, something I try not to fall into but I do love dark paintings, Carravaggio, Rembrandt and De la Tour.
Often the best ideas for paintings come from other people’s imaginings. This painting was a commission for a friend who wanted an image of a woman in a private moment of solitude caught in the split second before she realised she was being watched. I don’t feel the painting really succeeds in capturing this but I like the way my friend’s notion and my own idea of the library have combined to create something mysterious. Mystery is essential in my work. Paintings must be open ended so as to allow the viewer to create their own life for the work. Paintings don’t need to be pinned down by restrictive titles or explanations. Even I don’t really know what is going on here.
This little portrait is a good example of what I think of as the graceful stroke. Like a Chinese calligrapher I am looking to create something effortless and lyrical with my paint brush. When the paint takes on a life of its own something elegant happens. It is as if the image has not been painted but rather grown.
I love the spontaneity and lyricism of Indian Ink. I like the way it moves on the paper and the way it surprises you as work, taking on a life of its own. These portraits were painted in El Pais Vasco looking out onto the terrace of our flat. I wanted to capture the movement inherent in the still, seated figure. Indian Ink implies energy to me and working with it is almost like a dance. Dancing was my first love so perhaps that is why it appeals to me so much.