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1 Feb

Of Earth & Islands Interview

Of Earth & Islands - Private View Speech

Of Earth & Islands, our most recent exhibition, featured wonderful artworks by Charlie Buchanan, Sally Ede-Golightly and Bridget Spinney. For those of you who bought a piece, thank you for your support, and we’re sure they will bring you many years of pleasure. We were keen to find out more about these talented local artists and their work.

Your children feature in some of your works – is it a challenge to get them to sit for you?

I find my children to be utterly visually fascinating, particular as they grow older. I’ve been drawing them for many years so I know their physicality really well. I use a mixture of first- and second-hand recording to make my paintings. During lockdown they permitted me to draw them from life a lot more but nowadays a lot of my resources are photographic as they are happier to pose in this way and it’s also a great way for me to play with lots of visual ideas quickly. They have definitely become a lot less keen to pose as they get older and busier and their lives have other concerns rather than simply being with me. However, I still think there is a sense of pride that I have chosen to paint them which I still glimpse sometimes.

Although they are my subjects it’s not really them specifically I want to capture. I use their physical appearance as a conduit to observing universalities in people (particularly people of their age, and we’ve all been there) to discuss shared experience.

How do you manage combining being an artist, a teacher and a mother of four?
When you are busy you need to be disciplined to make work. I am lucky to have such a supportive husband as I’m often in the studio working at night. When I have a project on, things like TV boxsets and unplanned socialising are generally reserved for Christmas treats as I need to find blocks of time which don’t interfere too much with family life but also allow me to work over decent chunks of time. My diary and post-it notes are essential. I have also worked out certain systems which help me maintain continuity when I am in and out of the studio doing other things. I always take notes about how to proceed at the end of a work session so when I am next in front of the painting, if I start work at 9pm and I’m tired there’s no thought necessary, I can just pick up the brush and go.

When the exhibition opened you were a little over a week away from giving birth to your second child. Was it stressful to be preparing for an exhibition at this time?
Not as such, but I had to learn to work in a slightly different way – with a considered balance of painting vs. looking after myself. Painting can be a physical activity with a lot of moving around. I normally tend to work standing up and sometimes late into the night or for long stretches of time. I also had to limit my exposure to chemicals. Sometimes I wanted to carry on painting but my body was tired and I had to listen to it – so I could not be as productive as usual. All of these elements plus the chance that the baby could arrive early made me feel the deadline more than usual.

You brought Ludo into the gallery when he was just a week old and you chatted to the children who were doing the Holiday Art Club – did they have questions about your art?
It was such a joy to bring little Ludo into the gallery as he had been with me for the full journey of these paintings. The kids were very impressive and confident in their questions – asking about my painting process, materials and which painting I had completed first. It is a real highlight to see the children engage in the work and it makes the long late hours in the studio very rewarding.

Making your own organic inks sounds very time-consuming – why do you do it?
For this phase of my current body of work, The Art of Nature on Paper, I began by looking into healthy soil, inspired by a conversation with Jock Pettitt who is not only a director at Art for Guernsey but who also, with his partner Sasha Marsh, runs the Soil Farm. After a few blind alleys and unsatisfactory results, I discovered a recipe for homemade plant ink. I made strict rules for myself that the colours had to come from my garden to guarantee they were organic and pesticide-free, and I’d use the microbes in soil to inspire the theme of the images. Knowing that the inks fulfilled this criteria was hugely satisfying and well worth spending the time making them. There was also the added surprise of not knowing what colour they would be. Purple flowers do not necessarily make purple ink.

You capture moments of transience in your art, such as the blooming of a flower. Has this made you have a greater appreciation of fleeting moments that aren’t necessarily connected to nature?
My desire to capture transient moments in nature is very much environmentally driven. It’s symbolic of how precious pure nature is. I panic that the continuing use of fossil fuels and ever increasing amounts of plastic pollution and massive food production imposed on us, as much as we don’t want them, are going to alter our lives and those of our children beyond recognition. We have no idea of the consequences of climate change, what we currently see is to expect the unexpected. The moments I do treasure are with friends, family and my cats. My husband nearly drowned in 2011 and then had heart surgery in 2018; we are very much a normal couple and not always in agreement with each other, but at some point every day I do take a fleeting moment to appreciate how lucky I and my two sons are to have him.

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