Artist Interviews: Winners of The Cambridge Invitational 2021

by Cass Art

Galeria Moderna, are the online gallery and organisers of the exciting brand of city-based ‘Invitational’ art contests. Each contest will see twelve winning artists selected by a panel of esteemed judges: each judge a gallery owner or manager from the host city, alongside special guest judges. The selected works from the winning artists creates the 'Invitational Art Exhibition'. Working in association with Castle Fine Art the UK’s leading commercial art retailer, Galeria Moderna endeavours to provide the winning artists the best possible exposure, with a combination of both physical and online exhibitions, along with prizes from patrons. Below we catch up with the twelve winning artists for The Cambridge Invitational 2021, to find out more about their work.

GEOFFREY HARRISON - WINNER OF THE CASS ART AWARD

Geoffrey Harrison is a British figurative artist and portraitist. He is a member of the CBPP and has work in private collections around the world. In 2021 he was selected for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ annual exhibition. In 2020 his work was selected for the ING Discerning Eye exhibition, shortlisted for the Sequestered Art Portrait Prize, and The New English Art Club. He also appeared on Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year.

Congratulations on becoming one of the twelve winning artists! This award is one of several success stories in your career, can you give us an insight into where you passion for art began?

I don’t really know why it all really began, but I grew up in a house where my mum was an artist and my dad was an illustrator, so visual expression was fairly normal when I was a kid. I probably still haven’t fully realised that having it as a legitimate form of communication and leisure, as well as a clear means of making a living, really made a difference to how I do art. Passion is a different thing though and I do get passionate about art, usually other people’s, but I inhabit it so much that it’s part of me. I love painting and drawing and I suffer if I’m not doing it.

The two submissions for The Cambridge Invitational are extremely emotional pieces, what can you tell us about them?

Well, yes, they are a bit. In the face-on self-portrait, I’d been through a tough experience and had just received some very human contact, concern and support from someone close, but from whom I wouldn’t normally expect it. It’s a combination of gladness and sadness. Looked at myself in the mirror and took the picture because I don’t normally see myself crying. It wasn’t with a plan to paint it. That came later. The other image, side-on and sticking my gut out in the bathroom was much more planned. I’d been doing a series of paintings and drawings of myself pretending to do a ‘before and after’ type body comparison. Like I’d been to the gym or something. I wanted to do the opposite of sucking my tummy in for a photo and so ended up with this image. I embellished the scene latterly, using child’s toys and other symbolic content. It was initially meant to be about truth and the ‘preferred’ narrative, but it is actually more about parenthood in the end.

Your work includes portrait painting, drawings and still life, is there a specific style you enjoy or prefer to work in and if so, why?

Yeah, I do both, but I will probably describe myself as a portraitist. I’m endlessly fascinated by people and their lives, symbols and curated selves. I want to distil this in my portraits, but I also try to do this in still life and am drawn to objects that tell life stories. So you could say that even these are figural and surrogates for people, even if the direct understanding of that meaning is mine alone. I used to paint chairs a lot and now I paint flowers for the same reason; they are stand-ins for the human figure.

The Cass Art Award was also presented to you during the Cambridge Invitational including Cass Art vouchers. Can we ask what products do you use or recommend? And secondly what can we expect to see from you in future?

I was so pleased to win the Cass Art Award! I’m not just saying that! I would have loved a posh dinner or a night in a hotel, but the chance to browse an art store and buy something that I would normally not feel I could afford, was so delicious! I opted for a beechwood Jullian sketch box easel. I’ve wanted something like this for a long time, so that I can go to a portrait sitting at a client’s house and work in the same way as I do in the studio. My more usual purchases from my local Cass Art in Soho are Michael Harding Oil Paints. I have been using them for years and love them. What’s next? Some larger paintings. I’m working on a couple of full-length portraits. I might let myself loosen up a bit in these.

ANDY DAKIN - WINNER OF THE MAYORS CHOICE AWARD

Andy Dakin is a figurative artist who paints portraits, landscapes, cityscapes and interior scenes in Cambridge. Graduating with a Fine Art Degree in Manchester in 1991, Dakin then worked in local media in Cambridge taking thousands of photographs in the process. After more than a twenty-year hiatus, he returned to painting and drawing in 2013, since then achieving ‘Visitor’s Favourite’ five times with the Cambridge Drawing Society and exhibiting with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters at the Mall Galleries.

Congratulations on becoming one of the winning twelve artists! Can you tell us where your passion for art stemmed from and your journey at the start of your career?

I think my passion for art stemmed from watching my brother Glenn when I was little. He was full of creative ideas and it was very normal in our house to be drawing or painting. Throughout school I made badges, T-shirts, posters, comics, painted theatre sets, put logos on the back of leather jackets, made covers for bootleg tapes, forged tickets to the disco(!) and I liked being good at it. It was at art college that I started to look more at other artists, learning about them and often copying their work in my sketchbook. While many of my contemporaries were inclined, or pushed toward, abstraction, I was reassured that there was a place for good figurative art.

Are there any specific influences on your work?

As far as painters go the two, I always return to are Hopper and Bonnard. Bonnard is just magic; his compositions and colour are so exciting and I return again and again and see new things. However, I have a book about Hopper that I got on my 19th birthday that I still look at today. The pages are curled, things have been cut out, annotations, tea-stains. Not just his famous paintings but his plein-air watercolours are so simply beautiful.

Can you tell us how you feel your art has evolved from your early work and what’s in store for the future?

Well after art college I didn’t paint or draw for over 20 years (that’s a long story), but when I returned in 2013 I started out doing large scale portraits in charcoal. Having missed so many years I wanted to make an impression with scale and technical ability, however more recently I enjoy my sketchbook work from life as they have more honesty about them and are much harder to do well. I guess I feel less need to show off and am maybe thinking about what really represents me and the world I inhabit with my family in Cambridge. As for concrete plans, I have found that if I tell anyone about them they never seem to come off, so I do my best to just get on and see what happens and keep schtum!

What medium do you prefer to work in and are there any specific products that you use?

For large-scale drawings I used Derwent Charcoal Pencils. I like to keep my pencils sharp, so I get through loads of them, using ‘light’ for most of the work, then adding darker areas in ‘medium’ and ‘dark’ after fixing. I also use charcoal dust applied with cotton wool or tortillons, but I make that myself by crushing charcoal sticks into dust. As for painting I usually oil on canvas on board, and really seem to mix up my product. But what I do use, and this has been something of a revelation, and that is Zest-It, the no-odour paint thinner. Previously white spirit in a warm studio was sending me a little odd, so I’m glad to have discovered something that works just as well without the health issues.

ANN GODDARD - WINNER OF THE JOHN DOUBLEDAY ART AWARD

Ann Goddard’s interest lies in exploring ideas through making. Inspired by the landscape, nature and concern for the environment she works three dimensionally, combining textile and non-textile elements. The resulting pieces take the form of mixed media assemblages, constructed wall pieces and small installations comprising multiple units.

Congratulations on becoming one of the winning twelve artists! Can you tell us how you started your career as a sculptor?

My sculptural work has evolved from a background in embroidery and textiles. Initially I studied ceramics whilst training to be a teacher. Years later, as a mature student, I joined a City & Guilds course in Creative Embroidery – this was totally inspirational, immediately had me hooked and changed my life! Although I loved stitching two-dimensionally, I was always trying to find ways of making pieces three dimensional. An HNC in Stitched and Constructed textiles, and an MA in Fine Art followed. Working in 3D and relief I now combine textile and non-textile elements to make mixed media assemblages, constructed wall pieces and small, sculptural installations comprising multiple units.

Are there any specific influences on your work and what inspired your winning entry?

Inspiration for most of my work comes from a life-long interest in the landscape, nature, and concern for the environment. ‘Remains’ is an installation of 9 small sculptures alluding to the millions of small, often ignored life forms whose existence is endangered by our actions but whose importance to human well-being may prove invaluable in the future. Rather than direct representation, I aim to utilise the intrinsic qualities of materials and processes, to evoke associations and carry the essence of the theme.

You also picked up the John Doubleday Art Award and some Cass Art vouchers too. What products have you chosen to help with future projects?

It was a lovely surprise to win the John Doubleday award & the vouchers. It took me a while to choose from the vast array of products. I decided to buy crystal resin, a material I haven’t used previously, so am looking forward to experimenting with it. I chose a large quantity of Fabriano and Khadi paper which I intend to use sculpturally. I also bought a tabletop easel which can be positioned horizontally providing me with a raised flat surface to work on inside or outside the studio.

What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

Currently, I am in the process of writing a book on mixed media three-dimensional textile art for Pavilion Books. The aim is for it to be published towards the end of 2022. I have also been collaborating with two artist friends and we are currently looking for a venue in which to exhibit the work in the future.

BARBARA MARSHFIELD

Barbara works mainly in stone and cold cast resin with iron, bronze and marble. Her abstract sculptures explore the rhythms of nature and the interplay between pure form, weight and colour. Her figurative work focuses on the head, and shows her interest in the monumental, the mythic and the ancient.

Congratulations on becoming one of the winning twelve artists! Can you tell us how you started your career as a sculptor?

My father was a sculptor, so I was exposed to the processes of sculpture from an early age. I went to Leeds University to do a fine art degree but following that didn’t pursue a career in art straight away. When my children were small, I had a craft business producing sculptural, practical objects like mosaic mirrors and boxes. Eventually I was drawn back to pure sculpture, gradually expanding my repertoire to include stone and wood carving alongside cast pieces in resin. I now have two studios and an outdoor carving area which allows me to work on several projects at once.

You work with a selection of mediums do you have a preference?

My problem is that I love all the mediums. I have piles of wood and many pieces of stone waiting – tempting me to work on them. One strand of my practice is large heads and reclining figures which are modelled in plaster then cast in resin. I currently have three of these on the go simultaneously. These sculptures are made for my own pleasure and often I am forced to stop work on them to produce smaller more saleable pieces. Small soapstone and wood sculptures are mostly done in the winter in the studio where I can work away without any thought of time listening to audiobooks.

Are there any specific influences on your work?

I am a great fan of the British Museum; I think my original large heads were influenced by the monumental Egyptian works I see there. Much of my work is abstract and while I try to start every piece without a fixed idea of where it will end up, many things in the world around us influence the forms and shapes we are comfortable with and try to replicate. I find the shapes in plants and insects very compelling, while you may not recognise this in the work, I’m sure it feeds my thought process.

What inspired your winning entry and what does the future hold for your work?

Back to Back is a carved stone abstract. This is not actually typical of my work in that it follows a pattern. This came about because before I started carving, I drilled a number of holes through the stone, without thinking about it I had spaced them regularly, this drew me to the finished form. I usually polish stone to a high finish but when I reached a matt velvet feel, it seemed to me that was right for this sculpture. In the future, I can see the work getting larger, demanding more attention for themselves.

CHRISTINE CALOW

Christine Calow works mainly through the media of silkscreen printing, creating richly coloured and textured small edition and unique prints and paper collages.

Congratulations on becoming one of the winning twelve artists! Can you tell us where your journey began at the start of your career?

My journey in art began at Cambridge School of Art where I was taught by the artist Nicholas Barnham, who instilled in me a love of printing. I went on to study my Degree in Textile Design at Loughborough College of Art, where I specialised in printed textiles. After graduating I initially worked as a fabric designer and printer. Subsequently, I combined part-time teaching on Art Foundation Courses with the development of my own work, which over time has evolved from the creation of usable fabrics to wall hung textiles to works on paper.

What inspired your two submissions selected for The Cambridge Invitational 2021?

The starting work for most of my work is travel, and my two submissions are both inspired by India. Since I was a child I have been fascinated by India, and my travels around the vibrant desert state of Rajasthan and to the sacred city of Varanasi on the banks of the River Ganges have given me endless ideas and inspiration.

Could you explain the silkscreen process that you used to create the award-winning pieces?

I start with a rough idea of composition or a sketch and I carefully plan the range of colours I intend to use. I build up my images by using hand-cut stencils to print a base of flat colours, or, as in ‘Indian Images No.1’, if I want to create a looser effect I may print areas of colour without a stencil. I then use photographic screens to superimpose layers of painted and drawn marks until I am satisfied with my image. The marks are drawn onto a translucent film and are transferred to the screen mesh through a photographic process using a light-sensitive emulsion coating.

Finally, what can we expect to see from you in the future?

Actually, I find this the most difficult question to answer! My work evolves and develops over time, but my preoccupation with colour relationships and the ways in which colour can be used to define pictorial depth, create mood and evoke emotion has been a constant throughout my career. Often things that happen by chance have a big effect on my work. Several years ago I was given a commission for two large screenprints, much larger than anything I had worked on previously. I found that I really enjoyed working on a large scale, and have continued to do so ever since.

CLARE MILLEN

Clare Millen’s work has its origins in landscape and the trilogy of the three elements - land, sky and sea. Working in layers, building, scraping and scoring surfaces to expose the history of colour and surface, she is led by what is revealed and works intuitively.

Congratulations on becoming one of the twelve winning artists! Both of your submissions are so vibrant and immersive; can you tell us a bit about each piece?

The two paintings I submitted to The Cambridge Invitational are part of a series of paintings completed over the duration of the last year. They represent a continuing exploration of colour and surface in relation to landscape. Both are amalgamations of memory, feeling and intuition. I use initial ideas and sketches as a springboard at the beginning, but it is the physical and emotional act of painting, the process of laying down line and colour that dictates their evolution and outcome. My paintings are my emotional landscapes, and each one tells a different story.

Can you tell us how and where your passion for art began and any other inspirations that contribute to your paintings?

As a child I grew up in the rolling countryside, surrounded by dazzling cornfields and ancient woodland. My earliest memories are of days spent walking towards ever-changing horizon lines. As an adult, I have travelled the world and have experienced its rich visual diversity. I am drawn to open spaces and find landscape deeply inspirational.

What medium do you prefer to paint in and why, what products do you use?

I work predominantly with acrylic paints, my favourite being the Golden range which includes heavy body, fluid and high flow. They are highly pigmented and have a gorgeous colour range.

Having exhibited both nationally and internationally, can you tell us what we can expect to see from your work in the future?

I'm currently exhibiting at a number of independent galleries in East Anglia and will be opening my studio doors once again in 2022 for Cambridge Open Studios. My practice will continue evolving as I plan to increase the scale of my paintings. I’m becoming increasingly drawn to abstraction but feel sure that landscape and line will always be an integral element of my work.

KAREN CHARD

Karen Chard is an artist, craftswoman, sculptor and trainee teacher whose work is inspired by nature, the natural cycles of life and death and the interconnectedness of all things. It celebrates handmade crafts and their qualities, using traditional crafts in a modern way.

Congratulations on becoming one of the twelve winning artists! Let’s start by asking you about the award-winning piece that was selected and the inspiration behind it.

My award-winning piece was a reflection of my experience of the first lockdown. I finished my contemporary art degree in that first lockdown which was really challenging for me and my mental health took a nosedive.  Fortunately, as my part-time job was in a junior school I had the whole summer to recover and we had an amazing summer, which I spent in my garden which is wild and full of nature as a result.  The poem “Leisure” by William Henry Davies summed up that time for me and actually is relevant to how I view life full stop.

You work in many different mediums can you tell us a bit about the various styles and artwork you create.

I like traditional crafts and keeping old skills alive, with my love of nature I like to bring the natural materials into my work too. I have made inks and my own brushes and pens from berries and hair and twigs and feathers. I have a fascination with stinging nettles and make cordage and have processed them into fibres, that I have spun and knitted. I wanted to make my own natural burial shroud from nettles, processing them, spinning them and weaving them, I started to look into the lowest impact funeral and have been looking at the way we view death and grief in our society. I make clay urns for cremated remains too, along with heart pendants that can have some of your loved ones’ ashes incorporated into it.  I make other clay pots, jewellery and clothing too. I enjoy lots of other mediums and sometimes I paint, sometimes I print, sometimes I draw, but I always come back to clay and textiles.

Tutoring various workshops is also part of your business can you give us an insight into what’s on offer?

Due to the lockdowns I didn’t get my workshops off the ground, I had intended running workshops to open up the discussion around grief and death and people could come and make their own or a loved ones shroud in a safe supportive space. Other ideas were to have a rag doll-making workshop (or cushion, or wall hanging) using special fabrics and embellishments as a reminder of that special person. It could become an heirloom. I think we need to talk about death a lot more openly than we do and I would like funerals to become more of a celebration of a person’s life. 

Finally, what does the future hold for you?

I have just enrolled to start my PGCE in Further Education as an Art teacher along with setting up the burial company. I’m writing a business plan and setting up an alternative natural burial ground, with a view to running it as a community interest company or similar with other artisans. I am working on a product range of natural burial shrouds using natural fabrics, crazy patchwork, or having my photographs printed onto organic cotton, or using woven or felted sheep fleece. 

MARTIN SOUTHWOOD – WINNER OF THE GRADUATE HOTEL AWARD

Martin Southwood began painting five years ago to fulfil a promise to his younger self. He works mostly in acrylics, sometimes watercolour or coloured pencil.

Congratulations on becoming one of the winning twelve artists! Can you tell us how you started your journey into the art world?

My father was a talented painter and sculptor, but he did his best to put me off any of the careers I considered, including becoming an artist. I got accepted to art school, but I couldn’t get a grant - and that was almost that. I didn’t pick up a paintbrush again for well over thirty years and it really took a lot of grief and pain for my creative side to come out of hiding. Even now, I’m not sure if I belong to the ‘art world’, or even what that is. But since I started painting again, I have become more confident.

Can you tell us about the two submissions selected for The Cambridge Invitational?

Painting ‘Witches Pool – Thursley’ was a very interesting and immersive experience. I hoped to paint something with a nice contrast between light and dark, but the work drew me in much more deeply, hence the title. I discovered all kinds of creatures in the reflected leaves and branches, and I found that each leaf had a character and identity. I had just finished a large painting of autumn leaves, and after all the browns and blacks I longed for something blue and sunny. Painting ‘Sark – Grand Grève’ was like stepping out of a dark room into the light and my brushstrokes became naturally more open and expressive.

Your talents include painting, poetry and writing, can you tell us a little about the themes and ideas behind your most recent works.

I hope my painting offers something contemplative and reflective. Most of my work is about nature, particularly the ignored and reviled. For example, I’ve just finished a little painting of Bindweed. I hate the way that people want to kill the things they call weeds. If you want to keep something out there are ways of doing that without chemicals and violence. It is also about bearing witness during a time of unparalleled ecological disaster.

Finally, can you tell us what ideas and artistic plans you are working on currently?

I would like to collaborate with other artists. Otherwise, I’m mostly just painting and learning and trying not to have too many grandiose unfinished projects (screenplay, novel, various illustrated books etc.). I have a great love of automata, and I keep trying to think of a witty application for a very simple mechanism. There’s something utterly delightful in seeing how people respond to automata, pushing a button or turning a handle and seeing something happen that is beautiful and silly and magical.

MAX MORAWSKI – WINNER OF THE SCUDAMORES ART AWARD

Max Morawski is a minimalist art photographer working with seascapes, natural and architectural abstraction. Harmony with the Universe is the overarching theme in his work, which speaks of joy and gratitude for being able to experience natural wonders and human-made creations.

Congratulations on becoming one of the winning twelve artists! Can you tell us how you started your career in photography?

Over the years, I attempted to create in diverse media, including music and poetry, eventually finding my voice in photography. It gives me the perfect balance between engagement with the world and the ability to express my conceptual, spiritual and emotional vision.

Can you please tell us a bit about your two successful submissions?

Both of the winning artworks were created out of necessity to express and communicate the transcendent amazement with the unbounded glory of nature that I witnessed. I wanted to share those uplifting moments. My approach is more intellectual when I work with architecture, while nature speaks directly to my heart. It is peaceful, powerful, beautiful. Nature makes me feel, at once, in unity with the universe and an individually insignificant yet crucial part of the larger cosmic whole.

Your work is unique and captivating, can you expand upon some of the techniques used, and touch upon the various themes you use as inspiration?

It is important to me that my art is anchored in reality while depicting a deeply personal vision that brings viewers a sense of awareness of the beautiful planet we live on, excitement and appreciation for it. A good old-fashioned touch of aesthetical pleasure can’t go amiss either. To that end, I use little of the actual photo manipulation techniques when creating my works. I may eliminate a distracting element or work with the colour palette, but other than that, it is all about the camera, tripod and me, trying not to fall off a cliff or step into too deep water.

Finally, what can we look forward to seeing from you next?

A crucial part of my artistic journey is to push myself into the unknown. I need this occasional feeling of being a jolly fool wasting my time on something that surely will not work. In other words, I’m certain there will be surprises. I will work with longer photographic story form, and also have a pretty exciting new type of creation I hope to unveil early next year, and new photographic subjects are coming too!

MICHAEL NORCROSS

Michael Norcross Studied at High Wycombe School of Design and Furniture; Cardiff College of Art & Design; Reading University before eventually leading and teaching in an Art & Design Department for many years mainly in Further Education. In 2014 Michael decided to pursue his career as a full-time artist.

Congratulations on becoming one of the twelve winning artists! Both of your submissions portray wonderful winter scenes, can you tell us a bit about the award-winning pieces.

One of my submissions: ‘Winter Shadows’, is based on studies and notes taken on site from a historic local park: Caversham Court, just five minutes’ walk, up-stream from my studio. The other is from a remarkable row of trees I first noticed out of my car window, across a field of rapeseed in brilliant yellow flower, while delivering a painting to Newbury. This was a couple years before I painted it during winter snow. It became the source for several different ideas.

You’re influenced by Japanese prints, can you expand on that for us and any other inspirations that contribute to your thought process when painting.

I liked them when I was too young to know exactly what they were. I now recognise it was for their ‘less is more’ aesthetic, their clarity and ability to say a lot with very little, but I think their inspiration is more through osmosis rather than anything conscious. They evoke a feeling of inner calm when I look at them and they probably influenced my liking for painting against the light as in the ‘Winter Shadows’ at Caversham Court painting, but I have been equally affected by 19th century European artists who were of course also influenced by Japanese prints.

Still life and landscape feature in your art, which is your preference if you have one and which medium do you prefer to paint in?

I don’t prefer one subject matter to another and my paintings are not necessarily just about things observed. Some work I’ve done is completely imaginative, some have been initiated by automatist type processes, while others began through objective studies. Portraiture and the figure are also areas of interest. Through examining ‘the real’ more closely or in a completely different way, you can always find something you never noticed before. The important thing is the search and to try to look at things differently. I am at home with using any medium. I generally work ‘alla prima’ on studies, particularly those done on location.

Finally, what can we expect to see from you in the future?

I am intending to continue working with the landscape both urban and rural, in some way, but I don’t rule anything out as I have several strings to my bow. We’ve all been through a lot of suffering in the past year and a half. Recent work has been as much about ‘mindfulness’ as anything. What I will be doing in the future is what I have always done and that is searching for ways to create visual work which has a sustained, aesthetic resonance; I hope this will last as long if not longer than the subject matter that inspires it.

SAMUEL BENJAMIN HARRIS – WINNER OF THE OAK BISTRO AWARD

Samuel Benjamin Harris’s playful technique coupled with an expressive and vivid colour palette transports the viewer into a contemporary yet nostalgic world. His use of thick outlines and flattened perspectival space, bold and jarring use of colour and unique style, represent everyday scenes with dramatised emotional cadence.

Congratulations on becoming one of the winning twelve artists! Can you tell us how you started your journey into the art world?

I’ve always had the passion to create and paint since a little lad but I did pursue graphic design. From A level into art foundation, I started moving more towards graphic design and then went onto Norwich University of the arts and received a 2:1 BA hons in the field. I really enjoyed my degree but realised that going into it as a career wasn’t for me. After leaving university I started painting again and from there started thinking about exhibiting. The local pub, gave me my first taste with a 12 artist collective exhibition and with that I asked the curator for a solo show.

Can you tell us about the two submissions selected for The Cambridge Invitational?

The two submissions for the Cambridge invitational came from lockdown and watching the birds. It’s a beautiful time of year when the swift’s return to Cambridge and that brought along the first of a 5 pieces on the birds of Cambridge. The swifts darting through the chimney pots on Warkworth Street and the kingfisher that nests in the wall along the backs at Clare, only seen by lazily punting down the river cam.

What medium do you prefer to paint in, can you describe your energetic process?

I prefer to paint in acrylics. I like to build and layer my paint on canvas, building block colour and going down in size of brush. My energy in my work comes from how I paint, I paint fast at a high tempo. It’s what I enjoy, it’s a mood, a vibe. If I’m not enjoying myself when I paint I’m not creating work that I’m going to like. After painting I move onto paint pens (both of which I have got from Cass Art) for the final blast at the canvas, drawing in highlights giving ‘pop’ to the imagery I’m creating.

Finally, what does the future hold for you?

The future’s exciting, paint more, exhibit more. Just keep having fun. I had a successful exhibition at Espresso Library in Cambridge last winter. I also want to try something new, pastels maybe. Just mix it up a little.

SARAH WALTON

Sarah Walton produced salt glaze ceramics at her studio at Alciston between 1975 and 2019. She initially concentrated on thrown tableware, and in 1985 began developing large hand built and press-moulded forms for outdoors, notably birdbaths. She is particularly known for her series of birdbaths reminiscent of square boulders, set on timber bases. In those years she also experimented with making sizeable abstract sculpture, using her salt kiln to produce it.

How did you start your career as a sculptor?

At school I had a Polish art master who was a real painter. He said to me ‘Go and look at great Art’ so I prowled the London art galleries and museums. I studied Fine Art (painting) for 4 years, I then worked and trained as a nurse for 5.5 years, the experience of touching people leading to a wish to work in 3 dimensions. I then studied Studio Pottery for 2 years and I was then apprenticed to another potter for 11 months. Lastly, I worked as a studio potter for myself for the next 10 years.

Are there any specific influences on your work?

There are many! The Landscapes of Sussex and Cumbria including their stonewalling, barns and cairns. Countless European and English painters. Romanesque art, particularly Cistercian architecture, the carved capitals in Autun, Moissac and Conque’s. All Neolithic art, Tibetan stupas, Cycladic art, craftwork, classical music, metaphysical poetries, couture. Humanity, and the sudden and unexpected death of one of my brothers when he was almost 18 and I was 19.

You have scaled-down down the size of your sculptures recently, this seems to have led to a new and exciting period, can you expand on this for us.

I decided to scale down my work over these last 3 years because in Dec ‘17 a surgeon said to me, “I will offer you some routine surgery, but you must also in future make a significant change to your lifestyle “. I knew I’d done heavy physical work for the previous 55 years and that I’d explored to its limits the size ceramics could be made to. I also knew I’d pushed myself way beyond my physical limits for too many years. Rather than give up I decided I’d reduce the physical scale of my work. I knew that in art, size is not essential for quality.

What would be your advice to a sculptor starting out on their journey?

An old man said to me ‘What you’re interested in, you’re good at.’ Trust in your heart.  At some deep level respect all life, both its suffering and its joys in equal measure. Avoid cynicism.

Thanks everyone!


Feeling inspired?

To learn more about the award-winning artists and future contests, visit Galeria-Moderna.com

Read more interviews with artists on the Cass Art blog.

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