Whatmore on Whatmore - An Interview with Nel Whatmore

As you may have read on the Gallery 42 homepage (www.gallery42.com), we are currently displaying the work of our May Artist of the Month, Nel Whatmore.

Tip Toe to the Sea - £3995

Nel Whatmore needs no introduction and we have a fine selection of her work on display. I conducted an interview with her the week of the exhibition and here is how the conversation went:

To start where all interviews start, how did you come to be an artist?

I became an artist initially because my parents were brave enough to encourage me to go and do a foundation course in Art and Design and to pursue what I loved, rather than to play safe and do a Geography degree at Durham. I then did a degree I didn't actually enjoy that much at Leeds but I enjoyed the life and afterwards went on a business course run by New Working Women in Leeds and learnt all the things you needed to know about being self employed. I started as a professional artist in a bedsit in Headingley making hand made cards, to generate enough income to print my first set of limited edition prints. I was awarded a grant by the Princes Youth Business Trust in 1986 which has been an invaluable help which enabled me to exhibit at major trade shows where I met publishers that I went on to work with for over 17 years.

What things have inspired you over your life and career? Do these things change and are some things lasting or enduring?

What has inspired me over my life and career? Wow, that's a big question! Again, my parents have inspired me to do whatever I do to the best of my ability. If it's worth doing, do it well; that adage has driven me on, on many an occasion. People inspire me as does beauty, the natural world and my endless fascination with colour and the effects it has on our loves and lives. The relationship between music and art interests me to and I paint better with loud music than with out. All of these are enduring. The reasons why I painted when I was 20 are not the reasons why I paint now. Hopefully the more you experience life the more there is to say.

How do these things impact your choice of subject matter?

The things that have inspired me directly effect how I work and my attitude to it but also the size and temper of each painting. In terms of subject matter it doesn't really matter whether I paint a sky or a sea or a flower it is usually all about the light and colour and movement rather than the object.


There are few artists, especially those working in Britain today, who can command your mediums so well, especially on such grand scales - why do you love pastel and why do you produce such large works?

I actually don't think they are that large; actually I would like to do them much much bigger but my favourite paper only comes in a limited size.

I love pastel as it's the closest you can be to actual pigment, it is sensuous and therefore evocative, not harsh and detached. Some how merely by being at the end of a brush you are already a step further away from what you wish to convey. It also has a warmth and a luminosity that I adore... I could go on.. suffice to say I love it.

Blue Sky Thinking - Price on Enquiry

You have some interesting views relating to colour, art and the relating perception of the two together? Do they impact your art?

How colours behave when sat next to each other will be a life long  journey of discovery for me, I feel. How it also contributes to our feelings of wellbeing is self-evident, as we all can judge from simply when the sky turns from grey to blue. We are what we paint and what colours I paint reflect often what is roaming around in my head.

You have a stand at the Chelsea Flower Show for the past 7 years and again this year - whats it like to move from small spaces like the Gallery to larger ones like at Chelsea? Do you prefer small or large events? 

As being an artist is for a large part a solitary occupation, it is rather weird at times to go from seeing no one for hours to seeing several hundred thousand within a week. I like both small and large events as you just never know who you're going to meet.

Nel's art will be up for the rest of May and I will post again shortly with what I consider to be highlights of the selection of works. These images are lent kindly by Nel from her website.

Barcelona Buskers - Price on Enquiry

An Interview With John Kaye

Today is the 21st of March 2013. It is one day before the preview of evening of Mr John Kaye's exhibition, which opens to the public on Saturday 23rd. Before this exciting exhibition premiers  I thought I would take the opportunity to interview John whilst he was in this afternoon. But first, a bit of background information on John himself. John Kaye was born in 1950 in Marsden, West Yorkshire. He grew up in the 'Last of the Summer Wine' countryside that is Moors Chapels and Co-ops. He attended Colne Valley High, progressing on to Batley Art College for his pre-diploma in art and design. From here he was accepted by Wimbledon for a diploma in Theatre Design and Fine Art.

But John didn't actually go.

Indeed, he changed directions and undertook a 4 year BA in Social Studies, moving into social work thereafter, having had his outlook on the world changed radically by a summer job at a large psychiatric hospital before his degree at Wimbledon would have begun. His work was mainly in the field of mental health, health, homelessness and the voluntary sector. Latterly, he was director and chief officer of MIND and Voluntary Action Leeds, both based in West Yorkshire. These experiences are strong influences on his work.

Despite having little time for painting, exhibitions and collecting helped John continue his love of art and architecture. John picked up painting again at the turn of the 21st Century and shortly after this he took early retirement. His work began with two series:

Shrine - a series relating to his interest in the sociology of religion and the role of religious art in the ritual and development of culture and society; not only the paintings and artefacts but the buildings, temples, iconography and the very environments where religious activities and practises take place.

Garden - a series relating not only to the history of gardens but how gardens define the space in which we live, work and relax. Recurring themes have been mazes, enclosure and paths to buildings and follies which return to the interaction of mankind working within landscapes and religious environments.

His current work continues with these themes but also has brought in the wider areas of landscapes such as the moors, parks and large cities. Recently, driving across Europe to Bulgaria saw John be influenced by lights and colours and different societies. Byzantine art and architecture in Istanbul and Nessebar have become big influences in his work, which can be seen prominently in the works we will be displaying in the exhibition.

Another important part of John's work is his contact with a master icon painter based in Bulgaria. Furthermore, the study of the technique of icon painting and the use of gold leaf have played important parts. This has been developed to bring in the etching symmetry and attention to detail that is a constant feature in his work. His works are in collections in the UK, Bulgaria, America and Australia.

And that is the story of John Kaye. I've had a chat to him and here's what he had to say.

(I'm in bold. John is not.)

Firstly, you tend to elaborate on images and colours in multiple works across the three series (Shrines, Houses and Gardens) we are exhibiting. Can you explain some examples of this and why you do this in your work?

I see one idea that leaps off another, for example the English country house. With this you have to walk half a mile before seeing one thing; but I have created of these various, separate things one imagined landscape. Also it's the landscape in a historical sense. The studies of Beningborough, where some images are historical paintings from when it was built, its part of the historical story of the building. With Shrines it's my interest in the common threads that run through the sociology of religion. A lot of work is underpinned by Russian orthodox, Byzantine, Greek Orthodox, etc. To become a master icon painter you have to follow a certain formula, but I've used the iconography in a much freer way, especially with the etching in the gold leaf.

The other thing with all of these pieces is they read as images, yet are also abstract in symmetry, relationship, spacing and colour, all worked to a greater or lesser extent as a greater abstract concept.

We have several studies of yours for sale - why do you complete such detailed studies and do you do them with a view to selling them?

Initially I do not do them with a view to sell them; actually Rod persuaded me to sell them. I like to try things out but I don't like to leave things unfinished. I tend to work on them. Sometimes I move from the study, to the piece, back to the study. With the Beningborough series, I'm already working on two more paintings which are not on such a grand scale, but will elaborate on some of the features within the current paintings. Funnily enough with these works, because of two paintings which have recently been purchased by the arts fund of a house in Wales, 16th and 17th century ones, I'm now looking to paint the southern face of the hall and incorporate a landscape based on those pieces. It's about multi-perspective. Its a bit like incorporating the two forms of Google - satellite and street view.

There are faux plants in the exhibition space. Do you feel this adds to the exhibition space and it atmosphere?

The idea of the plants doesn't bother me at all, I quite like them. They are an art form anyway, fake or not. Plants play a big part in the paintings I do, sometimes they are free and sometimes they are formal. I think it compliments the exhibition. I have a lot of experience of feeling like I'm intruding in exhibition spaces in places like London and I think in a good exhibition space people feel welcome and at ease, able to ask people about the art and converse and have chatter. Live music also can help people to enjoy it as part of a positive experience.

Why do you find your subjects so fascinating? This goes back many years. When I was first at art college when I was a bit of a rebel. I was told to loosen up but that just wasn't my style. Following this I tended to still have ideas about religion and society. A lot of my actual work was very intense and stressful, so the art I see as linked to that. It's part of me.

Has relating your art and travel together illuminated anything to about yourself and your future? Immensely. I see common links across art and religion and what an important part it played for the Mayans, the Greeks, they didn't see it as art in its own right but as a feature of religion that accompanied it. Only since the renaissance mankind has seen fine art as a different thing. Travelling a lot, architecture, not just art in galleries, influences me a great deal. Travelling via Bulgaria and Nothern Italy has been very interesting. It takes a lot to get images down, I make notes and sketch what I am seeing.

John's exhibition opens on Saturday and alongside the Julie Dodsworth Giftware Section is sure to be a hit!

All Hands on Deck! - Preparing for Dodsworth and Kaye

Ian and Rod constructing the Julie Dodsworth Giftware Section, to open to the public alongside John Kaye's Exhibition on Saturday 23rd March 2013.

ImageWith most of the John Kaye works framed and ready for Friday 22nd's Preview Evening, the pressing matter today for these two hard-working gentlemen was to construct the Julie Dodsworth Giftware Section.

As you might have gathered from my recent writings, I am quite excited for both of these new exhibits to open next Saturday and as such I'll probably be wandering round with my camera taking many a photo. I think the Julie Dodsworth Giftware Section (which shall henceforth be referred to throughout this blog as the JDGS) is integral to the Gallery as we develop and improve our business. There are two reasons I think this.

The first is the physical look and presence of the JDGS as complementary to the rest of the gallery space. Containing a combination of made-in-house and bought shelving and display units, the corner space on the right of the door by the stairs is being transformed. Our Dodsworth giftware will be able to be both stored and displayed in creative, presentable and continously recyclable ways and will be both part of the gallery yet its own entity. Therefore, because of the way the section fits into the existing space and because of what it will add to the space, it complements our existing browsing facilities.

The second reason is I think that it represents a great amount of potential with regards to what we might do, should the section 'hit it off' with you, the public, with the rest of the gallery space. Ian and I have some big plans already, but this is the first plan which all of us here have opined upon and realised as we re-define and re-inforce the identity of the fine arts and framing business we are. There is huge potential with this section and we all really hope that it gets off to a flying start.

For that matter, continued aviation would suffice!

The variation of spaces within the section will enable us to effectively display each beautiful product as part of its respective series. The items may be in these respective series families, such as Rose Cottage, Chocolate Box and Calamity Jane, but they may also be mixed around. Such mingling ought to breed all sorts of homeware design combinations that compliment, contrast and sell - after all, that is generally the aim of a business!

The JDGS promises to add colour and life to a corner of the gallery previously unexplored by most customers. An attractive showcase for Julie's designs and products, it is the first of many exciting steps we intend to undertake to make our business and our artwork even more exciting.

Of course, you 'darlings' which pop in here frequently can look forward to Rod's anticipation with regards to the JDGS and indeed, John Kaye's exhibition.

Both open to the public one week today.

Both, I hope, will be well received.

Both, I hope, will flourish.