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Spotlight

Artist Story: Faye Bridgwater

 

Contemporary landscape artist, Faye Bridgwater, is influenced by the Sussex coastline and the rolling hills of the South Downs. She makes marks in her paintings using objects she finds on the beach, from fisherman's knots and driftwood to feathers and bottle tops. These tactile objects are used as tools, to make brushes or pens to print and scratch energetically into the paintings. Together with the loose, bold layers of paint, adding detail with impulsive pencil structured lines, the techniques produce expressive textured and flowing seascapes and landscapes. The paintings are familiar and timeless and conjure distant, comforting memories.

Join us as we talk to Bridgwater about her work, inspiration and her experience of life as an artist.

Were you a creative child? 

I remember being set a painting task on my first day at junior school.  At the end of the lesson, my teacher declared that an artist had joined the class.  Boom! That was it.  I never considered being anything else.

Where did you grow up, and has it had a bearing on your work?

Watford.  No!  Haha.  Although I am a big Watford FC supporter and I have made some sculptures related to football.

Did you go to art college and were there any key mentors or moments that influenced you?

I was very lucky to do a GCSE in Photography at secondary school and had a fantastic teacher called Ashley la Grange, who taught me everything I know about composition and capturing an image.  I went to West Herts College and obtained a GNVQ in Art and Design.  I had an amazing tutor, a photographer called Matthew Finn.  He taught me about documenting my life and how the every day can be fascinating.  My fine art tutor was David Burrows, who brought the world of conceptual art to me and how art could change the world, which blew my 18 year old mind.  I went on to study Sculpture at Sheffield Hallam University, where I was taught to work with materials outside of my comfort zone.  We were lucky to have big studios and great technicians. 

Faye Bridgwater and Matthew Finn at the launch of his book 'School of Art', at the Institute of Contemporary Art.

Did you do any other jobs before becoming a full time artist? 

I have worked in a number of galleries and I also managed some pottery studios in London.  I love meeting people so both of these jobs were brilliant.

'If I wasn't an artist, I would be...'

This might sound completely mad but I like the idea of being a town planner.  I can just see where things should (or shouldn’t) be and I would definitely have more public sculpture. I am a passionate believer art should not be elitist and public sculpture is a great way of making art accessible.

Describe a working day - do have any daily rituals?

Coffee.  Children to school. Little walk around the park, beach or up on the hills. Radio on. Time for action.  Probably forget about lunch. Check out what’s happening on Instagram and Facebook.  Alarm goes off and I am picking the children up before I know it.

When is your most productive time of day?

An hour before picking the children up from school (especially the last 10 minutes). I’m also a night owl so many ideas pop up when the world has gone to bed and it’s quiet.

Where do you work?

I have a studio in my house but I tend to start work in the garden.  I am in the early stages of building a new studio at the bottom of the garden.  I’m also very lucky because my bedroom looks out to the sea.  A pure inspiration every day.

Do you prefer to work with music on, or in silence?

I listen to the radio because I like to keep up with current affairs, James O’Brien being my favourite.  I also like podcasts, like Art Juice.

Do you have a favourite painting outfit?

My boiler suit.  When this is on it means I am ready for action.  I also have a pair of sandals that are stuck together with gaffer tape.  They are very comfortable!

What materials do you use? 

Pencils, watercolours, acrylic, oil pastels, collage, bits and bobs I find from the beach.

What piece of equipment can’t you do without?

A simple pencil and a great big fat brush!

What are the main themes to your work?

Contemporary paintings of British landscapes, particularly monumental cliffs.  I just love them. The ever changing weather.  I look up at the sky all day long. All my work is influenced by photography and that is always a starting point to all my drawings and paintings.

Do you draw on personal experiences?

The paintings are my emotional response to being within the landscapes.  The wind in my hair and the crunch of pebbles under my toes.

Do you have a favourite piece of work of yours?

'Inspire Me and Fill Me Up' is, dare I say, a fantastic painting.  I am quite tempted to keep it.

'Inspire Me and Fill Me Up' in Faye Bridgwater's home.

What other artists inspire you and who are your art heroes? 

Having studied Sculpture at University, Barbara Hepworth’s work and life fascinates me. Howard Hodgkin, with his spontaneous brush work, is exciting. Cy Twombly’s fantastic expressive marks are just marvellous.  J.M.W Turner - oh those big skies! And finally Richard Long sculptures that come and go.  There’s a great feeling of time with his brilliant environmental work.

Are there any contemporary artists who’s work you follow?

David Nash. I just want to hug his sculptures.  His video “Wooden Boulder” brought me to tears. Photographer Martin Parr. I love the way he sees the world. Studying his work makes me look at the every day in a different way. Rachel Whiteread is a very clever sculptor and her use of negative space and everyday objects is mind blowingly brilliant.

Faye Bridgwater with her children at 'David Nash: 200 Seasons' at Towner Eastbourne.

What art do you hang on your walls at home?

I celebrate my children’s work.  I love the innocence of their lines and paintings.  Joyful. I also have a large signed Gilbert & George poster from their exhibition at the Serpentine. The other year, I saw them give a talk at the Brighton Royal Pavillon, they even sung a song!  I’m always picking up work from local artists. Really important to support my peers.

What was the last art exhibition you went to see? 

Before lockdown I visited the Turner Contemporary at Margate and saw “We Will Walk”.  I have also visited The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours at the Mall Galleries, where my work won the John Purcell Prize. Gosh! It was such a thrill seeing it pride of place.

Faye Bridgwater celebrating with her John Purcell Prize winning work at Mall Galleries.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? 

I have never thought about this.  Maybe I should start…. I have been thinking about doing a podcast with artist, Suzi Lowe, about British artists with a focus on artists in the South East. We would visit their studios and exhibitions and talk about how they work. A massive solo show would a great aim!

Any key ambitions or goals you still have on your to-do list?

An ambition is to be in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  I don’t know why but for some reason this feels important. I would also love to bring a contemporary art gallery to Brighton with a Whiteread Sculpture but this is might be a pipe dream.   An art residency with David Nash would be amazing!

Describe the life of an artist in less than 5 words...

Creativity is like the tide.

What advice would you give to younger artists just starting out?

Don’t let the judgement of others stop you creating. Also, start your art collection from your friends at art school.

Social Media - your thoughts?

I am addicted to it. I have a Facebook Group called Brighton Skies, bringing a community of 15,000 members, sharing the joy of looking up together.  

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