ST MICHAEL’S Studios in Bridport are open to visitors this Bank Holiday Weekend, 10-5pm Sat – Mon. Kit Glaisyer writes here about his participation.
I GREW up in ‘deepest darkest’ Dorset, several miles from any town, so the nights were truly dark, and the stars were bright in the sky, with just the sounds of nature, the wind and rain, and the strange noises of howling animals in the surrounding woods and fields. It was an unusual and magical childhood, free of television and pop culture and politics and the rest of the modern world. I didn’t know any of the TV shows that my friends watched, but I didn’t miss them either, because together we’d explore the world of trees and streams, in sun and rain and snow, as hunters and adventurers, and we felt like we had discovered something that the rest of the world had forgotten.
After school I went to London, in order to find like-minds and create a career as an artist. I loved the energy and excitement of the city, it introduced me to great art, and gave me a sense of the development of art and culture over the centuries. It also inspired my first serious works – an ambitious series of abstract paintings, through which I found my voice and developed my own language of expression.
But after a few years, and despite all of these amazing encounters and adventures, I began to miss the feeling of nature surrounding me, along with the deep sense of the sublime it inspires. And one day, while on holiday in Dorset I was introduced to an artistic community in Symondsbury, just outside Bridport, and within a month I’d moved back to live in the countryside. The following year I started a new studio in an empty warehouse on an old rope-making estate in Bridport, and St Michael’s Studios has now grown to become one of the most vibrant art venues in the West County. Our Open Studio events have become very popular, and I find it’s a great way for me to share my work, as it allows visitors to experience the gradual evolution of my paintings over several months.
My recent series of landscape paintings are inspired by the landscape of west Dorset, particularly around the Marshwood Vale, and they are intended as a contemporary update on the historic tradition of landscape painting. While I love the work of the Impressionists and Expressionism, I feel that these styles ultimately led to the idea that anyone could make a painting, and so much of what we see now seems so lazy and stylised. I’ve followed a different path, one closer to post-impressionist Paul Cézanne, who left Paris to go and live in rural France and painted around Montagne Sainte-Victoire for the next 25 years. He said he wanted “to make of impressionism something solid and lasting like the art in the museums”, and desired to unite observation of nature with the permanence of classical composition. Cezanne’s dogged pursuit of these principles led to the birth of Modern Art.
I also return to the examples set by the great masters, who all demonstrated this conviction to a personal vision, also evident in the great works of the British artists JMW Turner and John Constable, who were in turn inspired by the Dutch 17th Century painters like Jacob van Ruisdael and Filips Koninck – some of the first painters to establish Landscape as an independent genre. Turner and Constable were associated with Romanticism – the complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th Century and included artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, Eugène Delacroix and William Blake. It also inspired the Hudson River painters, a mid-19th century American art movement of landscape painters that included Jasper Francis Cropsey, Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Edwin Church.
One thing all these artists shared is a deep respect for nature, and a determination to do justice to the subject. They all set out to achieve very ambitious paintings, requiring many months or even years of work, as well as the development of accomplished new painting techniques, and that’s also the way I like to work these days – gaining confidence as I tackle ever more complex subjects.
I now feel like I’m beginning to do justice to my feelings for nature. I’ve learnt the necessary patience required to give my work the time it needs in order to capture the intricate subtleties of light and atmosphere, and to honour the incredible complexity and rhythm of this ancient landscape.