As our team self-isolates we turn to the artworks in our own homes for inspiration
Caroline Walker, Walk Around a Scene, 2015 Oil on panel. Photo: Author’s own.
I first saw Caroline Walker’s work five years ago when I was attending the Courtauld Alumni summer party at the Whitechapel Gallery, and Caroline had a large painting displayed as part of the ‘London Open’ exhibition. A quick online search led to a studio visit at her space in North London, not too far from where I live, and I acquired two small oil on panel works by her shortly thereafter. Over the last few years we have placed larger oil paintings and works on paper with four private collections (one UK, one Middle Eastern and two Asian), and have been actively following her career and various global shows. I was hoping to visit her exhibition at the Hague this summer, but right now might have to take solace in this painting which is currently hanging in our bedroom.
Flo Brooks, Glory Hole, 2015. Acrylic on Wood. Courtesy of the artist and Project Native Informant, London.
Flo Brooks paintings provide sarcastic personal anecdotes from within the prevalent gender debate. Her colourful scenes are painted on oddly-shaped wooden structures, depicting busy situations of rural British domesticity. They describe how Brooks negotiates life between personal relationships, moral responsibilities, and societal expectations.
In the series, we see the artist helping dye her mother’s grey hair or lying on the floor, repairing a bathtub with her father. What the onlooker does not see is that Brooks is in the midst of a life-changing Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Forced to leave the safety net of the queer community in London, Flo returned to her provincial hometown in southwest England to help look after her ageing parents. Here we see Flo returning pints of beer to a bartender. The elderly person sitting opposite needs a cushion to sit upright.
What I particularly like about this work is how Brooks lets her guard down and opens up a small window into her personal life, where the roles of caretaker and care-giver are subjected to an extreme stress-test as the artist re-lives puberty for a second time.
Mary Fedden, The Black Box, 2002. Oil on canvas. Photo: Author’s own
My grandparents, and subsequently my parents, were close friends with Mary Fedden and her husband, Julian Trevelyan. For my twenty first birthday my grandmother took me to Mary’s amazing studio on the Thames in Hammersmith to choose a painting I liked. I talked to Mary about the different things I loved about her paintings – the colours, the objects – and she suggested I came back in a month or so. When I returned, I found this painting waiting for me, which Mary had painted with me in mind after our chat. Of course I loved it immediately.
Bridget Riley, 1978. Image courtesy of Alexander James.
My wife, Nicky, first discovered Bridget Riley at FIAC a long time ago in Paris as an artist we both wanted to enjoy and collect, and we both knew instantly that this was an artist whose work we would be collecting for years to come.
Bridget Riley is an artist that continues to experiment with the possibilities of light and shadow, colour and form, and someone who established her own poignant style by rebelling against the institutional framework. Nicky fell in love instantly with her works and I loved the line and organised structure to the work.
This joie de vivre is reflected within her works that now hang on our very contemporary steel glass rustic wood and white kitchen walls. As a room with an overarching minimalist style, the Riley works we have collected over the years bring out a smile from both of us every morning, they breathe a colour in to our daily routines, (which are quite topsy turvey right now with the dreaded virus) and add a little more flavour and cheer to our morning coffee.
Roland Pym, Cromer, c. 1930s. Photo: Author’s own
In the early 1980’s my father bought a house in Cloth Fair, an old and narrow street on the edge of the City sandwiched between Smithfield Market and St Bartholomew’s Hospital. It was an old house in need of much attention but I was curious to see it before too much was changed. In the course of the work I visited the house and was met by a large skip in the street full of all the detritus one would expect to see during such a renovation, but on top of the rubble and rubbish sat a large and colourful painting, ‘Cromer’. I had no idea what the painting might be or by whom it had been painted but rather than let it be destroyed I asked my father if I might rescue it. He was more than happy for me to rid him of the problem.
It was an idealised, whimsical view of the beach at Cromer in Norfolk in the late nineteenth century but painted in the 1930’s by Roland Pym. Pym was a fashionable muralist and stage designer as well as being a prolific illustrator of books. He was commissioned by the Folio Society to illustrate their editions of the work of Nancy Mitford. The ‘Cromer’ was commissioned by the architect Paul Paget in the 1930’s for his father’s house in Cloth Fair. For many years the painting travelled with me hanging on walls in London, Paris and Geneva before I rented a house in north Norfolk not far from Cromer. Until that moment I knew nothing of Pym but a guest who came to lunch immediately recognised the work, for Roland Pym had had many friends in Norfolk and there are many fine houses in the county with large paintings and murals by him. The picture had in a sense come home! Sadly I moved from Norfolk and brought the painting with me and it now hangs in my house in Somerset. Perhaps in leaving Norfolk again it has embarked on another stage in its travels but I like to think that its home is wherever I am and I treasure the whimsical, if naïve charm of an idealised Cromer beach that has now become so much a part of my life.