Artist Q&A with Gareth Edwards
Gareth Edwards is a contemporary landscape painter. He is a graduate of Goldsmiths College, an elected RWA Academician, and is a long time resident of St Ives’ historic Porthmeor Studios, previously occupied by luminaries of British painting such as Patrick Heron and Ben Nicholson.He is a sessional tutor at the Newlyn School of Art and a prominent member of the Newlyn Society of Artists.
Who is your favorite artist of all time?
Cy Twombly and JWM Turner have both been hugely influential to my work, from decades ago to the present day. They are the lode stones of my practice and will continue to be so for the immediate future. I try to get to as many shows of their work as possible, to accompany my large but still growing book collection on both artists.
How did you become a professional artist?
On the day I graduated from my Art History degree, I set up an easel in my rented bedsit and bought the materials to start painting. I have never stopped painting. Fourteen years later the Hart Gallery, London, put my work into the London Art Fair and a really well-known fashion designer bought two pieces. I went on to have ten one-person shows with Hart Gallery over the next fourteen years, until the owners retired.
What are the influences and inspirations in your work?
They are inspired by ‘Emotional Weather’ – the paintings are poetical and mysteriously evanescent. They are abstracted landscapes with a cool and subtle palette built to seduce the viewer into a half-remembered space of subtlety engineered light, the light of hope. Each painting is a poem in paint, a poem of light, space, landscape and mystery. My studio is set on the beach at St. Ives in the West of Cornwall here in the UK, many miles from London. It is surrounded by huge skies of soft grey light, and by dark basalt cliffs. The area has a significant history of Modernist artists working here: Mark Rothko, for example, came to St. Ives to share a pint of beer with Patrick Heron – there are photos! My studio, in fact, was once Patrick Heron’s and also Ben Nicholson’s back in 1940s and 50s
When is a piece finished for you?
I’m tempted to say it is finished when my gallerist drags the work out of my clawing hands! Even a final catalogue photo won’t stop me tinkering with a piece if it is in the studio. The more thoughtful answer though, is that you enter into a contract with the painting at the very beginning: your intentions are in continual negotiation with the painting’s demands. During the progress of painting I try to bring these two forces together, ever closer: the painting’s demands can quickly change, and you have to be continually alive to those signposts and to activate the reset button. Eventually some compromise will be made. Often my intentions for the painting have been turned upside down and are now in perfect alignment with the painting’s intentions. You rest the painting. Slow down. Then paint with your eyes, looking and looking.
How is your work different than everything else out there?
My work is essentially abstracted landscape painting and as such it is meaningless, though not without significance. It requires no theoretical code breaking, just a certain level of emotional intelligence in order enjoy it. To that extent my work is different to much of the conceptual work out there, the sort that requires a certain amount of reading. You just need feelings for my work. It is also not work that sits alongside the traditional observational illustrations of landscape, so my work occupies a middle ground that is almost overlooked in the mainstream art world. My work embraces the poetic, the beautiful and the emotional weathers of life.
What is different about your current body of work from previous work?
My new collections of work, Fallen from Heaven and The Ascension Paintings, differ in that they enjoy a richer palette than previous work, and carry more emotional heft. I have really exploited green as a central colour motif, a colour almost banned from contemporary art until Cy Twombly used it in some of his later paintings, which Tate Gallery Director Nicolas Serota felt moved to defend as green was, at the time, seen as so wretched. Yes, green is ‘cool’.
Tell us about a few of your career highlights or moments that greatly affected your career?
Every one-person show in London is a highlight, but of course the early ones stand out as real high points. My first two shows with Hart Gallery were complete sell outs, which was very exciting for my little family and I at the time. When Jill George (my friend and current UK dealer) walked into my St. Ives studio seven years ago and introduced herself, that was a pretty big highlight. Key highlights too are winning career prizes along the way, and being elected as an RWA – a Royal West of England Academician – and meeting the Queen in her role as Patron.
What’s coming up for you?
The 2021 London Art Fair (online now) is imminent, so we’ve been busy making films and taking photos in the studio for that exhibition. My Ascension Paintings exhibition is coming up this year in St Ives, which will be made up of four large, square paintings influenced by Meredith Monks’ Ascension Songs, followed by a small show of works on paper called The Romantics. After that I will be exhibiting at the Toronto Art Fair, which will hopefully be a live event in October.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting out today?
My strongest piece of advice is this: turn up!
Who are some of your favorite under-appreciated artists that you don’t think get enough attention?
Ged Quinn is one of my favourite artists, and although very successful in London he has yet to achieve wider acclaim. His work is intelligent, beautiful, mysterious and full of human understanding. Bonnard always loses out to Matisse in terms of public appreciation, but to me he is the richer, more sensuously accomplished painter who loved both interiors and exteriors. His garden paintings are particularly beautiful.
To learn more about Gareth and see his work, please visit www.GarethEdwardsartist.co.uk