The Porthmeor Programme, offers developing artists of any age the chance to study with some of Cornwall’s leading professional artists, in an inspirational location. It is also an opportunity for students to form a socially bonded, mutually supportive group, in a setting that is rich in visual stimulation, and the history of British art.
How would you describe your art practice?
Purposeful, honest and frequently all consuming.
What does your daily routine look like?
The awful teenagers leave at 8.30am and I work until 3pm most days. I also work for a few hours in the evening, normally killing anything good that I have done in the day. I don’t have a routine as such, I just get lost in the work most days. If I stumble, I watch one of my little films and I’m off again…..
What do you enjoy doing outside of your art? How does that feed into your practice?
I am a primary carer for my disabled son Tom so I am either caring or creating. Both feed into each other. I need the high of creating to counteract some of the low of caring. Similarily, a lot of the caring involves quiet contemplative moments where I think about creating. I can’t remember what I used to do before, but it couldn’t have been important.
Who inspires you as an artist?
There are so many…. Sandra Blow for her absolute commitment, Danny Fox for his story telling, Peter Lanyon for his love of paint and finally but fundamentally, Liz Hough and Ilker Cinarel who showed me how to add purpose, meaning and substance to my work and ultimately, changed my life as well as my practice.
Have you always been interested in art, or was it something you came to later in life?
I started life drawing 10 years ago, simply to find a room where I didn’t have to talk about being a parent of a disabled child. I only started creating at this level once I had filled in my application for the PP2018 programme. I thought I wouldn’t be chosen and decided that I needed to teach myself how to paint, I think it was my way of preparing for the disappointment. But as luck would have it……
What did you do before the Porthmeor Programme?
Caring for Tom and his brother and sister took up much of my time with ad hoc accountancy work and finally, the odd art class whenever I could fit it in. I had to give up my job when I had Tom which was miserable, as I was very career driven. This work ethic and stamina has filtered into my creating work and I now feel alive again.
What drew you to the programme?
It wasn’t done lightly. I knew if I was successful that it would involve paying for carers, relying on family, etc… etc…. there were so many reasons not to do it but I was desperate for guidance and to meet other artists that were like me.
What would you say has changed for you since the programme?
Everything. I no longer want to produce meaningless, pretty work. The medium also doesn’t matter to me anymore. I am showing you my life whether that is in paint, film, print, etc….. I am a fairly private person so am stunned when the abstracted shapes of a painting (after many layers), let you in.
What is your favourite memory of the programme?
I have painted my favourite memory in ‘Don’t open the window, Pat’. My fellow artist friend Pat would regularly hoist up the sash window in the back studio facing onto Porthmeor Beach. The resulting Atlantic gale would blow in and everything we were working on would take off, it was very funny – every time.
What advice would you give someone wondering whether to apply for the programme?
‘If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’. If you are lucky enough to get the opportunity, then show your gratitude in your level of commitment. Above all, remain open minded.
What artistic achievement are you most proud of?
My care series which is a set of films and installations about my relationship with Tom and caring. I didn’t realise that I was carrying these around in my head. They have given me great pleasure in their creation and I use the resulting shapes and forms in my paintings. The films have also given my family and friends a glimpse of Tom and I that I wouldn’t have shown otherwise, this has unexpectedly led to a strengthening of my personal relationships.
Are you a full-time artist these days?
Yes, there isn’t time for anything else. And we regularly run out of milk in my house.
How has your studio space evolved since being on the Porthmeor Programme?
I didn’t have a space prior to the programme. Now, I have a studio next door to where I live for the daytime. At night, I work in the spare room next to Tom’s room, so I can also help him if he needs it. He is regularly covered in blue paint.
Have you taken any more courses since the Porthmeor Programme?
No, I only want to work on my own ideas at the moment but I still go to life drawing most weeks. I also try and get to St Ives every few months to film and sketch. It is my place of respite and where I am at my most creative, with no distractions and demands from my life.
Can you tell us a little more about your upcoming show at the Penwith Gallery?
I will be showing work from my series ‘Spinning on Porthmeor’ which refers to a hand made spinning toy that we make for Tom, who enjoys autistic spinning. I have made representative structures of a spinner and filmed them on Porthmeor beach and will be exhibiting some of the resulting paintings, collage and film. The work helped me recognise that for Tom the spinning is also a form of communication with me, so it is personally very special and I hope to convey that in the work.
What does the future hold for your art?
I am fairly ‘all or nothing’ in my life. I hope to continue in ‘all’ for the remainder of it.
The influence of the history and the setting
“I have been very conscious of the history of the school throughout my course,” says Porthmeor Programme student Jacqui Porter, “and the great artists who went before me – the fact that they too were once students, who struggled, who developed their work, and found inspiration from each other as they studied.”
Fellow student Sandra Hoeft agrees: “Knowing that great artists painted here certainly contributes to the special atmosphere of the place.” The history of the school is not the only influence on her work, however: “It is always such a thrill to be in St Ives. “The town, the coast and countryside are inspirational. It is impossible not to be creative when surrounded by such beauty.”