Beside The Wave
Ahead of Alan Stratford's new show at Beside the Wave Gallery, we put some questions to this exceptional artist regarding this recent body of work...
Now that you've been living back in Cornwall for almost two years, do you notice a change in the way you approach making paintings? Where are some of your favourite hidden treasures in Cornwall?
Being in Cornwall has allowed me to paint full time which as a result means I spend more time in the outdoors chasing that inspiration; having said that, it has also been a huge learning curve becoming a full time painter. The level of output obviously increases but with this increase I have had to come to terms with learning to fail, not every painting is a masterpiece and never can be. In order to develop my skills and move forward, I have to try new things-different techniques, painterly styles, materials... this is why the latest work shows my exploration of using textured paste and paint thinners.
I spend a lot of time on both coasts in Cornwall, but I am still relatively new to the area and yet to find my truly special places. However much of my latest work takes inspiration from the North Coast where the Atlantic is rougher and more dramatic- Holywell Bay, Crantock Bay and Poly Joke Beach are just some of my favourite places. Oh and I love Bodmin Moor! It's so intense and filled with drama and the skies are simply fantastic!
Compositionally, is this series of works progressing in a new trajectory? In the studio, how does this collection of works sit with you in relation to older work?
My work is ever ongoing with a drive towards developing where one painting will lead onto another, whether linked by subject matter, colours, moods, texture or technique. I do move on frequently as to ensure I am fully engaged in my making however there is one recurring theme-big moody skies! I don't think I have ever painted a clear sunny day. My newest trajectory i suppose would have to be my fascination with texture to create a further dimension to otherwise a flat plane. This experimentation leads to happy accidents which I embrace and learn from; taking forward that which works and leaving behind that which doesn't.
In terms of colour palette, is this something taken purely from fleeting moments in landscape, or instead is it a culmination- a bank of memories collected almost like a catalogue that you can then make work from?
I tend to use quite muted tones for most of my work and then accent this with splashes of colour that draw in the eye. Not always based on reality, my colours tend to vary especially in the skies with tonal ranges of grey and blue which are taken from nature initially but enhanced with artistic effect.
In terms of process, what does making a painting look like for you from start to finish? Is it done in bite size chunks whilst working on multiple canvases maybe informing one another or just simply one at a time? Do you make preparatory i.e photographs or drawings and then work from them or is it more intuitive i.e working from memory?
Most of my work begins with an idea or a mood or a feeling that I would like to convey, usually based on inspiration from being somewhere specific or seeing something specific. I take a lot of photographs which I use as a reference, but desperately try to avoid copying-that isn't the incentive behind my work, it is a painting not just a 'picture' of something which lacks any of the artist hand in it.
I try to work on three or four paintings at a time which differ slightly in terms of development. Sometimes I have a clear vision of what I want the piece to end up as and other times I have no idea and it is, to some extent, a journey.
Titles, is language important to you? Does it affect how you start the works or are they named retrospectively? Do you think they help nudge the viewer into comprehending the work the way you want them to or is it more open for interpretation?
Titles are very important to me whether created initially or retrospectively. They arise from a thought or feeling experienced in landscape but I don't follow any hard or fast rules. I like to give my work titles that make people think or maybe really, feel. Although my reasoning is not always obvious, they are both open to interpretation and explicitly personal.
Beside The Wave
Open Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 5:00pm | Sunday 11:00am - 4:00pm | Bank Holidays 11:00am - 4:00pm