Vanessa Bowman Welcoming nature indoors
Vanessa Bowman graduated from Winchester School of Art in 1993 with a First Class Honours degree in Printed Textile Design. During her time there she won the Eileen Bendall and the Sanderson prizes for drawing, and the Daler Rowney Young Artist award – for pastels exhibited in the Mall Galleries – two years running.
Each of Vanessa’s still lifes observes the simple beauty of everyday objects – a moment captured in time. A vase of garden flowers, a bowl of lemons (their acid yellow placed against the deep magenta plum), a striped shell – each is placed deliberately within the framework of the painting combining muted subtle colour with jewel-like accents.
Vanessa kindly answered some questions for Fishink Blog.
Can you tell me what inspires you to paint and who would you place amongst the artists who’s work inspires you or that you most admire ?
My inspiration to paint comes from all sorts of sources:- walking through the countryside where I live, hedgerows, my garden and plants that I grow, exhibitions, magazines – particularly for colour and pattern. Pinterest- to look at other artists work.
My inspiration for objects comes from pottering round markets looking for 1950’s style objects which often have a pleasing shape, form or patterning. Artists that influence are colourists such as Anne Redpath, Mary Fedden, Rothko, also Elizabeth Blackadder, Winifred Nicholson and Italian Renaissance painters such as Piero della Francesca, Fra Angelico, Giotto. I also like the Bloomsbury group of painters, in particular Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.
I love the way that familiar pots, cups and tablecloth patterns reappear in your work. Is there a reason behind this or just that you never tire of their shapes and surfaces ?
Familiarity of objects – they fit into the framework of a painting like each piece of a jigsaw. The spacial relationships of the objects that I choose are really important to the overall painting, and I often return to familiar shapes and motifs which fit the scheme.
There seems to be a real history in paintings (dating back to the Egyptians) where the pots or containers are depicted as flattened. Can you tell me how you came to paint in this way ?
The style of paintings of the Italian Renaissance such as Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico have always fascinated me in their naive modernity. The tilted perspective that I use in my work comes partly from a fresco at Assisi where the table tilts towards the viewer and the shapes of the vessels and plates are flattened and simplified with a resulting simplicity that immediately appealed to my sense of pattern and arrangement.
Do you have any desires to paint in different styles, themes or mediums ? (Seascapes etc) How difficult is it for an artist such as yourself to not feel too trapped into an area or style of painting because that is perhaps what their audience expects or anticipates ?
Sometimes I feel that I would like to develop my work into other areas and styles and to look at a different approach to painting.I would love to explore a path of pure abstraction and to develop responses to pure colour with a freer ,more painterly approach. It is difficult to break free from an established style which followers of your work, as well as commercial galleries, have come to expect from you as an artist. It is difficult to breakout of the constraints of your own style whilst continuing to please both galleries and customers alike.
How much time do you devote to sketchbooks ? Do you use sketchbooks to work out the composition of your paintings ?
I use sketchbooks to develop ideas and to work out compositions and think on paper. It is useful too to refer back to previous work and to see paintings that have worked. I feel that drawing is the backbone of all work.
Vanessa’s landscapes observe the pattern and texture of the countryside around her home. She paints features left by the working of the land, punctuated by seasonal land marks – such as skeletons of trees in winter or hedgerow flowers in summer. Detailed foregrounds of vibrantly coloured berries or hips, delicate snowdrops or cow parsley lead the eye into an intimate portrait of the Dorset landscape.
Do you have any preference for painting still life over landscapes or do you vary it depending on the time of year or when you feel like a change of subject ?
I enjoy equally painting landscape and still life, each presenting different challenges. I often paint a landscape to have a change of scene from my still life painting, which I mostly paint. I am drawn to the same things in a landscape, with areas of semi- abstraction in the painting in say a hillside, alongside detail of the flowers in the hedgerow in the foreground. In winter there is the sparseness of the landscape with its skeleton trees alongside dashes of colour in berries and hips. I enjoy painting this when in the garden there are few flowers or plants to draw inspiration from.
When you’re painting landscapes do you prefer to work from the real thing, photographs, sketches, memory or perhaps the imagination ? How important is it to you that your landscape is a real scene ?
When painting landscape I work into a sketchbook, sometimes from a photograph, but interpreting also from memory in order to pare down an image and get more of a sense of place or season, rather than a realistic representation.
Where do you see your paintings going in the future ?
In the future I would like to develop more abstract work and explore the possibilities of oil paint further. At art school I painted in quite an expressive, painterly style and I would like to get explore that again- to look at the joy of simple colour, mark-making and texture.
Beautiful explosions of the countryside here, I love the feeling of nature spilling out of the frame into the room. Many thanks for your time and thoughts about your work Vanessa. I look forward to see which country lane you work may lead you to next !