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Interviewed by Susannah Finzi.

The elemental, the bare bones, the geological view are often a source of inspiration to abstract painters, perhaps because they are seeking the essentials and making something of them that is simple.

I want people who look at my paintings to be uplifted, to be puzzled, to consider - above all - to respond. I’m showing them a way of viewing landscape that is unfamiliar. Landscape not as the view but as the very essence of what the land is; landscape where there is no sign of humankind, and also landscape where man has left a mark. Mankind tinkers with the surface of the earth, and as a result it is changed.

I’m interested in vestiges, traces, layers. Archeologists, geologists and their kind work with what lies beneath what we normally see. Spring and summer put a decorative frill on the surface and in the winter we become aware of the bones. I paint these things because I believe they matter.

Most of my work begins with images of the area around Stroud where I walk and ride. My starting point is often a landscape seen from above - a cartographic view. My sketches and photos provide the raw material and I develop the idea in my head before I do any work on the painting. Painting for me is a physical event, not a cerebral event.

In the studio I work on the floor or standing at a table and work from directly above the surface that I’m making, just as I saw it in the first place. At present I work in oil pastels - drawing in, scraping back, making edges. With water-based paint, I pour, splat and spread. I’m a manual worker, and the physicality of it is important.

My creative life began with textiles, weaving, felt-making and stitch, and this mixed media approach, and the attention to layers, is still central to the development of my ideas.

I’m capturing a moment in time and then overlaying it with another moment, like film negatives overlayed upon each other or geological maps. Sometimes I photocopy what I’ve done in black and white and then paint on it again.

I started writing on my paintings - titles, phrases, lines of poetry. My final marks are usually pencil marks, and although I’m right-handed, I make them using both hands. When it’s finished it’s balanced, visually pleasurable, saying what I want it to say and ready to provoke a response in others.

Abstract painting doesn’t hand over its meaning immediately or easily. It demands that viewers take time, consider, allow their imagination to run. The performing arts generally engage the viewer for the length of time the work takes - no more and no less. Part of the problem of viewer engagement with any particular painting is that there is no fixed time frame for looking at it. As a consequence some of what can be seen within it is often missed because the painting is not explored and exploration, especially within the mind, can never be hurried.

When someone buys a painting, they are buying the possibility to spend time with it. They value their own experience of being in its presence. They want more of it so they want to own it and it is all about the viewer’s personal experience.

CV

Penny has taught painting and textiles in the Stroud area for many years, working for ACET, WEA and Artshape who are an arts access provider for disadvantaged community groups.

As a member of the Stroudwater Textile Trust, she assisted in the delivery of their programme to bring hands on textiles into schools and was joint founder of The Stroudwater Textile Festival which has now become an international event.

At the same time as producing her own work and exhibiting, Penny completed a number of public commissions and community projects.

In 2005 she graduated from Bath Spa University with a degree in Fine Art Painting and now works from a studio in Stroud Valley Artspace.

Penny is also a member of the Gloucestershire Printmaking

Co operative and Parkbench, an artists’ collective.

 

QUALIFICATIONS

2005 B A Hons Fine Art Painting, Bath Spa University

1989 FAETC Part 1 Stroud College of Further Education

 

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

2008 Gloucestershire Printmaking Co operative Show, Stroud.

2006 The Pump Rooms, Cheltenham.

2006 Solo exhibition at Star Anise Café Stroud as part of Site 06.

2005 Graduate Show at Truman’s Brewery, Brick Lane, London.

2005 Graduate Show Bath Spa University.

2002 Stroud House Gallery, Stroud.

 

SELECTED PROJECTS AND COMMISSIONS

2008 Banners and Flags for Stroudwater Textile Festival.

2000 Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery -children’s panorama drawing workshop.

1998-99 Kingshill House, Dursley - A community project producing a wallhanging for the newly renovated Kingshill House Arts Centre.

1998 Joint Commission from the NHS and Cheltenham Hospital to make celebratory textile piece commemorating 150 years of Cheltenham Hospital and 50 years of the NHS.

1997-8 Kingswood School Wallhanging Project

Project jointly funded by ACET and STT to produce a wallhanging for the new school hall, made by pupils, staff and parents.

1996 Cathedral View Respite Care Centre

Large interactive wallhanging for foyer.

1994 Stroud 400 Community Textile Project

Large Banners for Stroud Market Hall.

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