Artist Suki Wapshott has devoted her career to making works inspired by Cornwall’s beautiful north coast, where she lives and works.
Throughout November, Suki Wapshott will exhibit her latest collection of work at Whitewater Contemporary, the beachfront gallery she owns and runs with her photographer husband Nick. Comprised of more than 25 works, including seascapes and abstract paintings, the show represents the most recent progression of Suki’s work, which is known for its deep, emotive colour and highly prized by those with a love of Polzeath and the dramatic north coast.
As a small child, Suki’s passion for colour was evident in the embroidery silks she would request at Christmas, and the array of multi-coloured, velvety brow bands she used to adorn her pony’s bridle. “I still love colour: pure paint from the tube, worked into the canvas, is a glorious thing,” she says. “Sometimes the thrill of it stops me working for a moment.”
To create depth, or what she calls “a sort of illusory third dimension to a work”, Suki works the surface of her paintings with a brush, cloth or palette knife in order to let layers of colour filter back through to the final layer of paint, resulting in the shimmering surface hues that are so distinctive to her work. “I am a bit of an obsessive about palette knives” she says, expressing the typical zeal that artists feel for the tools and materials that facilitate their creativity in the studio. “My favourite is the diamond blade Blue Acorn 11.”
Her preferred surface is primed linen canvas, sometimes medium texture, sometimes fine, each of which in their way support the creation of those shimmering speckles of colour as Suki skims her palette knife across the surface. “I have canvasses stretched for me in St Just,” says Suki, “and I use a mixture of Michael Harding oil and Old Holland.
“Because my work is so influenced by the landscape, my favourite colours change with the seasons. If I had to pick the most expressive and beautiful colours though, it would be Michael Harding’s King’s Blue Light, Titanium Buff, Old Holland Warm Grey and Blue Grey. I use them all the time in my work.”
After walking the coast each morning for inspiration, in the company of her two devoted deerhounds, Suki lets her instincts and the simple process of painting lead the way back at the easel. “When I’m painting seascapes,” she explains, “I decide on my base colours then cover the canvas using thinned oil paint, working and blending colour into the surface with cloths, almost always with the line of the horizon in mind, and I let the image emerge.
“With my abstract work, the palette will be much less restricted and I will choose colours as I blend, often with paint straight from the tube, and let the marks and colours suggest shape and form.”
When asked for her favourite view of the North Coast, she replies simply: “Polzeath, and its beautiful surroundings. What I love more than anything, though, is the wet sand left by a receding tide, the way it captures and reflects light and colour in a million ways.”
Is it hard to let a work go, once she has poured all her passion into it and declared it finished? “I take huge pleasure from people liking and buying my work,” says Suki, “but I admit there has been the odd painting that was really hard to let go of. They were generally my more ‘idiosyncratic’ pieces, and what good is an artwork if the artist doesn’t love and believe in it? That’s where the authenticity comes from in all forms of art.”
See Suki’s work from November 1 to 29 as part of the gallery’s year-round Featured Artist series of exhibitions, at Whitewater Contemporary, The Parade, Polzeath, PL27 6SR. www.whitewatercontemporary.co.uk