Home com­forts

Scot­tish painter Les­ley Banks tells Jan Pa­tience that she draws her great­est in­spi­ra­tion from what’s around her

The Herald - Arts - - Arts -

Be­hind most suc­cess­ful artists is an in­spi­ra­tional fig­ure and for Les­ley Banks, who grew up in the Stir­ling­shire town of Denny, it was her art teacher, Jimmy Dunn – a man she de­scribes as “a won­der­ful artist”.

“He ran one of the best art de­part­ments in Scot­land at Denny High School,” she says. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be paint­ing for a liv­ing to­day, al­though I’d wanted to be an artist for as long as I can re­mem­ber. He’s re­tired now. I re­ceived an ex­quis­ite hand-drawn Christ­mas card from him just a cou­ple of weeks ago. If I could draw and paint as well as he does, I would be very happy in­deed.”

Banks, 44, a grad­u­ate of Glas­gow School of Art, is well known for her in­te­ri­ors and fig­u­ra­tive work – par­tic­u­larly a se­ries of paint­ings of Glas­gow’s Ar­ling­ton Baths Club that she started back in 1992 and to which she re­turned 10 years later. Her bold use of colour and broad brush­work re­calls the im­me­di­acy of im­pres- sion­ism and her choice of sub­ject mat­ter is al­ways close to home.

Her many ad­mir­ers in­clude Travis front­man Fran Healy and art col­lec­tor Baroness Helena Kennedy, who chose Banks, along with fel­low Scot­tish painters He­len Flockhart, Peter Thom­son and James Tweedie, to rep­re­sent her favourite artists in the pres­ti­gious Dis­cern­ing Eye ex­hi­bi­tion in Lon­don. In­clu­sion in that show has reignited in­ter­est in Banks’s work in the cap­i­tal and she is now work­ing to­wards a show in Lon­don’s Thompson’s Gallery in March next year.

Most re­cently, home – or to be pre­cise, her for­mer home – has been an in­spi­ra­tion. Her latest paint­ings de­pict the home life of Rachel and Joseph, a young cou­ple who cur­rently live in the flat that Banks shared with her ex-hus­band and young son in West Princes Street, Glas­gow in the early 1990s. A small ex­hi­bi­tion of th­ese paint­ings went on show at Cyril Ger­ber Fine Art Gallery in Glas­gow last month.

“For the past year I have been slowly get­ting back into paint­ing af­ter a break when I had my two younger sons,” she ex­plains. “I went to Italy this sum­mer and did some land­scapes of Tus­cany in a place called San Gimignano, which I have painted in the past. It was a good way of get­ting back into putting paint onto can­vas and dip­ping my toe in the wa­ter again.”

The in­spi­ra­tion for her Home paint­ings came from lis­ten­ing to the nov­el­ist Julie My­er­son be­ing in­ter­viewed on BBC Ra­dio 4’s Women’s Hour. “I was breast­feed­ing my youngest son,” she ex­plains, “and I hap­pened to hear Julie My­er­son talk­ing about her latest book, called Home. In it, she tells the story of how she delved into the past life of the house she shares in Lon­don with her fam­ily.

“I thought it would be re­ally in­ter­est­ing to go back to places where I lived in the past and paint the cur­rent res­i­dents. It tied in with my habit of al­ways paint­ing things that are around me.

“Re­vis­it­ing the flat was quite an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. I con­tacted Julie about the fact I was bas­ing the paint­ings on this idea and she made the in­ter­est­ing com­ment that the past is “more slip­pery” than the present.

“Paint­ing what’s around me is sec­ond na­ture. I go to San Gimignano and I paint, my friends come round to the house and I paint them, I’m a mem­ber of the Ar­ling­ton Baths Club, so I paint that.”

Banks’s work is in many pub­lic col­lec­tions, in­clud­ing Aberdeen Art Gallery, BBC Scot­land and the­Gallery of­Mod­ern Art in Glas­gow as well as be­ing in many private col­lec­tions world­wide. For more in­for­ma­tion about Les­ley Banks and to­buy her paint­ings, visit www.scot­landart.com

Alexan­der’s Dark Band, one of Banks’s paint­ings in­spired by Julie My­er­son

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