Colour burst

For Hove-based artist Kirsty Wither the im­por­tance of colour in in­flu­enc­ing how we feel can­not be over­stated. Si­mone Hel­lyer meets the artist at the gallery she set up with her hus­band to find out more

Sussex Life - - Front Page - By Kirsty

With win­ter set­ting in and the days get­ting greyer a burst of colour is al­ways a wel­come sight. Hove­based pain­ter Kirsty Wither’s paint­ings pro­vide just that.

Her vi­brant still life, flower and land­scape paint­ings have earned her 37 solo ex­hi­bi­tions and led her to be de­scribed as one of the UK’S most suc­cess­ful fe­male painters.

For Kirsty colour is her most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion, with the sub­ject mat­ter of­ten pay­ing sec­ond fid­dle: “My paint­ings are mostly about colour, tex­ture and the paint it­self. The sub­ject mat­ter is of­ten sec­ondary be­cause they’re re­ally about a mem­ory of a thing. So I don’t ever paint with a bunch of flow­ers in front of me or sit on a hill and sketch the land­scape or any­thing like that – they’re all com­ing from my imag­i­na­tion, mem­ory and things that res­onate in terms of colour or shape.”

Orig­i­nally from Scot­land, Kirsty trained at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. Her Scot­tish roots have pro­vided the in­spi­ra­tion for her love of colour.

“There’s a bit of a Scot­tish colourist tra­di­tion in there, which lots of peo­ple have com­mented on,” she says.

“I sup­pose be­cause of all the grey days in Scot­land it is nat­u­ral to pray for colour and sum­mer.

“I al­ways want my pic­tures to be uplift­ing as well – I think that’s some­thing that’s re­ally im­por­tant to me. We all have enough worry in our lives and gloomy things to think about. But I don’t think that makes my paint­ings facile or shal­low. I just think that for me it’s im­por­tant to wake up and look at some­thing pos­i­tive in my day. I’d like that to be re­flected in the work that I do,” she adds.

Af­ter a brief dab­ble with wa­ter­based paints, Kirsty now works in oils as she prefers the in­ten­sity of colour, mal­leabil­ity and sta­bil­ity of the ma­te­rial.

When start­ing a new paint­ing she first cov­ers the can­vas in a mid-tone colour, de­pend­ing on whether she feels the paint­ing will be warm or cool, as she ex­plains: “If you’re paint­ing di­rectly onto white can­vas I find you can’t go any lighter, the same way you can’t go any darker if you’re paint­ing onto a black can­vas. So, some­where in the mid-tones you can al­ways pull things out and push things back.

“And then as I work on it and as the days go by and the paint slightly dries, I keep adding to it,” she says. “That’s when all the lay­ers de­velop and you start to see all the dif­fer­ent colours com­ing through. I think this tech­nique makes your eyes dance around the sur­face a bit more.”

Kirsty comes from a cre­ative fam­ily, her mother was a ce­ram­i­cist and the fam­ily of­ten made their own toys and clothes. Her hus­band is also from the art world – the two met while work­ing in an art gallery in Glas­gow and to­gether they set up the Cameron Con­tem­po­rary Art gallery in Sec­ond Av­enue, Hove five years ago.

Cameron Con­tem­po­rary Art shows a chang­ing pro­gramme of es­tab­lished and up and com­ing Bri­tish artists, rang­ing from tra­di­tional to mod­ern, fig­u­ra­tive to ab­stract.

The duo also ex­hibits at UK art fairs and have just re­turned from ex­hibit­ing for the first time in New York.

The cou­ple has dealt art for many years and Kirsty says that de­vel­op­ing a per­ma­nent base for those en­deav­ours has been re­ally use­ful: “Hav­ing a per­ma­nent space is re­ally help­ful be­cause it means you can hold on to work by artists af­ter their ex­hi­bi­tions are over be­cause of­ten peo­ple will come back a cou­ple of months later and want to buy some­thing.”

De­spite the flour­ish­ing cre­ative scene in Brighton and Hove, Kirsty be­lieves that there is a dis­tinct lack of gal­leries in the area – one of the other rea­sons they opened Cameron Con­tem­po­rary Art. “Gen­er­ally a lot of cre­ative peo­ple move down here be­cause it’s a great place to be an artist, but there just aren’t that many gal­leries around,” she says.

The gallery has been a use­ful side project be­cause it al­lows her to learn more about the peo­ple that buy her art and un­der­stand what peo­ple want to dis­play in their homes. It’s some­thing that artists don’t al­ways get to ex­pe­ri­ence when they’re locked away in the stu­dio.

This is also one of the ben­e­fits of the Artist Open Houses (AOH) fes­ti­val, which Kirsty will be par­tic­i­pat­ing in at the gallery.

“It’s quite a nice ex­po­sure,” she says. “Peo­ple see artist’s stu­dios or a new gallery that they wouldn’t nor­mally go to. The foot­fall is also re­ally high too be­cause peo­ple come from all over.”

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