Chris in his studioChris in his studio

I began painting and drawing as a child, and it has always been my primary interest and pursuit. Since 1986 it has also been my full time occupation. I have lived on St Marys in the Isles of Scilly since 1980 - enjoying the simpler lifestyle as much as the landscape - and the elemental aspects of the environment have undoubtedly shaped my work.

At sixteen I went to Leeds College of Art and completed my pre diploma year, but having been guided towards commercial graphics rather than fine art, decided not to continue. A friend introduced me to the Isles of Scilly as a summer worker, and the next decade was spent mostly travelling as an itinerant worker between Scilly and Europe. I adopted watercolour as my medium, often financing my travels from the sale of my work.
At the end of the seventies I was back in Leeds, working as a gardener and attending art classes through the Workers Educational Association. Here I pursued painterly, semi abstract landscapes and life studies under the guidance of tutors from the College of Art.
In 1980 I returned permanently to Scilly, and by 1986 had established a studio/gallery on St Marys. As the business became more solid strangely enough so did my technique, from a relatively free approach, the painting became more structured and exact, details kept drawing me in. In 1996, I expanded the premises, gaining a large separate studio workshop, and the new space physically freed me to explore new media. I had produced some greeting cards from pastels and now enjoyed working in pastel on larger pieces. For the next few years I concentrated solely on pastel work, mainly on the shoreline and its tidal aspects. These paintings became softer in colour, often with overcast, squally skies.
Ultimately I felt I had explored as far as I could and have not lately worked in pastel. Recent seascapes in acrylic have shown the wilder energy and movement of the sea; or have captured the shoreline under changing skies.

In October 2015 I closed my own gallery in order to slow down a little, and have more freedom to go out to draw and paint in the landscape.

At the age of 16 during my first year at Art College I was fascinated by what is termed 'abstract art'. I couldn't pretend I understood it but felt an actual physical thrill when looking at these paintings, especially the work of the abstract expressionists. Researching these artists and the ideas that led them to such painting I came across Zen Buddhism, a major influence in American painting and poetry in the 1950s and 60s.
Zen and abstract expressionism have been an ongoing concern of mine for the 40 years since. Alongside my figurative work I have always painted abstracts, not showing the work in the gallery for many years as I believed that visitors to the islands are drawn to the place, and abstracts by their very nature are not place specific. With my declining involvement with the pastels this long held interest came to the fore, and during the winter of 2005 to 2006 I decided to concentrate on this form of painting exclusively, to see if and how I could develop what feels to me to be the most honest approach to my craft.

Work in progressWork in progress

Concentrating on abstract work allowed me to re-engage completely with the processes and possibilities of paint. My recent work is not only a response to the landscape but also to the language of painting. Sometimes I approach each new work with no subject in mind. I find it in the painting as it evolves, using various means to apply the paint - rags, knives, cardboard, brushes and fingers. I like acrylic for its fast drying quality to keep my involvement with the painting unbroken.
In figurative depictions of a location, more attention goes into making the mark exciting rather than descriptive. But whichever approach, the challenge is to find a presence - figurative or not - where the painting has a life in itself, beyond the suggestion of the title.