Art on show in Brighton and Hove & East and West Sussex
Interview: Sussex Artbeat spoke with Patsy McArthur at the opening of her group exhibition at Hove’s Naked Eye Gallery on 1 May 2015. Classic artist’s skills underpin the lovely show by Ian Hodgson, Lesley Jones and Patsy McArthur. The show will continue for the duration of the Brighton Festival. By Russell Honeyman.
Patsy McArthur showed glimpses of the new underwater paintings she is working on in her Brighton studio. The paintings are wonderful studies in complementary and harmonic colour relationships. Cool greens, turquoise and yellow are set against a vibrant red. Patsy’s skill at drawing in charcoal gives a strong tonal base to these celebrations of colour. The evidence of her tonal studies is on show here, with watercolour, charcoal and pastel studies on sale.
The form and composition in these paintings lends a fresh feel to the solid foundation in tone and colour. Photography is central to Patsy’s process, giving the paintings a modern air of spontaneity, an un-posed, off-guard feel. Patsy photographs “people I stumble upon, of average build. But I always know exactly what I’m looking for before I go down (underwater).” Her last photo expedition, to Australia used ten locations, and she reckons she got enough source material to last her a year. “I think I would like to show the photos alongside the paintings, so people can see how far I go with them.”
The painting is figurative in style – the painter’s marks are much in evidence, and the luxuriant qualities of paint are exploited. I was particularly taken with “Apparition I”, where a male figure reaches out to the viewer. While the paintings are for me a joyous thing, Patsy says: “for some people, clothed people in water bring up thoughts of drowning. It doesn’t mean that to me, but when I was doing my master’s there was darkness in my work, which came from the time I was spending in clubbing culture.”
“I’ve always worked with the figure, it’s all I did at college. Everyone was experimenting with paint as a material, how it drips and so on”, says Patsy. “I was drawing the figure charcoal and selling my drawings in galleries. I’m from Scotland and art history is different there. We have a great history of figure painting, with the new Glasgow boys, Ken Currie, Steven Campbell and the like.”
I ask Patsy about the vibrant quality of her painting. “I’ve only really started showing my paintings in the last three or four years,” Patsy says. However, she reveals to me that she paints a ground of “Golden” brand acrylic – viridian, or pthalo blue – “you get a glow coming through, you can wipe back to that”.
Patsy has been making a living from her charcoal drawings since she was living in Spain in the early 2000’s. She worked as a gallery assistant in a Scottish commercial gallery (“anything to avoid working in a call centre”), and says this experience taught her not to be frightened of galleries. She is represented by several galleries in the UK, and is working toward a solo show in October at London’s Coningsby Gallery.