This week Brighton Journal spoke to Abigail Bowen, a local abstract artist. Inspired by Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Abigail describes her painting as an exploration of the ‘edge of the rainbow’, a space just beyond reality ‘where all beauty, magic and art exists.’ She has recently finished her new collection, which will be exhibited at The Hicks Gallery in London later this month. Abigail is currently working on a collection for the Artists Open Houses in May. We discussed Abigail’s local art trail, 7Dials Art, as well as her love of Literature and oil paint. Keep reading to find out more about Abigail and her beautiful work.
What are you doing today?
I’m just finishing off my new collection that is going to The Hicks Gallery in London later this month. There are four large paintings that need stringing, varnishing and my daughter helps me paint out the messy edges.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
I have a tiny attic studio in my home. There is no wall space, the ceiling is too low, it’s carpeted, the lights don’t work, the ladder is precarious and it has a huge loft hatch that I am always dropping things down. Apart from that, it’s perfect.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
The next painting is always the most exciting thing to me. Every day I get up in the morning to paint a better painting than the one before.
What made you decide to become an artist?
It sounds pretentious, but it is something I have always done. My aunt, who was a Graphic Designer, always gave me these huge layout pads at Christmas that I used to sit in the middle of. Another one of my earliest memories is painting a portrait of Mum at Nursery School, aged four. I remember that it was stuck on the classroom wall and I think that the praise and positive feeling of achievement was hugely important to me early on.
What are you currently working on?
Having just finished this mini-series of four paintings for Hicks, I am now working on a collection for The Artists Open Houses in May. Of course we all hope this will be a ‘real-life’ event, but if not, I will launch the work online. I did this very successfully in November and sold out.
What are the key themes in your work?
I like to say that I paint ‘The Edge of The Rainbow’. The term comes from Donna Tartt’s novel, The Goldfinch as she describes a space that sits just beyond reality, where all beauty, magic and art exists. To me, it is also the space where love, sadness and grief also reside. It is the beautiful melancholic nature of human emotion that I attempt to conjure up through pigment on canvas.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
I always try to show how my work changes colour slightly at different times of the day. I use layers and layers of thin runny oil paint, creating washes and glazes of shimmering colour. Because of these layers, different lighting can bring out the different tones and hues.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
I have always loved the richness of oil paint. I love everything about it – even the smell! I have an old catering trolley in my studio crammed with various bottles of oily concoctions that I like to mix up. It looks like some sort of weird, messy experiment in progress, which I suppose it is.
What equipment could you not do without?
Old Bonne Maman Jam Jars to mix things up and store stuff in. I cannot throw them away and now family and friends give me theirs too!
Who or what inspires you?
I am often inspired by other Art forms, such as Literature, Film and Music. I have just discovered a book of poetry and photographs about the sea at night which looks amazing. Finding inspiration isn’t the problem – it’s bringing the idea to life that’s the tricky part.
How is your work affected by living in this area?
I feel fortunate that I live in such a vibrant and creative City. It was taking part in the Artists Open Houses in 2017 that helped me become a full-time artist. Now, I have set up a website for my local art trail, 7Dials Art www.7dialsart.com that promotes Artists and Makers all year round. For example in November and December last year we formed an online Christmas shop. It’s important to me to put something back into the local creative community that has been so supportive of me and my work.
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
Normally, I really look forward to the Brighton Festival. Even if I don’t see any scheduled events – I love going to The Spiegelpub and just soaking up the atmosphere.
What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?
It’s always worth going to see anything at The White Cube, Bermondsey.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
I don’t want to collaborate as such. But I’d love to spend a day watching Monet as he painted those huge panels for The Orangerie in Paris.
What’s your favourite colour?
The last one, the final stroke of colour that finishes a painting.