Returning to the gallery this Summer, artist James Fotheringhame's current exhibition or original nature and wildlife paintings is his largest to date at The Biscuit Factory. A celebration of his enthusiasm both for the natural environment, and the process of recording real life observations on canvas, James shares more with us about his practice, new approaches taken to putting the colleciton together, and his encounters with nature.
James Fotheringhame - Encounters with Nature
A few words from James...
Writing is not my strong point but as I sit here in my studio I am surrounded by notes and quotes derived from spending a lot of time researching my subject...
The opportunity to create a collection of work presented itself in July 2021, a chance to create a body of work that was coherent, connected and as a group had something to say. The confidence placed upon my work possibly energised me, and the influence has opened a few doors for me regarding my instincts to the natural world and in particular my environment.
I rarely look to art for inspiration/motivation but this current time has afforded me this opportunity to be more reflective, cognitive, instinctive, driven.
I am not painting any more than I would normally but spending more time in the field, looking, waiting, hopeful.
I document witnessed encounters with wildlife and as a consequence my painting journey is dictated by what I actually see. As the year and seasons progressed the work/ encounters slowly presented themselves and I gradually gained the confidence to take on a mini challenge part way through my journey.
Swallow | 80 x 80cm | Oil on Canvas | Unframed | £1800
Honeybees Predator | 80 x 80cm | Oil on Linen | £1,800
The honeybees is a series of pieces that I’d thought about but not quite worked out the technicalities. A good friend keeps bees and invited me to document and witness the inner workings of the hives.
This experience and subsequent exploration in paint reflected the incredible complexities of the lifestyle of bees. How to make a painting not compatible with my normal working practice?
My painting process is very much based around very precise preparation and on to treating the painting process as an event in itself, which in turn, coincidentally, gives the work a certain rawness, honesty, reflecting the original experience. I hopefully painted the buzz rather than precise bees.
It’s all about the physicality of making a painting. I’ve already got the photo. The painting becomes a physical trophy of my encounters, a moment in time made into a collectable item. Every trophy is a document of my experiences, it's deeply personal, but it is art to be shared.
We are profoundly privileged to live where we do; with space. A large part of my life is spent outside at home observing the ebb and flow of nature. The wood and orchard that I have planted are putting down roots. Rewilding certain areas is attracting a richer flora and fauna.
As a painter I am drawn to document encounters within this space. I use camera traps and moth traps to assess what inhabits my space. It’s incredible what is out there without us knowing. It is usually the case that looking for something in particular isn’t the best solution. The best images emerge from chance encounters. Adrenaline moments, right light, right tree, right bird, right pose.
I have certainly found a deeper connectivity to the flow of life, calmer now. Longer periods of time to monitor the Barn Owl that inhabits the box which is located in view of my studio and kitchen windows.
Although we seem to be existing in a parallel world, much changed, I feel the reality of nature is both comforting and more complex than before. Ever more inquisitive to explore the in-between spaces. It is here, in this sense of something fleeting, not quite seen and impossible to hold on to that the magic happens. A moment, the adrenaline, then the seed of a painting may present its beginnings.
Barn Owl Ghost | 100 x 100cm | Oil on linen | Unframed | £3000
I am hugely aware of the irony that without technology from our artificial world these paintings would never be conceived, found or made. Often my tech incompetence reveals, exposes those in-between spaces with light, movement often blur.
Photography is a catalyst for making a painting. A starting point in which to depart in paint and explore another world. From then on in it takes on a life of its own, and the result is a consequence of the event. I love the technicalities of painting, mark making, letting the paint have a voice, not showing my hand. Growing a painting out of the linen.I use linen for speed, in that it’s a mid tone and I can achieve light and dark from the beginning.
Once I have said what I need to say the focus then becomes pure paint breaking any illusion of a finished image, a sort of, showing the workings. I find this enhances the brevity of encounters witnessed originally. Raw.
My work as a garden designer and lecturer in fine art are all part of being a painter. Some of the work has come from clients' gardens. My garden however is no advert for my professional work being somewhat rewilded. My wife would probably like me to have a more professional outlook on the garden.