Last year, 2011, I started a wonderful working relationship with the Weston Park Foundation. It began with entering their Halls Fine Art Open Competition in the superb Granary Gallery space at Weston, having 2 out of 3 submitted selected, and then receiving the wonderful news that one of the pieces, 'Etruria Roundabout' had won the regional artist prize of £500 for Staffordshire and Cheshire. Etruria Roundabout is one of my personal favourites and has always proved popular, also winning the Visitor's Choice Prize at The Staffordshire Open at The Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford, but for one reason or another it has not found a buyer yet. I guess not everyone wishes to have a busy concrete traffic spot on their walls!
Winning the prize at the Halls Open at Weston introduced my agent and I to the art curator and education team there and we were offered a group show in the December months responding to the theme of Weston Park itself and celebrating the 25 years the foundation has been established. Participating in this exhibition was one of my career highlights as it lead to months of directly responding to the House and grounds as well as gaining entry to paint the main stage at the V Festival. Click here to see more details on the exhibition and the body of work.
So, when I knew we would be close by on the boat, moored at the beautiful village of Wheaton Aston and then Stretton Aqueduct, I thought I would revisit the fascinating interiors of the House at Weston with Oil Painting 28 - The Salon and Marble Hall. The other interiors I have painted at the house are The Library and The Dining Room and The British Guild of Travel Writers' Dinner at Weston.
It was ideal indoor subject matter with the dismal weather continuing, but more than that I really enjoyed an unusual depiction of space interpreting a chequered floor. Along with looking down railway lines and telegraph poles a chequered floor is a much-used device for illustrating space and perspective.
MC Escher often played his visual illusion games using chequered flooring, the study of Escher's perspective treatment formed part of my wide angle dissertation study during my Fine Art BA Hons. I think the stark contrast of black and white patterned squares allow immediate interpretation of the plane in space you are trying to depict, and as we have become so familiar with them, they can facilate and bring a normality to quite complex spacial representations. Another more recent artistic treatment of distorting chequered flooring can be seen in some of Tim Burton's films 'Nightmare before Christmas' and 'Alice in Wonderand'.
I have waved the horizon in the piece to draw attention to looking down at the tiles on the right hand side and looking up at skylight in the salon on the left.
I have always had an unusual education of the subject whenever painting in the house at Weston, the tour guides escorting groups round and informing about every piece of art in the room I am looking at is a great way to learn about what you are painting. Now I know this room was originally a courtyard, I am positioned next to a painting of a 127 year old woman who once walked from Staffordshire to London, the painting of the ships in the background caused distress to a group of yacht owners because the wind is wrong. There is another popular painting in the room of a little girl who has been whipped in her classes, the chairs are all of the studio of Chippendale, the chequered flooring is welsh slate and Italian marble and original to the house. When Birmingham housed the G8 Summit the world leaders had a day of relaxation here at Weston and watched the cup final in this room whilst Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were being interviewed on the lawn at the front by David Frost.