Clare Thatcher is a British artist whose large-scale painting Vision of Landscape was shortlisted for the Jackson’s Painting Prize 2019. Her work explores a sense of place among coastal landscapes, taking influence from the idea of liminality in landscapes. The locations she chooses are personal and resonant of individual landscape features, associated thoughts and emotions. Clare has exhibited her work in London, Northampton, Manchester, Brigg, North Lincolnshire, Bristol, Bath, and Hasselt, Belgium. We spoke with her to find out more about her process, the materials she uses, and how she develops her work.
Daniel: Hi Clare, please tell us a little bit about your artistic background/education.
Clare: I am a painter from Bristol, UK. I graduated from Bath Spa University in 2015 with an MA Fine Art Degree and from the University the West of England in 2014 with a First Class BA honours degree in Drawing and Applied Art. I am co-founder of Clash Art Space in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, where I have my studio.
Daniel: How would you describe your practice?
Clare: My practice is deeply connected to a sense of place. I enjoy being in coastal and tidal areas, using drawing into painting as a vehicle to interpret the 3D world onto the 2D surface. This comes from observation, memory and imagination.
I am also interested in the exploration and interaction of colour relationships, as well as investigating materiality and the behaviour of pure pigment in oil paint.
Daniel: How important is this sense of place to your practice?
Clare: Very important. The locations I choose and the focus of my attention is highly selective and personal. They can evoke a very strong, emotional, felt response of natural elements that have a profound effect on me.
Daniel: Could you tell us more about your process when painting your large scale works?
Clare: I begin with a drawing or drawings that I have spent time resolving and I am happy with, to inform a painting or a series of paintings. I always have a number of works on the go at the same time as this helps to expand the conversation.
I think composition is the key to a successful painting. I either scale up or translate the drawing to the prepared surface of size and gesso I have made with a coloured, painted ground. The drawing is put away, this then allows the painting to take on a life of its own.
Daniel: I’m interested in how you choose your subject matter. Do your landscapes tend to be based on specific locations, or are they built up through several different ideas and places?
Clare: I choose subject matter that has an overwhelming feeling, an emotional effect on me, so I have to capture and make work about it. It can be in a specific location that I can access and revisit, each time experiencing something new with fresh eyes. Other places I visit just the once and they remain in my memory and drawings.
There is a cross over in these different places which creates a common thread, which is why I work in a continuing series. My work is continually evolving, as I am. It varies from studying forms from a detailed close-up view to thinking about the space they occupy.
My ‘Vision of Landscape’ series is influenced by visiting and studying cliff formations on the North Cornish coast. The ‘Sense of Place’ series are strongly influenced by revisiting the Tate St Ives and the surrounding area.
Another influence is drawing and observing the landscape and geological forms of Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham works, such as Rocks, St Marys Scilly Isles, 1953, Rock Theme (St Just). Patrick Heron’s retrospective at the Tate St Ives in 2018, with his pure visual sensation of colour and shape, has also been influential.
Daniel: Do you typically work or prepare studies in the locations you visit?
Clare: Yes, I make many drawings in sketchbooks and on a variety of loose papers, to capture what I am sensing around me. In particular, line drawing makes me consider space, composition and colour, facilitating a gateway to new works in paint back in the studio.
Daniel: What typically informs your colour choice?
Clare: I select a palette I have felt when at the location. My line drawings in charcoal or pencil suggest colour to me. I aim to capture the mood and sensation that transports me back there.
Daniel: What is a good day in the studio for you?
Clare: Being totally immersed in my work. From play and experimentation comes painting with a strong sense of focused attention, with each mark being considered and felt.
Daniel: What are your most important artist’s tools? Do you have any favourites?
Clare: My Pigments, oil paints and a variety of good quality hog hair brushes. I enjoy the materiality of paint. I use good quality tube oil paints or pigments to make oil paints. With pigments you know what you are getting, you are in control. I add cold pressed linseed oil to a pigment on a mixing slab with a muller or a palette knife. Each pigment behaves differently so you get to know how much oil to add.
Using pigment in its pure form without mixing with other colours allows me to get to know a colour and how it behaves alongside other colours, achieving a pure colour hit. Surprises can happen as a colour can appear different depending on what is underneath or what lies next to it. How you begin is very important as the ground colour can determine the outcome of the whole painting.
Daniel: What are your artistic influences, and who are your favourite contemporary artists?
Clare: In addition to being in the landscape, I gain influence from reading and listening to music. I enjoy live art, regularly visiting and drawing in art galleries and museums.
The most influential exhibitions for me to date are Graham Sutherland ‘An Unfinished World’ at Modern Art Oxford in 2011, Anslem Kiefer at the Royal Academy in 2015, ‘Abstract Expressionism’ at the Royal Academy in 2016, Patrick Heron at Tate St Ives in 2018, and Pierre Bonnard, ‘The Colour of Memory’, at the Tate Modern earlier this year. My favourite contemporary artists are Jeremy Gardiner, George Shaw and Anish Kapoor.
Daniel: When you’re in the studio, do you listen to music, audiobooks, Radio 4, or do you prefer to work in silence?
Clare: Sometimes silence. I listen to Radio 6 Music and to a diverse range of music including Nils Frahm, Jon Hopkins, Nick Cave and many more. Music plays an important part, providing rhythm, movement and energy in my making and thought process.
Daniel: What is coming up next for you and where can we see more of your art in person or online?
Clare: I am currently an Academician Candidate at the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol. To find out if I am successful and for other exhibition news please visit my website.
Exciting things are also happening in the studio – you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter to see more. Online publications and platforms include Floorr Magazine, RWA Artist Network, and Painters Tubes Gallery Showcase.
Click here to find out more about Jackson’s Painting Prize 2020
Featured Image: Sense of Place II, 2019, Oil and pigments on plywood panels, 122 x 180 cm.