There’s something very touching when others introduce you to painters whose work reminds them of yours. All the more so if when you look at it you feel the same! It’s a special double gift. First, it shows you they have a deep understanding of your work. Second, it introduces you to kindred artist spirits you would probably otherwise not have met. Such ‘encounters’ touch me to the core. Even though I have seen neither artist nor paintings in the flesh, just sensing a similarity of quest and commitment in these ‘kindred spirits’ opens up a warm place of creative community inside me.
I’ve had two such introductions in the past few months. The first from a friend who spends a lot of time working as a carpenter in Cornwall. The other from my elder daughter who co-designs a Paul Smith collection.
Tim, a brilliant carpenter and fellow Quaker, had seen a painting by Gill Watkiss in the window of an art auctioneer near Penzance Meeting House. He emailed me the photo below of the auctioneer window with the message ‘might as well have been one of your paintings’.
Looking at the picture, I felt a jolt of recognition – the slightly naive manner of representing the people, the focus on texture, colour and pattern of clothes, the countryside setting, the capturing of one specific moment with its unique atmosphere and narrative – all struck home to my painter’s heart.
Of course, Watkiss has her own unique qualities, painterly concerns and style, but for me the connection was powerful. She certainly includes more people than myself, a greater variety of ages and genders, and is more specific in her indication of landscapes (see below). So what is the connection? I guess it’s almost as if these are the elements I’ve excluded from my own work, though they emerge here and there. Memory archives from a childhood growing up in an old farmhouse in rural Bucks; an active village community, and family holidays on the wild North Devon coast, to name just a few. So it’s a mixture of similarities, differences and the unspoken that build the juncture.
The second introduction was to Aiden Milligan. My daughter whatsapped me saying she had just come across him, and he reminded her slightly of my style ‘although his is less layered and more naive’. Once again, spot on! The moment I looked at his work I felt a kinship of kinds. I could explain this in relation to echo elements e.g. the slightly surreal yet real-life subject matter, the mixing of childhood memories with response to contemporary topics, and the situating of the horizon three-quarters of the way up the image, but it is more than that. Perhaps the joy of finding someone who understands the rules of your creative games, and is playing along using them their way?
What matters in both cases is the felt connection. One that oddly comforts, and yet also inspires me to think my own ‘habits’ or style afresh. It’s also prompted me to reach out and say ‘hello’ to both artists. Let’s see if I hear back.