Our Artist of the Month for March is Gail Britt, now resident in the Midlands, where Outside In is launching a new Hub this month. Gail talks about mark making as a child, her ties to Sussex and the sea, being her own harshest critic and the magical and transcendental properties of art.
She says: “My paintings are quite varied and would be easy to misconstrue as the work of several people. This, I attribute to my previous employment as both a scenic artist for television and then as a painter of miniatures in books of Remembrance. Scale is an interesting component to consider in ones work. Accidents and stains can be the best part of my paintings. I like a work that presents a sense of mystery. “
Why/ when did you start making art?
Preschool, aged about four, scribbling left to right repeatedly on paper, pretending it was handwriting. Play and the empowerment of mark making made me decide to be an artist even then.
Where do you work?
I’m between studios at the moment, hence having to use my kitchen. I had a large studio at Eagleworks, a Victorian factory building for many years, but property developers are now poised to convert it into flats I believe.
How would you describe your pieces?
I would describe my pieces as varied in style but united by expressionistic and narrative ideals.
Do you follow a set process or does it vary?
It varies from being impulsive about mark making born from play, or sometimes a very considered, researched and methodical approach. It depends where my concerns are at the time. I sometimes like a brief, to ’harness’ the creative proves.
What inspires your work?
I’m inspired by my response to beauty in the world and the circumstances of my existence. My paternal family history has inspired me for the past decade with its maritime themes and locations on the South coast in Sussex.
Do you have any creative role models?
I have had a generous and kind mentor in the painter Knighton Hosking, who also held a studio at Eagleworks, Wolverhampton, until his demise in 2019.
Are there particular themes that run through your work? If so, what are they? The themes are sea, people, weather, history, landscapes, stories from the past. I feel my painting process is a means of travelling back or into a new location. I think of it as a time machine or definitely an escape from the confines of ill health. Another theme is ‘death’.
Do you think about an audience when you are making work? If so what do you hope the viewer gets from your work? I never think about an audience except when I’m curating an exhibition. I’m a harsh critic and the best judge of my work and I destroy quite a lot of it. If a person buys my work, I am extremely happy they like it enough to do so!
What is your favourite work of art (by another artist)? A Thames painting ‘The Estuary’ by Michael Andrews (1928-1995). Painted towards the end of his life it is beyond my vocabulary, just simply sublime.
What has been the standout moment for you as an artist so far? Having a work chosen by the University of Wolverhampton to hang in the reception of their Millennium Building. It was a 24 canvas depiction of my spine, twisted by scoliosis and featuring self portraits aged two with allusions to the history of deformity. I like that it replicates Hogarth’s Serpentine Line of Beauty. Ironically!
Is there an artwork you are most proud of/ favourite piece? Besides the previous work, there is a painting I connect with my late mother. A beach scene looking down but through the deep pain, seeing a reflection in a rockpool of a bird soaring high in the sky. It’s quite subtle but meaningful.
What are your hopes for the future? My hope is simply for a future. I want to paint more.