Artist profile - Faye Bridgwater
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 July 2020
Faye Bridgwater credits a Facebook group for helping inspire an award-winning drawing of one of Brighton’s natural phenomena.
This year Brighton artist Faye Bridgwater made a conscious decision to get her art out into the world, following a memorable appearance on Sky Arts’ Landscape Painter of the Year.
She hadn’t reckoned for the coronavirus lockdown, which cancelled several exhibitions, and postponed a chance to include her home in Queen’s Park in the annual Artists’ Open Houses trail for the first time. And the pressures of childcare as schools closed meant that her usual schedule of making artwork between 9am and 3pm went out of the window while she looked after her children.
But while she was home-schooling Dotty, ten, and Fred, seven, her art was working for her – as her pencil drawing Studying Murmurations was named joint winner of the People’s Choice Award at the international Derwent Art Prize 2020. The large drawing was partly inspired by a Facebook group she set up two years ago. Brighton Skies now boasts more than 14,000 followers. “I was cleaning my teeth in my bathroom looking out and thinking about how much I love the sunrise,” she says from her home studio. “And then I thought about how much I loved sunsets, and blue skies and stormy skies and rainbows. I set up the Facebook group and it became incredibly popular, we have professional photographers, we have people who just use their phones, drone operators who post what they see each day.” The design of Facebook and Instagram pages inspired her approach to Studying Murmurations. The large sheet of thick Fabriano paper is divided into 140 tiny frames, each giving a different view of the starlings swooping and circling in the sky around Brighton. Some squares contain recognisable Brighton landmarks and familiar scenes, others try to capture the birds’ wheeling movements and changing shapes in more abstract ways, from trails of Vs to heavy black scribblings. It is a work which reveals more the closer you look – and will certainly resonate with anyone who has been mesmerised by the natural phenomenon which visits the airspace between Brighton’s piers in the winter months. “When you haven’t seen it before it’s so breathtaking,” says Faye, 42, who moved to Brighton from Watford nine years ago. “I was trying to capture the movement and energy. I didn’t know about it before I moved to Brighton.”
She has used a similar framing device in paint to capture views of Brighton, and cliffs around Sussex. “For the cliffs piece I was thinking about Brexit, and barriers and edges,” she says. When it comes to starting a new work, Faye generally begins with a photograph. “I have a great passion for photography and documenting everything,” she says, having started a daily photo diary of family life during lockdown. “I don’t want my art to look like a photo. It’s more of a journey. I often start with the photo just to make marks or create a composition. I love that emotional response to a landscape.”
When she took part in Sky Arts’ Landscape Painter of the Year in 2019 as a wild card, she found herself confronted by another Sussex landmark, Herstmonceux Castle, in conditions unfavourable to en pleine air painting. Her take on the castle was the largest canvas of the day, and saw her working the paint with a broom at one point. She may not have won the wild card placing in the show, but Herstmonceux Castle loved her painting so much they have put it on display. She hopes to enter the competition again later this year.
Faye is taking part in the rescheduled Artists’ Open Houses in autumn, and will be part of the Cowshed Collective in September’s Lewes Artwave. Having studied sculpture she would love to get some of her sculpture ideas into real form. She is interested in revisiting part of her final year art school project, when she created a table football game with female footballers. “I’m a big football fan – I follow Watford – and it’s completely different from my contemporary landscape work. As an artist I draw, I paint, I take photographs, I have sculptural influences, I take from music and poetry. Everything influences the artist that you are.”