Shoreham artist Kathryn Matthews
PUBLISHED: 11:35 17 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:42 17 October 2017
Kathryn Matthews takes inspiration from the landscape - and the sea in particular. Now her art can be found in homes across the country, as she tells Duncan Hall
The sea is central to Kathryn Matthews’ work and life. Not only is it the subject of the majority of her paintings but both her Shoreham Beach home and her Brighton gallery Two Kats and a Cow face directly onto the Sussex shingle. But for the first 20 years of her life she lived in landlocked Nottingham.
“I think I have become slightly obsessed with the sea,” says the 48-year-old mother of two from her home studio, which is flooded with light from the nearby English Channel. “Once I discovered it that was it – my eyes were opened. I have lived on the sea ever since. The waves are different every single day. Nobody could ever get bored of the drama of the waves and the sea.” Kathryn is also a keen paddleboarder, and between April and October can be found swimming in the waves most days.
Using oil on board she creates a 3D depiction of her landscape by carving lines with a large and clearly well used screw which fits perfectly into her palm. The idea came from her training as an etcher, scratching into the board, painting over it and then washing the paint off with a turpentine solution so the colour stays in the scratch mark. “I like to paint in negative,” she says. “I feel like it gives a depth, pulling the light through and making the painting feel a lot deeper.”
It was at an etching class in January 1997 that she first met future fellow gallery owners Katty McMurray and John Marshall. “We bombarded the council with endless letters until they got fed up with us and said we could use an arch on the seafront,” says Kathryn, who moved into the space with Katty and John 17 years ago. It was while working there she met her husband Warren Matofsky who was working in a neighbouring arch. She and Katty still run the gallery, with the help of managers Holly Loader and Laura London, although with the advent of children – Kathryn’s are Lola (12) and Noah (9) – the pair now work from home. Lewes-based John is no longer in the partnership, although the gallery still hosts his bovine-inspired paintings alongside guest artists working in ceramics, jewellery and wirework. “We have got a definite gallery style,” says Kathryn. “We only show pieces that we really want, which is quite dangerous because then you want to buy it!”
From her early art training in Deva Art School in Holland to Leicester’s De Montfort University, Kathryn has always taken inspiration from being in the landscape. “I will go and sketch, then come back here and use the quick sketches to paint,” she says. “Any bits I’ve left out I fill in with my memory – it makes it a truer or much more personal representation. You get more of a feel for a place than you would from a photograph.
“When my children were smaller it was more Shoreham Beach than Cuba or Haiti. Now they are growing up I can go to Thailand and do a series of paintings. I am always going back to Brighton and Shoreham for inspiration. I never get bored of Shoreham’s boats and barges – it is always different at low and high tide.”
Kathryn’s work has been picked up by the likes of Ask Italian Restaurants, P&O Cruise Liners and John Lewis who recently turned several of her paintings into prints. “I quite often see them on television shows or in estate agent windows,” she laughs. “It’s fun spotting them. They were a big hit last season – my mum was impressed!” She is hoping to work with the department store again, but until then she has an exhibition in Nantucket in the US, and a new collection of paintings inspired by Dungeness and a Sussex prairie garden. Plus she is working on new ranges of greetings cards and giclée prints. Generally she and Katty create new works for the gallery ready for the Brighton Festival and Fringe in May. “We make everything in the gallery brand new,” says Kathryn. “When Kat and I shared a studio we played off each other – although we come from fundamentally different places. There are similarities in our subject matter, but Kat is very much based on a drawing foundation.”
She has an ongoing fascination with the landscapes some find ugly: “The telegraph poles on the entrance to Shoreham Beach used to be at all sorts of angles once you came over the Norfolk Bridge – but the council went out and straightened them. I was gutted!”
• Cressida Cowell on her new series and Sussex inspiration - For her next children’s book series, bestselling How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell has drawn on her childhood memories of Sussex. She told Jenny Mark-Bell that there’s magic in our landscapes