Artist of the week: Stockport painter’s homage to abandoned places sheds light on lost worlds

By Gabriella Swerling

A Stockport-based painter who spent her lonely childhood with sketches of imagined and scribbled friends has spoken out about an artists need to have ‘his or her own voice’.

Manchester-born Anne Aspinall is due to showcase her talent at Cheshire’s Gorstella gallery exhibition next month.

With collectors due to battle it out for her sublime and elegant paintings, MM spoke to Anne who admitted that her lonely upbringing has taught her that each artists needs an element to their work which marks them out from others.

Born in 1949 as the only child to a kind and artistic mother whose own work inspired Anne’s colourful paintings.

Whilst her mother ran errands and made the regular rounds visiting elderly relatives, Anne was nurtured by her high school art teachers and occupied herself by drawing.

“I created lots of brothers and sisters through my drawings together with all the ponies, dogs and cats a child could wish for,” she said.

But despite what may on the surface appear to be a life tinted with more than a hint of pathos, Anne insists she was always destined to create.

“My inner world was a full and happy place and I suppose that is why my work, even today, is concerned with celebration.”

Anne has the quiet aura of a deep muser, lost in some glorious colourful vision. Her inspirations range from Matisse and Gauguin to A. S. Byatt and Facebook.

“My fellow artists are a great source of support and inspiration. Now that we have social networks such as Facebook we no longer have to work in isolation.”

From posting feedback and submitting their latest works for criticism to organising exhibitions and events, social media has revolutionised the artist collectives and collaborations that Anne involves herself in.

She trained at Manchester College of Art and then joined the Londgen Gallery & Workshops in 1986 as a printmaker specialising in etching – which has remained a constant influence on her painting.

She always aims to create a strong sense of place in her work – a hint of intrigue combined with the sea in all its moods. She finds the beauty and stillness of abandoned or overlooked places and transforms them into the central subject, forcing the viewer to engage with various lost worlds.

“The place where the land meets the sea – a harbour, ancient cottage or old quarry or mine are often my subjects.”

She spent the late 1980’s travelling around Europe and North Africa in a motor home with her husband and daughter, an experience which proved to be a turning point in her career as an artist.

“Well, I am first and foremost a colourist but for a long time I didn’t realise it.”

It was Morocco in particular, where they spent three months, which made the most lasting impression on her.

“The overwhelming colour which we found in the souks – everything from the huge piles of richly coloured spices through the rugs, ceramics and tiles was pulsing with bright, bright red, green, blue and yellow.

“I was puzzled by this – where did all this colour come from? 

“Outside everything was sun bleached and pale. The pise walls of Marrakech, for instance, are a soft shell pink set against a backdrop of pale, blue violet in the form of the Atlas Mountains.”

This was the moment that Anne knew that she had to abandon etching in favour of painting so that she could somehow incorporate the wonderful colour.

The effects of the strong sunlight on the desert landscape and the rich texture and patterns of the architecture and textiles made a lasting impression on Anne.

“Suddenly everything changed.  Marrakech turned from pale, pale pink to rich, rich red. Fez changed from pale yellow to dark ochre, and where there had been scrubby desert flowers sprang up in violets and yellows and orange,” she said.

The lasting legacy of her trip is the patterns and rhythms that have infused her work to this very day. Seasons, colour, landscapes – those subtle changes of light that can only be seen through the artist’s eyes are now represented on canvas.

Anne’s subjects may concern the exotic, but she is most pleased with the last painting she produced for the Gorstella show. ‘House by the Water, Llanbedrog’ depicts a place she knows well, but has always struggled to replicate on canvas. This time, she feels that she has finally managed to capture its sense of place.

From North Africa to North Wales, Anne’s art is always concerned with her surroundings, with the British coastline tempting her as the focus of her future works.

Anne loves music and often tunes into Radio 4 whilst painting to phase out and keep the noise of the street at bay.

“The best days are when you get so ‘into the zone’ that when you return and look at what you have produced you think did I do that?”

She is looking forward to listening to some good music and plays on the radio on a working trip to Wales or Scotland. She hopes to take her artists circle to the next level and gathering the troops to accompany her.

“The days are for working and the evenings for discussion over a glass or two of red. What could be better?”

Anne Aspinall will be exhibiting her new works side-by-side for the first time at Gorstella Gallery, just outside Cheshire from 7 November.

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