Shore thing

Liz Nicholls

We talk to Cotswold artist Angie Hunt about family, motherhood and the lure of the sea ahead of her solo exhibition at her home studio this May.

Q: Hello Angie, thanks for talking to us! Can you tell how your art started?
“My childhood home was quite a creative one, with an art collector father who worked in advertising and a musical mother who writes and creates beautiful gardens and interiors. I grew up at the seaside, in the north-west of England, so the coast was a big part of our childhood, the sound of seagulls, sand in our shoes! I worked in TV production and advertising before deciding to go in to fine art professionally. I wanted to channel my creative energy in a more hands-on way, so enrolled on a fine art degree course in Banbury in 2007. Ten years later I have my own studio and it’s my full-time occupation… my family would say ‘obsession’!”

Q: What’s the inspiration behind the big themes?
“My big theme currently is family and relationships, probably because of the stage of life I’m at. I’m interested in the evolving generations, how we’re part of a continuum, and how our roles within this are constantly changing. This series of mixed media pieces explores these relationships, especially between mother and child, using abstracted forms as metaphors for the people in my life. The composition is deceptively simple, but I use collage, partially revealed words, drawn lines, charcoal and many layers of oil and acrylic paint to build up texture and depth.”

Q: Which artists have particularly inspired you?
“The 20th century modernists such as William Scott, Diebenkorn, Hilton and their generation appeal to me. I love the post-war period when they were part of rebuilding a fractured society, a fragile time when they were finding ways to express themselves with limited resources.”

Q: What is it about the sea that appeals to you?
“It’s the shoreline, where land meets sea, that I’m drawn to. There’s something about it that makes me feel at my happiest and most alive. My strongest childhood memories are of paddling in the waves, sea swimming and sailing. I’ve just finished a year-long programme at the St Ives School of Painting which has reinforced this.”

Q: Has the St Ives programme changed the way you approach your work?
“It’s been a chance to develop and question these themes through tutorials and workshops, within a small and supportive group of artists. My painting time has become a sort of therapy in a way, finding visual ways to work through feelings and changes.”

Q: You clearly have a strong interest in texture and unusual materials – tell us more!
“Yes, I love to make use of what I call ‘found objects’; cast-off bits and bobs that relate to my subject. As much as I love art shops, I’m totally bewildered by the choice and choose to use these items as a starting point. I have been given old sails which are full of wonderful details – zig-zag stitching, reinforced corners with eyelets and fixings, and a textured surface that is robust enough to withstand layers of paint to be piled on and re-worked, and this is a strong theme in my exhibition this May. That said, I am incredibly lucky to have the Cotswold Art Supplies in Stow on the Wold a couple of miles away for regular top-ups and they also handle all my bespoke framing.”

Q: Do you have any favourite galleries?
“I’m a big fan of Oxford Artweeks for discovering new art, though it is very big nowadays so quite a trawl to uncover real treasures. Modern Art Oxford has some really inspiring exhibitions, eg Lubaina Himid before she won the Turner Prize. I love the Stour Gallery in Shipston-on-Stour which has an emphasis on my favourite Cornish art and there’s always an exciting programme of contemporary British artists at Fosse Gallery in Stow-on-the-Wold. I like supporting new initiatives eg The Compton Gallery, an exhibition pop-up and event venue in the middle of stunning countryside.”

Q. What direction do you see your work going in next?
“Good question! I’m enjoying this current theme and looking at relationships between people in my own life, and also between objects within the composition. My work is becoming more and more abstract, with the forms of the boats and vessels gradually becoming more ambiguous and some starting to resemble domestic objects in a still life. A recent trip to Cuba has also given me inspiration – colours and textures I’m longing to incorporate.”

Q: Can you tell us a little about your studio?
“It’s such a happy place to be; it’s up the stone steps of a small restored coach house with north-facing skylights that bring the light in. It’s so peaceful and I spend hours and hours immersed in painting. We also run a little Airbnb in the studio at weekends, which makes for a bit of clearing up (!) but it is a unique place that I love to share.”

˜Angie’s Open Studio is 18th – 20th May in her Moreton in Marsh studio, near Stow-on-the-Wold. Visit and follow her on Instagram @angiehuntart – for more info.