Artist Spotlight #9: Frances Lemmon

Frances Lemmon a Guernsey based visual artist. She is a practicing, exhibiting artist who is also involved in many community arts activities, including with the GAC at Le Platon Home.

You’re a visual artist; how and why did you get into this field?
I became a visual artist by studying painting and drawing at London College of Printing, Sir John Cass School of Art and Camberwell School of Art.  My painting style derives from having worked in the fields of scenic painting and signwriting at different times during my career, which has given me a legacy of always looking for a clear and concise way of putting things down on paper both in terms of composition and in interpretation. I continue to paint because I want to tell a story, if I didn’t know what the story was or who it was for, I probably wouldn’t bother to paint at all in actual fact.

What aspect of the making of your work is the most enjoyable, the most challenging?
The whole process is equally enjoyable and challenging, from the moment you dig deep to find that speck of inspiration for a painting to the journey of taking it to the finish line, it is never an easy occupation, challenging yes.  Probably the most rewarding moment of the whole process is when someone responds emotionally to what you are trying to say in a painting and at that point you know that the painting has a right to be in the world and can stand on its own feet, so to speak.

Cliff path next to Prevote Tower, acrylic on board, 2012

Can you tell us about your relationship with the island and how it has influenced your work?
I first came to the island when I was 13, then left at 18 to go to Art College in London, staying away really until about 10 years ago.  During this time my relationship with Guernsey was mostly based on nostalgia and romanticism to a certain degree as I was living on the other side of the world and it has only been in the last few years that I have been able to put down what I feel about the place, the landscape in particular.  By looking at the landscape I then got interested in the folklore stories of the 18th and 19th centuries and explored them in my oil painting series “La Bienheureuse Ile Sainte”.  I left that body of work with strong ideas about the significance of the stories and the politics behind them which then led me on to look at the Neolithic landscape in Guernsey.  What fascinates me as an artist is the enduring relationship that we have to the cromlechs, dolmens and pagan markers still strongly visible in the landscape and the way we live our lives juxtaposed between the two separate ages.  I believe Guernsey and Jersey are unique in having this living history so close by and I feel it is a real privilege.

You also lead a twice monthly workshop with the GAC at Le Platon Home which is very popular with the residents! How did you get involved, and how has this developed over the year?
I work with various art groups on the island which are all unique and tailored to individual ages and abilities, I immensely enjoy this aspect of being an artist as I always seem to learn something new from watching others, especially children as they seem to have absolutely no artistic hang-ups at all and work in an incredibly spontaneous way that has a raw energy about it.  I was asked by the GAC to lead the art workshop at Le Platon and it has gone from strength to strength as we have got to know each other over the year and the trust has formed.  We are currently working on our own rendition of a 14th century Italian altarpiece for Christmas which has proven to be a stimulating and challenging team enterprise and a lot of fun!

The Fisherman and the Bee, oil on canvas, 2012

Can you talk about your current most recent project?
At the moment I am back in the 19th century looking at Guernsey sayings and superstitions and hoping to move them onto a new platform for a fresh audience.  I want them to say something different and relevant to the 21st century.  In “The Fisherman and the Bee”, for instance, the original superstition concerns whether a fisherman sees a bumble bee flying in the same direction as his boat or not.  If it is flying the same way then it is a good omen for a plentiful catch and if not then it means quite the opposite.  By transposing the fisherman  into a business suit and the bee into an elegant lady all sorts of questions start forming, ‘is this a love story, or what?’

What does the immediate future hold for you?
I will be exhibiting at the Coach House in June next year.
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