The Factoryline caught up with artist Simon Manfield to talk about his latest exhibition, Simon Manfield on his latest Orcadians Seven Impromptus and other works showing at ‘The David Wright Gallery’ Artsmill Hebden Bridge till October 1st. Take a look and read all about Simon Manfield, and what inspires the artist.
What is your background?
I have been working in the visual arts on and off for the last thirty years. I went to art school in Australia in the mid to late 1970s but, as is often the case, I left the education system disenchanted, laying down my drawing tools 8 or 9 years. In 1988 I left Australia and moved to Edinburgh. The relocation proved to be very positive, especially in terms of bolstering a desire to start working again. Alongside working as a bookseller in the city I illustrated for a Scottish political magazine, Radical Scotland. This was a huge boost to my confidence. In the bookshop I discovered the writing of the Orcadian George Mackay Brown which sowed a seed of wonder, inspiring me to illustrate something of his, but at this point of my creative development I felt unable to deliver work that would do justice to his beautifully visual writing.
In the years that followed experience and time began to consolidate my arts practice. My self-confidence built and my knowledge of technique and how to apply it to what was in my mind’s eye grew stronger and more reliable. In 2002 I moved to Hebden Bridge. A year later, alongside the beginning of a collaborative relationship with two artists, Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan, I took part in an excavation of a Spanish Civil War era mass grave as a documentary illustrator, resulting in my first major drawing project Memoria Histórica. Memoria Histórica was exhibited widely both in the United Kingdom and in Spain. The completion of this project and an ongoing growth in confidence opened the doors to fulfilling my ambition to illustrate the work of George Mackay Brown.
On the 10th June 2016 an exhibition of 16 finished drawings and painting of George Mackay Brown’s poem sequence Orcadians: Seven Impromptus was shown, coinciding with the publication of a beautiful hardbound limited edition book published by Kettillonia, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.
What follows? In the long term, a collaboration with Hebden Bridge-based illustrator Talya Baldwin about endangered seabirds on the remote Hebridean archipelago of St Kilda.
Where are you based?
I am based in Todmorden.
Describe your art and where your inspiration comes from?
My practice is concerned with the process of drawing and is representational and figurative in nature, often portraying figures within a landscape.
The leitmotiv that weaves through my work is of time hovering, of waiting. My drawings are recollections, delineations of my memory, linked by a line that connects them all to me like sewn thread on a garment. The methodology is important. I take time over what I create and take time to contemplate the world inhabited by my subjects. I hope that the observer will pause, look deep within the drawn lines, the tonal spaces, to deliberate, to construct their own stories, meanings and imaginings. Have patience.
Why did you decide to take inspiration from Orkney’s poem?
As expressed earlier, I drew inspiration from the poems and stories of George Mackay Brown, whose work I greatly admire, while working as a bookseller in Edinburgh. Over the years I have grown to know and love Orkney well; the undulating verdant landscape and its sometime mesmerising light; its high dramatic sea cliffs and the close friends I have there. Anyone who has crossed the Pentland Firth; passed the Old Man of Hoy, sentinel of that magnificent isle, and slowly sailed into Hoy Sound, to Hamnavoe, the harbour town of Stromness, will understand the undeniable draw and inspiration of the place.
Who has influenced your work along the way?
I have always been interested in looking at things; absorbing influence, gathering ideas. There is not one artist I can name that is the greatest influence. As a teenager I was intrigued by the work of the 19th century portraitist of Native Americans George Catlin, prior to that all manner of book illustration, traditional and modernist. Then Picasso, Matisse, Velásquez, Ingres, photographers as well: Paul Strand, Minor White and members of the F64 group, also Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa. Latterly, I have looked in detail at the work of Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth, Antonio López García and John Byrne. There are too many influences to narrow down!
What will be showing at The David Wright Gallery?
I am showing the original works from my Orcadians: Seven Impromptus book along with 5 new drawings/paintings that are hints towards future drawing projects. With the show the limited edition hardbound book will be on sale and limited edition prints of the work as well. So an opportunity not to be missed!