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PROFILE: Lockdown leads artist to darker matter

PROFILE: Lockdown leads artist to darker matter

Tuesday 09 June 2020

PROFILE: Lockdown leads artist to darker matter


A local artist known for his kaleidoscopic and quirky takes on local beauty spots has shared how lockdown led him into a darker palette and subject matter.

While he normally spends a lot of time at Pitt Stream Gallery in St. Helier, where he shows his work, and the ceramics of his wife Ruth, Ian Rolls has been working in his studio at home near Corbière throughout lockdown.

The situation didn't stop him "painting and making a great variety of things", but Ian says he began noticing his creations drifting away from their usual bouquet of colours.

"Initially, the lockdown made me paint quite dark and thick oil paintings - one of Corbière lighthouse at dusk with a flaming sky and another of a tree on the Five Mile Road, bent over by the prevailing wind," Ian told Express.

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Pictured: One of Ian's recent paintings represents Corbière lighthouse at dusk with a flaming sky.

"And then came paintings of a dead pheasant and a baby rabbit that I found on the sea wall outside my studio, as if left there for me to bring back to life in paint.

"Over the years I have immortalised many dead animals, birds and fish by painting them."

Ian also created a small cupboard out of driftwood and other materials he found, hanging inside it an old and battered toy aeroplane made of lead.

"A subconscious tribute to the dying aviation industry!" he said.

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 Pictured: The baby rabbit Ian found on a sea wall outside his studio.

Lately, he has also started working on a series of "unseen drawings”, made after meditation with hist left - non dominant - hand and his eyes closed.

"Superbly relaxing, drawing without the stress of achieving a likeness to anything, letting the line wander in spontaneous free fall," Ian said. "True art therapy."

"The lockdown has not been that different to “normal” for me," he continued.

"Setting aside the financial implications of closing the gallery, if anything it has been a very positive and creative time, without the normal distractions, but with plenty of time to enjoy the wonderful coastal landscape that surrounds my studio.

"The beautiful spring weather with abundant growth, has seemed at times strangely inappropriate with an eerie lack of human generated sound but lots of birdsong. Nature is thriving in the mist of the human crisis... a nice irony!"

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Pictured: The cupboard Ian has created out of driftwood and found materials.

Although it's not possible to escape the rock at the moment, Ian says that travel has "always been an important source of inspiration for me" - and one place in particular.

"Morocco is one of those places which rewards the senses at every turn. Travel to such locations may well not be as easy or affordable in the future, so this painting represents a kind of grateful celebration."

Fitting, then, that he is donating his work, 'Marrakesh Market' - "a large colourful watercolour with a decorated frame" - to the 'Spring Into Action' exhibition and auction aimed at lifting spirits and raising money for charity.

"The painting, made last year, was one of a number I made following a trip to Morocco," Ian explained. "It is semi abstract, but evokes the feeling of a vibrant trader’s market I visited in Marrakesh, full of strong afternoon light, movement, colour and pattern."

Video: Introducing the 'Spring Into Action' exhibition.

Ian is one of 21 local and international artists taking part in the exhibition at Private & Public, which is accessible via the gallery website, with a short film, a 3D virtual tour of the gallery spaces and a digital exhibition catalogue, as well as by appointment.

The pieces included in it will be auctioned off, with money going to the Bailiff's Fund and the Jersey Women's Refuge, which supports vulnerable women in Jersey.

Ian, who's known Gallery Director Chris Clifford for many years, didn't hesitate to take part when he contacted him about the fundraising exhibition he was planning.

"I think a common feeling at this strange time of lockdown is one of helplessness... wanting to do something for those suffering or in a very bad situation, but not really knowing what," Ian explained. "So, contributing a painting to this exhibition seemed a good way to help."

This interview first appeared in the June edition of Connect Magazine. CLICK HERE to read it. 

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