Open Studios: Tess Recordon

Tess Recordon's vibrant jewel-like paintings celebrate british landscapes. I met her at her current exhibition at Williams Art to find out what inspires her...

Your current exhibition depicting british landscapes is a change of subject for you, as your practice has previously focused on far flung places. What has drawn you to visit a more local subject?

Britain is amazing. For such a small county, the landscape is so diverse. Drive for half an hour and the landscape changes so much, it is like a world in minature. I'm always yearning to be somewhere else and wanted to stay home, seek and find inspiration from what I have, right here, on my doorstep.

Cornish Bay, oil on canvas 80 x 120cm

Please tell us about your process and the application of the paint in your works.

For an oil painter, my working methods are quite unorthodox. I work with the paint very thinned. Only using brushes to mix the paint. I then pour the thinned paint from jars. Marks and information are added through shape, flicks of paint or smears with my fingers. It is a very fast and active way of working. Chance and event are very much part of the process. It is also very 'messy'. I love that. The messy, wet, tactile side of painting. The process is very apparent in the finished work. The surface shows the splashes and run marks - deliberate or other - I don't 'tidy up'. Pet hairs, dead flies - all in.

What is your working space like?

A bespoke garden shed built by a friend with good light and hidden by foliage.

Some of your works are very large, what is the largest scale you have worked on?

6 x 10ft (183 x 120cm) is the maximum size to get though the average door. In this exhibition 'Scotland' is the largest painting at 122 x 173cm (48 x 68inch) which is the breadth of my arm span as to be able to manipulate the canvas and control the paint.

Grasmere, 50 x 90cm oil on canvas

Tell us about your sponsored trip to Borneo, and how events shaped the way you work.

I travelled into different jungle regions in North Borneo for inspiration. I had sponsorship from the University and a local company Cambridge Ultrasonics and a touring exhibition lined up. A pressured situation. Armed with mosquito repellant, leech socks, sketch pads, 50 shades of green water colours and a swanky new camera, I was set to record all I saw. After a day or so of semi solitary existence with limited food in Mesilau, a Malaysian Chinese family turned up, celebrating the new year. Children run over to our hut with bananas and 4 cans of warm lager! Overjoyed I jumped up to greet them and knocked all of my paints down into the gully below (out of reach, deadly snakes etc) and so lost any hope of sketching. My swanky camera failed to work in humid conditions. The sketchpads rotted from damp. I was left relying solely on my memory for visual aid and recollection and created the best body of work I had done to date at that time.

Scotland, oil on canvas 122 x 173cm

Do you ever work from sketches or photographs?

No photos, or sketches. I work from memory in the studio on my return. Working from memory has become a deliberate discipline. Rather than 'editing' on location, choosing what to sketch or photo, I allow a place to sink in. Often the things that become important and linger over time and obsess me as an artist may have appeared very inconsequential at the time. Smell is the best trigger - Moss and ferns. Ghee from an Indian temple and ayurvedic soap. Damp rot in the book I took to the jungle.

Do you enjoy working to commission?

Very much so. It's quite lonely being an artist so working for someone, taking into account their input and ideas is almost like working with them. Even in absentium, they are present.

Rydal water, oil on canvas 60 x 60cm

What elements continually surface in your works?

In the more figurative landscapes or abstract works, sky and water, air and liquid just keep re emerging.

In 'Grasmere' /'Rydal Water'/'Cornish Bay' the sky, land and water are interchangeable. The painting could almost be viewed either way up.
Kings Parade in Winter, Oil and pigment on canvas 80 x 120cm

What elements have you particularly enjoyed when working on the british landscapes?

The dream like state I achieve in my studio through journeys of the mind revisiting places. Especially the empty, dreamlike forest of the Kielder National Park in Northumberland and the breathtaking beauty of the Western Scottish Isles. And - staying home. Seeking inspiration from my home town, appreciating it. Kings Parade/Grantchester Meadows.

Where can we see your work displayed?

Williams Art Open daily - 6pm.

Open Studio WK 6/7 July

My website - visit website for details of future exhibitions and tour venues for British Landscapes


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