Artist in residence: Becky Blair
For Brighton-based artist Becky Blair, home is a sanctuary from where she can imagine and create abstract worlds of colour. It's fitting, then, that some of her work hangs proudly in our newest residence, The Gessner
If she has to choose, artist Becky Blair would pick pink as her favourite colour. "I have painted most of my house pink inside," she says, as we sit together in her light filled studio in Brighton. And before you jump to any conclusions - we're not talking bubble gum pink, here. Rather, it's earthier, dirtier tones that speak to her at home. This is curious, because warmer, somehow more wholesome hues tend to feature in Blair's dream-like painting - colours that lend themselves to her goal of sparking joy with her art.
Working with acrylics, watercolours, pastels and more, Blair's style is an examination of colour, through-and-through. "Colour is my main passion," she says in the quirky, natural light-drenched idiosyncrasies - "with pastels, there is no room for error," she tells me - it's actually the quality and richness of different colour that inform her process. "I absolutely love playing with the relationships between colours, and using that as a significant theme within the painting," she says. Even so, Blair painting aren't always abstract. Many of them are named literally, Limoncello, Jewel, Date, but these names underpin narratives and environments that "I hang the colour on," Blair explains.
Blair has painted professionally since 1993, so it goes without saying that her approach to creating art has evolved over the course of her career. Years of travelling during her 20s, experiencing the sensory overload of destinations ranging from India to New Zealand gifted her with countless memories that develop in her canvases. By her own admission, her senses swing into overdrive when she leaves home and explores somewhere new. Just how has she changed as an artist then? "I used to be explosive, painting non-stop for hours, and probably destroying more than I made. It was a relentless approach," she says, a touch wistful.
Nowadays, Blair takes her time to layer and compose the colours she's drawn to: "I like to be alone and to give myself time to think," se explains, "this is part of supporting my mental health too." Her mind switches off as her podcasts turn on and it's from within this subconscious space that she builds her technicolour kingdoms. Much of what she creates is instinctive, and this translates to the viewer's experience. Blair's painting invite you to go on your own journey, following on interpreting the picture's inherent storytelling and its impact on your senses.
Being a Brighton-based artist is woven into Blair's creativity. She moved to the seaside in 1997, after having tested New Zealand as home for a short while. For her, home is really about people, more than place. "My friends are self-employed creative people, and we support each other." The cultural ecosystem of Brighton is what makes her town town. "Our actual home is an extension of me creatively. I'm the one who chooses how it looks," Blair says of the house she shares with her husband and daughter. Hanging on the dusty pink walls are artworks Blair and her husband have collected over years and ornaments they have picked up on travels You get the sense that home is ultimately a sanctuary for Blair. "it's really important to be comfortable in your own house."
While travel has been a long-time inspiration for her, being at home for the past two years hasn't been so bad. "I got to appreciate the south coast on a deeper level," she says - grateful for small mercies. From her house at the top of a hill, she can see the chalk sea cliffs, Seven Sisters, and the Isle of Wight on a good day. Inside her home, there are playful oil paintings that take pride of place. Blair created these off the back of some mind-play with her daughter. The two used to curl up together and imagine fantasty worlds during sleepovers when she was younger. In Blair's painting, flying carpets and treehouses build up an imaginary world - simultaneously travelling beyond and living within her own 'four walls'. "It's about sort of imagining the dream," she explains.
Blair has a second sanctuary that exists away from the home too, inside her studio. "It's my shed, my mental health medicine," she says with a grateful smile. After suffering from a chronic health issue for a number of years, Blair created a body of work that served as a cathartic creative outlet for her. "I think that was the only time I've painted paintings that are really personal," she says, picking up a brush and returning to the business of the day. "Art has a lot of healing properties and helps us to understand things about ourselves that we can't put into words. I realised that art should uplift and bring joy."