Return to the Fields

I grew up in a council house in a village on Dartmoor overlooking a beautiful valley we simply referred to as ‘the fields’, where we would spend many an hour building tree houses, attempting ninja moves and exploring the terrain free as birds.  The fields seemed a world apart from the village with all its rules and in many ways to us harboured mysteries akin to ancient myths and folklore.  I was creative as a child; I particularly enjoyed drawing cartoons and was very good at theatre.  My parents also like to remind me about the time I ‘Jackson Pollocked’ their bedroom with Mum’s nail varnish!

My parents divorced when I was ten and shortly after I attended the local comprehensive, which I didn’t like very much.  As a teenager, I suffered dreadful panic attacks that often led to trouble in school and conflict at home.  I spent my secondary school years mostly experimenting, rebelling and getting into all kinds of trouble (detentions, suspensions, reports etc.) before another physical lambaste from my father resulted in me leaving home, aged sixteen, during the middle of my GCSEs and thus leaving school without any real sense of direction (we would meet again three years later and bury the hatchet).  Needless to say, I underachieved in my exams – only getting Drama and English – and, despite dropping out of college twice, while moving around a lot, I somehow managed to get myself onto a Foundation Art course with the rest of my year, which had done the regular A-Level route (discovering early that life is anything but a straight line).

It would be while studying Foundation Art at college that I would entertain the foolish idea of actually having a go at making it as an artist.  I recall being quite taken in by Fiona Rae’s paintings at the 1997, Sensations show and for a while I viewed painting as being all about pure feeling infused with a wholly gestural abstraction.  In this, I saw the potential to realise freedom in a world mushrooming with authority and regulations; hence I was heavily influenced early on by the Expressionists through to the Abstract Expressionists.  I became drawn to Kandinsky’s theories relating painting and colour to music, alongside Jung’s idea of the numinous, around the time of studying a Master’s in London, 2006-2007, from which I continued to develop a series of mostly abstract pieces.

About a year after completing my MA, abstract painting was starting to feel too much like paddling in the shallows and I had the urge to swim deeper.  I set about channelling my feelings, amid all this creative energy and burning desire to be free, while concurrently researching my interests in the theories of Kandinsky and Jung, which further led me to the ideas of Eastern Philosophy, meditation and certain strands of physics.  I began introducing a figurative element into my work, initially drawing from the nudes of Matisse, developing a style that would later be likened to Klimt and Van Gogh.

Sometime in my late 20s, my self-confidence plummeted to the point where I could not even ride a bus out of town and for about a year I found myself confined within the city walls.  Now living in the locale where I was born, I had become a stranger in a strange land with darkness for a friend.  Navigating my way out of the mire, where demons from the past had been resurrected to form an alliance with those of the present, is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.  While attempting to get through this inner storm, I found myself increasingly drawn to natural environments, in particular the coast and moorlands of Devon.  Away from the banality of city life, I discovered the freedom to ‘be’, as it were, with a sense of awe and dread.  I began to sketch and paint these landscapes … which now feels like a sort of ‘return to the fields.’  This is less going back; rather I see it as a realisation à la Nietzsche’s ‘Three Metamorphoses of the Spirit’, encapsulated somewhat in the words of Picasso, ‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.’

Christopher Sharp

Contact: christopher_sharp(at)hotmail.com