‘Glorious Soup’ runs from Saturday, November 26 to Friday, December 11
Sonia Kemp, Anna Fitzgerald and Tati Dennehy have come together to create ‘Glorious Soup’ – an exhibit showcasing all of their work. Though each artist is different, they still connect, creating a beautiful and joyful space.
For Sonia, she draws inspiration from the magical world. “I’ve done a lot of play work,” she explained, “and draw inspiration from the world of children. Fairy lands, creatures and landscapes. That’s my personal thing. I’ve always been into sparkly things, too – y’know, creating paintings with sequins and jewels. The art can be very attached to the senses. I like putting frankincense oil on the paintings so they smell – it’s a sensual world, like Kate Bush would say.
For a long time, I was working for a women’s refuge, where people have lived through trauma and darkness. I had a show at the Phoenix and in my little book of comments, someone wrote that my paintings were ‘really joyful’ – so I think unconsciously, even though the work I was doing then was with people who had been through a lot, and it was very hard – there was still the joy of creating. I was trying to unconsciously reassert that that’s in the world, as well. I think I was trying to find a balance, and that’s how my paintings evolved. Also, my work has lots of trees and people, which relates to that. Once, I sold a tree painting to someone whose mum was dying, and she wanted a symbol that said life is full of abundance, and that there’s hope in the eternity of life. It was amazing to think my paintings could also be healing in some way, and give people hope. I’m happiest when that connection is made –when someone says that an image says something that will help someone, or celebrate something.”
Like Sonia, Anna’s paintings focus very much on wild life. “Generally, I draw inspiration from folklore, or little stories that I make up in my head,” she began. “All my pictures are based on stories. It’s all made up stories – all my pictures are based on animals. At the moment I’m painting foxes in an urban park. It’s all about being an urban fox, and I’ll make up a little story about the animal. If I do them on seagulls I like to do them on the rocks right out at sea in places that I never get to see them, I can imagine them wind-swept and a bit miserable. Every picture has a theme behind it. I never paint miserable pictures, only happy.”
Of her creative process, Anna revealed, “I’m really, really messy – I have about 300 paintings on the go at the same time! In the morning, I’ll go through all of the paintings and pick out five that I’ll work on that day. Some I started three years ago and I haven’t finished, and some will just happen in a day! It’s fun. My favourite is called ‘A Girl Named Tree’, which is based on Agatha Christie who had imaginary friends, and actually, it reminded me of me as a child.”
And what is Anna doing now? “I’ve opened my own gallery in Exmouth, an open studio, so what I’m doing next is doing lunches for artists. I’m promoting that at the moment. I’ve got two which are classes and then lunch, and one which is purely lunch. I’m trying to get the open studio up and running and that’s what I’m focusing on next year – Sea Dog Art.”
Tati’s art is also very close to nature, with pottery and Goddess figures. “Ideas can seep in from absolutely anywhere,” she explained, “if one is in the mood for feeling inspired! My inspiration comes from anything from dreams, nature, other people’s art, emotions, stories overhead on a bus – I don’t really have one source. I tend to keep a sketchbook where I jot things down as they occur, sometimes several times a day, and then maybe nothing for weeks, but I always seem to have a backlog of ideas.
My creative process mostly involves ‘turning up’, as they say. I go into my workshop and if I have time to work on a new idea, I will set to that. Sometimes it’s fairly prosaic and I’m working towards something, or I have an order to fulfil, and I will be making repeats or filling moulds which I use for some of the smaller pieces. In ceramics, there is quite a lot of background graft – the ‘boring bits’ if you like – wedging clay, loading or emptying the kiln, glazing, tidying up after my students… I actually quite enjoy all that side of things; I don’t always want to engage the brain too much!
I have a little boy who has just started school,” Tati continued, “so my working week has changed a lot in the last few months. I’m still finding my feet in that between-school-runs space! I thought I’d have loads more time, but it’s actually quite a short day. Also, my teaching seems to have gone mad recently – I’m currently running three weekly classes and filling day workshops as fast as I can organise the childcare to do them, which is amazing! I’m really enjoying teaching at the moment, with such lovely students and fun classes. People come in with their own projects they want to make, and I’m always so inspired and moved by what they do – sometimes I think it’s as much an inspiring and learning process for them as it is for me.”
Next up for Tati is a January exhibit of all things dog related, in North Street Gallery, Ashburton. “Also, I’ll be exhibiting with the South West Sculptors Association next summer, and booking to do the Devon Open Studios next September, which I do every year, and has actually become my biggest seller annually. It’s great because I have a lovely new studio which is a wooden cabin in my garden – a quirk and unusual garden, which is another passion for me – and I invite usually two or three friends to show with me from my place, and we use the garden as well, and people seem to really like it. We can share the work of looking after it, which is pretty intense; two whole weeks, and three weekends on the trot, so it’s good to have help…!”
How did the women meet each other, you ask? Well, at the age of 14, Anna and Tati were best friends. In Anna’s words, “We know each other really, really well, and I know Sonia through Tati. It’s nice that we’re all in it together.”