Running from Saturday, May 30th to Friday, 12th June
Danny Gates is a painter whose work nods to the natural world, focusing on iconic Devon landscapes such as Dartmoor, mythical Green Man imagery and – to bring even more radiant colours to the exhibit – parrots.
What was childhood like for an artist like Danny? “Much of it was spent in the fields and woods around Swanley, North Kent, where I was born,” Danny began. “I have memories of accompanying my mother and grandmother to local farms where they did seasonal work as hop and fruit pickers. Many of the fields, orchards and farms have since disappeared under housing developments and roads – Swanley is now primarily known for being a junction on the M25. This has contributed to my long standing concern for, and interest in, the natural environment.
I think my working class background and upbringing has given my art an unpretentious, down to earth honesty,” Danny continued. “My primarily rural childhood has certainly influenced the subject matter of my art.”
Danny has lived in Devon for 16 years, and has been drawing for as long as he can remember. “I began painting at secondary school, and it’s an activity that I have returned to regularly ever since. I took early retirement from my career as an Occupational Therapist in mental health, which gave me the opportunity to concentrate on a new career as an artist.”
Hanging near the window, ‘Laurel, Shaptor’ depicts Shaptor Woods in Dartmoor, foliage hues changing with the light. “It would be difficult to choose a favourite piece,” Danny began, “but one favourite would be that one. The juxtaposition of the very dark, brooding Laurel, the huge, pale rock and the tranquil distance between the two impressed me – both for itself, and as a good composition for a painting.”
A collection of smaller Green Man canvases hang by the alcove, with one titled ‘Tricephalous’, vines curling from forest-green mouths. Next to this hang four larger portraits of parrots, one Sulphur Crested Cockatoo sitting with eyes sweetly shut, its white and yellow feathers gently contrasting the pale blue background. “Most of my paintings are inspired by the natural world, with a particular emphasis on birds, trees and woodland landscapes,” Danny said. “I’m also interested in myth and folklore. The Green Man, whose mysterious image can be seen in Exeter Cathedral and many Devon parish churches, has been a recurring subject in my art. I attempt to capture that mystery.”
Of his creative process, Danny said, “My paintings are carefully thought out – I make experimental sketches before starting a canvas. I believe that composition is absolutely key to a successful artwork. I often have two or three paintings on the go at the same time. I don’t paint continuously for hours at a time, and prefer to work in multiple short sessions.”
Danny’s use of colour is one that was immediately described as ‘fresh’ and ‘joyous’ by one visitor, and his mix of subjects is unique – including a certain small, coveted painting named ‘Hare and Moon’ . “I’ve been influenced by a wide range of artists,” Danny said, “but I am very much on the traditional, figurative and representational end of the scale – Goya, Turner, Van Gogh, and also Japanese printmakers such as Hokusai, are amongst my favourites. I also admire the Scottish Colourists and Glasgow Boys, and expressionist painters such as Franz Marc for their composition and bold use of colour. The Victorian narrative painters interest me for their incredible detail and skill, though not for their sentimental subject matter.”
What’s next for Danny? “I have a lot of ideas for new paintings and will continue to paint every day and – hopefully! – continue to improve my skills. With art, you never stop learning.”
Keep up with Danny’s work here.