Martyn Brewster

What is your background?

After A-levels I did a foundation course at St Albans School of Art and then chose to specialise in fine art painting and studied at Brighton Polytechnic in the early 1970s. Followed by their Postgraduate Printmaking Course and I subsequently went into art teaching and making my own work.

My main interest was always in painting and I was trained in traditional oil painting techniques and worked very much as a kind of expressionist/ figurative expressionist painter working from landscape, still life, and the model. During my time at Brighton my main tutor was Dennis Creffield and initially, I worked with him in the life room and did quite a lot of landscape-based work on my own. Then gradually my interest developed much more into abstract work very much based on a strong feeling for colour influenced by

American Abstract Expressionists, and English and European Abstract artists, like the St. Ives School.

Do you come from a creative family?

In the conventional sense of the question not as such; my parents were not painters, but I think that they were very skilled creative people in their own right. My father was initially a bookbinder – an old fashioned bookbinder – who worked with paper and leather tooling and my mother was a very fine embroiderer all her life, and indeed my brother was very artistic and went to art college and studied fine and graphic art, so undoubtedly I think that those kind of interests and skills were in the family.

How and where do you where do you work?

After some years in London, I moved to the east side Bournemouth. I’ve lived here about 30 years now and I’ve developed a large studio at the end of the garden which includes a big painting area and a print area with an etching press and silkscreen printing table. It’s a fabulous location, very near the cliff tops; I can walk down to the beach and the coast opens up east and west, towards The Purbecks in one direction and the Isle of Wight in the other.

Stylistically how do you classify your work?

That’s a little tricky because I have worked across quite a variety of interests but I am essentially an abstract painter but influenced and inspired very strongly by the natural world – landscapes and seascapes – and poetic aspects of that, such as light, shade and colour. I think that my work has always been at the abstract expressionist, lyrical end of paint handling. I quite like drawing in the landscape and along the cliffs and in the country but I never use that directly in the work. All the main work is done in the studio and the abstract qualities of the canvas are paramount, the sense of composition colour, feeling for light, shade, tone and the work is nearly always evocative of the natural world.

What research do you do?

I don’t do any particular research for any given work. I tend to accumulate ideas and feelings about particular subjects

that I then explore and experiment within the painting. In that sense it is very much a studio practice, an experimental time, finding out what I can do with certain concepts and working across different scale and media; experimenting with scale from very small to large scale work, drawing and working things out in print, then taking ideas from print into paintings and vice versa.

I don’t specifically do research because the way I live provides an incredible inspiration to my work; being out in the landscape, walking by the sea, the light, the fantastic environment results in a lot of self-generating work in large series. If I have a given idea I will explore it in many different ways perhaps in ranges of colour, in terms of scale, drawing, and printmaking.

What themes do you pursue?

Over long periods of time, I get involved with certain themes. I’ve had generic titles like Headlands, Coastal Light, and Night Sea and so on. Within those series of ideas, I explore lots of the compositional possibilities that they present. I also work across different mediums, although initially I only worked in oil paint and generally worked on a very large scale. In more recent years I’ve used acrylic much more, combined with collage to build up a paint surface that I find more satisfactory.

How has your artistic practice changed over time?

Initially, as a figurative painter, my ideas were taken specifically from the landscape or figure, some kind of motif I had observed even if the painting itself was developed from memory, but gradually I shifted and colour became very much a key element in the work and almost like the subject matter of the work. I no longer rely on any specific motif and the actual quality of the oil paint which I used in the early years very very thickly, tended to almost become part of the subject matter of the painting. Of course, you then have the problem of finding a form for it to take, so the key thing was developing compositional ideas, scale, paint handling and colour. Over the years that has not fundamentally changed because those sort of abstract qualities are the ones that interest me, but I haven’t relied so much on heavy oil paint as a carrier for any image. I’ve developed much more interest in potential compositions and all the problems that they bring up.

Why do you do what you do?

The simple answer would be that I guess I fell in love with the activity of painting and drawing very early on in my teens and I got great satisfaction from doing that and that has never really left me, if anything I get more enthusiastic about it, but I love all the things that connect with that kind of work as well. I’ve always loved drawing, the key element in my work, the many different areas of activity that encompass printmaking and feel very much at home working with silkscreen and etching. I think it is just really being completely absorbed in something and developing it and committing to it over what, in fact, is now a lifetime, but it is really through the sheer enjoyment of doing it.