A Visit to Maggie Matthews’s Studio on the North Coast of Penwith

Maggie with a major work for her forthcoming exhibition

At the end of May I had the opportunity to meet Maggie at her lovely granite cottage just off the coast road from Land’s End to St Just where I interviewed her about her development as a painter and printmaker. She has recently bought herself a new etching press which was on the table where we sat and had coffee around the sturdy wooden table. Her next exhibition will commence at the Cornwall Contemporary (http://www.cornwallcontemporary.com/ ) on the 17th August and runs to the 10th September.

Detail from the work above

Maggie grew up in Brynmawr in Gwent, South Wales and first came to Cornwalljust after leaving Exeter College of Art and Design.  (Further details may be found at http://www.maggiematthews.co.uk/). Graham Sutherland was an early interest, particularly his use of colour. Having already been inspired by the landscape of South Wales with its magnificent mountain scenery, she was further impressed by the fabulous light of Penwith. Her family had strong naval connections, her grandfather had in fact been bombed out of Devonport, and the sea itself was an additional attraction for which she felt a strong, familiar affinity. Her palette changed completely and she became deeply interested in the St Ives painters. She was now to paint in bright and vivid colours which she soon came to use and to love.

Porthcawl andBarryIsland, nearCardiff, during the Miners fortnight holiday had already started a love of the beach and its natural history.ComprehensiveSchoolhad encouraged her interest in art, ceramics and sculpture but in addition Maggie enjoyed biology and maths, interests which were to prove an inspiration as her work has developed.

Detail from Maggie’s recent sketches

The facilities at Exeter, near the river inspired her interests in printmaking and ceramics. The geological society had an outward-bound bus and so there at weekends came down to Cornwalland whilst other students examined the rocks in CotValleyand other places, Maggie would be enthusiastically sketching. The sea, the mining and the Celtic connections were an additional attraction. After a period working on the manufacture of air and oil filters in industry in South Wales, Maggie arrived at Penzancejob centre whilst on a two-week holiday. She got a post working on the Jetsetter computer graphics project drawing paired-down sketches of simple objects like wine glasses and pencils.

Maggie continued to sketch the landscape intensively at weekends. She also went on Friday nights in St Just with Mary Stork to draw life studies, which she found a useful exercise and with Mary’s support she exhibited her work for the very first time.

Maggie outside her cottage with a work for the forthcoming exhibition at Cornwall Contemporary

Her first solo show was in Brown’s Restaurant which Maggie then proceeded to show at for another two more years and then had a further displays at Avalon in Marazion. Her very abstract colourist compositions at this point were very much influenced by her attraction to Patrick Heron’s work. In particular Maggie likes his later garden works and the space and depth created in these compositions. Paul Nash, Samuel Palmer, William Blake and Sutherland remain her favourite works for their pastoral, lyrical qualities. She remains interested in printing, ceramics and expresses an interest too in sculpture.

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