Celia Wilkinson - The Paintery & The Orderly
When I (Bethan) decided to put on a fundraising art auction for the Bopha School Project, I had no idea how demanding such an idea would be. It went from an innocent thought into a full time job within days and has given me a few agonising moments and several sleepless nights.
Would I do it again?
Because of the brilliant new friends I’ve made in the process.
One such person is Celia Wilkinson.
Living on a small island where everyone knows each other and the seven degrees of separation are more like zero point seven, it’s rather easy for your reputation to proceed you.
Yet, in Celia Wilkinson’s case, it’s her expressions of emotion and character in paint, her deconstructed landscapes and vibrant palettes of colour that have been splashing into my life for years.
Through glimpses into the windows of Binnel Studio where she works, to the walls of establishments in the town where I live, Celia’s artwork has danced from her and into my heart from before I can remember.
It was with a sense of gleeful excitement that I headed down to Binnel Studio one sunny autumn day in September, to finally meet Celia in the flesh and discuss a piece of artwork to be donated to the Bopha School of Art Night.
“It’s you!” Celia declared as I came through the door into her bright, airy studio at the former Glassworks in St Lawrence. “I’ve been driving past you for years!”
“I’ve been gazing at your art for years!” I declared back.
Within moments, I felt like we were old friends, but having said that, I can imagine that lots of people feel like this with Celia, for here was a woman as open and bright as the studio that she worked in.
Against the walls, leaned vast canvases like square portals into semi abstract landscapes; bold, striking lines to the foreground and sweeping, expressive vistas to the back.
One solitary canvas, leant face forward against a wall.
“Ah, now that’s the naughty wall,” Celia informed me, “That painting is refusing to play ball.”
“Oh wow, you have a naughty step for paintings?” I asked, delighted. And that was it, I was in love.
I began by asking Celia about her unusual style and where it came from.
“My style originates from my parents,” Celia told me. “My dad was a furniture designer and he lectured in 3D design. And he was a huge fan of post modern, simple lines, perfect curves and loved Scandinavian style.
My mother was a painter. She was abstract and a colourist, which is what I feel I am a bit. The two sides are both very strong in me and sometimes they’re in conflict. I might start a painting which I feel is going to be loose and painterly and then, something will take over from the other side and it will be rained in and tighten up and structured with lines.
I can not control that and I don’t try to control that because that’s the side of me that wants to be dominant that day.
I’ve noticed that if there are things that are stressing me outside of the studio family problems or whatever– I become very structured in my painting. It’s as though, when things feel chaotic, a sense of control and order emerges in my work.
Equally, when things are running smoothly in my outside life, then my paintings become very loose and playful.”
“Does the style have a name?” I asked.
“I call it semi abstract,” said Celia, “but sometimes I call it the painterly and the orderly.” She paused and laughed, “maybe I should call it the Don and Joan after my parent’s influence!”
“You should! And what about your inspiration? Where does that come from?”
“My inspiration can literally just be me driving somewhere and I’ll notice the light on a field and then the whole painting will be based around that. It could be the structure of some trees at a glance. When I go abroad and I come back, the whole of that place comes out in a series of about ten paintings quite quickly. I don’t sketch … I’ll remember bits and pieces which struck me, but then I put it together so it has the essence of that place- but isn’t necessarily a view of that place.
Sometimes when I’m painting I go into my own world and I may start thinking about a holiday in France and then that comes out in the painting. I just let the paintings do their own thing.”
Time crept forward quickly during my time with Celia.
I realised that I was feeling rather too comfortable hanging out in her studio, stroking her little studio cat Tibbs.
It would have been a little too easy to stay there all day , but I was aware that Celia had a canvases to paint and a naughty picture leaning against the wall that required a few words of discipline.
“Before I go, could you offer any words of wisdom for people starting out on their creative journey?” I asked.
“One of the best lessons I’ve learned is not to be precious.
I remember when I was at art school. I’d spent days on a particular painting and my tutor came to me and I said, “What do you think?” He said, “Have you got a pot of white paint? And have you got a biggish brush?” He then painted all around my paintings and left just a tiny square in the middle and he said, “THAT is a good painting. Now you need to look at it and think about why.”
I listen, wide eyed at the brutality of the tutor.
“But the lesson is that if you try and make every painting a success, you will fail. Make as many mistakes as you can. Free yourself,” exclaimed Celia.
“Another time the same tutor taught me another similar lesson. We’d started our foundation at art school and all of the students had our tool box which held all of our things; Stanley knife, scissors, rubber - that sort of thing. The tutor told us to take one implement out of our tool box and do a do a three hour pencil drawing of it.
We all did our best. Once we were finished we had a coffee break and then the tutor told us to hand the picture we’d drawn to the person on the left. “Now all get yours rubbers out and erase that drawing,” he said.
Everyone looked at each other in horror. “Rub it out!” The tutor insisted. “Now hand back the paper. I’d like you all now to do a two hour sketch of the same implement.”
So we did a two hour sketch, only to hand it to the person on the right and have them rub it out. Finally he asked us to do a ten minute sketch of that implement. And at that point everyone was so fired up that they smashed out their drawings in a moment.
And that’s what it was; the adrenaline, the frustration. Those final pictures were full of energy, they were powered up. They were brilliant!”
Speaking of brilliance and energy and power, here is the painting that Celia has donated to the Bopha School of Art Night.
Isn’t it a stunning piece?
Title: Fresh Air
Dimensions: 80 cm x 80 cm
If you would like to bid for “Fresh Air”, please contact Bethan at email@example.com