We were delighted to hear that local artist Becky Nuttall would be participating in the annual Devon Open Studios trail this year, welcoming people to her home, where she creates her highly individual and unique pieces of art. So, on Saturday afternoon we hot footed it over to Brixham knowing that we were in for a real treat.
Becky, with help from husband Roger, has created an “open space” Open Studio at the top of their beautifully landscaped garden. Displayed within, are her works, all collected in their appropriate series and displayed on floating panels. It feels quite perfect, bright, airy and open, and Becky’s creativity shining through in the details. A rich red panel hangs on the back wall under a carved ornamental cornice, with three traditionally framed works displayed. Becky is not shy about the religious influence in her work and the space reflects this, set off against stacks of firewood which remind us that this chapel, like her work, is lived in.
I had seen quite a few pieces before but to see them collectively was very special. Dotted around amongst the art are sketch books, reference books and notepads of poems, all of which have a place here.
Included in the display was a piece recently submitted for the RA Summer show and whilst not selected, Becky did make it through to the second round and has the sticker to prove it! I asked Becky to tell me more about this piece.
“The piece is called ‘Bedroom Shrine to Virgin of the Rocks’. It is based on Leonardo de Vinci’s ‘Madonna of the Rocks’. I went to a catholic school despite being a protestant, but my background is artistic and literary. In this piece, I am imagining my bedroom wall with these two influences; religious iconography and being an emerging child artist, doodling the things I loved including parrots and koala bears. Also, the things that troubled me, religious dogma and searching for an identity. I have included a painting by my father and added a feminist touch of a golden helmet, including school work and poems I did in the 1960s.”
With all of Becky’s work you find there is a fascinating narrative. She tells me, “I went to art school but got side-lined by a Literature degree. As part of my MA I studied the social development of adolescents which reconnected me to my own adolescence and its influences. The works that particularly capture this include 'Death, the maiden and good housekeeping' 'Little heartbreakers' and 'One two four'.”
The stories add to the pleasure taken from her work. Every piece is deeply personal, capturing minute details of personality and memory often with physical representation from childhood journals and notebooks. The resulting collage of imagery is at times slightly surreal, the scenes often dreamlike, but take them for the personal reflections that they are and the works become entirely human. And whilst the allusions may still be indecipherable, when you treat the works like this you can feel the life in them.
It is this that makes Becky’s work so attractive to me. Even those pieces whose subject matter I might not normally favour, have this indefinable breath within them that draws one in. Becky’s studio will be open on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th 11 am – 6 pm and perhaps offers the opportunity to experience her work in its purest form.