Artist on File: Christine Calow
‘I create richly coloured and textured mixed media collages and limited edition screenprints. My work is mainly inspired by travel, in particular by my longstanding interest in Indian culture and beliefs. I have exhibited both locally and nationally for a number of years and my work is suitable for any contemporary environment.’ Artist Statement: Christine Calow – Painter and Printmaker
There’s a hippy soul in artist Christine Calow with her love of travel and curiosity in other cultures. Inspired by succulent, sunny and vibrant colours, her art reflects explorations of countries such as India and Greece. I met Christine at her house and studio in St Albans, and knocking on her gorgeous purple front door I already knew I was in for a treat. Her house is joyful, brimming with colour and significant mementos of the places she’s visited.
When Christine was making me a cup of herbal tea, her green-fingered husband Martin gave me a guided tour of his fantastic exotic plant collection, all grown from cuttings. Christine met Martin 20 years ago at the swimming baths in Marshall Street, Soho, and a couple of years later, shortly before they married, they moved to their house in St Albans.
Born in Chatteris, a market town in the Fenland district of Cambridgeshire, at 16 Christine moved to Cambridge with her parents. For as long as she can remember Christine wanted to be a professional artist. She took a Foundation course at the Cambridge School of Art, where she was honoured to be chosen by the British painter and graphic artist Edward Bawden CBE, RA, to receive the school’s annual Printmaking Travel Award.
Christine left Cambridge to take a B.A. (hons) degree course at Loughborough College of Art in Printed Textiles. And from thus on her love of screen printing was ignited.
Her first job, as a fabric designer and printer, was in a cottage industry in Norfolk, producing fabrics to be made into patchwork items. Eventually Christine decided she would like to move into teaching in further education and took a 1 year PGCE (art ed) course in Leicester. Christine went on to be a Lecturer at Cleveland College of Art in Middlesbrough for 2 days a week, which allowed her the time and space to develop her own work. ‘It was a perfect opportunity for me as I loved teaching, but I also had the advantage of having plenty of spare time to cultivate and explore my ideas and style.’ After 2 years Christine was on the move again, this time to Gray’s in Essex. She has taught on various Foundation courses, specialising in textiles, in Grays, Harlow, London, Luton and Richmond.
‘Teaching helped me formulate my ideas about art, and helped in the transition in my work from the creation of usable fabrics to wall hung textiles, which in turn has led to what I do now.’
On Wednesdays Christine goes to the ‘open studies’ session at the University of Hertfordshire. ‘I find it invaluable to be able to use their screen printing facilities as there is not enough room at home for all the equipment needed.’
Travel and Art
Christine’s wanderlust has carried her to India, the USA, South East Asia and a particular favourite, Andros, which is the northernmost island in the Greek Cyclades. Her work is greatly influenced by these places, such as the piece called ‘Hora’, a Greek name for dance and also for a capital city. The screen print was inspired by Andros Town, the capital of Andros, and the words read: purple doorway in Hora, bright white light of summer, pinky purple bougainvillea, sky blue church domes, white sugar cube churches.
Another two of my favourite screen prints were the luscious ‘Kandy’, inspired by the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur, and ‘Symbols of the Southwest’ which Christine created after visiting the Canyon lands in Utah.
The mixed media piece ‘Hot streets a shimmer’ was created with sweet wrappers that shimmer and shine, and painted and stitched paper. The words are Christine’s own, some of which read: ‘A blaze of peacock sari colour, velvet and cloth of gold, garlands of marigold and jasmine. Shambling painted vehicles decked with Gods and silver foil, lilac, vermillion and pink.'
I also liked a large artwork hung on the wall called ‘Deogarh’ and Christine tells me that it is named after a village in India she visited.
‘I like to let the sights and feelings of the places I visit soak in for a number of years and let ideas formulate organically before I decide how to use them.’
Christine’s studio has postcards and images leaning on the picture rail and stuck to the walls and door of the artists who inspire her. ‘I like Kandinsky’s early work ,and also the vibrantly coloured prints and paintings of the British abstract artist Anthony Frost. For a long time I have loved the work of the abstract artist Albert Irvin. I admire his expressive use of colour. I had the pleasure of meeting him once when I had a solo exhibition at Harlow Playhouse in 1991, as he had an exhibition before me.’ I asked Christine if she had been to any exhibitions lately. ‘I recently went to the Royal Academy to see Hockney’s ‘A Bigger Picture’. I particularly liked his ipad paintings and videos.’
Exhibitions Christine has shown her work in many galleries around the country since 1983 and her next solo exhibition, called ‘Hot streets a Shimmer’ will be at the Frameworks gallery in Cottenham, just north of Cambridge. The show runs from 21st June – 1st August, and on the weekend of 7/8 July will also be a part of the Cambridgeshire Open Studios.
Please visit Christine’s website to see more of her work.
Tel no: 01727 858492
Mobile: 07949 659201
By CLARE KENDAL BATE