Not so much a DFL as an OFF, OFL
And that stands for: Over from France, Originally from London, and is how artist and writer Kate Gritton sometimes describes herself. Since moving to St Leonards last year, she has become an enthusiastic supporter of community projects and is now firmly established on the arts scene. A volunteer and regular exhibitor at Hastings Arts Forum, she is also a keen member of Shorelink Writers Group.
As well as working on a long-standing novel which, she says, may see the light of day in about 10 years’ time, she writes poetry that reflects both everyday life, as in her collected Thoughts Along The Seafront, or sometimes touches on more serious themes of memory and loss. Poetry has often been the inspiration for her paintings which may be described as emotional landscapes.
Shorelink Writers meets weekly and encourages its members to share their work through reading weeks and regular workshops. Humour is high on the menu and with such a diverse membership, there is never a dull moment. Through their chair Sally Patricia Gardner and her husband Ro, members have been encouraged to contribute to organisations such as Hastings Speaks and Seeing Ear which transcribes literature into Braille for the blind. Kate joined the group initially to get to know people in the area and has found herself at home among a lively group of friends, many of whom are published authors.
Childhood ambitions achieved
Kate was born in London during the war and her two childhood ambitions were to become either a writer or a painter. She has achieved both of these, but it was to be many years before realising her dreams. Circumstances at that time dictated that she follow the family business and become a florist. From humble beginnings in south-east London, her career led her eventually to working in some of London’s top hotels, including Claridge’s, The Ritz and Inn on The Park, where she was once asked to create a floral arrangement for Princess Diana.
She loved the creative side of her work, but its transitory nature was a constant source of frustration and she longed to make something more permanent. Although she had painted in her spare time for many years, she readily seized an unexpected opportunity to study fine art as a mature student at London Guildhall University. There she specialized in painting and printmaking and soon recognised that the two disciplines complemented and fed into one another, something she continues to experience today.
Stable for studio
Shortly after graduation, she moved to France with her husband where they renovated an old farmhouse and enjoyed rural life for a while, keeping chickens, ducks and geese and creating a country garden from a bare field. A former stable became her studio where she continued painting, exhibiting both locally and further afield in the Loire Valley. After the death of her husband, she decided to return to England.
Two poorly cats, no furniture
Arriving in St Leonards with two poorly cats, no furniture (which was still in France) and not knowing a soul was something of a challenge, but one she took up with a will. She soon joined Hastings Arts Forum, and volunteered as part of the ‘hanging team’, putting up new exhibitions every fortnight. ‘Every show presents its own challenges’, she says. ‘The team work together to create an exhibition that will engage the viewer and present the work to best advantage, from painting to prints, installation or textiles, sculpture or photographs.’
What lies beneath
Alongside her activity there, she has created much new work, inspired by the sea and the effects of time and tide. Rusted metal, in evidence everywhere on the coast, became a focus for her initial pieces, canvases where paint appears to be encrustations of rust. From quieter seascapes to dramatic landscapes that suggest environmental neglect or even destruction, her technique is unashamedly traditional, in which paint is applied in successive layers, creating a luminous quality that characterizes her work. She also creates original prints and mixed media pieces using monotype, collagraph or linocuts, combining them to create unique pieces that have their own particular ‘history’. ‘What lies beneath the surface’ is the underlying question she poses in all her work, as illustrated in her poem below:
From the Train
We are just outside Lewes
Where the soft downs
Sleep in velvet folds,
Now sunlit, now shadowed,
Ancient earth forms that yet seem ever new.
The whiteness of the chalk
Is always surprising,
Rising above the marsh,
Where sheep feed among the sedge.
There is an edge to this land
Of chalk down and dry valley,
The man carved on the hill,
Dark histories, strange names,
And even stranger tales
Of love and nameless love
That flowered at Charleston –
Godless some say,
Yet beauty sometimes lies within the beast.
For more information, see Kate’s website.
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