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Wednesday 6 May 2020

In conversation with Bessie Millar

Continuing with our conversations with the artists from Beyond the Frame this week it is Bessie Millar’s turn to tell us more about her beautiful en plein air pastels. Bessie chose as inspiration a book of landscapes painted in 1896 by Constant Auguste de l’Aubinière and his English wife Georgina Martha, and published later by Stanislaw Julian Ignacy Walery as The Poetry of Kew Gardens. Bessie takes time to explain a little bit more about her work and where she draws inspiration from.

Can you tell us about yourself?

I graduated with a first-class degree from Edinburgh College of Art and was awarded the Andrew Grant Bequest Scholarship for postgraduate study in 2000 including a period at Alfred College of Ceramics in New York State. I have exhibited my sculpture and paintings at international art fairs and exhibitions, including the Crafts Council at the V&A, and I now work from Wimbledon Art Studios in London.

Beyond Queen’s Cottage from the Woods

What inspires you, what do you look for when you work?

In my paintings I capture fleeting moments exploring colour, texture and pattern to construct my images. Inspiration comes from the world around me. My en plein air painting trips locally and further afield feed my images. I find solace in calm landscapes amongst the bustle of London life, whether it is a seascape with a horizon as far as the eye can see or the beautiful forms and colours inherent in the view in front of me. I hope to transport the viewer with me to another place.

Beyond a Midsummer Night

How did you know about the photogravure prints?

I first noticed them when I was doing my research for the Reimagine exhibition whilst looking through the online collection, but for that project I wanted to use old photographs as a starting point. When the opportunity came up to make some work for Beyond the Frame I decided to revisit these images. I loved the idea that they were contained in a book called The Poetry of Kew Gardens. Kew Gardens is a place where I regularly go to draw and paint en plein air and I was inspired by using images of a familiar place from another time. I love the idea of landscape as a living connection to the past, that is the landscape painting that captures familiar paths travelled and views seen across history and time.

Why did you choose these particular images?

I chose the drawings that inspired me the most by looking at the compositions and implied atmosphere. I worked from the digital drawings to create the pastel paintings trying to capture a sense of light and atmosphere.

Sketch for Beyond an August Afternoon, extending An August Afternoon, dated 1896, by Georgina Martha de l'Aubinière (1848-1930)

How were these made?

I started by making a number of digital drawings, extending the compositions “beyond the frame” in a literal sense. These extensions are memories and imaginings based on my experience of working outside in the environment. The digital images can be seen as images in their own right but I wanted to explore another layer of going “beyond the frame” by working directly from these tonal digital drawings into colour pastel paintings. I really enjoyed the process of working from tonal images and being able to introduce my own imagined colours

Beyond an August Afternoon

To discover more of Bessie’s art go to her website, or you can find her on Facebook and Instagram. Bessie will be taking part in Wimbledon Online Art Fair 14-17 May 2020.

You can also view the entire borough collection online, at the Collection link on our main navigation bar, or by clicking here.