An Insight into Lymington Artist Chris Whittaker

The Devil is in the Detail

An Insight into Lymington Artist Chris Whittaker

By Trina Hart for the Coastal Gallery, Lymington.

August 2015

 Beech on beech by Chris Whittaker

Those who have passed by the Coastal Gallery in Lymington, may well have noticed in the window a few months back, an extraordinarily detailed painting of a bicycle leaning against greenery. A remarkable painting, on many levels, but not least because of the depth of detail that renders the painting more real than real. What you may not have noticed was the bee.


Chatting with Chris in his studio, when we talk about his style of painting, it becomes apparent that he is his own person in that his influences are very much derived from his rebellious side. He recalled a time when he was at Art College, which was quite likely a defining moment:


"... one of the lecturers said something that stuck in my head...he always said: "You can't paint every leaf, you know". I wasn't going to get into fine art anyway, I was always going to get into advertising, but when I started painting, and I was older and more confident, I thought...well it's my canvas, I'll paint whatever I bloody well want! Back then I wasn't confident enough to say that. When I look at leaves they're all different, I mean the inspiration is all around, I don't think I'm ever going to run out [of inspiration]. I mean, just looking around here [in the garden], look at the colours! All the different greens, all the different shapes - it's almost like doing portraits of leaves - it takes a bit of time, but I've got time. I've got plenty of time."


That would go part way to explaining the extent of the detail, but the slightly eccentric and quirky side of Chris comes out in his work beyond the detail. Like the 'Bicycle and the Bee', his paintings often have a hidden little have to really look to discover that he has included a beer can, a discarded water bottle, a fag is a playful but important part of how he observes nature, and his surroundings.


Chris Whittaker Lymington artistChris's latest work, which has just been delivered to be exhibited at the Coastal Gallery, is entitled 'Beech on Beech'. It has his trademark signature...the leaves, the autumnal hues, the detail and depth. This painting makes a direct comparison of living beech and dead beech. The juxtaposition is startling, and the graphic approach makes it feel as though one would like to have a little sit down and contemplate the surroundings. It's a clever piece, big and powerful.


Having spent an hour with Chris, it is clear that here is an artist who knows how he wants to work, what his subjects are and what works. I asked him if he would ever deviate from this graphic, detailed style, to which he responded with a very clear 'no', where upon he showed me a painting he had done as close to abstract as he would ever get. He didn't take it seriously, despite it being framed. I sensed it was a fun piece that possibly he liked, and one that he could hedge his bets with. I loved it, mainly because the background was produced by accident...he had been cleaning off his palette onto a board, only to find it was actually a rather lovely accident, but being true to his style he felt unable to leave it as just that, and had strategically added a painting of his palette knife across the centre. There again was the trademark symmetry, and graphic inclusion. It worked well.


The studio is not what one would imagine, he being an ex Creative Director of a leading advertising agency, in fact it's really a space in the garage. A humble space, because the remainder of the space is largely taken up with onions and other produce from his much loved allotment. The way the produce is displayed is a work of art in itself, and I suspect Chris knows this. The colours, the hues, the onslaught of autumn...all these things are what are at his core, what inspires his creativity, and so, much is made of the onions, and quite right too.


Telling as well as painting a story!

 Chris Whittaker's Onions

Chris doesn't only paint a story, he can also tell a great story or two, having experienced first hand the heady days of the Colony Club in London, where he recalls amusing stories of Francis Bacon, Pete O'Toole et was a colourful era, and when asked, will happily regale you with anecdotes from that time.


Chris is an artist of some standing, his paintings are collected, and popular both in the UK and overseas. He has exhibited widely in London, including the Brick Lane Gallery, the New English Art Club, Jozes London 2011; and the Mall Galleries, where he won the prestigious Company of Painters and Stainers Award. Regionally, he has exhibited at the St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, the National Open Exhibition 2010 in ChIchester and Art in the Park, South Yorkshire. For Lymington people, a good selection of his work is regularly exhibited at the Coastal Gallery.


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