Originally a painter, I was seduced into photography in the mid 1990’s. However, I still think in that way and so my images are quite painterly. Because I want large, almost empty rooms to photograph and we live in a small house, I have to create my own and these have to be in miniature. By being sparsely furnished (if at all) I aim to evoke an atmosphere – sometimes one of silence, peace, or something about to happen… These structures – often just a wall, with windows or a door – are very simple and painted with medium sized brushes and household paint. Over the past few years, the light has not been good – either dull or else over bright – and I have returned to painting by making backgrounds – usually the sea – and the painted scene and the actual still life objects are juxtaposed in the same frame.
On most mornings, I line up objects on a shelf in my studio and watch the light move in through the open windows, with light and objects sharing an equal part in the composition. Maybe my interest in domestic subjects was forged when, as a working artist and mother of three, I had to multi task and could not go off in search of inspiration, and so found it in the things immediately around me. Tidiness is not my forte and so my studio could be described as an asthma inducing tip, or – I prefer this desription – an extension of the still lifes.
As a painter I exhibited in the usual exhibitions – Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, New English Art Club, Royal Watercolour Society and in many solo and mixed shows in Cambridge, London and elsewhere. When a painter, my inherited synaesthesia was a factor, but I am not sure whether this is reflected in the photographs – probably not. Working as an art journalist, meant that I was in contact with every kind of visual art and this (I hope) has opened my eyes to all possibilities. Is there such a thing as ‘good art’, or is it merely subjective and open to any interpretation?
If I have to sum up the one essential point of my work, I would say it is the light and the timing of that light. Light and time and the the idea of something happening now. Not last week, not tomorrow, but now, today, this minute. Now you see it, now you don’t… This applies even to a painted background – something entirely artificial – the light is still a creator of mood and atmosphere.
Now I am working on a series of Chekhov in exile in which, after 1917, Chekhov’s characters, having fled Russia, find themselves in another world, in completley different interiors. Some of these are in Albums/Interior and still life. It is a work in progress, which will form part of an exhibition.
Philip Vann, the writer on the visual arts, wrote recently You have created a whole new interior – of silence and beauty.
Cambridge Open Studios http://www.camopenstudios.co.uk/node/560
The Fitzwilliam Museum as an inspiration http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/gallery/inspiration/contributors/stemp.html
Isobel Stemp’s website http://isobelstemp.co.uk/wp/
Images acquired by Fitzwilliam Museum
Images used for postcards by Fitzwilliam Museum.
Photographs acquired by the University of Cambridge.
Photographs featured in This is my Cambridge a video installation for the
Folk Museum, Cambridge.
Images used by University of Cambridge Summer School
Exhibitions include Heffer Gallery, Cambridge,
Broughton House mixed exhibition, Cambridge
Old Fire Engine House, Ely, Wall Gallery, Ely, Nordesign, Cambridge
Work in private collections world wide
Still lifes of books can be seen at G. David, St Edwards Passage,Cambridge
One of my greetings cards was a finalist in the Henries Awards
My cards can be bought at
Heffers Books, Trinity Street, Cambridge
The Babylon Gallery, Ely, Cambridgeshire
and from me (see contact)
Work exhibited at: Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
New English Art Club, London.
Royal Water Colour Society Open Exhibition, London.
Royal Institute of Painters Exhibition, London.
The Singer/Friedlander – Sunday Times Competition.
Anna Mei Chadwick Gallery, London
Clare Hall Gallery, The Heffer Gallery, Broughton House Gallery,
Gallery on the Cam Old Fire Engine House Ely.
Anna Mei Chadwick Gallery mixed exhibition, London
Public and private collections: University of Cambridge and Paintings in Hospitals (voted most popular painting )
Private collections in UK, USA, South Africa, Australia and Europe.
Freelance art journalist since 1983
Prize winner in the BP Arts Journalism Award
Member of the International Association of Art Critics.