BELINDA ELLIS - PAINTINGS
Belinda studied fine art in London in the 1970s at Sir John Cass College, the North East London Polytechnic and St. Martin’s School of Art. For many years she had a Space Studio in Wapping, London. Since 1989 she has lived and worked in Bloxham, North Oxfordshire. In 1986 she was selected to participate in the Triangle Artists’ Workshop in Upstate New York run by the sculptor Sir Anthony Caro and Robert Loder. Invited critics were Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried. In 2001 and 2006 Belinda took part in Art in Situ in the Drome, France. This was an international project that included artists from Oxford, France and other European countries. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally and her work is in collections in the UK, France, Sweden, China and America. Recently she was selected for the National Open Art Competition 2015 Exhibition at the Royal College of Art.
A major influence comes from Indian miniature painting. Her interest in the subject goes back a long way and she chose it for her thesis at college. Time spent in Japan created a fascination for the ceramics and prints there. Abstract expressionism, surrealism, expressionism and cubism are movements that have influenced her work as well as numerous artists that include Chardin, Manet, Matisse, Hoffman, David Smith, Sonia Delauney and Munter.
Belinda paints in acrylic and oil on canvas and watercolour, gouache and oil on paper. The work varies in size. The largest work is approximately 5ft x 7ft and the smallest 4in x 4 in. Canvases are stapled to boards on the floor while being painted. Firstly this means that the piece has no particular ‘right way up’. Secondly as different mediums are used, some of them very liquid, it makes the paint easier to handle. The canvases are usually not stretched until the pieces are completed. Finally the work is titled.
As an associate artist at Banbury College she makes etchings and mono-prints using vegetable oil based inks. Her work is predominantly abstract but strongly influenced by landscape. Recently working in the Malvern Hills and in Devon was an excellent opportunity to escape the familiar surroundings of the studio and rediscover the benefit of working 'en plein air'.
The work speaks for itself. Belinda's paintings can be described as a synthesis of the internal and external, colour relationships seen and imagined.The ideas are visual and the work communicates like music in a non-verbal way reflecting and evoking, not copying, nature. There is a symbiotic relationship between differing or opposing elements such as accident and order, translucence and opaqueness, stillness and energy. This creates a tension. Her practise is a continuing process, the paintings being offshoots of that process, each one bringing and feeding ideas for others. At the start the outcome is not known and the process is a dialogue between the artist and the work.
'I like to experiment in painting, taking chances. As an abstract painter I find the endless possibilities it creates fascinating and exciting. It reflects the world we inhabit. Discoveries in science and technology have brought about huge changes and altered our perception. Matter itself appears to behave in a random fashion.’
Belinda Ellis Painter from Artists and Studios by Simon Murison–Bowie.
Interview by Jon Gordon
The studio is right at the top of the house and as it’s way up the light is pretty good most of the time. It’s a perfect studio and I didn’t have to do much to it, just removed some shelves and painted it white. The studio I had in London was in a warehouse in Wapping, about 400 square feet, long and narrow. This is about the same size but it has less wall space because of the sloping ceilings. There are a lot of paintings stored downstairs because I’ve been painting for nearly 40 years. I did quite a lot of large paintings at college and having good- sized spaces has meant that I’ve always done some large work.
The amount of time I spend painting varies. I do lots of other things and always seem to be busy. Taking photographs of the work, computer stuff, the website, applying for things are all part of an artist’s life, but they are not painting. Then there are household things, growing food etc. Altogether it takes up quite a lot of time. I tend to work more in the afternoons and in the summer. I have some daylight bulbs on the ceiling, but I don’t like painting after dark. I paint a few days a week and not at weekends. Sometimes I come up for a short time and on other days it can be 6/7 hours. The advantage of having a studio at home means that I can go there at any time of day to look at what I have been working on. I often do this. It might be to see how a picture looks after the paint has dried.
To begin with I was using figurative elements in my paintings then somewhere along the line the original studies seemed unnecessary. I think I’d developed a visual language I could draw on. I became rather obsessed by abstract painting, it wasn’t my intention at all, but the possibilities are endless.
I begin by painting on the floor. I have been using quite thin acrylic paint to start with and on the floor it’s not going to drip. If I want it to drip I hang the canvas up. The other thing about working on the floor is that you don’t have a fixed ‘way up’ to the painting and you can approach it from any angle. I don’t know what the painting is going to look like at the end and I don’t start off with any preconceived ideas. It’s a conversation and the piece itself suggests the next step. I spend a lot of time just staring at it, seeing how the colours and the forms react to each other, turning it around, taking my glasses off. Sometimes it’s obvious. Although the act of painting can be quick it’s not something you want to rush into. You don’t always know how things will turn out but with experience you have a good idea of what is likely to happen. Once I start it can take off but also it’s good to know when to stop, not to overdo things.
Sometimes when I’m painting it feels very good. At other times rather despairing. You are involved with a process. Sometimes it can take ages to get started, I come in and go pottering around, looking at things I’m working on, things I feel are not finished. I need that pottering time to focus and get my mind into the right place to allow things to happen. When I’m actually painting I’m quite excited. I’ve made the decision about what I’m going to do, so let’s do it and see what happens.