Portmeirion has always provided a rich source of inspiration for artists. Our 32-year-old artist in residence Briony Clarke reveals how her method of capturing the local landscape is truly unique.
Q: Why do you do, what you do? I didn’t always think I was going to be an artist - but at some point in my life I realised that I probably should be. Art was the thing that gave me the most pleasure.
Q: How do you work? Since I’ve been Portmeirion’s resident artist, I’ve been trying to focus specifically on the local area. I’ve been developing some special drawing techniques with regional pigments. I get my slate pigments from Blaenau Ffestiniog, and I get the opaque pigments from Parys Mountain on Anglesey. I then grind them up to create paint and ink. I’ve also made a few water drawing machines. Here in the village, I have a whirlpool that I’ve designed so that I can drop the ink into the water and then I draw with the movement of the water. It creates these really strange landscapes. I also work down in the estuary, working with the movement of the tide.
Q: How has your practise changed over time? I’m quite used to creating objects and doing performance work so the fact that I am now drawing is really alien. I’ve only just started to work with paper and paint which is really surreal for me. I think that’s been the biggest change that has happened since I’ve been here. But for me, the work is still quite sculptural.
Q: What’s your favourite artwork that either you or others have done? I suppose the architect John Hejduk. He’s an American architect/artist who had the guts to go and design things that seemed unbuildable - a bit like Clough.
Q: What memorable responses have you had to your work? The work is quite subjective and it’s got a lot of movement. I can see different things inside it. Actually, alchemists used this kind of marbling technique to tell the future and I can now understand why. People come in and say that they see a car or tree but kids are more straightforward with their observations. I think being here and having those kinds of responses have been humbling as well as really exciting and thrilling.
Q: What inspired you to come here and work? I studied architecture and have always been interested in Portmeirion. I saw the village as a liveable work of art that you can actually get inside and walk around. Quite often, grand schemes like Portmeirion never get passed the planning stage – but here it got built. That’s a very rare thing and I think it will be much rarer now, so it’s a privilege to be here.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? A: Keep going. Being an artist doesn’t guarantee a regular income or security. In fact, it can be tough - that’s why it’s such great advice.
Briony Clarke studied Architecture at The London Metropolitan University before turning to art at Byam Shaw, Central St Martins and Communication Art and Design at the RCA, London. She has performed and exhibited both throughout the UK and internationally, including places such as The Science Gallery in London and The Contemporary Art Foundation in Athens.
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