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Introduction. Profile. The Simon Claridge Collection.

Simon Claridge.

History & Background.

Upon graduating with a degree in fine art in 2002, I ended up working at and eventually managing an art gallery in Windsor. Whilst working in the gallery every day to pay the bills I painted feverishly every night; all the while harbouring the dream of one day having my work hung on the walls. I was having some small success with my work in local galleries and at the affordable art fair in London. However I was frustrated that things were not happening fast enough, so without the owners consent I took matters into my own hands and one weekend filled the windows of the gallery with my own canvases. By lunchtime of the first day we had sold everything. That was the last weekend I worked in the gallery!

Within a month I was taken on by the UKís leading fine art publishers and returned to Windsor gallery the following year for my first sell out solo exhibition.

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Ideas & Inspirations.

The human form is such a fantastic thing to paint; the eye never tires of seeing what it is programmed to respond to on such a guttural level. Exploring the human form provides me a rich seem of inspiration both on a formal visual plain and perhaps more importantly on an innate, visceral level.

I want the work to have an initial raw impact which given time perhaps will inspire memories and fantasies, which can become intertwined.

Itís this line between fantasy and reality, which I believe we all walk on from time to time that interests me. My goal is to leave to the viewer some tangible emotional feeling. If the flat areas of colour I create on the canvas surface can be given depth in the imagination of the viewer then I feel itís been successful.

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From Palette to Picture.

Perhaps surprisingly given the simplicity and graphic nature of my finished works, I hardly ever know what they are going to look like when I start on them. The preparatory work is based in the sketchbook. This is where the formal reduction of the source material starts. It is a trial and error exercise based on experience and gut instinct. On an aesthetic level I want to create a formal relationship of abstract shapes and voids within the predetermined field of the canvas boundary. However this needs to be balanced with the emotive content I want the piece to convey. This is the most challenging but exciting part of the process for me, as the final composition reveals itís self through the pencil marks. This basic composition is then transferred on to the canvas where invariably more changes are made. Before finally covering the canvas as quickly as possible with acrylic paint to ascertain the colours and tones I want. Once happy with these then the painstaking layers of paint are applied, the processes of building up the layers to achieve the completely flat finish is one that takes great patience, however ultimately brings the most satisfaction as the work starts takes on a life of its own. As I create the sharp lines on the canvas surface it starts to blur the lines between reality and fantasy.

I have recently added a new layer of transformation to my imagery as I have built a silkscreen print studio within my workspace. Once the original paintings are finished I use this imagery to help me create the screens I make to create silkscreen prints.

I had been particularly keen to work with silk screening for a while. It just felt like a very natural sideways step for me from my painting style and techniques.

I create my screens using the photo emulsion technique:

The original image is created on a transparent overlay I have to ensure the areas to be inked are opaque. A screen must then be selected. There are several different mesh counts that can be used depending on the detail of the design being printed. Once a screen is selected, the screen must be coated with a light sensitive emulsion and let to dry in the dark. (I use my loft!) Once dry, the screen is ready to be burned/exposed.

The overlay is placed over the emulsion-coated screen, and then exposed with a light source containing ultraviolet light. The UV light passes through the clear areas and creates a polymerization (hardening) of the emulsion. The screen is washed off thoroughly. The areas of emulsion that were not exposed to light dissolve and wash away, leaving a negative stencil of the image on the mesh Therefore the open spaces that are left are where the ink will appear in the print.

Once the screen is prepared I am ready to print:

The screen is placed atop a substrate such as paper or canvas. Ink is then placed on top of the screen as the mesh openings now have to be flooded with ink. This is done by dragging the ink over the mesh using a squeegee with the screen lifted away from the substrate to prevent contact. The screen is the placed atop the substrate again and the squeegee is moved toward the rear of the screen with slight downward pressure. The tension of the mesh pulls the mesh up away from the substrate (called snap-off) leaving the ink upon the substrate surface.

It is very easy to learn but can take a lifetime to master as every stage can be altered in numerous versions to create different effects and results. The key thing is that work made in this way is very much hand made I consider my original works made this way original paintings. I am just using a different kind of brush!

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A day in the Life of...

Around the time I became a full time artist I was renovating my Victorian terraced house so buoyed by enthusiasm and having little fear of DIY, after knocking down walls and fitting kitchens and bathrooms, I decided to build my own studio in the walled garden. It is my perfect space, designed and built by myself to be the ideal place to create.

I love working from home as I am able to look after my two fiercest critics my pugs, Coco and Elvis. I have no set routine and let the work determine the day. I will stay in the studio as long as I can, wishing there were more hours. My time is split between drawing, painting and printmaking. I wish I was more organised but I flit between canvases and ideas as and when it feels right. I absolutely love what I do but never feel satisfied as Iím always striving for better.

As important as my work is to me I try to have a balance, as I feel quality of life is very important. One of the most enjoyable parts of my day is spent in the kitchen with a glass of something preparing a hopefully delicious dinner for myself and my fiancť Ruthy.

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