Heidi Wickham - 'Arctic Hares....and Polar Bears?'

STATEMENT ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

"Arctic Hares and Polar Bears" is a culmination of making drawings that I love, along with the more worrying information concerning the rapid decline of the Arctic ice sheets that these nobel creatures depend on.

I have been predominantly a drawer of animals since I was a child. Once I moved to Ireland in 1992 , I was looking for the physical and emotional room to kick start my career in fine art. When my youngest child had started pre school, I started working again, mainly making art in community groups .

In 1999 I built a workshop in the garden, and although I was still teaching art , I devoted more time to my own practice.

I draw animals because that is what I love. At one point I had quite a menagerie including dogs, cats, chickens and guinea pigs. I now have just three cats and bees.

Like writing , I believe that one should draw what you see. I watched my animals everyday and drew them over and over again until I was so familiar with their shapes , I could allow my line to become looser and more confident.

I always had a fascination with bears and the polar regions. I'm a keen hill walker , and have hiked in snow and ice here and abroad. As a charcoal artist, I can stay within the world of monochrome quite comfortably as the medium lends itself to stark contrast , so I love the white of the snow and the beauty of dark outlines of trees or buildings in that landscape.

Although the anatomy of each animal is different, it wasn't too big a transition to move from cats and hares to bears. It's the feel of an animal's bulk or muscle that I attempt to capture. The bears are the most powerful killers on land, but there is something so beautiful about them that I try to translate in a look in the eye or a ragged fur line. I didn't intend to anthropomorphise them , but once I place in an eye and it looks right back at me , I feel a connection has been made and this drawing is now a portrait.

I collect photos of bears I find wherever I can. I use them to start the process, but like all obsessions, the inner motivation takes over and the drawing becomes it's own unique thing.

Exhibition Details:

'Arctic Hares and Polar Bears'

Opening Night - Thursday 18th August 2016

(Exhibition will run until 8th September)

The show will encapsulate a new series of works by Heidi Wickham mainly as the

title suggests..Arctic Hares and Polar Bears, with a series of other animal related

paintings.

7pm to 9.30pm

Drinks Reception

Whalley Fine Art & Framing

The Courtyard

378A Belmont Road

Belfast

BT4 2NF

T: 02895 430340

www.whalleyfineart.com

Gallery Opening times:

Monday & Sunday: by Appointment

Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm

ARTISTS INTERVIEW

Whereabouts are you from and how long have you been a professional artist?

I was born near a place called Abergavenny, in the shadow of The Skirrid in The Black Mountains. We moved a few years later and my childhood was spent in the Surrey village of Windlesham.

Having qualified from Bristol Art College, I really started selling work around 2000, nearly 8 years after arriving in Ireland.

What type of work do you like to produce and what is your preferable medium?

I have always preferred using charcoal to make my drawings, it's not that I don't like colour, but the basic and rawness of making marks with essentially what is burnt wood, frees me from all the process involved with other mediums. Charcoal is what we used in prehistory. There's no brush between you on the canvas, I use every part of my hand to draw, pulling the charcoal over the surface and then paring it back using an eraser or tool.

Why and how did you start painting polar bears?

I really only draw animals. I draw bears because I like the shape of the head and the outline of the body. In polar bears , the heads are quite disproportionate to the body, I love that. I want to create a sense of bulk and mass with my bears, fully owning the canvas, but still with a benign sadnesses. I never draw them with teeth bared or in any aggressive way. They are the primary hunters on this planet, but I try to make them passive in my work.

What is your relationship with Whalley Fine Art?

Stephen Whalley approached me two years ago to be one of his gallery artists. He liked the work I was making and so I sent a few pieces to the gallery when he was in Holywood. They proved popular, and so we've been steadily working towards a solo show over the last couple of years. I am very happy to have work with Stephen, as I am from the UK , is a connection back to my roots too, dealing in sterling reminds me of home! I've lived in county Sligo for 25 years , longer than I've lived anywhere, and it's my favourite place on earth.

Have you any hobbies and what do you like to do in your spare time?

When I'm not making drawings, I volunteer with my local mountain rescue team. I'm ten years in it now, and it provides the perfect antidote to the solitary lifestyle of an artist. Switching to a team mentality, as well as the great exercise, helps me feel less isolated. It has happened that in the middle of a drawing, I've gone to a callout, only to return to the drawing hours later once the rescue has concluded !

Have you a favourite artwork you can remember painting?

Many years ago , I made a drawing of a cow. It was a turning point in both confidence and technique. Even though I have made better drawings since, I won't forget that one.

Do you collect art yourself and what type of work do you like?

We collect local artists work , and often will get something small whilst travelling. Our walls are covered with other people's art ! I love drawings of course, but a picture just has to have the right feeling. If you've ever caught the eye of someone over a crowded pub, you'll know what I mean.

What are your plans for the future?

The future is bright. I am having a new studio built this summer and the hares, bears and such will continue to bewitch me. Later this year I'm having a solo in Sligo based on beekeeping. I am on the cairde festival team and we stage an open submissions art show each year which takes a lot of time and effort , and training continues with the rescue team of course.

List of paintings