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About : Bridget Penn-Berkeley - Artist and Photographer based in Bridgy Gallery Bridgwater, Somerset


Bridget Penn-Berkeley 

                 

An artist all my life, in the beginning I tried everything: drawing, painting, photography and film working with paint, charcoal, ink, clay, wood, plastics, even rubber. At school I studied industrial design and technical drawing alongside my art but I gravitated towards sculpture during my A levels. This was due to my brilliant Art teacher Mr White at Wareham upper school supported by my summer job sculpting for an animated display studio DFA in Dorchester.
I completed my foundation degree at Bournemouth with very good education from my tutors with colour theory and composition once completed the foundation I was accepted by Wimbledon school of art to study sculpture.  I studied sculpture, art history, photography and was able to get involved with foundry work and welding. I became involved with student union activities and events, later I was voted in to the role of president of the student union organising big events in the college theatre, sitting with the governing body with responsibility for budgets. This was a great learning ground and my art school years gave me confidence that I could tackle most things.

I continued to live in south London working in publishing then an opportunity arrived to sculpt for a display company my job to discuss the work needed with the clients provide a quote and make/ manage the production of a wide variety of items from a giant gold coin for the royal mint to a very large plastic Webster (A children’s plastic toy very popular at the time for the Toy Fair) as well as signage and an array of three-dimensional objects for exhibitions and shop window displays. A challenging and exciting role, diverse tasks daily from meeting up with company representatives to making something different every day in the studio, never knowing what was coming next, I and my team even cut up rope for a living for a few days as part of making a boardwalk display for a large shopping chain. A majority of the work at the display company was made with polystyrene, plaster and other temporary materials finished either by hand or spray painted. I was earning a living as a commercial sculptor/studio manager working for a variety of big-name clients including Hamleys, Phillips. Alders, London Dungeon, Milk marketing board, Fortnum & Mason, Lord Mayors show. The work was ephemeral in nature (made for the moment not to last). Everything made to order often designed by someone else or a copy of something at a different scale with limited scope for self-expression although someone did love Slimer and took him home (Ghostbuster display Hamleys).

My interest was drawn to smaller sculptures made of more permanent materials and my work became more awards based. I fell in love with the quality of bronze, stone, brass, and titanium materials. I made awards for Glaxo Smith Kline, Haynes, Capital Radio and the BBC. It was during this period I designed and sculpted the Mercury Music Prize

Looking young in this newspaper cutting :).
 
As all chapters must come to an end my time in London ended with a move back to the west country to start my family life with my husband and Son, they were the centre of my life. I continued sculpting in a studio on the Old Taunton Road Industrial estate in Bridgwater for clients based in London and completed a large sculptural job for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Hammersmith with a colleague from my London days Ben. The London work dried up, a combination of distance and the petrol strike so my husband and I started a range of small wildlife and farm animal sculptures called West Country Originals to supply west country shops for the tourist trade. My range of Bee circles inspired by the discovery that bees dance to communicate proved very popular with beekeepers. Sculpture was my craft, my passion, this period did allow for the creative freedom I desired and I worked hard to have a comprehensive portfolio to demonstrate my skill and creativity to potential prospects.
                            
Imagine my dismay when the portfolio was seen to be working against me as customers thought their job was too simple or boring for me! During this time in the west country we experienced difficult issues like piles of dead cows, petrol strikes and a very wet summer this affected everyone, many of our outlets retired or ceased trading. Companies were cutting back, a simpler more modern style was gaining ground, new technology was producing encapsulation which was dramatic and economic, we could not compete with this mechanised sleek finish. I stopped sculpting for a living and began painting just for me in my spare time, it has been an interesting journey a liberation and an explosion of colour and expression. 

          

I have found a style I call Xtract Art, the starting point for this work is a photograph, this began as I had to walk for my health I stepped back at work to a local branch-based role that I could walk to. As I got better and to make me walk further, I took pictures the aim to photograph round things, you would be amazed by how many round items there are out in the street-scape of the town. Once home I would work with the photographs on the computer bringing out and enhancing the existing colours, cropping to create the best compositions, bringing out the best qualities of these photographs. Then having beauty competitions to choose the best ones to paint in acrylic on canvas. As I painted these images, they gained a title sometimes this was just a working title and the final painting called something else for example ‘On the High Street’ became High Street Blues as internet shopping was taking their trade away. Many themes and influences became apparent as I painted changing how the final painting looked, even where the photo was taken for example the fish one above is called Paragon Papa Fish as the drain cover the photograph was taken of sits just outside the pizza shop Papa Johns and that was built on the old Paragon laundry site on the Taunton Road Bridgwater. I do a write up on each of the Bridgwater Circle series paintings to show the original photograph and my thoughts as I painted the canvas there are over 60 in the series. ‘Ring of Frian Past’ was photographed in Frian Street Bridgwater, there was a long time ago a friary on this land, this fancy bell pull was a relic of our past no longing working but evocative of the elegance of a bygone age.  The last Bridgwater Circle series painting above is called ‘Rhode Rings’.
I will have a solo exhibition ‘Round Bridgwater’ in the new gallery February 2021 and an exhibition of my colourful carnival paintings with a Covid corner and work by other artists.    The Gallery project has been my salvation during this challenging pandemic.

                 

My focus currently is the completion of phase one of the gallery to open to the public in 2021.    I have been developing some products to sell alongside the original paintings and prints.

Currently I am painting a small series based on a video that was made and circulated during lockdown called ‘Pass the Rune’. I imagine I may be doing more Carnival paintings next year in response to the carnival coming back.

 
Please visit my blog to see my progress with the Gallery and information about Xtract art - links below.

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