Similar Passions, Different Styles; Visual Arts Four Artists with Sharply Contrasting Styles and Approaches to Painting Are Brought Together for a New Exhibition. They Tell Jenny White about the Enduring Passions That Drive Their Work

Article excerpt

THE changing face of Cardiff Bay is the source of Sarah Richards' unique style. It set her on an exploration into shape, colour and form that continues today.

She's less concerned with the surface shapes of objects than the patterns in between them: the curves and angles made by intersections of masts, nets, cranes, railings and rooftops.

Her subdued palette is partly a result of this: it allows her to focus on the shapes, but it also reflects her surroundings.

"It is based on the palette of the docks which is green and grey with bits of blue here and there," she says.

"It's the subtle relationship of colours that interests me."

Richards' fascination with industrial scenery began when she was a student studying printmaking in Aberystwyth. She picked the Rhondda as the major focus of her work, but soon found herself artistically drawn to her hometown of Cardiff.

"It became more important because I missed it, I became nostalgic. I'd go home for the weekend and take pictures of the bay and the docks."

Now back in Cardiff, she continues to focus on the interplay of old and new in the Bay area. But she has also started to respond to similar themes in other parts of the UK, from Battersea Power Station to the abandoned works in Porthgain, Pembrokeshire. All these places feature in her latest body of work, which goes on show at Cardiff's Albany Gallery today.

Exhibiting alongside Richards is David Atkins, an artist whose "traditional" way with oils forms a bracing contrast with Richards' more stylised approach. Yet there are unexpected overlaps between the two: both have recently broadened their subject matter beyond the coastal scenery near their homes.

Atkins, who lives in Weymouth, produced a series of large-scale paintings of New York, and echoes Richards when he describes his fascination with "how shapes and forms work, and how architecture is important to lighting".

His contribution to the exhibition is a globe-trotting selection of paintings, depicting places as diverse as Barcelona and Dublin. He is an early riser and a lover of light, be it a bright summer morning or a rosy autumn sunset.

"The majority of the work I do is done in situ. You can get a different weather condition or lighting situation suddenly happening, and I really respond to that. I might start a painting with something in mind and then during that process the sun will come out, and I will very quickly try to get it down.

"I'll be working on a painting for however long it takes. If there's a last minute change I'll scrape it all off and put something completely new and fresh down."

Fellow exhibitor Kevin Safe shares Atkins' instinctive and sometimes reckless approach to paint. …