Cornish Artist Takes National Prize
Born in Cornwall in 1964, David Whittaker has spent over 20 years honing his craft as an artist. After taking the first prize in the National Open Art 2011, he is finally achieving recognition for his work.
His painting, The Hovering was chosen from more than 2000 entries to be awarded the £10,000 prize fund but for David, the monetary value of the award is far less important than the increase of confidence in his own work it has given him.
“I had no thought about winning I just knew I had to get in,” says David “not for the money, but for the sake of my soul and of my work, I just felt like I had to get in so I was part of the race, in the running almost. I felt I was capable just to achieve that.”
David’s work in recent years has projected a feeling of duality, his paintings usually featuring a detailed landscape within a head-shaped form that give the viewer a feeling of viewing the world through a portal. As David puts it: “I try to create a sense of romanticism, an echo of real life that we see through our own eyes every day but often miss or take for granted.”
This feeling of duality reflected in David’s work echoes not just the way he views the world around him but the challenges he has faced in his personal life too. In 2009 he was diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, a condition in which a person feels there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.
Alongside the beautiful paintings that hang in David’s studio is a collection of small mirrors. They feature a tiny landscape that can only be viewed in the mirror’s reflection and a pair of female shoes at the bottom of the plinth upon which each one stands. The piece, ‘When Trains Kill Poems’ was inspired by the death of a young girl but also feel like a reference to David’s Gender Dysphoria. David agrees: “They come from a feeling of being trapped I guess, trapped in the wrong body.”
As David has adapted to the diagnosis he feels like he is starting to feel as confident as a person as he is as an artist: “I have always been a late developer as a human being,” he says “my art has always been racing ahead of me a little bit and I’ve often shocked myself. I’m constantly trying to catch up with my art, the person itself has always been lagging behind a bit but that’s changed now. Although it has taken me until the age of 47, which is a bit sad in a way.”
Despite being encouraged by a family friend to seek a place at Art College from an early age, David is completely self-taught and has never received any formal training. “As a teenager I was shy and insecure, with very low self-confidence and it just wasn’t for me,” David recalls.
But he has no regrets: “For me I feel like the way things have happened have been right for me and my journey, to remain untouched by any of the college set-up. I have been able to evolve and discover myself, finding out what works for me along the way.”
Discovery and evolution seem to be common themes that run through David’s work and in a way represent his own battle with coming to terms with his Gender Dysphoria and finding himself as an artist.
“It’s my balance really,” he says “to all the trauma in my life, my personal situation and whatever else is going on in the world. You’ve got the mess and the chaos, and then the order and the beauty. I like to think it all balances itself out.”
Newquay’s Got Talent 2012 Review
At the launch party of Newquay’s Got Talent 2012 back in March, big claims were made. We were promised the competition would: “create history as the greatest musical talent show Newquay had seen to date.”
Even in the light of these grandiose claims, NGT 2012 was certainly a far more polished affair than the usual annual menagerie of dancing dogs and half-cut fisherman singing sea shanties on the Killacourt.
This year’s final relocated to Sailors Nightclub which by some miracle had managed to capture that ‘VIP feel’ with the addition of a red carpet, fake paparazzi and the arrival of the judges and finalists in a limo. Add to that an ‘actual celebrity’ in the shape of Gary Stringer, front-man from Reef – who joined each of the finalists on stage to perform a duet – and things were really starting to feel a bit ‘x-factor-ish’.
Winners, The People's String Foundation
First up was local-favourite Adam Parfitt who is well known in Newquay for hosting open-mic nights. Although he was popular with the crowd, and gave a lively performance it was a little disappointing compared to those of the other finalists. It was hard to see any changes or improvements from the usual set he plays at every open-mic he’s ever at. There were no original songs, just a collection of over-done ‘pub-style’ covers. When he started strumming the opening bars of ‘Mr Jones and Me’, you could almost feel the whole room collectively groan.
Just as things were starting to look bleak and not exactly likely to “create history” any time soon, the night was saved by absolute floor-stompers and eventual winners, The People’s String Foundation.
The violin-led quartet raised the roof from the minute they graced the stage right up to the end of their set and front-man Ben Sutcliffe emerged as the star of the night with his meaty violin solos and infectious enthusiasm.
Although third finalist, Aaron Douglas put up a strong fight and wowed the audience with his innovative style, it wasn’t enough to take the top spot and he came a close second taking home £300 for his troubles.
The People’s String Foundation took the top prize of £1000 and brought the night to an energetic close, joining Gary Stringer on stage to perform Reef’s classic hit, ‘Put Your Hands Up’.
Gary Stringer (left) presents prizes to NGT 2012 finalists
As the night drew to a close and the crowds exited upon the now fag-ash-covered red carpet, fresh from “creating history.” Well maybe not quite history as such but the night was definitely a success, raising the profile of Newquay in a positive way and providing a platform to showcase local musicians.
Newquay has long been a town that is misunderstood but one thing is for sure – it definitely has talent.
Newquay welcomes Olympic Torch
Newquay residents and visitors alike were out in force on Saturday afternoon to catch a glimpse of the Olympic Torch as it passed through the town.
The streets were awash with colour as the crowds waved banners and flags and despite the torch arriving over 45 minutes late, spirits remained high.
Local resident Jess Parkin said: “It really was a momentous occasion for the town, a moment in history. Some people were moaning a bit when it was late but come on, this is Cornwall. We like to do things dreckly.”
The torch came to the town on the first day of a relay that will last 70 days and see it travel to within an hour of 95% of the UK’s population on it’s way to London and the 2012 Olympic Games.
Over the course of it’s journey, the torch will be carried by 8,000 people, the majority of whom were nominated to be torchbearers in a scheme that aims to recognise and reward people who have contributed to their community.
Newquay resident, Tommy Gee, was nominated by his girlfriend Nina and was chosen from over 10,000 people for his work with young people.
Speaking before the event he said: “It is such an honour to represent the young people I work with and if my taking part helps to inspire some of them to sign up for more sport or to improve their own lifestyles then it is a great achievement aside from actually taking part in the nationwide event.”
Celebrations continued across the town all day with activities staged at the Sports Centre, Newquay Tretherras School where the torch stopped for a ‘lunch break’ and with live music on the Barrowfields.
Top of the shops for former Falmouth student
Ella Barrett with award-winning print designs from her graduate show
Images of fungus, taxidermy and rats aren’t exactly everyone’s idea of beauty. But I imagine they haven’t yet come across the work of Ella Barrett, a 22-year-old fashion designer and former Falmouth student, who is challenging conventional ideas of what can be beautiful. Her stunning print designs, incorporating these and other elements, will soon be available at Topshop stores nationwide.
“I get my inspiration from everything and anything,” says Barrett, “I think you just have to open your eyes wherever you are, there is inspiration in both the simplest and most complicated things.”
Passionate about art and design from an early age, Barrett became intrigued by fashion on childhood trips to London: “I can remember seeing all the beautiful women in desirable, beautiful, some wonderfully garish or bold outfits and I just felt enthralled by the different colours, shapes and styles.”
During her time at University College Falmouth, Barrett decided to try her hand at surface design and on a trip to a Berlin museum, found inspiration in the work of Andy Warhol.
“I loved how his work translated,” she recalls. “I think what really excited me about Warhol’s work at that stage was that I discovered how much he was obsessed with death. It was the juxtaposition of these beautiful images with such a macabre undertone that really struck a chord with me.”
Barrett’s fixation for the dark side of beauty was reflected in her graduate show, for which she won a cash prize and helped her to graduate with a First Class Honours degree from Cardiff University.
“The background for my project emerged from the deconstructionist trend Le Destroy and the art movement Abject Art, which revolves around the idea of highlighting one’s fascination with taboo, the violation and disrespect of rules in order to define yourself.
“Ultimately, it’s about confronting and acknowledging objects that are often seen as disgusting or imperfect. I used motifs and marks that are generally considered to be disused or distasteful, like mould and items found in skips or bins, and by taking them out of context, I provided the viewer with nothing more than a stunning surface pattern.”
Although her award-winning graduate show gained her some well deserved attention within the industry, it was an internship with Topshop that gave Barrett the platform she needed to bring her work to the masses: “I cannot stress how important interning is for anyone starting out in the fashion design industry,” she says, “it gives you the richest resource of network connections, experience and a chance to heighten your skills with professional guidance.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity that working with Topshop has given me, I love their quirky British style and can’t wait to see how my designs translate in their world.”
And world is an appropriate word to use: with stores in over 20 countries worldwide, Topshop has become a global success and is forging a name for itself within the fashion industry with it’s high-end, ready to wear label, Topshop Unique.
Barrett's prints defy conventional ideas of beauty
In designing a range for Topshop, Barrett follows in the footsteps of the likes of supermodel Kate Moss and British artist Stella Vine. Nerve-racking stuff for any graduate but Barrett takes it in her stride and credits the team at Topshop for giving her the confidence and skills she needed: “I am a little nervous, apprehensive mainly, but in a positive way! I feel very lucky to have even been offered this work as I never expected anything more after my internship, I guess I was just in the right place, at the right time, with the right style.
“I’m not saying it was handed to me, I’ve worked very hard to get here and without the team at Topshop, I would never have had the option, or the knowledge for that matter.”
Her range is due to hit stores in March and although she has already taken on more work for Topshop, Barrett isn’t quite ready to sit back and relax just yet: “I think you always need alternative plans. You always need to think: if this doesn’t work what next? You have to keep your brain content, you have to lead a full life and it just so happens that I’m filling mine with exactly what I wanted to right now. But I have worked really hard to get what I wanted, and I’m by no means finished yet.”