I was born in Pembroke, Wales in 1958 and grew up in the Mumbles near Swansea. After a brief adventure in the UK’s private school system I escaped to Bishop Gore Comprehensive and promptly became a member of the Welsh surfing team in 1974.
Next I won a place to study painting at Chelsea School of Art just off the Kings Road - the beating heart of “punk” in 1976, before going on to Bath Academy of Art, better known as Corsham. Here by contrast the faculty was in Lord Methuen’s Corsham Court, in a bucolic Wiltshire setting but where the art school was run on the lines of the Bauhaus, and the course taught by many of the key figures of British art.
After three years at Corsham I returned to London, where for much of the 80’s, I rented various studios around Hoxton Square. Here late into the evening, I painted, in the silenced city within echo's reach of Liverpool St station, and where as the tannoy bounced off the studio walls in the night it was hard to foresee that I was an early adopter of the Hoxton art scene. Meanwhile in the day time I assisted the English artist Howard Hodgkin.
Howard, in the mid eighties, was at the peak of his game and my role in his studio was to oversee his public projects. I have my thumbprints on his ’89 Broadgate mosaic “Wave” and the facade of Charles Correa’s British library in Delhi.
In 1991, by now married with a baby daughter, I took part an exhibition at the former Huguenot, then Methodist chapel, which would became a synagogue in Spitalfield’s Fournier St, before becoming briefly an art gallery before being re-incarnated as a mosque. Here astonishingly I made enough money to live for a year and so left London for the the West of Ireland.
Here, over the following eleven years, I prepared a number of exhibitions to be held throughout Europe, including at Lorrenzelli Arte in Milan and Aeroplastics in Brussels, both of whom continue to represent me. But my most important shows were in London, principally organized by my dealer Dominic Berning, first at Berning & Daw Gallery and then at the Blue Gallery in Kensington.
“I live on a kind of satellite, a splinter of rock in the Atlantic” I wrote at the time, in a note for a catalogue, “...... where in winter the ground shivers and groans as the swell grinds against the reef in front of my house...... the sea is inescapable here.” But where, when the winds that tore off the cottage’s roof quietened, the clouds would lift to reveal a landscape of the most pure and astringent beauty.
In the mid ’90’s I moved to Reed’s Wharf Gallery on the Thames at Bankside, to be represented by Stephen Lacey who championed abstract art, and where sometimes the moored barges on the river outside rose on the tide and boomed a honeyed bass note against the gallery wall, for once meriting the adjective “mellifluous”, as though in harmony with the opalescent London light and the art inside.
In 1999, when the gallery opened in grand new premises in Clerkenwell, and renamed the Stephen Lacey Gallery, I made a one-man show titled “Oceans & Other Paintings” with a catalogue essay written by Mel Gooding. Stephen included me in a number of shows during the ’90’s, notably “Crosscurrents” at the Barbican, and I stayed with the gallery until it closed in 2004.
And my family was growing, now with three small children, and we had all spent the winter of 1998 in Bavaria, where I had been installed with the grandiose title of “artist in residence to the city of Munich” in a villa in overlooking Lake Starnberg in the wealthy village of Feldafing at the end of Munich’s S Bahn.
The previous year I had been shortlisted for the John Moore’s painting prize, my show at Stephen’s gallery was coming up and I had an introduction to Matteo Lorenzelli in Milan who bought one of the paintings I had made in Munich and invited me to return with more.
On my return to Ireland from I made a series of twenty five paintings for Lorrenzelli, which I duly delivered the following year before leaving Ireland for the French Basque country we moved to Guethary a few kilometers along the coast from Biarritz.
Guethary, a seaside resort, was once the haunt of Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Eugene O’Neill, not to mention Charlie Chaplin and Joseph Albers. We found an apartment in a crumbling building which had once been an hotel. The building became a resource for me, as can be seen in the “Ocean House” painting of 2010.
On quieter nights, off season, the old place seemed to be filled with benign ghosts.... it was as if you could hear distant music and laughter under the whisper of the surf outside. And perhaps the shuffling of soft soled shoes, dancing shoes, echoing down the staircases and down the decades.
In 2006 I had a large one man show at the Mussée de Guethary of work made over the previous four years prior to its traveling to Turin for an exhibition organized by Lorrenzelli in 2007.
I moved to Paris in 2010, exhibiting “Ocean House” in a one man show at the Fondation Espace Lhomond and began simultaneously to shoot photographs, publishing stories mostly for Marie Claire’s French edition. Not forgetting the shows at Lorenzelli in 2010 and Aeroplastics in 2014.
My work has followed a trajectory from the idea of painting being mostly about matter, a visual "thing" and how you see it, towards narrative which is the primary function of photography. Now, after a brief return to Guethary I am in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where I am attempting to braid these two threads, the object and the subject, together.To see paintings please click here www.nickgammon.com