Salt, Spray, Abstraction: Interview with local seascape artist Leila Godden – 21 January 2014

by Lucy Finchett Maddock @yeoldefinch

Transitions Blue 205, by Leila Godden, image (c) the artist

Transitions Blue 205, by Leila Godden, image (c) the artist

I met Leila recently after she had kindly agreed to go for a coffee the night after the opening of her recent exhibition.  Leila Godden is featured artist at the ‘Chalk Gallery’ here in Lewes until 9 February.  Leila’s works are recognisable as her salty seascapes, recently more abstracted than before, but conjuring a powerful taste of the ocean caught like sand between your toes.

Leila has been exhibiting her work since 2004.  She was previously an accountant in the electricity supply industry, but after choosing to change her career, she undertook an art foundation course at Hereford Art and Design College.  After having studied business at undergraduate level, this was quite a different journey in life that Leila was about to start on.  Leila is originally from Scarborough in Yorkshire, and over the course of the years has moved around from north, south, west, having most recently moved from just outside Cheltenham, Gloucestershire to East Sussex in 2010.  Although Leila has lived in many places, she did say that the environment of each place did little to alter her mood or inspiration for subject matter in painting.  Her heart has always been drawn to the seaside, and so even when in the midst of land-locked Cheltenham, she has always envisioned seascapes, whether figuratively, or of an abstract nature.  Leila shared how she had always found it difficult to live away from the sea.  In fact, the further from the sea Leila lived, the more propelled she became to paint it, as though a siren drawing her in.

transitions blue 201, Leila Godden, image (c) the artist

transitions blue 201, Leila Godden, image (c) the artist

Her work has always been inspired by her upbringing along the North East coast, and more recently, after some time spent in the evocative St Ives in Cornwall where she embarked on courses at the ‘St Ives School of Painting’. She recounted to me the artistic drive emanating from living on the cliff tops of the North East coast, reminding her of the rock pools, the outdoors, the splicing fresh air.  Leila definitely communicates an emotional response to her environment.  She even goes so far as to say she has to get the work out, it is an expression that once disturbed must find its way on to the canvas; it is intriguing to think for years in the financial industry, she was not able to do this.  This connection or ‘dialogue’ as she refers to it, is certainly more pronounced and revelatory of her intuitive side, within her abstracts, finding the words to describe her feeling as a ‘powerful cathartic urge’.

transitions red 402 by Leila Godden, image (c) the artist

transitions red 402 by Leila Godden, image (c) the artist

She explained her elemental connection with the sea, with the rocks, with the concept and actuality of space itself, whilst acknowledging the sense of time and its presence, the solidity of the rocks and yet their vulnerability to change at glacial pace.  She has done a series of paintings on the formations and movements of waves, starting out with semi-abstraction, determining the textures of the pieces with a very thick layering of acrylic paint.  It is almost as though the end results of the pieces are previously unknown, the spontaneity creating uses of textures and colours that result in what can either be reminiscent or actual scenes of the sea and its melodic gestures.  The focus is very much led by the painting and not by the artist herself, following the instinct of the pallet knife.

Chalk window Jan 14 Leila 1

Chalk window Jan 14 Leila 1

Leila has taught workshops in textured seascapes in Sussex, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire and is known for her atmospheric drifts of moisture and light that churn within her works, the aquamarines, blues, greys and swirls of celestial that are almost reminders of night-time and the expanse of space and the stars.  This is most clearly within her recent ‘Transitions’ and ‘Fragments’ series, currently on show at the ‘Chalk Gallery’ where she has been a resident artist and member of the cooperative since 2012.  Her work can take from as little as a few days to many months, and so her method is not restrictive to deadlines.  Other than Chalk, Leila exhibits at ‘The Wey Gallery’ in Godalming, Surrey, and ‘Above the Blue’ in Port Solent, Hampshire.  Leila spoke of her excitement and joy at exhibiting at the ‘Cork Street Open Exhibition’, Mayfair in London in 2013, one of the highlights of her career as an artist, on a par with the pleasure she gleans as a contributor and creative stake-holder at Chalk.

For information on Leila’s recent abstracts as well as where to find her other works, please visit her website

written by Lucy Finchett Maddock, visit her blog and follow her on twitter @yeoldefinch

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