CultureA Surface for Memory

A Surface for Memory

Following her win at the 2022 Summer Exhibition, last month marked a watershed moment for Debbie Crane as her first solo exhibition, ‘Open Hands’, opened at CCA Galleries International. We asked her about her work and process.  

What gets you up in the morning; whats your morning routine?

I ‘wake up’ in the sea most mornings as the tide is at the foot of my bed. So that makes for a zippy start to the day. 

Your work is very vibrant, it must take a real positive energy. 

I think the energy of the work comes from my pleasure  in seeking the vitality  and essence of the subject. If you paint what you love it can be both seen and felt. There was a beautiful moment at the opening of the exhibition when someone sniffed my painting, exclaiming he could smell the sea. I’ll take that!

When we asked you for advice when you were last in Gallery, you said ‘Do more of what makes you happy’ – what has been making you happy of late?

Painting keeps me happy, so as you can see, I’ve done lots of that. Of course it’s not always an easy process, but it’s where I find myself. We have a new family member, a rescue dog called Nellie, so lots of long walks around our beautiful island helps me stay inspired. 

Your subject matter is diverse. What inspires your choice in what to paint?

My canvas is the surface for my memory, emotion and response; so most of what I find in my every day will appear. 

You won the summer exhibition in 2022, did that change your outlook as an artist?

Having the opportunity to see much of my work framed and hanging in a gallery has certainly been very affirming. Paintings are a lot like children, messy at times, tough but mostly a joy. Then you frame them and put them out into the world to be enjoyed. 

This exhibition has led me through the whole cycle of being an artist and I have really enjoyed working alongside CCA to put on a show I’m really proud of.  

You’ve built a studio at home, set the scene; what is on the radio while you work and what are you snacking on?

My studio is a haven at the top of the garden hidden under a giant willow tree. With the doors open I can work to the sound of birdsong and a bubbling brook, the perfect soundtrack to paint to. A well-trodden path back to the house for regular tea and biscuit breaks gives me the distance away from the work so I can return again with fresh eyes.

Your new exhibition is called ‘Open Hands’ – what’s the story behind the title?

Capturing the human form from life is a discipline in observation and feeds all my work. I find hands especially difficult but equally fascinating to paint because they are our creative tools. There is a series of four paintings showing hands at work, and the series is concluded by the painting Open Hands which references the act of both giving and receiving.

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