Sunday 16 December 2018

What Lies Beneath: Bridlington Seaside Dusk by Sarmite Alksne

Bridlington Seaside Dusk by Sarmite Alksne, Oil on linen, courtesy of the artist

Bridlington Seaside Dusk by Sarmite Alksne
Bridlington Seaside Dusk by Sarmite Alksne

Niall MacMonagle

We've put back the clocks; we ready and steady ourselves for the dark coming on and the cold, but in Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, Stevens, the butler, sitting on a bench by the pier at Weymouth notices that when the pier lights are switched on a crowd of people, willing night to fall, give a loud cheer.

It's a moment tinged with sadness, and for Latvian artist Sarmite Alksne her painting of Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast at dusk captures "a mystical time of day. Not yet dark, it has its secrets, its time of relaxation, privacy".

Alksne grew up in "the middle of the woods, in a house with large apple trees; we picked berries, hazelnuts, mushrooms and grew vegetables".

Her best memories are of "beautiful meadows, the smell of wild flowers, strawberries".

In Latvia, then under Soviet rule, artists were seen as daydreamers and Alksne, forbidden to study art by her parents, studied finance.

"I accepted the idea that I wouldn't have the opportunity to do what I liked. People did not have the same freedom at that time. But thoughts of painting followed me all my life. One day, I would do what I love to do."

In 2003 business was not going well, "salaries in Latvia were very low, it was incredibly hard to find work if you were over 40. People emigrated, sent money home", so Sarmite Alksne took basic English courses and tried her luck in England. Hotel work in Cromer - "I didn't expect work conditions to be as bad as they were" - then Barnsley, then Leeds where she now lives and calls home: "So far Brexit is just a word, it hasn't happened. I am very sad that the English decided to leave the EU."

Her eldest daughter sent her a set of oil paints for her birthday and though initially afraid to touch canvas "because I thought I would not be good enough" she took art classes and in her studio, "a small room with a big fishtank", she paints remembered Latvian landscapes, the "mesmerising" Lake District and this oil on linen of Bridlington.

She also uses egg shells, barbecue ashes, coffee, hay, sugar, salt for texture. She is still working in finance, "not my passion or something I enjoy. My paintings are my freedom of mind". and

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