Landscape, gardens and still life are my main sources. Within these subjects infinite possibilities seem to unravel as the rhythms of life are sensed through them. Bold colour I relish and find it the most direct and dynamic form of communicating. Felixstowe Ferry, the Reed beds of Snape in Suffolk as well as the Cambridge University Botanic Garden have been of particular interest recently. (Isobel Stemp 2019)
Isobel Stemp’s paintings of north Norfolk saltmarshes, Suffolk reed beds, the East Sussex coast and the often wild flower-strewn chalk hills of Oxfordshire – as well as portrayals of the gently undulating, curvilinear, wood-topped Wimpole Way in Cambridgeshire – and the richly variegated terrain of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden in different seasons- are distinguished by an exhilarating freshness, subtle vibrancy of colour and dynamically spacious and innovative approaches to structure and composition.
She says, ‘both of my parents are artists. My mother taught me all I know about gouache and watercolour, and this early familiarity with art has helped free me of all kinds of myths and preconceptions about painting. In my teens I grew to love Paul Nash’s sense of place and love of the land in his work on the Wittenham Clumps and his painting of the Vernal Equinox. In terms of landscape now I am influenced by Scottish painter Joan Eardley. I am deeply inspired by artists such as Vuillard, Matisse and Picasso. Living for fifteen months in Australia, I was struck by the immense spirit of the landscape and moved by the paintings of Sydney Nolan and Fred Williams.’
Each of Isobel Stemp’s pictures is as much a unique visionary inscape – or personal meditation – as it is a landscape or beachscape faithful to the ever-fluctuating rhythms and subtleties – and abstract harmonies – in the atmosphere of a particular place.
(Philip Vann is author of a number of books on modern British and Irish art, and author of the critically-acclaimed Face to Face: British Self-Portraits in the Twentieth Century. He lives in Cambridge)