Location, location, location

Recorded conversation amongst five Great Yarmouth artists

By Bridget Heriz

The following article was published in Green Pebble, Art in Suffolk and Norfolk, Spring 2007.
22nd January 2007

A conversation between five artists over a few drinks and three helpings of chips served in pint glasses in the Kings Arms, Great Yarmouth.

All five artists are based in Great Yarmouth. In order of arrival:  John Kiki, born in Cyprus, came to Yarmouth to follow his family who were part of the Cypriot business community in the 50's.  Emrys Parry, born in Wales , came to Yarmouth to teach at the Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design in 1964.  Katarzyna Coleman, born in the East End of London, was brought to Yarmouth in 1983 through her ex-husband's occupation.  Bridget Heriz, who was born in Hamburg but grew up in Suffolk, decided to move to Yarmouth in 2002.   Brüer Tidman, born locally and having worked as an artist and teacher in other parts of the country, returned to Yarmouth to be close to his mother.

BH       How important is location to your practice as an artist?

BT       Never thought about it really - as long as I have a place to work. The main thing is that there is the potential for good studio space here in the industrial areas of Great Yarmouth.

JK        Good answer. To paint is what matters - location is not relevant, it doesn't matter where you live.  But I probably paint better here than if I was in London, because there are less distractions, less influence from other people and I am not affected by what is going on.

EP            Interesting - Brüer is the only one who was born here.  Apart from Bruer's series on the Hippodrome Circus, Kate is the only one who uses Great Yarmouth as subject matter.  The source of my work is the place where I was born: Nefyn, a village on the Llyn Peninsula in Gwynedd - and distance is an important creative factor for me: it encourages objectivity and prevents my work from becoming parochial.

BH       And you exhibit mainly in Wales now?

EP        Both Wales and here.   Coincidentally, I have been asked to feature in the film People of the Peninsula, about why I have chosen to live in East Anglia.  I greatly enjoyed teaching at the College of Art and Design and, thanks to regular promotion, I stayed.  The family settled here and I grew to love it.

KC      I came here by accident.  I'm a Londoner through and through and found it really traumatic at first, although there are some similarities.   It wasn't easy to come to terms with the place, even visually, for quite a while.  I had to work at it, but I think, once you have got past the difficulties, when you have to work hard at anything in life, you find positive and lasting elements.  I have always worked from the industrial landscape - and now all my work is from the harbour and I love it.

JK       I started working in the restaurants here when I was fifteen.  I came back here with the family from London because it was cheaper to live. Yarmouth is not really where an artist should be from the point of view of career development -  more advantageous to live in London.

KC      There are not a lot of rich patrons about!  It's always hard being an artist, but it's harder here, because of the isolated circumstances. But the isolation has its benefits.  And it's a cheaper place to live - you can just about manage to support creative activity on a part-time salary.

EP        It is hardly the creative centre of the world!  It's a life choice, rather than a life style.

KC        It worked out well for you, didn't it Bridget, moving here?

BH        Brilliantly! I love it, visually and the spirit of the place: I feel at home - the lack of pretension is a really attractive aspect of living and working here.  And I have been lucky in finding part-time work, affordable living and studio space, the support of friends and community.

EP        The peer group support is important. Would it be OK living here if we didn't have each other?

JK        I think I would do more work actually! But on the other hand, if it wasn't for these guys, I might have left - I was thinking of it before getting to know them.

KC      We are supported by each other, not an art scene.  When I first came here, I found it a really lonely place to be. It would be much harder to work here as an artist without each other. It's not an arty community -
JK        no - more of a drunken one.

BH       Apart from that - is living here relevant to your work?

BT       I think nearly everybody must be influenced by living here. I don't work with local colour, but I am persuaded by the characteristic shadow and light, particularly on the river.

KC      Yes, the light on the harbour is unique.  And there is a sort of raw, visceral beauty to the area, and we all have that in our work.

JK        Yarmouth has an attraction for certain people - it gets under their skin - like cruise control - after being away, it's a relief to come back.

BH       Does the environment suit because it is sympathetic to the character of our practice as artists, or is the work influenced by the character of the environment?

KC      It's chicken and egg.

This page was added by Bridget Heriz on 11/05/2007.

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