Artists' home from home in north Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 01:54 24 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:39 20 February 2013

Artists' home from home in north Suffolk

Artists' home from home in north Suffolk

After living in France for 10 years artists David and Jenny Parsons have set up home in north Suffolk. Andrew Clarke spoke them on the eve of an exhibition which contrasts our rich green landscape with that of southern France

After living in France for 10 years artists David and Jenny Parsons have set up home in north Suffolk. Andrew Clarke spoke them on the eve of an exhibition which contrasts our rich green landscape with that of southern France

avid and Jenny Parsons are landscape artists who have traded the dry but colourful landscapes of southern France for the lush vegetation and big, open skies of Suffolk.

The pair have recently relocated from the mountainous terrain of Bziers in Languedoc, close to the border with Spain, and are now thrilled with the open, green countryside which envelops their new home in the north of the county.

David and Jenny were teachers, who after taking early retirement, set up home in France and in Davids words were: "living the dream" but two years ago decided to call it a day and return home.

The decision to leave their large French house with art studios was not easy.

Jenny said: "Although we lived there full time for 10 years we had had a house there for 30 years. We are not wealthy people but over there we could afford a very large house you cannot believe how we lived."

And yet the pull of home and the arrival of grandchildren meant that they reluctantly gave up their dream existence. "You live out there for such a long time and then at the end of the day you discover your roots are very strong."

They both said that although they had a great life and great friends in France, they did miss life in Britain. So they returned to the UK and started looking for a new home. They had a flat in London but wanted a home in the country. Thanks to the fact that Jennys father came from Beccles they found themselves drawn to a remote cottage near Hoxne in north Suffolk.

"Its a lovely place, near the church, but with great views across the fields." It was the views that grabbed Davids attention as his work revolves around what he refers to as structural landscapes.

For Jenny, who loves painting flowers, there was a space for a garden in which all manner of interesting plants could be cultivated. Their garden was created by their son Sam and his partner Annie who are Chelsea silver medal-winning landscape designers.

"They did a brilliant job. Annie knows plants and created a wonderful interesting, colourful world out there," said Jenny.

The pair were also able to turn existing outbuildings into separate studio space. David said: "We both had separate studios in France and we needed that to continue. We paint during the day and then come back together at night."

Their work is very different. David looks at the world and the elements which make up a scene and captures the different layers, lines and features which up a scene. His images can be viewed as bold, dynamic, graphic representations of the world almost sculptural while Jenny creates lush, vibrant, colourful pictures which are highly detailed and juxtapose the texture, colour and look of the plants which make up her garden both here in Suffolk and back in France.

The pair are about to mount their first exhibition in Suffolk and their first joint exhibition. Although they first met at art school, the exhibition at Wingfield Barns will be the first time the pair have shown their work side-by-side and the show will also compare and contrast their work inspired by the French landscape with their recent work here in Suffolk.

"The change is quite extraordinary," said David: "The whole character of a Suffolk landscape and a French landscape is entirely different. Because they have the space the French have a lot of derelict or redundant buildings littering the landscape, crumbling where they stand.

"Some get restored if someone takes an interest in them, others just collapse. I find them fascinating and they figure a lot in my French work whereas the Suffolk pictures are about structure in another way, focussing on the relationship between the land and the sky."

Both artists say that their work has changed as they have absorbed the landscape around them.

Jennys colour palette has shifted as her work reflects the type and species of plant life to be found here whereas David has started to produce vertical landscapes to accommodate his growing fascination with the Suffolk sky.

Jenny said: "Although we have both taught, David has always been a practising artist. Much of my work was put on hold while I was teaching, then an art inspector for schools and I only painted in the holidays and so I never got any continuity. I felt it was always very bitty. It wasnt until I retired at 55 that it all came together."


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