SWH Creatives is back with another art exhibition. Following on from exhibitions by local artists like Cassette Lord, Simon Webster Hair presents Craig Simpson – A Painter’s Progression.
SWH Creatives is a platform for the SWH community to exhibit their work within the Gardner Street salon without the constraints of a conventional gallery space. They have been holding pop-up exhibitions since they opened back in 2012. And none of their exhibitions illustrates this better than the upcoming show by Craig Simpson. A Painter’s Progression is a one-night only, one-man show.
Craig is a self-taught artist who’s been painting for three years, following a background in music and vintage fashion retail. Born in Manchester, he left his hometown to study a music degree in Brighton and follow his dream to be an independent artist. Initially focusing his efforts on his music, he began building a creative career within the city but without complete fulfilment. He worked in North Laine stores Jump The Gun and Utility and met Simon Webster through their shared circle of friends and passions for fashion and music.
Then in 2016 Craig’s direction changed and with no prior experience in visual arts, decided to pick up a paint brush. In his own words, “I woke up one morning with a sudden urge to start painting. Since then I haven’t stopped.” Visiting galleries to consume as many styles and genres as possible filled his time. It’s still one of his main sources of influence. Observing and studying how different artists apply paint to a canvas allowed Craig to start developing his own style as a painter.
“Initially, it was perhaps because of my social and work scene in Brighton”, says Craig. “I was interested in the artists from the ‘50s; painters like Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Paula Rego and Frank Auerbach. They’re all creatives who used to socialise and drink together in places like The French House and The Colony Room in Soho, London. Their artistic and social lives crossed over on and off the canvas. I related to the fact that all these creative people hung out together in the gritty, seedy parts of London, sharing ideas and inspiring each other. That really interested me as much as the paintings themselves. I’d longed for a sense of belonging in Brighton. The more exhibitions and galleries I went to see, the more I educated myself about the artists who went before me and how they could influence me in my own work.”
With no previous background in fine art, by researching artists he felt an affinity with, he gained the confidence to experiment with and hone his own individual style. Craig was particularly drawn to darker, more atmospheric colour palettes and the candid way that those artists who inspired him portrayed their subjects through colour juxtaposition and bold brushstrokes.
More recently, painters from the early 20th Century have been his inspiration. There’s a clear sense of the works of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard in Craig’s paintings. His recent works employ light in a more conceptual way and his focus on the movement and body of fabrics within his portraits is particularly reminiscent of his artistic muses. Whether it be the clothes they’re wearing or the setting of their environment, textiles envelope and merge with the subjects of Craig’s portraits. British post-impressionists like the ‘Camden Town Artists’, Walter Sickert and Harold Gilman, use a similar palette and composition.
His earlier works are acrylic, applied with a palette knife and with darker, richer tones that evoke the atmosphere of the bars he visited and people he knew. His personal relationship to his subjects has allowed Craig to be candid and immediate in his depictions of them. The darker palettes and low-lighting create a sense of a moment of intimacy within a public space.
The artist’s later oil paintings demonstrate a softer approach, where the intimacy feels much more palpable in and of itself. The warmer tones and introduction of offset compositions are more complex, with a feeling of freedom that Craig is himself experiencing through his art.
Craig’s submersion into painting has been so prolific that he’s already amassed a large collection of studies and portraits, mostly of the faces he encounters in his daily life around central Brighton and the North Laine area in particular. His pieces frequently sell to fellow creatives within the art, music and fashion scenes around Brighton and London. And now, Simon Webster Hair is hosting Craig’s first exhibition – A Painter’s Progression, in the street that has been so central to his life in Brighton.
The exhibition showcases the progression through painting in Craig’s first three years as a painter. It examines the techniques and materials that he’s experimented with as well as being a documentation of the people in his life.
Craig Simpson – A Painter’s Progression is an opportunity to see this collection of paintings outside of Craig’s studio for the first time and the perfect way to kick-off Brighton Festival and celebrate the creative talent that is the heartbeat of the city.
A Painter’s Progression takes place on Saturday 4th May 7-9pm at Simon Webster Hair, Gardner Street, right in the heart of the locale that Craig takes his inspiration from.
It’s an intimate chance to view the work in an alternative environment to a gallery. The show is an informal, open-invite event. Several of the works will be available for purchase and Craig is also taking commissions. And the artist will be on-hand to discuss his paintings and his journey into becoming a painter, welcoming you into his newly-discovered world of painting.
The ethos is Simon Webster Hair and SWH Creatives is that we are all artists. We are all creatives. And we can be whatever we want to be. Craig’s story is the epitome of that. Go along to the exhibition and see for yourself.
Find Simon Webster Hair at 16 Gardner Street, Brighton.
Opening Times: Mon-Thurs 10am-8pm. Fri & Sat 10am-6pm