Hi Chris, thank you for speaking with us. We are very much looking forward to your upcoming exhibition Iona. Please could you tell us a bit about how you came to choose Iona as the subject for this show?
I tend to fall in love with an island and that is how I choose the subject for my exhibitions, this time it was Iona. Last year when the restrictions started to ease, I was desperate to get out of the city after being in lockdown for months on end. After the horror of the first lockdown, arriving in the beauty of Iona was almost euphoric. The empty beaches and beautiful seas felt even more striking after being in the city for so long, it really amplified how special the Scottish isles are.
Chris Bushe in Iona
How is Iona different to the other Scottish islands you have visited?
I have been going to the Hebridean isles for over 20 years, in fact, my last show at Panter & Hall was of Islay. The Scottish islands have similarities, but they all have their own uniqueness. Iona is a gentle island; it has a much softer landscape to places like Skye. I really enjoy painting softer landscapes, there is an amazing sense of peace and quiet to them. I think that is why I am so drawn to islands; something about having to leave the mainland to reach them gives them a greater sense of escape. They are such a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city which I think gives them an added significance. Being on an island does something to your mind, it fills you with a sense of ease and peace and I particularly felt that with Iona.
A Fast Moving Sky Over the Sound of Iona, Chris Bushe 2021
What is your painting process like, do you paint when you’re on the island?
Because my paintings are built up of so many layers of oil paint, they can take up to three months to dry fully which makes painting with oils on location difficult. When I’m on an island, I treat it as an information gathering exercise. I make lots of sketches and small watercolour paintings which then inform my oil paintings which I do back in the studio. I find that drawing in the landscape deepens my understanding of a place.
Chris Bushe sketching in Iona
When I’m in my studio, I like to work on all of the paintings for a show concurrently. I could be working on one painting and another may catch my eye that I need to do something to. Sometimes I will notice a painting I think I have finished and will decide to work on it again because I’ve learned something new from another painting. They all help each other.
Chris Bushe's Studio
You mentioned you mostly work in oils, could you tell us a bit more about the materials you use?
I love paint and oil paint just has a certain beauty to it. For me, oils are joyous to work with and I hope that comes across in my paintings. I am always experimenting with different oil paints, brushes, palette knifes and surfaces. I have worked a lot in the past on board but this show is entirely done on linen and canvas which I’m really enjoying using at the moment. I think I’m always searching for new ways of doing things. I’ve even tried using builders’ trowels for my larger paintings – you can’t buy palette knives big enough!
Materials in the Studio
How have your paintings changed over the years?
My paintings ebb and flow between more and less abstract, it’s an almost subconscious decision which seems to depend on where I’m painting. I have noticed that I have started to use a more reduced palette as I’ve gotten older. I only use about 6-7 colours on my palette now and mix all of the colours up from them until I get the exact shades I want.
July Sunset Iona, Chris Bushe 2021
The one thing that has stayed consistent throughout the years is that for some reason, I am always drawn to painting landscapes. Romantic landscape painters like Turner, Constable and Caspar David Friedrich were the artists who first got me interested in art. Living in a city, I think coastal landscapes feel especially important to me because I’m not in them all the time. I find the act of painting a joy because it transports me back to those places.
Seascape with Storm Coming On, Joseph Mallord William Turner c.1840
If you weren't an artist, what would you be?
I really can’t really imagine doing anything else! As soon I left art school, I knew I wanted to paint full-time and I am very fortunate to have been doing that for 25 years now. Both of my parents were artists which meant that growing up, art was always there in the background. The house was full of art and we always went to exhibitions and openings as kids. It felt very natural to be around art from an early age so becoming an artist seemed a desirable and achievable ambition.
Chris Bushe's Studio
And finally, if you could own any artwork in the world, which artwork would you choose?
That’s a hard question; I think I would want about 50 pieces! Because of lockdown I haven’t been able to visit any galleries in over a year and that is definitely something I miss. I love visiting the Tate Britain when I’m in London, I could spend an entire day there. The Turner and the Pre-Raphaelite rooms are my particular favourites – so anything from there please!
Pre-Raphaelite Room at Tate Britain, London
The eCatalogue for Chris's exhibition Iona can be viewed here.