Interview with an artist

Theo Crutchley MackWe talk to Theo Crutchley-Mack, a young Cardigan-based artist with an enviable reputation

TO be exhibiting alongside Damian Hirst and Grayson Perry is something that most artists can only dream of – and then, only when they are seriously established. Yet this is something that Cardigan-based artist Theo Crutchley -Mack can lay claim to at the age of just 23. We wanted to find out more about Theo’s work, his inspirations, and his journey as an artist.

THE DRAW OF ABANDONED LANDSCAPES
Abandonment features heavily in Theo’s work.
He explains“It’s an interest that developed whilst studying drawing at university in Falmouth. There were lots of abandoned mining sites, engine houses and open abandoned spaces nearby that I could access. I spent a lot of time sketching these places. Another source of inspiration was the old fishing industry on the Cornish coast – plenty of old trawlers and wrecks.”
What began as interesting subjects to sketch and draw developed into a full-blown obsession as his studies progressed. The subject matter of decay lent itself well to Theo’s preferred medium, a cement-like paste he made up from talc, white paint and PVA glue. The heavy bodied medium was ideal for manipulating into the textures of decay. It also allowed him to introduce further materials into the works that he created on hand made paper – for example strands of cotton string to create grassy textures and foliage.
Unfortunately, it was also not very durable, and paintings would deteriorate quickly. With experience has come a new approach to the mediums he uses. Theo now works with a combination of marble dust and an acrylic binder which is acid free and means his works are long lasting, yet maintain the same patina that is
distinctive of his work.

A ‘LIGHTBULB’ MOMENT AT THE AGE OF 16
Theo’s ‘lightbulb’ moment came whilst still at school in Yorkshire. Encouraged to enter a national competition run by the Royal Mint to design a 50p coin to commemorate the 2012 London Olympics, he was delighted to win.
“Winning the competition meant the school I was at received £10,000. I was invited to go and see the Royal Mint, where we were treated like celebrities. It made me feel like I really was alright at drawing and was the push that got me into drawing seriously.”
From there, Theo hasn’t looked back. He moved to West Wales with his parents, where he is now based, after a period in Cornwall studying for a degree in Drawing. The area offers a rich seam of inspiration for Theo to mine in his search for the desolate landscapes he prefers. Not just the tumbledown cottages and farms, the rusty tin roofs, of the Preselis, but also the coast, including sites such as Porthgain, and the Blue Lagoon at Abereiddy.

BEYOND WEST WALES
Although currently based in Cardigan, Theo’s work isn’t all about the Wales, nor is it all about abandonment.
“When I graduated from university, one couple bought 4 of my paintings from my degree show. They are based on Tresco, one of the Scilly Isles and invited me to be their artist in residence – which means I can go and stay there and work whenever I like. I tend to go in the winter and create a body of work based on the landscapes of Tresco which is then shown in the gallery on the island in the summer.
Tresco is completely different to West Wales – a far more pristine landscape, which has led me to concentrate on the colours, making the pastes I use in my other pictures work in different ways. It’s an exciting evolution for me.”
Theo has also created a series of works inspired by the south Devon landscape, currently displayed in the prestigious Drang Gallery, Salcombe, alongside works by Damian Hirst and Grayson Perry (among others).
Asked about the future, Theo has one clear objective in mind“I really want to go to the Falkland Islands. It’s the only area of sheltered sea for thousands of miles down there, and there are lots of wrecks and abandoned whaling stations”
Beyond that, Theo says“I’m always striving to get better – may be I’m too critical of myself. I don’t plan too much, and go where life takes me. So far it’s been pretty good!”
Theo has exhibited at the Ceridwen Centre and currently has works with at the Albany Gallery, Cardiff. He will be putting on his second solo show in the Late November Gallery, Haverfordwest from 13th October to 10th November 2017. Further afield, and as mentioned above, you can see find his distinctive pieces in the Drang Gallery, Salcombe.

SOLO EXHIBITION
Theo’s major solo show opening of 30+ originals will be held at The Late November Gallery,
On the Quay, Haverfordwest on October 16, 6-9pm
More info at http://www.crutchley-mack.com

Since interviewing Theo, it’s been confirmed that he gets his wish and is going to the Falklands and South Georgia as artist in residence with the South Georgia Heritage Trust for 2 months in Feb/March next year and we wish him great success in his future career.

Full interview here

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