The highly acclaimed painter Fletcher Sibthorp makes his Catto debut at an interesting moment in his development. This British artist built a hugely successful career on his interest in movement and its impact on the human form – initially in sport, and then in dance. But now, in a series called The Quiet Space, Fletcher is standing still. Well, his models are.
“Quiet Space represents, for me, captured moments of human introspection and frailty,” he says. “Instants which exist and then are gone, whether an expression, the way light falls and catches the face, or a simple portrait.”
Fletcher describes these paintings as ‘gem like’, and it’s easy to see why. Most depict females in moments of introspection – and many are painted in a mix of oil and gold or silver leaf that enhances the impression of delicate beauty. However, for all their lovely stillness, it’s clear that the artist is in thrall to anatomy and muscularity. A work such as The Beaded Hairclasp is a perfect example of this. The sharp contrast of light and dark highlights the model’s graceful shoulders. it’s a minor key masterpiece.
But we shouldn’t be surprised at the muscularity of these otherwise contemplative works. To repeat, Fletcher has gathered admirers (and prizes) all over the world for his depictions of sport and dance.
He was born in Hertfordshire in 1967, and studied illustration at Kingston University in 1989. On graduating he pursued a career in the world of book jackets, magazines and corporate brochures. Eventually he got a break as a painter. His first solo show, ‘In Motion’, was at the Stable Gallery in Wandsworth. The work depicted gymnasts and athletes, and made such an impact that Fletcher began to specialise in sport-related work.
He won commissions for The Evening Standard, the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, BT, the Royal Shakespeare Company and others. In 1995, Fletcher was approached by the Sadler's Wells Theatre to paint the Flamenco troupe formed by Paco Peña. Thus began his switch of artistic focus to the world of dance.
One of his Flamenco-themed shows took him to Japan, where he stayed for many years. He returned to London with a growing reputation and this led to a solo exhibition in 2005 with a Cork Street gallery. This was a great success. Fletcher subsequently won the Fine Art Trade Guild's poll as the most successful living British print artist of 2006.
Soon after came a 2007 show at the Medici Gallery. This event saw the artist move away from Flamenco and towards ballet. In fact, Fletcher was given exclusive access to dress rehearsals and photocalls at the Royal Opera House including Danse à Grande Vitesse featuring Darcey Bussell. One of the resulting paintings sold for £22,000.
Now, Fletcher is entering a new and exciting stage in his career. He says:
“The Quiet Space series is for me my most personal work. I have found reward over the years in producing artworks that just ‘are’. The simplicity of the paintings allows the viewer to naturally attach their own experiences and thoughts to the work.
“I am not out to rock the world with my insights, but in some way I hope these paintings will touch the soul of someone, for a moment. If this is the case I will have achieved what I set out to do.”
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