Cyndi Speer and the Artist’s internal conflict

Cyndi Speer and the Artist’s internal conflict

Prepare to be thrown off balance. Cyndi Speer making her artwork both progressive yet accessible is a balancing act as dizzying as her paintings.

This Suffolk-based artist re-imagines local countryside into a waltz of the senses: her paintings bridging the gap between the familiar and the fantastic. One moment you’re turning your collar up against a frosty moon, the next you’re soaring up with swallows, only to tumble down meadows into the pale arms of a sandy beach. The animals depicted flow with the same energy as their habitats: climbing impossible slopes and settling in the nooks of fictional valleys.

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Breaking new ground is a deliberate choice for Cyndi, avid to keep her practise fresh and innovative through artistic growth. “In a way it’s not a case of me choosing art – art chose me,” she says, adding: “I don’t want to just create work that is expected of me, because that would stifle me – I want to keep progressing. If you don’t push anything forward, nothing new will happen. And if we did that, all art would stagnate.”

Driving this progression is Cyndi’s experimental techniques. Blending water-based and oil-based mediums, she often starts by pouring a puddle of paint on a canvas, tilting it to form her signature curves and swirls, and letting the result dictate the final composition. Never static, Cyndi works on multiple artworks simultaneously due to the lengthy drying time of each layer of paint. For her, this recurrent discovery is the most exciting part of the process.

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Although her paintings have widespread appeal, Cindy describes how difficult it can be staying on the straight and narrow in terms of advancing her style. “There is a constant battle for all artists between trying to be true to themselves and their practice, and trying to make a living making work they know will sell well. Lots of tourists come here [to my studio], and it’s tempting to be drawn into creating landscapes which I know they’ll like.”

To combat this, Cyndi is bringing in a touch of portraiture alongside an inspiring new body of work to her next exhibition Dream and Reality in Quay Gallery, Snape Maltings, Suffolk this October.

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Cyndi’s yearly schedule is choc-a-bloc with exhibitions and sculpture trails – including making two pigs for the prominent Pigs Gone Wild art trail organised by Wild in Art, where a passel of painted pigs took to in Ipswich in 2016. Cyndi’s personal highlight was contributing to St Elizabeth Hospice and getting her artwork out of the gallery space into the minds and hearts of the public. Whilst not pandering to commerciability, Cyndi thinks that art should speak to a wide variety of people, and sculpture trails are an effective way to do this. “Art should be accessible for all, not just for the privileged few.”

From her studio deep in the Suffolk countryside, Cyndi’s passion continues to push her practice forward. Art lovers can be reassured that creativity will never be stifled in this artist, as Cyndi adamantly declares: “I will probably die with a paintbrush in hand!”

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Cyndi and her painted pig for the Pigs Gone Wild sculpture trail

Discover more paintings by Cyndi on her website and read about more incredible UK artists and their own personal battles – including Matlakas and his imaginary fight, and fellow Suffolk-based artist Juliette Hamilton.

– Karis

Business and Art Working as One: the Echo Exhibition

Business and Art Working as One: the Echo Exhibition

Experiencing the Echo Exhibition opening night really showed me how businesses of any specialty can support and progress the artistic world, and I think that it is a fantastic blueprint for the future of commercial fine art. Here is my experience of the fantastic Echo Exhibition that opened last night…

About the exhibition

The exhibition is homed in, and supported by, Prettys – a solicitor firm in Ipswich ran by people with genuine enthusiasm towards the arts. Prettys host a biannual exhibition, where they basically deck out their lovely office space with artwork from University of Suffolk artists and invite lots of people from the local area to see it on the opening night.

Luckily for us, this year the work featured in the exhibition was exclusively from the Waterfront Studios – which is a space for artist alumni of the University of Suffolk to rent inexpensive studio spaces within the university.

Each year the role of curator changes, and this time the Echo Exhibtion was curated by the lovely Sarah Bale and Julie Dodds, who share a studio space at Waterfront Studios. They were responsible for selecting and collecting work and installing the two story labyrinth of Prettys’ office with 24 artworks – a mammoth task which they managed to accomplish with tireless enthusiasm and energy.

Where do I come in?

Although I don’t personally rent a studio space (although I’m looking forward to that point in the future!) I happily fell into the exhibition since I work for a creative company called Pop My Mind which is based in the Waterfront Studios. We work in a shared office space in the middle of the artists, meaning we are constantly met with the hammering and drilling noises of Carlos’ jewelry making (the ‘Mad Dentist’ as we like to call him), the cheerful conversations of Sarah and Julie from the corner, and the smell of turps from Adam’s paintings in progress. It’s a really awesome space to work in (even though I can get easily distracted from all the exciting things happening around us) and since my co-workers and I are also artists, the curators kindly included our work!

I entered four artworks into the exhibition which were included: three portraiture ink paintings and one illustrative piece. Plus I also snuck in another ink painting when Sarah and Julie were scavenging for more artwork on the day of the opening night, since Prettys opened up another room for them to fill!

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Me and one of my pieces which was included in the exhibition, called Empty Tension

The private view

The opening night drew in loads of interesting people from the local area, including Prettys staff and contacts, friends and family of the artists, creative people from around Ipswich, and even the Major of Ipswich! There was a lovely buzzing atmosphere as people discussed the artwork and their connection to the event, and despite the amount of rooms which the work was spread between, there were many tight squeezes through doorways and quite a queue at the buffet table.

It was lovely to see my pieces integrated into the exhibition among some outstanding work from the Waterfront Studios artists. There was such varied and high quality work throughout the exhibition, and I found it especially nice to see people’s artwork which I had seen in-the-making now finished and out of the studio context. Having them displayed on walls around the office really brought them to life: Sarah and Julie did an amazing job of matching complementing artworks together and arranging the exhibition so that it seemed both professional and homely.

Ten pieces of works were sold that evening alone, the first one being a stunning portrait of Frida Kahlo by portrait artist Adam Riches (see it on Twitter here). My co-workers and I actually bet on Adam that he would be the first to win – which obviously means we have excellent taste! A few artists also got commissioned that night from visitors of the exhibition looking to furnish their lobbies with some fine art.

A huge congratulations to my boss Oliver Squirrell too, who won the ‘Best in Show’ award for his photographic print (below). This is an award with a paid prize, given out twice a year by Prettys Solicitors to the favourite piece of artwork as selected by their staff.

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Oliver aside his winning piece

How this benefits the artists

As an artist, one of the key things to grow (both in terms of developing your practice and your creative career) is through exhibition exposure. Being involved in exhibitions like the Echo Exhibition is a really valuable experience which connects you to people in the community who you might not have the excuse to talk to much before – as well as a means to meet loads of other art lovers who may be interested in your work and want to support your progress. The biannual opening event by Prettys is looked forward to by lots of people in Ipswich – after all, who doesn’t want to spend an evening drinking wine and looking at artwork?

This valuable exposure of your pieces to like-minded people, and space to mingle and chat, is really what makes exhibiting work in professional ground exhibitions so exciting! The award from Prettys is also a lovely added touch since it is a great way of rewarding an artist for their merit whether their piece is sold or not.

A win-win situation

In my opinion, getting the art world and the business world talking is very important. Being an artist is a not an easy profession or hobby – especially when trying to make a worthwhile living out of your creativity – and it can be difficult to get on the first stepping stone of your creative career without support from the community.

No matter what we do as our day jobs, we should all support the things we are passionate about wherever possible, which is just what Prettys has done. The office has now been furninshed with some diverse and skilful artwork for half a year, and the artists have had their work seen by loads of people and even sold due to this. This win-win situation is a fantastic way of making art relevant and commercially viable; I definitely think that other companies should follow their lead and bring the arts as a significant aspect to their business to improve their own workplace and the creative industries too.

To see some of my artwork, please see my Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for my current work!

Thanks for reading.