A strong connection with Cornwall’s seaboard towns that epitomise the melding of the natural and man-made landscape.
Born in Blackpool, Ashley always felt very lucky to have been nurtured by the sound and sight of the sea. “It is where I feel rooted and free. Inevitably the harbour towns of Cornwall have been the subject of many of my paintings, with series inspired by Penzance, Fowey, Padstow and especially Porthleven.” It’s no surprise that he moved to Cornwall in 2005 to be closer to the landscape that has inspired his work.
Having studied at Canterbury College of Art (1980-83) where he set out as a photorealist he soon found that his true leaning was toward work inspired by Bonnard and Matisse, which offered freedom of expression through colour. Awarded a first-class degree in Fine Art he moved to London, where he showed with the London Group and was awarded second Prize in the Hunting Art Prizes. In 1993 he participated in a Triangle Artists Workshop in New York, hosted by Sir Anthony Caro, and in 1997 was the recipient of a Boise Travel Scholarship from the Slade.
Ashley explains that his artist’s eye is on constant alert for ideas for painting. The process begins with an exploration in words or rough sketches before the painting starts. “On the blank canvas I always begin with colour, usually covering the canvas with a stain, already thinking ahead about the colour that will go on top. At some point the idea, image, shape is introduced: drawn in paint or carved through the layers. During the process, there is always dramatic editing of scale, colour, and mark, using large brushes and palette knives and by pouring and skimming sheets of liquid across the surface, finding new shapes and compositions within the rectangle.’’
He hopes that the viewer will encounter in his work something different and find themselves forced to stop, to feel, to think, to be intrigued, to be willing to give the painting time, to enjoy the colour, the textures and the mysteries of the making.
“Alongside my painting, I’m immensely proud of the courses we’ve been running in Cornwall for the past 10 years in Porthleven and Port Isaac, all under the banner ‘Freedom in Painting’. As well as supporting my practice, they provide an opportunity to share my philosophy, knowledge, skills, methods, experience of painting to other artists, who come from all over the country.”
Find more on Ashley’s work and courses online.