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Kent artist of the month

PUBLISHED: 16:49 16 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:41 20 February 2013

Kent artist of the month

Kent artist of the month

Painting all her life, Sevenoaks artist Margaret Devitt has followed up a wide range of themes, from desert landscape to still life, figurative paintings and abstracts

Kent artist of the month

Painting all her life, Sevenoaks artist Margaret Devitt has followed up a wide range of themes, from desert landscape to still life, figurative paintings and abstracts

Margaret Devitts bright semi-abstracts first caught my attention in the South East Open Studios, reminding me of the Italian artist Giorgio Morandi, famous for his bottles.

Margaret is articulate about her artistic heroes. Morandi is one of my favourites because he managed to make a whole world out of little means and he said there is nothing so abstract as reality, he saw abstract forms all around him.

I love Matisse for colour and because he persisted in the face of ridicule. Czanne is interesting because he changed the direction of 20th-century art, renewing emphasis on the two-dimensional nature of painting.

He has such an interesting way of using colour: you may find orange in the landscape and in the sky, plus sky colours in the landscape, leading your eye from one part to the next.

She also likes the work of Richard Diebenkorn, an abstract artist who nonetheless had a real feel for place. Her inspirations are translated into her own, inspiring, work and deep knowledge of art.

Margaret has two purpose-built studios in her Sevenoaks home, one upstairs with roof windows, facing north, the artists preferred light.

Educated in Johannesburg and studying for a Fine Arts degree at the University of Witwatersrand, Margaret continued to live in Africa for many years, working on her favourite desert landscapes.

When she came to live in England, she studied life drawing under Cecil Collins and also has a certificate from the London School of Printing. She has exhibited widely around the south east, including galleries in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells.

Oil is her favourite medium, but generally she says the choice is: dictated by what you are doing at the time, a sort of response inside yourself.

For example, travelling in Africa Id do quick sketches in pencil or brush, but when we had longer periods of time I would feel that the landscape required oil. Some media are more versatile, because they dry quickly, but I particularly love oil and have also done some watercolour.

Art is a way of connecting people with themselves and for this you dont need formal training. Its a healing thing

I ask how she decides what subjects to paint, having accomplished a wide range of genres, including landscape, prints and still life. At the moment Im doing a lot of experimenting, she says.

Ive been painting still life and landscape, but Ive spent the last few years exploring media to some extent. I think its the media you use which dictates. Ive also done a lot of drawing.

The embryo of a new project is always interesting: I do a lot of pondering and I will read or listen to music. Quite often I carry an idea around and look around and just let something germinate, sometimes Ill be inspired by a particular artist and look at my surroundings through new eyes. Its a question of hatching things out and it requires a lot of patience.

For Margaret the process is almost mystical. The works often progress as series, not one piece at a time, taking perhaps a few minutes, a few hours, some a few weeks. One painting was carried around in her head for 10 years, before a sudden epiphany meant it was completed in a couple of days.

Margaret works with canvas, board and paper, the sizes being quite small 7in x 10in, right up to 30in x 40in. Sometimes the frames are fitted during the process of painting.

I ask her if art is important and her answer is immediate: Obviously! I think it is a way of connecting people with themselves and for this you dont need formal training. It is a healing thing. We could all learn a lot from watching children who become totally absorbed.

To see where the absorption has taken Margaret Devitt, you can visit her in her studio, or put South East Open Studios in your diary 3rd -19th June.

Get in touch

Margaret Devitt, 4 Stapleford Court, Sevenoaks TN13 2LB, tel: 01732 461532.

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