6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Kent Life today CLICK HERE

Meet Rochester artist Roy Sparkes

PUBLISHED: 17:24 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 17:24 28 March 2014

Roy Sparkes

Roy Sparkes

Rikard Osterlund

Find out what inspires the President of the Rochester and West Kent Art Society

Roy Sparkes, President of 
the Rochester and West Kent Art Society, has 
been painting all his 
life, moving gradually 
from landscape into abstract.

Highly literate in art history, as a result he tends to dismiss the language that is typically used to describe painting.

When I comment that his work is modernist, its concerns dealing self consciously with the paint on the canvas, he tells me: “There are nonsense words used to describe paintings: I would prefer they were called ‘real’ paintings.”

Modern, he says, is a time appellation and once a painting is done, it is in the past.

Roy has been in Kent since 1974, moving down from Crayford. He says that the people are the great thing about this county and after that, it’s the landscapes and the way the light changes from place to place.

“Take the Marshes, for example,” he says. “The light is more embracing. In the Medway, the light is more challenging; there are microclimates everywhere.”

Inspiration is, however, highly subjective and as Roy tells me: “You can’t just put a finger on it; the inspiration is what happens when you get up, on the day. It can change almost immediately.”

His works are mostly landscapes that span Kent’s countryside and seascapes. One of Roy’s proudest achievements was when he was commissioned to create a series called the Medway Set. These were often based on oil pastel sketches, undertaken en plein air, just like the Impressionists of old.

Describing a series called Coastline 
as “starting points for recent paintings,” Roy adds: “Visual experience is the 
main ingredient of a complex recipe.

“Qualities of colour and texture have invited exploration of hidden depths that 
I have tried to express in the sense that 
the intrinsic qualities of a coastline and of a painting are inseparable from their poetry.”

Roy also expresses his wish to explore the nature of transience in human experience and the interaction between memories, thought and imagination.

In the Medway Set, for example, use 
was made of photographs and memory 
in addition to the sketches.

His more recent work is essentially abstract, studies in colour, often bright 
in palette and texture and highly 
attractive, with titles expressing antinomies, paradoxes and contradiction, such as Transience and Resilience.

In these works, highly textured colour 
is set next to a block of plain paint in 
order to highlight but merge in a contrasting dichotomy. It is as if we are looking at Rothko tipped up sideways.

I also look at a book of Roy’s drawings and see here reminiscences of Duchamp (Nude Descending the Stairs) and the colour tonalities of Ivon Hitchens, the British landscape artist.

Roy loves the concept of abstract painting. He tells me: “It’s far more difficult. You have nothing to refer to; 
you are on your own. Your memories 
may come through. You have nothing 
bar what is in your head and your being.”

His love for the abstract also transfers into other mediums. He is not just art- literate, but also a lover of literature. Not surprisingly he writes poetry and also says that some of his influences include Diderot, Camus, Kundera, Vargas Llosa, Canetti, 
Paz and Flaubert: highly eclectic, then.

I am intrigued about the materials 
Roy uses. Since abstract doesn’t have to conform to any substantial rules, anything an artist can get his hands on may be used to achieve a satisfactory end product.

Roy mainly uses acrylics, although oil 
is “the one medium that satisfies my senses more, it almost has a taste.”

Watercolour is no longer of great interest to him, as he feels he has come to the end of exploring this medium: he would buy very expensive paper to experiment with watercolour and notes that it is a wonderful experience to pursue it for its own sake.

Asked to cite his most exciting work 
Roy says, “They are all my babies. The 
new baby is always the favourite one.

“However, perhaps it’s the Medway 
Set. There are a small number I would never part with. I don’t actually paint to sell; I do it because I have to.”

This drive is what may also inspire young artists, and Roy’s advice to them is: “Always remain true to you. Never try 
to copy someone else’s work.” n

More from Out & About

The season of romance is in the air and with fairytale castles, literary tales and iconic White Cliffs, where better to pop the question than in the Garden of England? Here are 10 of Kent’s perfect places to propose

Read more

The oldest market town in Kent, Faversham is a perfect blend of pretty scenery, fascinating history and modern convenience

Read more
January 2019
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Enjoy a delicious lunch or a few cosy drinks after one of these countryside strolls. Here are five great pub walks in Kent

Read more

With high-speed rail links, a rejuvenated high street and £590m worth of investment in new developments, Ashford’s expansion continues

Read more
January 2019
Thursday, January 10, 2019

The elusive snowdrop can be hard to find and before you know it, they’re gone again, so we saved you the trouble and found some beautiful spots in Kent to go for a walk among the snowdrops

Read more

This scenic small town is regularly voted one of the best places to live in the country. Here’s why

Read more
January 2019
Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A series of special events and activities will run in 2019 to celebrate the 900th anniversary of ‘the loveliest castle in the world’

Read more
January 2019

It’s our county’s most popular tourist attraction and has our largest student population. Let’s take a look at the busy little city of Canterbury

Read more
December 2018

On the banks of the Medway and boasting great shopping, dining and cultural attractions, our county town is great to visit at any time of year

Read more
December 2018
Monday, December 10, 2018

In the final month of the 50th Anniversary of the Kent Downs AONB and 40th of the North Downs Way, we’ve chosen 25 places to visit and enjoy in the Kent Downs this winter

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
Kent Life Food & Drink awards 2016. Open for entries.

Latest Competitions & Offers

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life