The bright white cliffs of England’s south coast have long served the national imagination. However their pristine appearance, as opposed to the grubbier cliffs of Dieppe across the Channel, is due to erosion, something that Jeffery Camp has observed with minute detail over many years. In the 1970s, Camp was living with his wife in Hastings, just a short drive away from the famous headland, Beachy Head. Its great height grants unparalleled views, but also makes it one of the most notorious suicide spots in the world. It is one of Camp’s prevailing subjects, since, ‘until a policeman told me how humans jumped’, Camp recalls, ‘I had concentrated on the splendour of vast spaces.’ Camp was born on the outskirts of Lowestoft, a fishing town on the cold North Sea, not a sensual place. He shares his birthplace with the composer Benjamin Britten, a few years older, in whose opera 'Peter Grimes' (1945) the sea enters at interludes, a lyrical, incessant presence. Camp left for Scotland during the war, to study at Edinburgh College of Art. Like his tutor, William Gillies, who painted the Scottish landscape with bright Bonnard-inspired colours, drawing always comes first for Camp. He sketches outside and later squares up preparatory drawings on canvas or board. Painting is the preserve of the studio, where imagination and memory aid observation. Unlike Gillies, Camp looks at the view through his own painted frame; reality is suspended and in the studio, he is free to people landscapes with loved ones or models. For a full painting description on the British Council’s website please click on the link below under ‘More on this painting’
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British Council Collection
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