Space allows artist to think big

Residency programmes allow artists to lose themselves in another space and to gain valuable experience in perhaps a more spacious surrounding than normal or with individuals who assist in the flow of creative juices. Artist David Bridgeman is coming to the end of a five month residency at the National Gallery’s Education Centre, situated at the iconic Miss Lassie’s House in South Sound and derived immense satisfaction from the experience.

Having interviewed David Bridgeman at his own art studio some years ago, I can appreciate how pleased he was to be offered a residency at the National Gallery’s Education Centre in the duplex behind Miss Lassie’s house overlooking the ocean on South Sound; for David’s studio is really little more than a garden shed, somewhat confining for an artist who is enjoying creating huge canvases.

“This is the first time the Gallery has used the space that it has here for a residency programme,” David confirms, himself a part-time exhibitions technician at the Gallery. “It’s a fantastic light and airy space that really benefits from being used as an art studio.”

David has lived in Cayman for 23 years and was familiar with Miss Lassie’s work and the formidable lady herself, whose initiative work has been hailed by local and international art critics as something very special indeed.

The genius that was Miss Lassie lives on

Miss Lassie, (otherwise known as Gladwyn Bush) who passed away in 2003, painted according to visions that she said came to her from God through her dreams and was compelled to paint on whatever came to hand, including the floor, walls and doors of her home. As such, the duplex that sits behind her original home is full of her ‘markings’, including the patio outside and the ceiling of the art studio.

“I’ve been so inspired by Miss Lassie’s work that I’ve simplified some of her imagery and then incorporated it into my own work,” David says.

The location lends itself to peaceful, contemplative work overlooking the gently lapping sea and surrounded by sea grapes and palms fringing the landscape.

“The morning light in particular is really beautiful,” David states. “But sometimes I have to cover up the view because it’s a bit of a distraction!”

David has been working on a conglomeration of three differing landscapes – Miss Lassie’s images, the Cayman landscape and the British landscape of his youth.

“It’s been a challenge combining the three into one painting,” he confirms. “My current painting is a follow through from the shorter, week-long residency programme that I undertook with the Gallery a couple of years ago whereby I concentrated on creating templates of bluebells which I turned into a mosaic carpet of flowers, juxtaposed with the red birch trees of my West Bay home.”

This time the artistic creation is all painting – a huge canvas of colours and simplified shapes that seem to all fit together like a giant puzzle.

Inspired to go big

The size of this latest painting has been something of a revelation to David, as he confirms: “I’ve always wanted to paint “big” but have been constrained by the size of my work space.”

David gets his frames made through Bodden Town Art Gallery by inmates at Northward prison and then stretches canvas himself, thus creating a custom-made base for his work.

The walls of his latest studio are filled with his drawings, sketches, paintings, as well as screen prints that are used to inspire and remind him of his main mission on canvas. David says he never throws anything away, all kept for recycling for future use.

Even though David says he is happy with the paintings that he has created during this residency programme so far, he still hasn’t achieved everything on his mental list.

“The programme has really helped to channel my thought processes and brought me the discipline I needed to go to work ever day and not be distracted by day-to-day things,” he confirms. As such he has decided to look for larger premises from which he can carry on creating larger pieces of artwork.

David is also looking forward to producing a slideshow of his time at the Education Centre, saying that this will be an important process of review that will allow him to take a step back and see his development over these last few months.

“Miss Lassie was a special person and you cannot help but be inspired working here as an artist,” he confirms. “Whoever gets to work in the space next ought to really make the most of the time they have here and use the space to the fullest extent. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience.”


David working on a current piece. – Photo: submitted