A Brighton Artist in the Pyrenees Discovers much more than Inspiration

Q&A Part 2 with Brighton based artist, Craig Simpson, the first artist-in-residence with Talkin' Culture's #projectpyrenees

A Brighton Artist in the Pyrenees Discovers much more than Inspiration

Q&A Part 2 with Brighton based artist, Craig Simpson, the first artist-in-residence with Talkin' Culture's #projectpyrenees

Craig Simpson is a self taught artist, his 'observational oil' has captured moments in the lives of Brighton based characters, echoing British, 60's kitchen sink dramas, with solitary interior spaces in Sussex, that nod to french and European influences. Craig's observation offers warm honesty in ordinary moments whilst raising unknown possibilities in solitary settings. We invited Craig to our heritage home in the Pyrenees - here's what happened....

6. Without the residency in the Pyrenees how would you be approaching your work?

I would have been approaching my work as I've always done. The Pyrenees has opened my eyes to painting outdoors and nature. Before visiting France I was working on a series of paintings of Sussex interiors (Charleston, Standen, Farley). Since returning to the UK I'll be carrying on with these interior paintings though my next series of paintings will most probably be outdoors, landscapes and skyscapes.

7. You already have a strong appreciation of French and other European artists, has staying in the Pyrenees been particularly relevant?

A lot of the artists that I am influenced by are French or lived in France at some point in their life. At a time when art was completely changing and artists were expressing themselves instead of what the 'salon' expected. The impressionists and post-impressionists are still some of the greatest, most influential art movements. They were breaking rules at a time when others wouldn't have understood their work and these paintings are still exciting today. Those artists we adore; Cezanne, Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh, all lived in the south of France at some time in their life and this is represented in the development in their work. 

For myself, a British painter who has already developed a colour pallet of their own with brown, orange and ochre hues, experiencing the Pyrenees has completely changed this. I never thought I'd use so much vibrant colour until this residency. I’ve discovered my colour palette is also reflecting my mental state. Feeling free and positive I am more inclined to use brighter more vivid colours. Whereas my other paintings are fairly dark in comparison.

Pierre Bonnard is a perfect example of an artist who represents the light of southern France, living his later life in Le Cannet too, not a million miles from the Pyrenees.

8. Would you recommend similar residencies where they are not driven by competition or prestige but cultural exchange through shared, interesting spaces as a way to address equality and access in the arts?

Yes. I would definitely recommend similar residencies to creatives out there, as long as they are using their time effectively and treating it as a cultural experience and not a holiday. I was lucky enough to have been asked by Talkin’ Culture to experience this residency though it wouldn't have crossed my mind to explore the possibility and look into this myself. I think it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find a cultural exchange that offers these opportunities without costing the artist a significant amount of money.

9. Is there anything you want to add, good or bad?

Nothing negative at all other than one week was not enough but a fantastic glimpse to how one could benefit from this wonderful opportunity simply by being in a different environment. I was immersed in peaceful surroundings which has had a lasting effect. I've dealt with anxiety on a daily basis and this has diminished significantly. This was an amazing experience which has shown me that one can live free of the issues we create in our heads. Knowing there are environments in which we can feel much better has had a significant impact on me.

10. What's next for you?

Apart from persuading Talkin’ Culture to have me back so I can carry on where I left off, I’d like to keep painting the outdoors, from life, as I enjoyed the challenge from my short stay in the Pyrenees and it will help me progress to become a better artist.


#projectpyrenees is the heritage home and project of Talkin’ Culture, set up by Paula Moore. Part of the original priory attached to a national monument, Sainte Marie, in Corneilla de Conflent, a revered church and Catalan masterpiece in France. This home sits in an 11th century setting and forest at the foot of the sacred Canigou mountain. The project is evolving a learning model combining permaculture, arts, craft and wellbeing for positive community impact and cultural exchange. This project is also a response to today’s empty homes scandal and un-used land that could become part of a network for positive, social and environmental change.



Header Image Credit: Talkin' Culture


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