Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Through the Keyhole - Susanna Lobb

The artist Susanna Lobb moved to her home in Brighton in 1987 and says "I consider myself lucky to live here - near to dear friends and family, a stimulating city and not too conventional. I have always loved being abroad and I think we are as near being 'abroad' here as we can. It always seems to me that Brighton has one foot 'out' of - and that suits me well".

Susanna was immediately attracted to the house's unusual qualities, especially the existence of the coach house at the end of the garden. She saw its potential both as a consulting room for her day job as a psychotherapist - and as a wonderful, light, studio space in which to paint. It gives complete privacy for both these activities. In addition, Susanna feels that it gives her a sense that she is living in the country (even though in reality the house is in a densely populated urban area). The lower storey of the coach house takes all the gardening equipment and all the pots and paints used in DIY - and even doubles as extra food storage. It gives the whole property a relaxed, rural feel, unusual in a town house.

In terms of decorating style Susanna has no care for elegance or sophistication or minimalism. Most important for her is colour. She painted the living room yellow many years ago when she first saw Monet's yellow dining room in his house in Giverney. Furniture is inexpensive, country-style, wooden tables and chairs and flooring. Curtains and rugs are oriental in origin. Susanna pays attention to the soft furnishing - tablecloths and cushion covers from India and Sweden - both emphasizing lively design and good colour. She is not interested in things 'matching'. The walls are covered with paintings, family photographs and Greek and Russian icons.

All the paintings going up the stairs are by Susanna except for one woodcut (orange and white) by Harvey Daniels who inspired and encouraged her when she first began to paint seriously. The small painting next to it is by a personal friend Annie Wood who has also exhibited in Brighton. The blue -mounted painting at the foot of the stairs is one of a number of 'Journal de Vacances' that Susanna has made over the years, using pages from her holiday sketchbooks. This one was made in Amorgos, a Greek island in the Cyclades. On holidays, especially in Greece, Susanna draws a kind of 'dream' of the landscape.

In Susanna's studio are acrylic paints, brushes and painting paraphernalia - boxes of latex gloves, uncompleted boards ready for painting; heaters for the winter and a few cherished objects on shelves such a kaleidoscope, some ceramic fishes and apples made by Susanna many years ago. Also Susanna's painting apron and the plastic covering on the floor which becomes a kind of painting of its own and some photos on the wall that Susanna took of Mogul architecture when she visited India.

Above the large fireplace where is a large painting again by Harvey Daniels. The other paintings are Susanna's including another of her 'Journal de Vacances', this time made in Assisi, Italy. The red painting is a recent copy that Susanna made in paint of a screen print by John Hoyland, who for her is the greatest, living painter, and the one whose paintings have given most inspiration for her own work in acrylics.

On the mantelpieces are a collection of family photos and icons (in reproduction). Susanna has a large and close-knit family of three children and nine grandchildren who all mean much to her and some of the grandchildren are turning out to be talented artists. Susanna collects Greek icons and reproductions of Russian icons. They are a great source of inspiration - because they, like the family photos are intimately connected with the experience of love. Susanna says, "They keep my vision centred where I want it to be centred - not on the visual images that daily confront us as entertainment and distraction, posters, television, shopping malls which can seem like a kind of visual assault. Instead, I choose to strengthen my sense of the spiritual and safeguard my inner space and the icons convey a deep radiance and calm and comfort. I am a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and so I value silence and I sometimes wonder if my paintings are beginning to attempt to paint silence."

The other objects in the living room are books, mainly poetry and the collection of CD,s - both Tim (Susanna's husband) and Susanna are deeply fond of music both playing the piano and singing in local choirs. On the fireplace is her favourite Christmas card (circular) that she can't bear to take down: the angel of the annunciation by Fra Angelico. The small black and white photo was taken of Susanna and her two sisters in 1946 - she could not be without it. Susanna has also made a stained glass window for her house.

The garden links the house and the studio in much the same way as the entrance building and the inner sanctum are linked in the many Greek monasteries that Susanna has visited and loved.

She tries to create something of that feel e.g. some trees and bamboos in raised beds and a palm tree and lots of plants in pots. Susanna is attracted to plants with strong colours: eg/ orange and dark red tulips in flower. She says, "They give me much joy and make my heart sing, which is always good for painting. I have many paintings of tulips in the house, although I no longer paint them".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All the Keyhole houses look really nice, would love to have a space like yours.