After her degree in Fine Art from Hertfordshire College of Art and Design, and many years teaching Art in Secondary and Adult Education, Val Bestwick spent twenty years living and working in York. There, she was able to “get to grips” with the North York Moors where erosion by wind and rain emphasised the scarring on the earth’s surface. Each year her first visit brought a renewal of engagement with the drama of the attacked land and its visual changes. The fragile shale had been hacked at and sent slithering down the main gorge.
Her drawings and painting evolved into a metaphor for the erosion. Charcoal attacked paper, and oil paint was scraped into, moved and rebuilt in a desire to grab hold of the tactile sensations drawn from the land. About 8 years ago her first visit of the year took in a major change. The erosion and its scars had been ‘bandaged”. The marks which had informed her work were covered in a vast wrapping of seed-bearing fabric. The concept of bandaging and healing the earth wormed its way into her paintings. The erosion continued, causing the fabric to roll back and the earth to force its way through.
Again my work reflects this evolvement. The images coming through the paint are pushed out of control, allowed to wander and reform, eventually brought to a resolution with juxtaposition of fragmented images and controlling structure.
Changes in personal circumstances took the artist away from York about 3 years ago, to Bedfordshire where she lives close to her daughter and family. She has spent that time working on new paintings, some of which are on the easel for months or years and has chosen to show these in the familiar surroundings of Pyramid Gallery with what will be her fourth solo exhibition there. Galley owner Terry Brett had no hesitation in welcoming Val Bestwick back to York for this show. ‘Val has been an inspiration to me right from the first time that I came to York in 1994’, says Terry, ‘At the time I knew little about abstract art, but I was instantly drawn to her work and started to attend her portrait and life drawing classes at York College. I quickly learned from Val that the processes for representing each of these subjects could be the same. Layering the media onto the paper,taking some of it off, adding another layer and so on until the image evolves, capturing light and shade, texture and the form in a very organic way. Trying to emulate her way of drawing with charcoal has been a satisfying preoccupation for me ever since!’