Sentinel Poetry (Online) #55 ISSN 1479-425X


Editor-in-Chief: Amatoritsero Ede

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Steve Slimm


Of magnets and Colours



Patrick Iberi (PI): The mystique expressed in some of your landscape paintings suggests an unyielding interface between art and human civilization. Why are you so preoccupied with landmarks and sites of antiquity?


Steve Slimm (SS): This preoccupation has come about since 2004 due to my connection with certain earth energy leylines, one of which I found myself living on for a while: the leyline known as the Michael line that runs virtually as a straight line from Lands End across Cornwall and the bottom of England to the Wash. I decided that I wanted to paint a series of shows over the next few years that traced this line through its various landscape features. Leylines seem to have been utilised by our ancestors as a means of connectedness. The lines are somehow ‘magnetic’ in nature – or at least energetic, albeit at an extreme quantum level. Alfred Watkins in his book ‘The Old Straight Track’ first brought them to the attention of the western civilised world around 1920. During the 1980’s in the book ‘The Sun and the Serpent’ Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst trace the Michael line (and it’s newly discovered feminine counterpart – the Mary line) in particular. I became especially fascinated with these two leylines, as they interweave their way across the land, linking countless sites of antiquity, as well as natural landmarks.

I have always been far more interested in prehistory than history. I think the sense of mystery is what draws me, along with the fact that, of necessity, far more is left to the imagination. And essentially art is about imagination – at least for me.  


P. I.: Colours seem to acquire more intensity in some of your work, why is that so?


S.S.: This is a very pertinent question, especially as even yesterday I took some new work into a St. Ives gallery that represents me, to see what they would like to exhibit, and I got the distinct feeling that the work was generally too intense in colour for their comfort. I looked around the gallery and realised that I was out on a limb here – working with all three primaries with the volume turned right up!

You’re asking me why? I’m sure there must be some deep psychological answer to this, but from my experiential point of view – I just get excited by intensity!


P.I.: Your involvement in art is marked by a sensual urge to illustrate the cosmos in all its picturesque boundlessness. Do you have to be in any peculiar creative mood to achieve this?


S.S.: Mood is very important for me when it comes to painting. Although painting sales provide my primary source of income, and have done for two decades, I spend relatively little time actually painting these days. This is probably due to need for ‘mood’ to be right. I actually have a number of creative outlets, all of which relate to certain creative moods. And it’s true (even as your question here is making me realise for the first time) that each of my creative branches requires a distinctly different mood! (I am also a musician and a writer). And within each of these channels I only work effectively when there is a completely unblocked flow. Other than that my life involves working at other aspects, such as business affairs, enjoying input from the world around me, and helping other peoples (life coaching and voluntary work). My creative urges – which can come in bouts of several hours or occasionally, days at a time – propel me into a virtual frenzy of manic activity, leaving me tired but fulfilled.   


P.I.: What prompted you to pick up a paint brush in the first place?


S.S.: When I was 17 I worked for the civil service and was offered ‘day release’ to further my education. As I had previously done a day’s life modelling for a class of middle-aged ladies under the tutelage of John Miller (then relatively unknown as an artist), I decided I wanted to join their class for their next two terms, which involved landscape watercolour painting. (I think John was a major influence and inspiration at this time, along with an obvious enthusiasm I have always had for art at school). Anyway the civil powers that be allowed ‘landscape watercolour painting’ as a bona-fide aspect of further education, so off I went – never once looking behind!


P.I.: Lets go back to your landscape paintings, how would you address the fact that your work is rather provincial in terms of historical and climatic reference?


S.S.: I suppose this is due to the fact that I live almost entirely provincially, only coming to the city (sometimes Plymouth, or occasionally London) to do business, or attend a seminar etc. This little microcosm here on the extreme foot of our land is my world – at least on a day-to-day basis. My connection with anything outside of this is somewhat transient. Maybe then I tend to paint within my own comfort zone. I certainly prefer a tree to a building any day, or a field to a parking lot. It never fails to surprise me that wherever I go (or live) in this country, within a very short time I can always find open places where virtually nobody goes, and if you do, then it is mandatory to have a dog. (The dog is the only English excuse for walking in the countryside). Of course I jest – but do I? I cannot for the life of me understand why people want to club together when there is all that open space!  So yes – I suppose I am provincial by nature, and quite happy to be so.


P.I.: You are a self-taught artist, whose influences include Turner, Monet, Van Gogh and of course, various English impressionists. What drew you to these artists?


S.S.: I was always drawn to the lyrical atmospheric quality in Turner’s work; in fact, I would almost say I was obsessed with it! I bought many books on his work, and studied the pictures with extreme attention to detail. This is all a long time ago now – but it is interesting now looking back how dedicated I was as a Turner fan. Eventually I moved on to other painters to emulate. In retrospect I think this was my way of getting my art education. Having decided against further formal education at the tender age of sixteen, I think I must have run the gauntlet on my own, considering the passion with which I studied, experimented and made avid notes! With hindsight now, in many ways I am glad I decided against the formal route, as I have benefited by more individualism and a greater attention to those artists with whom I made a special connection. Van Gogh’s influence had definitely to do with colour: Monet too; although it’s true that his atmospheric quality was also a major attraction to me, along with his sense of presence and realism. Needless to say, I filled my library with these artists too. The one major influence from the English impressionists was Edward Seago. I was particularly drawn to him because at the time he represented the nearest genre of work to my own, which was already taking shape. I always loved his expressions of light upon the land – in the form of glimpses more than as a full-blown commodity. I think I ceased needing to look at other painters for inspiration about ten to twelve years ago, although I still enjoy a peek sometimes! 


P.I.: Your earlier comment about your preference for pre-history over history is quite obfuscating when placed alongside the reality that art is said to be propelled by nature. Don’t you think your work may struggle to transplant that inventive essence when it draws from a past lost in void? 


S.S.: Art is said to be propelled by nature as you say. Man is nature: Nature is man. Man is by nature: Civilisation, parking lots, skyscrapers, computers, etc. But Nature is also Mother Earth, alone and desolate of anything man has by nature contributed. I suppose I have never been convinced that man’s contribution in any way matches or comes near to the original pre-historic creation – i.e. that which is often termed ‘the natural world around us’. (I would also include my own creations as a man in this regard). Nature moves on, man moves on, and yes. Art is quite valid in its all-encompassing urge toward integration of all aspects of human evolution. I am a lover of many forms including hip-hop, heavy metal and house music! However, for myself, I think my particular chosen vehicle for expressing this inevitable evolution is the connection to a past that is seemingly lost in the void. For me this is not the case, there is nothing lost; for me there is no void - and anything past is also present, and even future. So, in effect, I am dealing with Timelessness, and this is why, when speaking of my work, I will often refer to a Timeless Mystery.  Through the landscape around me I can often literally experience a totally transcending feeling of essential oneness and timelessness. My belief is that the land in which I live, upon which I each day place my feet, (bare whenever convenient), from which I arose, and into which I am invited to return, is in fact a living organism, and with it we are all One. This is my truth that I wish to express through my work as a painter. If you were to read my poetic writings you might understand also with your conscious intellect, but this is essentially a matter of the heart. Painting is a perfect vehicle to express the inexpressible (that which cannot be spoken). Some of what I feel is bound to come through, even if just a little in each piece. This is why my work is often overlooked on a superficial first glance, but why those who connect will keep returning. My work is intended as a mirror to the viewer’s soul. Therefore there is, in fact, nothing at all pre-historic, past, dead or gone about my expressions, as all who connect in this moment are alive (at least if not kicking!)


P.I.: Has there been any uncanny interpretation of your work to date?


S.S.: Not that I’m aware of, but it’s a very interesting question. Hopefully there might be ... who knows?


P.I.: Do you think you have exhausted all there is to represent in your Leylines collection or might there be some realistic effort on your part to recreate some more vestiges of that landscape?


S.S.: I have only reached just beyond St. Austell with this project, (half way up the length of Cornwall). As the opportunity presents itself, I plan to continue the venture right across the land. I am looking forward to interpreting landmarks and ancient sites on Bodmin Moor, and Dartmoor; also at Glastonbury, (a very special earth energy centre), Avebury (also extremely important) and many more places. I’m sure as I continue the journey I will find myself connecting with more and more subtle energetic forces. Avebury will have a lot of big rocks! Wow! There’s something to get bored by!  - at least for anyone not wishing to peer deeper inside. There will, no doubt, be opportunities to also express things of a very modern nature (in terms of superficially visible narrative). My four interpretations of Truro Cathedral have so far been the closest to being Modern – let alone contemporary! I’m sure I will eventually connect with the right galleries to provide opportunities for staging these next exhibitions. I am excited to see where the next work takes me! 


P.I.: You’ve been around the art scene in the UK for a while now. Tell me, what’s going on at the moment? Do you still find time to paint amid other engagements or are you just lapping it up from one exhibition to another?


S.S.: The art scene has been particularly slow here in Cornwall for the past two years or so. There are many factors that influence the buying of art, not least of which is financial security. Although I am aware of pockets of new or continuing success, the general feel for me and many artists here, has been one of relative scarcity. I think the whole thing is forcing a closer look at personal power, commitment and resourcefulness.  Aside from when I am involved with my painting or art-related business, I regularly spend time developing various approaches to self-development, or what I refer to call self-realisation. I spend some time with life-coaching clients, although not as much as I would like. I also find time for my passion with music. Regarding exhibitions, I do not have any major ones booked for this year, but I am quite happy about that. Everything has its own time!


P.I.: Thank you for finding time to talk to me Steve. I wish you all the best in the future.


S.S.: Thank you for your very thought-provoking questions, and for this opportunity to give you my response. It’s been enlightening for me – even if for no-one else!






Steve Slimm




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