Artworks by David Bridgeman, including an extraordinarily large installation, go on exhibit at the National Gallery starting Dec. 4.
Inspired by landscapes in Bridgeman’s native England and in the Cayman Islands, “The Road Not Taken” will showcase a selection of the artist’s colorful pieces of work, which he describes as an expressionistic way of presenting the landscapes as seen through his eyes.
“Many people mistake it for abstract work. It most definitely isn’t,” he said. “There is nothing conceptual about it. I like to take figurative images as far as I can go with them, extrapolate them or simplify them. A lot of it is to do with memory, how we see things from our childhood as adults.”
The exhibition features a number of paintings, charcoal drawings and a limited edition etching made from a press in the artist’s studio. The focal point, however, is an installation piece depicting a woodland setting created by a series of light tubes which will be housed in the center of the gallery. “The installation work is the biggest piece in the exhibition, consisting of 23 tubes inwardly lit,” Bridgeman explained. “It is 9 feet high and 8 feet square. I have painted on a material called Lexan, a translucent plastic, to create a small woodland of trees. The “trees” will be lit from inside within a darkened space, to create an ethereal woodland effect. The objects themselves contain a great deal of imagery and symbols and represent a collection of trees atop an ancient mound in Oxfordshire called The Wittenham Clumps.
“The tubes were created by painting the surface with homemade brushes the size of mops, constructed in part from the bark of red birch trees.”
The artworks are inspired by Canadian artist Arlene Aslynchuk, who Bridgeman said gave him great encouragement with the material used in the installation.
“She has sadly since passed away, but this exhibition is dedicated to her for all the advice and support that she gave me in the very short time that I knew her,” he said.
“The works contain imagery and symbols, both ancient, emotional and biological which help to convey a view of the world that I am feeling at any given moment in time. It changes quickly and so too does the work, I think. If you look carefully, you can see elements of excitement, foreboding, danger, loss, turmoil, happiness and hopefully, humor. Living on a Caribbean island isn’t always paradise, and I have strived to express that. Every piece of work stems from an aspect of the landscape, either from Cayman or Britain.”
Bridgeman said he has been working on the show for approximately a year and chose the name for the exhibition once the main body of work was completed.
“The name comes from the title of a Robert Frost poem, ‘The Road Not Taken.’ I thought the poem served as a good metaphor to describe that point in time when I had to make key choices in life, none of them wrong ones, but it left me contemplating how life could have been so completely different if I had taken a different road.”
Bridgeman added that while this was a daunting and challenging task, he is excited about holding his first solo show at the gallery,
“I have exhibited many times over the years with the National Gallery as part of group shows, residencies, and even a two-man show, but this is my first solo show at the gallery. It is very special as it probably is a one-off opportunity. It is an opportunity to produce a large body of work and see it housed in a purpose-built building.
“It is a very special experience which is hard to describe. There are feelings of excitement together with feelings of vulnerability. Baring your soul is quite a daunting experience, but exhibiting is an important part of an artist’s career. It is an opportunity to step back and review everything you have done and, from that point, make decisions about where to go next.”
He added: “I feel that I have a big responsibility in getting it right and making it look professional, especially for a venue such as the National Gallery.”
“The Road Not Taken” runs through Jan 22. For more details and opening hours, call 945-8111 or email [email protected]
Originally from Oxford, Bridgeman used art as a form of escapism when he was growing up. He ignored his instincts to study art further, however, and instead went into teaching. In the late ‘80s he moved to the Caribbean to take up a government teaching post. Inspired by his new surroundings, he picked up his paintbrush once again. In 2005 he left teaching to begin working as an artist full time. He is frequently inspired by autobiographical artists such as Tracey Emin and John Bellany.