Cayman artist David Bridgeman is now being represented by a U.K. gallery. The 57-year-old was recently approached by the Saunders Fine Art Gallery in Charlotte Street, London.
The new signing represents a good opportunity to increase the artist’s exposure overseas. It is understood that the gallery will not only show his work by introducing it to a wider audience in the U.K., but will also sell his pieces.
The Saunders Fine Art Gallery, owned and operated by Tanya and Guy Saunders, manages a diverse group of British and European artists. Tanya Saunders previously lived in Cayman and worked at the Kennedy Gallery and the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands after attending Goldsmiths, University of London, for a fine art and history degree.
Responding as to why they approached Bridgeman, Tanya Saunders said, “We have always felt that David’s work stands out for its own unique merits and that his style is distinct, original and unconfined by the place in which it has been imagined and created.
“His work is of a caliber and professionalism that equals any contemporary painters here in the U.K., and we felt that having seen the continuing development of his art over the last few years, that he should be seen by a wider audience,” she said.
The partnership means that the artist’s smaller works will be shown at arts fairs in and around the capital.
Acknowledging this important step, Bridgeman regards the latest development as important.
“It means that there is an opportunity to work together on exhibiting,” he said.
“We are currently working on producing an exhibition at The Framer’s Gallery [a larger venue] in Charlotte Street for March 27 to April 1, 2017, which I am very excited about. If successful, this could lead to opportunities to exhibit elsewhere. Ultimately I would love nothing more than to be able to produce artwork continuously for display in other venues.”
Having supported his work for many years, National Gallery Director Natalie Urquhart said, “We are delighted to hear of David’s representation abroad and hope to see more Caymanian artists establishing themselves in the global art arena.”
Known for his modernist art, Bridgeman has long been viewed as one of Cayman’s most important and prolific artists. His compelling work is much sought after and has featured in several group and solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.
The British-born artist’s close association with the National Gallery was further cemented in 2006 when he took up the two-year posts of education officer and guest curator.
His solo exhibitions of recent years include “The Road Not Taken” (2014), which explored the landscapes of Cayman and Oxfordshire, and “Clear Horizons” in 2005.
Currently in one of his most active periods, Bridgeman has shown his work in 11 selected group exhibitions in Cayman in the past decade alone. International showings of his work include the CarifestaX show in Georgetown, Guyana; the UNESCO building in Paris; and in Hamilton, Bermuda; Curacao, Aruba; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Edmonton, Canada.
Bridgeman grew up near the English market town of Abingdon, Oxford. A shy boy, he “took comfort in the success of making things.” His nascent aptitude for art and the creative process helped him and acted as a useful foil for his lack of confidence.
Bridgeman’s passion for art and the creative process continued into middle school and was strongly influenced by a succession of enthusiastic arts teachers who themselves produced art.
According to the artist, “[Those] difficult teenage years in a comprehensive school were soothed by continued success in art. Visits to the London galleries were a regular pastime.”
Bridgeman’s light-bulb moment came when he was given a catalog of a Frank Stella exhibition by his art teacher. “This was some kind of affirmation for me that somehow I was on the right track,” he recalled. “It was also the first time that I witnessed the power of art.
“My teacher brought in some pieces of his own work and was moved to tears as he explained the inspiration behind them.”
In hindsight, while he regrets not having gone to art school, Bridgeman feels he has more than made up for it by taking various courses, which specifically reflect areas of special individual interests rather than modules in a rigid curriculum.
When he came to Cayman in 1987, the exotic newness of the island fostered a creative outpouring. Figurative work captured new landscapes and environments, bringing to life artistic instincts that had laid dormant for several years.
In 1994, an expressive self-portrait was chosen as part of the Carib Art traveling exhibition, giving Bridgeman a taste of the possibilities and inherent flexibility of that style. From that point on, his work became “more emotionally charged,” he noted.
Here and now
Although principally known as a painter, Bridgeman is equally comfortable using his etching press, making models and creating installation art.
Bridgeman is currently painting landscapes, trying to distill what he sees to “a series of basic shapes and forms.”
His interest in landscapes – the marks left by human involvement – extends to the marks and symbols on maps, and encompasses a lifelong fascination with the environment.
“My landscapes are emotionally charged … they carry an emotional legacy I try to convey,” he explained.
As an artist, he’s often asked about the deeper meaning of his work. In response to such questions, he said, “In a way, I feel as though I am building a set of codes or blocks. These codes seem to be forming a kind of pictorial lexicography which, at a glance, allows time and place to slot seamlessly together.”
An admirer of Van Gogh due to the drama and tragedy of the Dutchman’s life, Bridgeman these day is drawn to the work of British artist and Turner prize winner, Grayson Perry.
Sculptor Barbara Hepworth and contemporary artist Tracy Emin are two other artists whose work he rates.
Away from art, the married father of two enjoys learning to play classical guitar and his annual pilgrimage to Art Basel in Miami.
David Bridgeman’s pieces can be viewed at Saunders Fine Art Gallery’s studio in London, and online via the www.saundersfineart.co.uk website.