Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Caroline Spalding
Features Correspondent
2:59 PM 21st September 2020

Artistry Of Lancashire - Colin Binns

Colin Binns works from his studio on the Fylde Coast that he established in 2001 and has himself deep roots in Lancashire going back several generations. In his work, Colin focuses on the changing character of towns and landscapes, exploring their connections between people, places, associated myths and memories.

Blackpool evening
Blackpool evening
He grew up in Blackpool during its heyday as a seaside resort, a time that surrounded him with its vibrant colour and energy, and he naturally brings these vigorous characteristics into his paintings and drawings.

Colin's work continues to absorb and reflect the character of places: what is to be found and felt there. He captures these moments in time and place through painting, drawing, photography and poetry. His work can develop initially as an abstract drawing, or perhaps a piece of expressive colour or a collage which can evolve into a collection or montage of pieces. He will absorb the character of a place through several visits: sketching en plein air, making photographs, and collecting random objects on location, which he will then work from in his studio. He will also write poetry in direct response to the emotions and ideas stimulated from his visits, which in turn influences the imagery. Everything supports his motive to convey the mood and atmosphere of a place as he experienced it.

For Colin, the technique to recreate a place’s mood and atmosphere on canvas is through a process of layering. He will often use his location sketches and photography as base layers over which he can paint and draw to create varying depth and translucency in the resulting imagery. Many artists will share an understanding of the conveyed meaning and intention contained in a painting of many layers; in a way it's a sense of what lies beneath the surface, each layer containing a particular energy, or sense of excitement - perhaps for Colin it's a way of distilling the various aspects of a sensory experience in response to a place.

Blackpool afternoon
Blackpool afternoon
He has always experimented with different techniques and media, and continues to be inspired by the "energetic bustle of our city centres and ever changing character of towns throughout Lancashire and the North West" incorporating movement, colour and texture into his pieces. This movement of both observer and the observed is captured through the collection of multiple images taken from varied viewpoints. In the same way our brains absorb multiple views simultaneously as our eyes roam about a space, he creates assemblies of montaged images. Recently he has used this idea to represent the complexity of York’s historic street patterns. Using sketches and photographs to create semi-abstract pieces, they give an illusion of the arbitrary whilst also "giving the viewer clues and insights into the architecture and streets that define the city."

Colin describes the expressive nature of his work now as a liberation from the profession he previously followed, in architecture. Having attended an academic school, his childhood creativity was put on hold, and instead he pursued a career in architectural design. He always enjoyed the process of design, but this was limiting to making drawings primarily in black and white. Given that he saw buildings as conceived in colour, he always felt this was too much of a compromise.

Coffee at Cuthbert's Cave
Coffee at Cuthbert's Cave
His work continues to evolve, much like our surrounding landscape - urban and rural. Colin studied a Master’s Degree in Fine Art at UCLan in 2007 during which he developed his mixed media ideas, using the university's Artlab print studios to combine screen prints with painting. This itself lead to a residency which influenced a major project he'd started that responded to the changing atmosphere and character of urban spaces. Subsequently the "constantly changing activities of urban life in the towns" have consistently provided inspiration and stimulus to fuel further work. And whilst he has made pieces from studies of the urban centres of York and Bristol, it is the towns and landscape of Lancashire and the North West that remain the most fruitful source of inspiration.

Colin started exhibiting his work in 2005 and has had many solo shows in the galleries of Lancashire and the North West region. Subsequently, in 2016/17 a retrospective of 90 pieces was shown at the Salford Museum and Art Gallery and hailed as a success for the gallery. More recently though, Covid has thrown the spanner into the works of two planned solo exhibitions. The first opened in Lancaster, albeit for one week only before closure, and the second at a York gallery didn't see the light of day before lockdown. Fortunately, however, this exhibition at the New Schoolhouse Gallery in York has now been rescheduled for April 2021.

Lockdown has enabled Colin to return to a project he had started a while back, "a study and reinterpretation of the character of the North West coastline from the mouth of the Mersey to the edges of Morecambe Bay." It continues his theme of the changing dynamism of landscape in response to the way we inhabit it, both inland and coastline, but also the physical manifestation of human activity and habitation on urban and rural landscapes.

Dance house
Dance house
When not in the studio, he has connected with an increasing number of urban sketching groups based in Lancashire. They have gathered and drawn together across the county, sharing the sketches at the end of each session and on Facebook, creating for Colin a network of likeminded and supportive contacts and friends. He also leads sketching workshops, often at the request of public galleries. Recently, after teaching workshops at the Harris Gallery in Preston, the curator invited him to exhibit in the gallery and subsequently bought some of his artwork for their permanent collection.

Colin says that much of his time in the studio can be a mixture of exploration and meditation before embarking on the process of drawing, collaging and painting. He draws inspiration from the works of Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and RB Kitaj – all of whom produced work that was layered with imagery, revealing more on every viewing. More recently the Scottish artist, Victoria Crowe has provided inspiration: in her work he sees suggestions of mythical qualities drawn from personal life experiences that twin with his desire to produce work evoking both memory and myth.

Some examples of Colin’s work are available for viewing and purchasing at Signature Gallery, Kendal and Water Street Gallery, Todmorden, and his paintings and drawings for exhibition at the New Schoolhouse Gallery in York next year are currently on his website. A full collection of work available for purchase can be seen on the website and potential buyers can contact him on the mobile number provided on the contact page.