Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Collections 7 - Paintings by John Knapp-Fisher

The chapel goers - John Knapp-Fisher 1987

In the opening passage of his book, John Knapp-Fisher describes his approach to painting.

My work depends upon feeling for and involvement with the subject; the elimination of non-essentials, the use of pigment as an end in itself. That is, the quality of the painting or drawing must have a technical value regardless of the subject matter. These things cannot be dealt with by any rule of thumb.

These are wise words. Most serious painters will understand and have experienced what he means. Perhaps this is why I like his paintings so much, and have been collecting them, in a small way, for twenty years.

John lives and works from his studio in Croesgoch, only two miles from my house. He came here forty years ago and has gradually built his reputation so that he is now recognised as one of the finest painters in Wales. He is best known for dark, moody Pembrokeshire landscapes, often painted as nocturnes, the sky inked black and the buildings set like a stage - no coincidence he used to be a designer in the theatre.

But John's work has a much greater range. Though the style is always recognisable, he also paints townscapes, boats, the estuaries of Suffolk, the river Thames, and fish. Indeed, he's the best painter of fish I'm aware of and one of the few things I truly covet is one of his oil paintings of mackerel or pollack.

My collection is small - as are many of his paintings. I have half a dozen sketches and water colours, some of them painted before he came to Wales. I have some prints too - an easy present is always to buy me one of his images. And I have a stack of postcard reproductions, some of which I've framed. My father-in-law has a large original - I helped him chose it on the condition I could have it when he's gone - hopefully a long time yet.

Of course, I have a connection with the places he paints and this lies behind my interest, though not quite as you might expect. The vast majority of his subjects are of places within five miles of his studio and hence my house too. I find this inspiring; at a time when international travel has acquired an over-inflated status, it is worth reflecting that we can find a lifetime's creativity just by looking at what is around us. Sometimes we look too far and not hard enough.

It is the sign of a good painting that we do not tire of seeing it. I enjoy my small collection and I enjoy visiting John's gallery to look up his latest work. Last weekend I called by and he enquired if I was still painting my postcards - he came to my exhibition a few years ago. I recall being delighted that he'd made the effort; I was pleased he'd remembered too. We chatted about the pictures he had on display - they were from his private collection; none were for sale.

I would not sell my paintings either, for they are an important reminder of the twenty or so years I have been visiting Wales. Indeed, they are an integral part of it - part of my feeling for and involvement in the landscape, and they have a technical value regardless of their subject matter - these things cannot be dealt with by any rule of thumb.

Painting by John Knapp-Fisher

Painting by John Knapp-Fisher


  1. A good painting, one that you never tire of, needs the technical mastery as well as the inspiration. We have been lugging our paintings about for years, and they are the first objects to be placed in a house.

    We do go to exhibitions and sales...less frequently these days..and just occasionally there is a work that we can't imagine going home without, unless it totally outruns the budget.

  2. One of the qualities of a good painting must be its ability to move you again and again...

  3. For me the sign of a good painting is one that you can get lost in!! A house doesn't feel like a home till the paintings are on the walls!!

    I've never come across him before but I like the images you have posted here.

    C x

  4. Mark, am confused, are those last two paintings yours - or John K-F's? Yours, or his, I love them. I took a look at your postcard link too. Fab as well. Absolutely my kind of thing - as all your work seems to be!

    We bought our house in France off a German artist. He left us some of his paintings - like you, he never wanted to sell a single one. He would chose who to give them too instead.

  5. What a coincidence - that an artist whose work you collected then moved so near to where you were living. I do love that first picture - so many people it would have been easy to make it look messy but it is anything but. I wonder if they were going to church.

    Like HOTH I am also confused about the last two paintings - if they are yours they are certainly very very good and if they are JKF's they are very different in style from the others you've posted. But then I suppose painters have different styles for different moods.

    I wish I could paint or draw. I know in theory everyone can do it - but I can't.

  6. The last two paintings are also by John, though they were painted in the Sixties, before he came to Wales. They are not dissimilar to some of mine, which I promise to post up soon.

    The fist picture - The chapel goers is, I think, a magnificent painting - a great example of capturing the feel and mood above a supposed likeness - though it has a technical accuracy too. This, I think, is what John's paintings do so well; there is always strong draughtsmanship underpinning the image, something that imitators often fail to do.

  7. Goodness -how blind I must be. Of course they were going to chapel - hence the title. Der!

  8. The paintings are fabulous. I could live with them on my walls with great gratitude. I hadn't heard of him, thank you for the introduction.

  9. I do like this work and he does have a way with water and reflections. It is stunning to see.

    I am not able to imagine a million starlings in one area. That must be an enormous amount of poop for somebody to scoop up and do away with.

    In this country before or shortly after settlers began to arrive, we had passenger pigeons whose numbers broke oak tree limbs and blacked the sky. And after a roost at night it was impossible for man or beast to walk through the poop without falling down in it.

    I did see the crows last night again, overhead and the flock size has increased dramatically.

  10. I do hope that you and the family are well and that it is only good diversions keeping you from us