Artist's Statement: Francesca Simon on the clarity of age and the beauty of the North York Moors

| 31 August 2015

Artist’s Statement: Francesca Simon, who graduated from Central St Martins in 2010, on succeeding in the art world at the age of 62 and the pull of the North York Moors

A photo of artist Francesca Simon standing next to a painting of black and white squares inside an art gallery
© Richard Doughty
“I’m very lucky that I’ve got to this stage so quickly. But I think being older has advantages, a greater sense of urgency, determination - just knowing that you have to do this now or you never will. Being older has also given me clarity, a perspective on life that helps when I’m working out what to do next.

I’d always been creative, making things, sewing and cooking, but in the years when I was bringing up my four children, that was the extent of it. Over time I realised I was missing something, not realising my potential. I enrolled in a local art class and a new world began to unfold.

A photo of an artwork made up of black and white shapes inside an art gallery
© Courtesy Ryedale Folk Museum
I was easily the oldest person in my group, but it was exhilarating to be with younger people and to be treated equally. It shook me up, in the best possible way, to be learning with people who were only just older than my own children.

The North York Moors, which surround Ryedale Folk Museum, have been a constant presence in my life for over 30 years. My husband’s family lived here, and now I have a home here too.

A photo of an artwork made up of black and white shapes inside an art gallery
© Courtesy Ryedale Folk Museum
There really is something special about this country. When I’m here, particularly when I’m walking, I get my best ideas or solutions to practical problems to do with my art. Perhaps it’s the bare, open spaces. When I return here, my heart lifts – it’s terrifically strong, the pull of the place.

Navigations came out of my life here on the edge of the Moors. The labour of the navvies - the drystone wall grids which break up and punctuate the fields and delineate the moors - provided me with a starting point for this show, and also for becoming an abstract artist.

A photo of artist Francesca Simon standing next to a painting of black and white squares inside an art gallery
© Richard Doughty
The work is an allegory on the subject of navigation, as much through life and creativity as through the landscape and its gradual changes. The horizon and its familiar landmarks, including dry stone walls and Bronze Age burial mounds; the shadows cast in relation to the time of day; the ancient drovers’ roads – they all provide tools for navigation.”

  • Navigation is at Ryedale Folk Museum, in the North York Moors National Park, until November 1 2015.

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