Here & Now went to meet local celebrity artist, David Henty, at Cloud Gallery.
David Henty is an artist with a world wide reputation, built on his amazing ability to reproduce the work of other artists. He was always able to draw, copying from books, and then ‘livening up’ canvasses from his father’s antique business by adding detail precisely in the style of the original.
Following a spell inside, for forgery, twenty five years ago, David rediscovered his passion for art, and embarked on what became his career as a copyist.
In a lively and enthusiastic explanation of his method of working, David revealed the extensive research he undertakes into each artist, to learn to see the world through their eyes; he immerses himself in books and videos, looks into the contemporary history, investigates paint, canvas and frame, and absorbs as much information as available about the artists and their lives.
David described how he will make numerous exploratory drawings and paintings to uncover each painter’s nuances, quirks, particular characteristics; he talked about how Modigliani produced drawing after drawing in preparation, and then launched onto the canvas in paint, working furiously for hours, sustained by absinthe and hashish.
The process David follows in order to feel confident about making a copy of a great painting is one of reverse engineering, of deconstruction; he doesn’t embark on a work until he has applied intense interrogation of every aspect of the work and the artist. Currently he has a full size copy of Caravaggio’s ‘The Taking of Christ’ underway, but has put it away and he comes back to it every now and then to see what it needs to make it perfect; it won’t leave his house until he is happy with it. At over 4 feet high and 5 1/2 feet wide, it may be that his wife hopes it will be soon.
Cloud Gallery director Andrew Stott told us about the recent exhibition of David’s work in their Chichester gallery. It was immensely popular, and a lot of work was sold. Andrew said he was struck by the emotional response people had to these copies of famous paintings, as though people who loved the original could scarcely believe that they could actually have a real, painted version, beautifully framed, of their own. This intense response reflects the passion and immense talent David invests in each painting.
David is a guest speaker at Indigo restaurant at the Ardington Hotel on Thursday 22 November in their ‘Food for Thought’ lunchtime series. This is a chance to hear a master craftsman talking about his extraordinary career and new-found celebrity, while enjoying an excellent lunch in good company.
By Hazel Imbert, Here & Now Arts Correspondent