Untitled Document

Artist Biography

 ARTIST'S STATEMENT

Angus Hampel’s paintings are recreations of trees. They try to capture the wonder we forget when we look at the world. Their naturalism shows what we see and their mystery reveals there is more. That is why they are sacred.

Suddenly olives appear like fireflies, birds flash before our eyes and golden suns, or moons, dazzle.
It all depends on where you stand. Gold embodies both secular and religious. The muted colours offer echoes of peeling Italian frescos. The forms feel more Japanese.

Trees come into being and recede into earth and watery sky. If we don’t stop, we’ll miss it all.


BIOGRAPHY

I was quite academic at school and therefore discouraged from taking art - it was one of those places where art was considered an option if you couldn’t do anything else. I led a traditional, sheltered life through school; was quiet, worked hard and played a bit of sport. Everything exploded when I left school at 18 and spent a year hitching down Africa from Cairo to Cape Town. I am the youngest of four children, in a close-knit, sometimes too close-knit, family and it was my first dash for freedom. This was before mobiles and email and I think I called home twice. I wrote however very long letters.

Looking back at it now, it is amazing to believe I travelled alone, so young and naive through those dangerous, impoverished, starving, diseased, and yet stunning countries, and was met constantly with generosity and friendliness. I think it was my very harmlessness that protected me.

I returned somewhat reluctantly to study Latin, Greek and Philosophy at Oxford University; it was rather strange, and while I enjoyed my four years, and made my closest friends, I tended to enjoy the nightlife more than the day life. Somehow I managed to be up enough to play golf for the University, leaving with a vague idea that I wanted to write.

Journalism appealed, with the idea of returning to Africa as a correspondent. I persuaded a local paper near my parents’ house to take me on, and then moved to London and had stints at a couple of national papers. All good and interesting but I fairly quickly knew it wasn’t for me. I was offered a job at a small publishing company, working on their magazines, and thought I’d give it a go. I did this for a year or so, enjoying the people more than the work before turning freelance. It was the beginning of the internet boom and I started writing content for websites, for anything from a bank to a zoo. Extraordinarily, I ended up winning a BAFTA (the British equivalent of an Oscar) for writing a history of communication. In my spare time I was also designing greeting cards.

Something however was missing. I felt I was wandering without finding it, whatever it was – some meaning or reason. During this time, on top of everything else, I became a crossword writer and editor, and then one evening, I passed an art school near to where I was working. They offered night classes every Tuesday and I remembered how much I had loved drawing and painting as a boy. The first three-hour session passed in a second. It was a damascene moment and I decided – in fact there was no idea of choice - I realized I had to do something about this.

A quick survey of schools in the UK showed none offered the traditional training I was looking for. Eventually I found a small atelier in Florence, applied, and somehow got in. So a few months after I had passed the school in London I was drawing the nude in Italy, taking every Wednesday off to write crosswords, in order to fund my life.

In the end I attended two ateliers in Florence and they harked back to the nineteenth century tradition of training the artist to become a skilful draughtsman - through pain-staking studies of casts and nudes (we would take three months on one drawing) - before moving into simple monochrome paintings, and finally into color. We learnt how to grind paints and make canvases; we studied anatomy and composition by looking at old masters. It was strict and many saw it as a strait-jacket to personal expression. I think that was missing the point. Personal expression is there naturally, in everyone, and especially in those who desire to search; the ateliers give the tools.

The crosswords eventually drove me a little nuts, and the painting took over. I had my first solo show in London in 2002, and it went well. I have been exhibiting ever since and have been fortunate enough to have a steady stream of commissions in Europe, UK and America.

In September 2006, after a very successful show at Petley Fine Art, London, for some reason I felt very flat. I knew that often after so much hype and expectation, there is a natural anticlimax but it felt deeper than that. There was profound dissatisfaction, not just in my work but existentially, and of course this was exacerbated by the guilt of feeling this way when I knew I was so lucky.

Earlier that year, without really knowing what I was doing (which will sound very strange), I had written to a Buddhist monastery in Nepal, which took in Westerners (I was brought up a Catholic). They offered a meditation course for 6 weeks and I booked in. I find it extraordinary now to think how I had written to a monastery when all seemed well - as if planning a safety net for when I fell. So I went, low and in the dark.

It was hard, frightening and lightening. It was very foreign but chimed and for a Brit, I started to open up.

My art and life changed. The experience led me to a Zen Master in southern India. He is also a Catholic priest and provided a route through the wisdom of the east back home. I spent a few winters at his meditation centre in the mountains, and still see him now when he visits Europe.

I was living at this point in a 12th century cottage in the British countryside, with one of my brothers. I continued to paint landscapes and portraits, but started to experiment with other means of expression. After a few years, and a desire to be back of the thick of things, I packed up and drove to Berlin. I had never been there before, but knew it a great centre for art and mayhem. It didn’t take long to settle in and within two weeks, I met Bernadette who is now my wife. After a year I had an exhibition of new work, entitled Silence, and we were expecting our first child.

Soon after Mercedes was born, we decided we wanted to bring up a family out of the smoke and headed south to Italy. We have been here now for around 6 years and have four children, with a fifth due in November. We live in Tuscany, in a farmhouse (parts of which are over a 1000 years old) surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. It is all rather idyllic, but without central heating, the winters are quite medieval – sleeping in one room and lively essentially in one of the giant fireplaces. Last January and February however, we relocated to Sri Lanka. I sketched and ate coconuts while the family played on the beach, and annoyed the crabs.

I travel a fair bit with my work and show mainly in London. I think art is more important than ever now. For one thing it is not functional – which is pretty rare. Even games and toys nowadays have to be justified as educational, and with the wonders of modern communication, those undistracted, aimless moments are rare. But mainly it opens us to other ways of seeing world. It shows there is more to the world than us and that not everything that is valuable is quantifiable, measurable, and wholly rational. Love is like that too. I also think there is always space for something beautiful.


EXHIBITIONS

2016 Patchings Art Centre, Nottingham
2015 Serena Morton, London
The Artist Magazine Exhibition, Nottingham
Double Winner of Artist’s Award
2010 Morton Metropolis, London
2008 Guggleton Gallery, Dorset
2007 Jorgensen Gallery, Dublin
2006 Petley Fine Art, Cork Street, London
Guggleton Gallery, Dorset
2005 Jorgensen Gallery, Dublin
Petley Fine Art, Cork Street, London
Guggleton Gallery, Dorset
2004 Hotel Pitti Palace Hotel, Florence
Petley Fine Art, Cork Street, London
2003 Panter and Hall, London
2002 Vertigo Gallery, London
The Florence Academy of Art