Artist in Residence: A Painter's Progress

Tim Betjeman , grandson of John Betjeman (B2 1920-25), paints inside the Chapel

Category: Art, General, Community

Throughout the Michaelmas and first half of the Lent Term, Timothy Betjeman, our present Artist in Residence, can often be found deep in concentration, painting and drawing within the College Chapel.

As a highly accomplished plein-air artist, Tim has been inspired to capture the subtly changing light, that can be observed within the Marlborough College Chapel of St Michael and All Angels during various activities and points of the day.

Tim comments:

“I decided early on in my time at Marlborough that I would like to paint regularly in the Chapel.  I knew that my grandfather, Sir John Betjeman (B2 1920-25), had enjoyed spending time there, and had seen it as something of a refuge from the trials of student life. There is a sense, upon entering and shutting the wooden doors behind you, that one has entered a space related to, but many miles away from the outside.  

"The Chapel does not take in a huge amount of natural light, so that when it is empty, the only indications of time passing, are occasional creaks from the wooden pews and the minutely changing colour of the chancel windows, which start off in the morning as a very pale blue, and by the evening have turned an aqueous green.  I have several paintings in progress, all created from the same spot in the back centre of the chapel, and a half-dozen etchings, which I work on after dark under electric light, or when I am too tired to paint.  Collectively, these represent sections of the day, and different architectural and decorative features coming into relief.  As the sun moves and colour relations change above the altar, I set down one painting and resume work on another.  I don’t like working from photographs because you miss all this.  The rituals and cycles of a place: visual, musical, religious and secular.  Painting is itself a ritual, and one which I have found harmonises well with that of the church."

He added: "I hope that by the end of residency at Marlborough, one or two of the paintings will have a sense of the Chapel’s teeming waves of activity, as well as its enormous silence, in a way that a quick look in or a photograph couldn’t possibly capture."

Alongside Tim’s regular teaching of a range of art practices to our Art Scholars and Option classes, he has welcomed pupils visits to his studio space and the Chapel. Most recently, a Remove Art class were greatly impressed by the expressive mark-making, detail and application of colour that Tim achieves within his current oil paintings. Our pupils asked Tim many questions relating to his gestural painting techniques and particular interest in studying the Chapel’s altar.

It is a pleasure to have Tim within the College community this academic year, and we look forward to further creative interactions throughout the remainder of his residency.

For further details of Tim’s work, you may visit his website here at timothybetjeman.com

Click here for a gallery of images.

Jonathan Parnham (Head of Art) and Timothy Betjeman (Artist in Residence).

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