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'My work is a visual explosion of colour, shape and texture' Lenny Cornforth tells Newburytoday about her artistic journey

Lenny Cornforth

After graduating in Fine Art at Newcastle University in 2015 Lenny moved back down to Oxfordshire and worked half of her week as an art technician and the other half picture-framing in Newbury at Forbes Art.

During this time she was also furiously painting and moved to West Berkshire.

Eventually she stopped working as an art technician and focused solely on the framing.

She said: "My boss was a good teacher and also encouraged me to paint at the workshop, which allowed me to return to the large scale pieces I had first started on at university, the largest of which had stood at just over 3m tall and 3m wide.

"During my final year at Newcastle I had, in fact, completed just three paintings.

"Although abstract, the composition of each was time consuming, taking months to paint thin, translucent layers of oil paint to build up dense areas of vivid colour."

Paintings that progressed in the framing workshop included several large brightly-coloured pieces made to fit down the side of a marquee as panels for Lenny's wedding.

"The abstract shapes reflected the curves and reflected light of a traditional marquee shape," she added. "The day wouldn’t have felt right without an intense injection of colour.

"A year or two later my boss moved away to Cornwall and although at that time I could not quite afford to buy the necessary framing equipment, I had a plan to create a Lenny Cornforth studio space for myself and other artists.

"I took over the Boundary Road buildings lease and opened Cornforth Studios in 2017. Part studios-part gallery, the studios ran only to cover the cost of the lease and allowed me to offer affordable studio space to a variety of local artists including an upholstery artist, several abstract expressionist painters and a sculptor."

Lenny said her own work also benefitted from the constant influx of new ideas and the conversation of like-minded artists.

The plan also allowed the studios to function when she was not on site as she hoped to start a family while continuing to paint.

"Then in 2019 we suffered problems with the roof and I was searching for a way to increase our income when Jean Ince from town centre framers Artifax walked into the studios and asked if any of the artists were interested in taking on their picture framing," Lenny said. "I was so excited to return to picture framing - not just because it was ideal timing to save our occupation but because I had always enjoying working with/enhancing/promoting and supporting other artists work.

"Picture framing is an incredibly satisfying process and requires an artistic eye - something I was happy to revisit. When we went into association with Artifax and I opened Cornforth Studios Picture Framing, I was also entering a prolific period with my own painting.

"Feeling very, very lucky to be pregnant, I had begun working once again in intense bright colours - smaller pieces, featuring softer undulating curves! For the first time in my career I heard someone describe my work as feminine.

"Bizarrely perhaps, I had always taken a certain pride in the more masculine feel to my abstract work, most likely because so many of the artists I admire were male figures - Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Callum Innes.

"Although, of course, the brilliant female painter Helen Frankenthaler who once said “One really beautiful wrist motion, that is synchronised with your head and heart, and you have it. It looks as if it were born in a minute” - proved that you don’t have to be unfeminine to paint."

Once her son Harry was born she returned straight away to framing and painting with his cheerful ever-smiling company.

"He is now 7 months old, but art and work continue to fuel day to day life," she explained. "My work is currently a visual explosion of colour, shape and texture, each piece an experiment into my continued deep love of colour theory.

"During this historic lockdown, while we work together to stay home and protect our communities I look forward to working alongside in spirit at least all the other artists working from home, creating monumental artwork about this strange and difficult time we currently find ourselves in."