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In conversation with painter D J Lowrie

Daphne Jo Lowrie in her studio in Suffolk
Image courtesy of the BBC series Villages by the Sea

We first encountered Daphne Jo Lowrie’s work in Suffolk, a place known for its big skies and vast flat landscapes.  We have seen and admired many landscape paintings over the years but there was something about these that resonated. She has the most beautiful lightness of touch and a distinctive way of painting, evoking changes in light so sensitively whilst capturing a particular mood and landscape so intuitively. 

D J Lowrie: Pink Field II, 45cm x 34cm, Oil on canvas, 2019 Framed in a light grey tray frame
Featured here with Thrown and Altered Vessel by Barry Stedman

Daphne Jo, or Jo as she is known to her friends, has the most gorgeous sense of colour, and there is so much to love in the details that can appear almost abstract to the eye. It is this looseness that we most admire, a stroke here and there, rendering the mood of a place so beautifully with a sparsity in detail – a familiar farm or church or trees just captured in a simple brushstroke. For the most part, the ever-changing Suffolk sky dominates her work and visually it is the necessary poetry to her life.

D J Lowrie: Beach Huts, 27cm x 45cm,  Oil on canvas, 2019 Framed in a light oak tray frame
Shown here with matt yellow porcelain pod by Sophie Cook (SOLD)

Jo’s work was recently featured in the BBC’s recent series, “Villages by the Sea”, which looked at the story of Walberswick, the medieval port on the Suffolk Coast where she paints.  Archaeologist and presenter of the programme, Ben Robinson commented: ”There’s a real paradox here as you’re painting solitude and this wild landscape and yet people flock here in their thousands to enjoy it.”  In the same way people flock to the area, we find that clients have a similar pull towards Jo’s paintings.  The dramatic skies and textural landscapes invite moments of contemplation, a place to pause and breathe.  Her work is less about identifiable and literal representation but more an instinctive and spiritual response to the essential essence of the atmospheric subject. Actress Rosie Cavaliero, who has a growing collection of Jo’s work said:

“I love the textured layers of her work, I can gaze at her paintings and feel a sense of calm and contentment.  Her play with light and colour is so absorbing.”

Actress Rosie Cavaliero

This week we catch up with Jo to find out more about her work and what inspires her.

DJ Lowrie: Sea Mist, 33cm x 33cm, Oil on canvas, 2019 – Framed in a light oak tray frame
Shown here with Apple and Pear sculptures by Danuta Solowiej

CF: You are hugely inspired by the place you live, Suffolk, tell us why you love the landscape so much?

DJL: Over the years of living and working on the Suffolk Coast in Walberswick, I have become greatly inspired by the sea, the eerily beautiful landscape, and the sky that is always changing due to the water below it. It’s something I’ll never tire of.

Suffolk sea and sky – image credit Juliana Cavaliero

CF: How do you work – from memory, photographs, on site?  

DJL: My work is almost totally intuitive, starting from immersing myself in the surrounding landscape with a small sketchbook, recording what I am hearing, seeing, feeling, and making small tonal and directional marks indicating the rhythm of the surrounding.  Drawing underpins everything I do and is a legacy from my Byam Shaw tutors Oliver Bevan and Nathan Cohen.

D J Lowrie: Blythburgh Church, 46cm x 46cm, Oil on canvas, 2019, Framed
Shown here with set of four houses by Rowena Brown

CF: The skies are famously so big in Suffolk and you have such a talent for capturing the ever-changing light in this distinctive landscape. Tell us a bit more about how you paint the skies.

DJL: Back at the studio with this information, I work swiftly to retain the excitement of what I have witnessed.  Establishing the sky first by orchestrating the energy of the sunlit clouds to harmonise with the landscape below.  This is a totally absorbing experience, as in the case of the Pink Fields, that were in fact acres of potato flowers, giving me such an emotional charge, I had to return to the studio to record them immediately.

I work with paint straight from the tube without using mediums except for turpentine or white spirit. I work over or around dribbly, thinly painted passages with thick juicy paint, almost making three-dimensional marks.  I do not tend to build up surfaces and layers and transparent glazes. I like working directly, processes and stages worry me.

D J Lowrie: Pink Field III, 45cm x 34cm, Oil on canvas, 2019 – Framed in a light grey tray frame
Shown here with House on Rock by Rowena Brown

CF: Are there any artists that inspire and influence you?

DJL: Early on in my development as an artist I was deeply affected by English Landscape artists J W M Turner and John Constable whose understanding of the natural rhythms of cloud formations and landscape harmony were very affecting.  More latterly, Kate Giles from Suffolk is a contemporary abstract landscape artist I admire very much.

John Constable: Ploughing Scene in Suffolk, Oil on canvas, 42.5 × 76.2 cm 1824 to 1825

CF: You have a beautiful range of work, painting still life objects, landscapes and flowers but they all have your distinctive strokes and deftness of paint.  How do you start on a body of work and do you focus on one series at a time?

DJL: My abstract approach is through small bodies of work, be they landscape, still life or flowers. I always employ the same individual way of using brush strokes, simplifying and abstracting the unimportant details and using a harmonious palette complimenting the objects before me.  I feel Cezanne has had a particular impression on me here, particularly with the still life’s where his bold outlines are softened and bitten into with his brush.

D J Lowrie: Daffodils Still Life (Sold)

CF: Do you have any aspirations for your work in the future?

DJL: I am currently happy working with the subjects I have already mentioned, as I feel there is still more to explore in this atmospheric genre. In the near future however, I think I would like to explore a wider canvas, more generous use of paint, and a more uninhibited use of the gestural marks!

CF: Thank you for talking to us Jo


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