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Crouch Hill artist with Hackney studio prepares for first exhibition – after taking up painting in his retirement

Artist Cullin Bantock Artist Cullin Bantock

Sunday, April 20, 2014
4:27 PM

Having enjoyed a long career working as an ecologist, Cuillin Bantock would have been forgiven for using his retirement as a well-earned chance to put his feet up.

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Having enjoyed a long career working as an ecologist, Cuillin Bantock would have been forgiven for using his retirement as a well-earned chance to put his feet up.

But the Crouch Hill resident has done anything but that – he has used the opportunity to launch a new career as a professional artist and is currently working every day at his London Fields studio in preparation for an exhibition of his work this spring.

Now 79, Mr Bantock spent his early career working as an ecologist, researching and teaching at what was then the North London Polytechnic in Holloway Road.

But while he was spending his days driving down to Somerset to study land snails and his evenings lecturing to students, art remained a hobby throughout that period.

It was only once he had retired, however, that Mr Bantock began creating the types of minimal abstract work for which he is now gaining recognition at his workshop in Space Studios, just off Mare Street.

He describes the paintings that will be on show in his upcoming exhibition as full of space and daylight, inspired by his upbringing as one of six children by the sea in North Wales.

“We lived in a very small house – there was only one common room – so it was very overcrowded, and the only thing to do was to get out of it. There was always this grass blowing there, and the sand and the open air. It was that which made me who I am, and which gave me my love of natural history.”

And while he acknowledges the comparable “god-like” feelings of studying natural selection within ecosystems and food chains, and creating a painting, Mr Bantock says that his desire to paint and the type of work he produces are firmly rooted in aspects of his childhood.

“I used to hate playing rugger at school and the art master said anyone who wants to can come up to the art room and paint instead. And so I made a little painting and I just loved it. I loved the smell of oil paint. It was so different to the other smells you get in big schools.”

Having caught the painting bug, Mr Bantock was reluctant to give up on making art altogether, despite embarking on his scientific career and, following six years studying at Oxford, he completed an art degree at Camberwell College of Arts before returning to work as a scientist.

“Looking back on it now, I realise that I must have planned the whole thing subconsciously. I retired when I was 54, which is very early, to get my painting going because I knew that if I left it any longer I wouldn’t do anything.”

He admits that starting to paint in a serious way was not an easy transition.

He said: “Just after I retired I was on my own working in a bedroom at the top of the house. It was awful working out what I was doing.

“Now I start with complete chaos, I have absolutely no idea when I start out. But I always seem to end up with cold colours, my colours are quite naturalistic. Which is quite unusual for modernist painters. It’s quite soft but it’s the kind of colours that I personally feel in nature.”

n Cuillin Bantock is represented by global touring art gallery and consultancy The Horsebox Gallery. His work will be featured and available for sale in Spring exhibition ‘Land & Sea’ at 2 Motcomb Street, Knightsbridge, SW1X 8JU from May 14 – June 7, 2014. For full details visit www.thehorseboxgallery.com / +44 7527 193 508.

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