Fred Ingrams - Master of the Fens
Artist Fred Ingrams has migrated from the beating heart of Soho to the empty spaces of East Anglia. He once lived over the French House, a pub, famed as the haunt of notorious boozer columnist Jeffrey Barnard and where the literati gather nightly for some serious drinking. From his window he had an eagle-eyed view of Soho’s relentless night action. Now he looks out at an empty landscape as far from London’s hotspots are you can get. Despite the upheaval “ If you move to Norfolk from London, people think you’ve died.” he rejoices in his new environment . His painting reflects the joyousness of a new life perceived with a fresh eye.
“The Fens is one and a half thousand kilometres wide and long” he says. And Fred has painted a great deal of those flat acres, “ I drive in search of new locations, I find the landscape fascinating. Travelling from Norwich to Cambridge , I notice that when we reach the Fens, no one looks out of the window any more.” But for Fred the fields of pumpkins glowing orange in the light, or vast swathes of kale with purple hue are as wonderful as Provence was for Van Gogh when he first went there from the dull grey of his native Netherlands. Or like David Hockney hitting the dazzling colours of California after Bradford .
‘All art is political’ has switched from a modest aperçu to an article of faith. Yet Fred believes history has shaped the Fens as much as the glacial shifts of millennia past. ‘Faye Goodwin described the land grab that made the Fens flourish and her left wing slant on them involves the nature of land ownership and the need for land nationalisation.” Injustices and poverty still haunted the area . “The Fens is our Deep South, neglected and marginalised Little wonder Wisbech scored dismally as Britain’s most unhappy location and voted when given the chance , to leave the EU as a way of poking the government in the eye.”
But for Fred Ingrams the area has been an amazing discovery. It is fragile and precious, the soil is running out. “People say it’s empty. But I see the marsh harriers and the amazing sunrises, and the Fens are not muddy and brown but full of colour and life“ . Fred captures the scene by painting fast in acrylic and then taking the image back to his studio, no drawing, no outline, just the realisation of what he has seen, transferred onto board. He is experimenting with canvas but finds it daunting as “it sags under the weight of the paint And it’s so expensive”
Fred has created his pictures through hard graft in the rain and wind the ice and heat of this open landscape. At art school he was warned off acrylic paint, (now he uses nothing else) told paintings shouldn’t be square (today most of his are just that) and that a horizon should not be in the middle of a picture (his are). With this creative defiance a robust love of the landscape, and his connection with its people he has produced pictures that sing with vitality.
Exhibition by Lynne Strover at Stapleford Gallery until October 28th