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Art is magical. It offers a choice and endless possibilities. Depending on your taste and the depth of your pockets, you’ll find something to display on your walls that gives you pleasure. Art is also a force of nature, like a volcano. For many people it remains dormant. For some it rumbles under the surface, generating little creative vents now and then. And sometimes a seismic shift in the circumstances of our lives causes an eruption with unexpected consequences, all to the good.
Gunda Cannon spent her early life in Germany before moving to London and eventually settling in Kent. Having studied languages at the University of Cologne and UEA in Norwich with the intention of going into teaching, Gunda then changed direction, first gaining experience as an editor in a publishing company before moving to the BBC World Service. Bush House proved an amazing place to work, close to the pulse of world events, populated with interesting characters. Then the previously unimaginable happened: the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The BBC decided its German Service was no longer needed and Gunda left Bush House after 16 interesting years. However, broadcasting and the media remained a strong interest and so Gunda joined the Association for International Broadcasting where she relished the challenge of editing the AIB’s international media magazine ‘The Channel’.
GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Art was a favourite subject at school for Gunda and her art teacher with the pink hair is perhaps the teacher she remembers most clearly. Gunda frequently contributed cover designs and illustrations for her school’s yearbooks, often in a more graphic style. Design has played an important part in all her jobs and privately she has always shown a keen interest in calligraphy.
"It's exciting to see how in the process of painting
the motif evolves or changes radically"
The impetus to take up painting more seriously came with her father’s death in 2013. He had been a talented hobby painter and Gunda had always believed that his painting gene had passed her by. But when in 2014 she joined a group of local artists – who were mentored by David Aspinall – she discovered the joy of painting with watercolour. Encouraged by the feedback from friends and strangers who told her she “wasn’t too bad”, she joined the Weald of Kent Art Society in 2017. When she entered four of her watercolours into the Spring 2019 WOKAS exhibition and was awarded the Chairman’s Prize, Gunda felt she was going in the right direction after all with her exuberant use of colour and a style that Adrian in the local framing business teasingly likes to call ‘left of field’. To date, her watercolours have been exhibited in Hawkhurst, Ticehurst, Cranbrook, Tenterden and Blackheath/London.
In 2020 Gunda was invited onto the WOKAS committee. She has enjoyed being able to help shape the direction of the society and add interest for members via the WOKAS website where she has contributed a number of fellow members’ profiles.
Gunda’s preferred medium is watercolour. She loves the vibrancy of the colours, the unique hues achieved through mixing colours, and the unpredictable effects on the paper as colours run and merge or dry with defined edges. Often she uses watercolour in combination with pen and ink or charcoal. She likes to experiment with incorporating writing into her paintings, using calligraphy.
"Working from a black & white printout means you are
not distracted by the colours of the original"
In ‘The boat of mean’ the body of the boat and the rigging are all made up of the little niggling things people say to and about each other, the tit-for-tat of recrimination, such as 'i told you that yesterday' and 'she never listens’. When her motif is a photo, she frequently works from a black & white printout so that she is not distracted by the colours of the original. So the banks of a river can turn out a vibrant red and orange and mountain ranges blue or turquoise. Favourite motifs are sweeping landscapes devoid of buildings. The aspect of painting that Gunda finds most exciting is to see how in the painting process the motif evolves or changes radically.
Gunda says she tries not to be consciously influenced by the style of others – you want to create something new, original, something of yourself. However, you cannot help but be interested in what other artists have created, past and present. Gunda likes the way Rowland Hilder (1905-1993) conveys the mood of a landscape and is drawn to some of the work of Emil Nolde (1867–1956) with its explosive use of colour.
WHAT ART MEANS
Painting for Gunda is a way of expressing and processing feelings, moods and memories, often turning something negative into something aesthetically pleasing. It is a totally absorbing activity which lets you forget everything around you and acts as a shield against the stresses and threats of the real world. When the end result is satisfying, the feeling of achievement is tremendous.
“With a painting, you can even turn a negative experience
into something aesthetically pleasing”
That joy of having converted a blank canvas into something expressive and meaningful is both basic and strong. Particularly when you realise that your painting also has the power to evoke a reaction in others that goes beyond recognising the scene depicted. When they say your work is uplifting or inspiring or that it makes them feel in a particular way, then you know you have created something worthwhile. And for Gunda painting is always bound up with thinking: “I wish my father could have seen that, he would have been so pleased.”
KEEPING YOUR ORIGINALITY
It is easy to be daunted by the work others manage to produce or to be swamped by the wide range of ‘How to…’ manuals and demonstrations.
“You want to paint like you – not someone else”
In the light of this, Gunda’s advice would be: Absorb and take on board everything you can learn from other artists, books, videos etc. but try to find – and keep – your individuality and originality. You want to paint like you, not someone else.
Gunda Cannon is based in Hawkhurst, Kent.
Profile supplied by artist, April 2021.
Trees on the river
Winter crop, Cheviot Hills
The boat of mean
Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park
Sunburst at Winchelsea
May 2019 – receiving the WOKAS Chairman’s Prize from Graham Lock