David Williams-Bulkeley has spent the last four months entirely immersed in finishing the 22 still lifes he’s exhibiting at Zuleika Gallery in Woodstock this week.
His hard work is already paying off, because although the exhibition opens tomorrow, 12 works have sold already, before the show even opens.
Incredibly modest, we talk at his home in the Chilterns, where he struggles to articulate his compulsion to paint, despite the breath-taking beauty of the finished works lying scattered at his feet, ready to be hung.
“my paintings are like children to me, so you want them to go quickly when you say goodbye”
“You paint still life to capture time, to bring the poetry into it,” he explains. “For me it’s about the texture, light and the form. I’m obsessed,” he shrugs.
Influenced by William Nicholson, Adriaen Coorte, Rembrandt, Manet… the list goes on, perhaps his hesitation lies in the fact that he is self taught and only became a full time painter ten years ago, when he’d sold enough of his art to give up his day job (he ran a wine business with his wife in the US), despite having painted all his life.
But ever since he was a boy, the light, form and paint in still lifes has always entranced him, so it’s heartening to see him emerge from the shadows to witness the kudos and recognition now coming his way.
Two solo exhibitions in America, and a huge resurgence in realist art, plus pieces exhibited with The Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the New English Art Club, helped convince him he’d made the right move.
But so many works selling so early is still extremely unusual considering he hasn’t exhibited in the UK at all for ten years.
“You paint still life to capture time, to bring the poetry into it. For me it’s about the texture, light and the form. I’m obsessed”
That’s partly down to Lizzie Collins (founder of Zuleika) renowned for having a great eye for what, and more importantly who, is next. And in this case it’s David.
So why does she think David is so in demand? “David’s work is so incredibly sensitive and his choice of subject and handling of the paint is exquisite. The UK market has been starved of his work, hence the huge appetite for it now (please excuse the puns!) and why we have sold so much in advance of opening,” she says.
As for his subject matter, asparagus tips, whipped cheese, lemons, flowers, bread, figs and blossom are amassed on a nearby windowsill in his home in Streatley near Wallingford, the light streaming through a window where his easel is positioned. A cat wanders in and is carefully ushered out.
“The UK market has been starved of david’s work, hence the huge appetite for it now”
David is also obsessed with eggs, and has them in every size, variety and colour, from emu to ostrich and quail, the delicate, ethereal quality of these reflected works touching to see.
So how is he finding being back? “It is so beautiful here. The only problem is that the light here is so difficult. You get four seasons in one day, which is a problem. It means I have to get up early and always finish by 2pm to get the light at its best.”
David goes to nearby farmers markets to pick out his produce/subject matter, depending on what’s in season, or buys strange objects and ceramics off eBay. “You just collect stuff,” he shrugs.
And now that the paint is drying, David can finally start thinking about releasing them into the world, and what that means. “I’m really excited about seeing my art up on the walls in Woodstock,” the 48 year-old smiles, “although my paintings are like children to me, so you want them to go quickly when you say goodbye.”
FLOWERS AND FOOD – NEW WORKS BY DAVID WILLIAMS-BULKELEY – IS AT ZULEIKA GALLERY IN WOODSTOCK FROM 11 MAY – 16 JUNE. https://zuleikagallery.com/exhibitions/96-flowers-and-food-new-works-by-david/works/