Rosemary Trestini An Abstract Somerset Artist

PUBLISHED: 16:27 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:44 20 February 2013

'Clouds on the Horizon'

'Clouds on the Horizon'

Robert Hesketh meets Rosemary Trestini, an abstract artist who cites classical music as one of the influences on her work.

Robert Hesketh meets Rosemary Trestini, an abstract artist who cites classical music as one of the influences on her work.

When she shattered her right elbow in a riding accident last February, landscape painter Rosemary Trestini feared her artistic career was finished. But thanks to Andrew Chambler, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Yeovil District Hospital, she has made a full recovery. "I'll always be in his debt," said Rosemary, who has donated nine of her paintings to the hospital in gratitude. "I can't thank him and the team at Yeovil enough. Mine was a very unusual and complex fracture that required major reconstruction.

"With perseverance I managed to meet all my 2008 deadlines and sold a lot of work. Now, I'll need to work hard and build up my stock of paintings again! I'm also hoping to take part in Art in Healthcare, a national scheme based on the belief that everyone's environment aids their recovery."

Even without the setback of her injury, Rosemary is very aware that it is not an easy life being a freelance artist. "You're always on your own, but painting's all I've ever wanted to do. I started practically as soon as I was born. At 13, I attended art class in Sutton, Surrey. In effect, this was a junior art school, with academic subjects up to 'A' level. It was really good. I was taught things I'd never have learned in a normal art class."

Rosemary went on to study in London, at St Martin's College. Later, she won a scholarship to the Royal College, also in London, where she took her MA.

"My early paintings were figurative, but I was very influenced by the Hard Edge Movement at St Martin's, where my work was mostly abstract. As well as studying film-making there, I became interested in the paintings of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, who both used colour and line in the same way that music uses sound and tempo.

"When people talk about music, they often describe it in terms of colour - for example, the Blues and blue notes. Certain people have the gift of synaesthesia, enabling them to see colours when music is played. Colours have moods in the same way that music does. Interestingly, the Golden Section, which is the perfect visual proportion, corresponds exactly with the division of a string in a musical instrument which produces the perfect chord. I think you should look at abstract painting in the same way that you listen to music. Don't try to see it representing anything, just let it overwhelm you.

"I'm a romantic at heart and am drawn to all the musicians of the Romantic Movement. Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Liszt stop me in my tracks. No matter what I'm doing I just have to listen. When I'm working, I always tune to Radio 3. Over the years, I've got to know a lot of music.

"I must mention Mozart and Bach among my favourite composers, but I also like the moderns: Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Arvo Prt and Benjamin Britten. I'm fond of jazz too. Recently, I've started to play the piano again, which also helps rebuild my arm muscles. I keep a keyboard in my studio.

"My work has changed over the years, becoming looser and freer. Oil paint is great stuff and suits my approach. You can move it about, dissolve it with turps, scrape it off, and build up the texture and colours. I even love the smell of it!

"When I moved on to the Royal College, Carel Weight and Roger de Grey, my tutors, encouraged me to look at the world around me and to use colour and form in a more figurative way. I still try to see my work in terms of abstract forms, but using figurative subject matter. I also like to utilise accidents in my paintings by soaking them with turpentine and just seeing what happens. That's how they start to evolve. The picture always dictates what it needs and I just follow. It's wonderful when I reach a stage where I'm inspired about a painting and it really takes off. Quite often, I have three or four paintings on the go at once. Working on one, my eye is drawn to another.

"I'm fascinated by light and the way it dissolves and transforms the mood, even the shapes in a landscape. I sketch from life to get a feeling of the time and the place and also use photographs to start a painting. As the painting evolves, these are discarded and I work from memory and imagination. It's the painting in its own right that matters. My paintings often differ subtly from what was there originally, so they are not strictly representational. For example, I might add rain to a composition to give it more vertical form."

Feeling the need to be surrounded by subject matter she wanted to paint, Rosemary moved to Somerset in 1976. "I mostly painted Bruton where I live. I've also painted many pictures of the lavender fields in Provence and I love to work in Italy. Venice is wonderful, the light is scintillating. It's a place everyone should visit - magical!

"For the past few years I've worked extensively on the Scilly Isles. Tresco especially has been a great source of inspiration. There are no cars there and hence no pollution, so the colours and light are especially vivid, even on a dull day.

"As well as Tresco seascapes, I've focused on painting the island's Abbey Gardens and their astonishing variety of subtropical plants. This has led me to a new project, painting the famous gardens of Somerset. It began as a commission, but I'm eager to develop it. East Lambrook Manor Garden near South Petherton is a particular favourite of mine, but there are so many wonderful gardens around the county I'll have plenty of scope. I'm also planning a series of Bath paintings, inspired by my Venetian series."

Galleries showing Rosemary's paintings: Thompson's, Marylebone, London, and Gallery Tresco, Scilly Isles, (exhibition in July)

Exhibition: Affordable Art Fair, Battersea Park, London, 22-25 October,

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