Long-time Melchester resident Delilah Ferranti is one of the UK's leading contemporary artists and sculptors. She tells Melchester Gazette Arts Editor Giles Barclay why she loves her adopted home town so much and how it's been an enduring inspiration in her later work.
"The light here is simply amazing," enthuses Delilah Ferranti as she stands on the cliffs at Crestview Cove, one of Melchester's renowned coastal beauty spots. "It's what first drew me here 20 years ago. The colours of the sun and sea dance on the skyline to create a natural chiaroscuro effect that morphs and evolves as the day progresses. The infinite variety in this kinetic panorama means you can paint it over and over again."
Once a fearless, counter-cultural revolutionary with a constant desire to take people out of their comfort zones, Ferranti (known as 'Del' to her friends) has mellowed somewhat in her third decade as a professional artist. "Living in Melchester has not only been good for my creativity," she says, lighting up one of her trademark cigarillos. "It's also been good for my soul. People here are so friendly and there's a really vibrant community spirit. From the moment I moved here I felt as if I'd come home."
Ferranti's evocative seascapes in oil and mixed media are certainly a far cry from the irreverent, audacious artworks she created as a young Camden-based 'enfant terrible' in the late eighties and early nineties. Her papier-mâché sculpture 'Woman with Roadkill', which scooped up the Burnham Prize in 1990, is a caustic comment on our consumer society from a staunchly feminist viewpoint. It was famously daubed with red paint by a protester and remains in that condition to this day, after the artist said she thought it improved the piece, adding to its 'innate raw and visceral energy'.
However, perhaps her most controversial work from her early years is 'Detritus' (1997), a one-metre tall glass cabinet full of used fast food packaging, car air fresheners and hair gel containers, topped with a rusty TV satellite dish, graffitied with the words 'Out of order'. Not surprisingly, it divided the critics, with many hailing it as an important and incisive comment on our consumerist society and others questioning its legitimacy as a true work of art.
Ferranti's latest exhibition, entitled '"Beside the Seaside', is an ironic contemporary take on the British holiday postcard tradition, comprising 30 sketches, watercolours and pen-and-ink drawings. Each work interlaces colourful cartoons of time-honoured holiday pastimes, such as sand castle building and donkey rides, with stark monochrome images of urban decay.
'Beside the Seaside' runs throughout the summer at Melchester's Fulton Gallery (see website for details of opening times).