IT’S NO ACCIDENT I’m walking through the white winter-light of London’s East End on Valentine’s day to meet painter and filmmaker David Somerville, whose luminous, rhythmic colour-filled works reveal the beating heart of the human condition in an often fragmented urban context.
His studio – a short walk from Old Street – is suffused in the same sharp white light, the light bouncing off the surrounding buildings through the windows into the space and illuminating paper and canvas.
There’s a powerful, rhythmic visual dance to be had as we pan the studio, a sense of flow, of meaning – and immersion.
“I look to the positive and I don’t stand still…’’ says Somerville as we regard the studio and his recent work. “But I don’t always feel great after painting.” Even, I ask surprised, when the paintings are so often joyful and carry a clear uplift? “Yes – it’s not like therapy, it’s work. It’s a way of being. I’m often up at 5am every morning, sorting through the day’s work. Maybe there’s a healing process that goes with people who view it, I hope so. But it’s a rigorous routine. It isn’t light.”
Somerville is himself a tall, striking presence in this urban jungle, handsome, gracious, quietly passionate. His generous, open character immediately involves you in the narratives of the human condition, life, meaning. For several years he has purposefully painted uninterrupted, intent on producing a substantial body of work.
“I am in my work quite monkish;
being a painter is like that. You need the solitude.”