Then when his foster mother died he painted his only dark painting, Land of Shadows – after which he produced (moving through the grief, I suggest) the exuberant Gardens of Gethsemane and Rest on the Flight into Egypt, emotional interpretations of the subject. Both of these, glorious in colour, are modern abstract meditations, re-workings of old masters.
If Somerville is not story telling then in his painting, he certainly sees a clear narrative in his own life, how things work out, a strange sense of fate, of being guided. Music has guided him hugely in his life he says.
“I often think my paintings have an open feeling to them like an improvised jazz piece, and indeed music is a huge part of my life…”
This allusion to music brings us to the multiple screen monitors in a corner of his studio flickering out a beautiful multiplicity of images. Somerville has filmed the minutiae of city life for years with a super 8 and High 8 camera, often showing them in public art spaces.
Edited to his own hypnotic jazz influenced scores, often pared minimally down to a couple of cords, these mesmerising films resonate urban scenes, snapshots of city street life – London, LA and New York – “My eyes dart around looking for captures…’ he says.