Naomi Frears. Porthmeor Studios

Naomi Frears is a painter who rents one of the studio spaces within the renovated Porthmeor Studios. Naomi’s studio was once occupied by Francis Bacon and she has been in this space since 2005.

Porthmeor Studios, Naomi Frears


Porthmeor Studios is a grade II* listed building which provides workspaces for artists, fisherman and houses the St Ives School of Painting. The building is divided into 13 artist’s studios and is considered of great current and historic significance to the Creative Arts industry due to the many illustrious artists that have used the studios; these include such past artists as Wilhelmina Barnes Graham CBE, Ben Nicolson, Francis Bacon & Patrick Heron.

Naomi's quote

5 minutes with…

Naomi Frears is a painter who rents one of the studio spaces within the renovated Porthmeor Studios. Naomi’s studio was once occupied by Francis Bacon and she has been in this space since 2005.

Walking into the studio you are naturally drawn to the huge renovated windows which overlook the beach and the sea, is the light important to you and your work?

Everyone asks me about that –it’s wonderful of course but not vital for my work. I am not painting the sea, landscape or beach; I feel that’s being covered by other people so I can concentrate on my own strange little world.

Your paintings aren’t very “St Ives…ish” are they!?

I am painting places where people and memory can exist together. The places in my paintings are never Cornwall but I need to be here to make the work without feeling obliged to use what is directly around me. My work is very personal and maybe a bit like poetry in that it's reading between the lines that might reveal what the work is about. 

Is it a wrench when they finally leave?

I spend a lot of time developing the work and am delighted to finish paintings. There are so many mistakes and wrong turnings that I am amazed to have finally got somewhere. Some are easier to let go than others.

As so much of your work is about space and place, how has the renovation on your studio and the building generally affected your work?

Well this last year (2012) with two studio moves due to the renovation of the building has been a huge judder in my work. I usually have two years between shows so the renovation occurred in that gap, with the two moves it has slightly unhinged my process and probably won’t manifest in my work for a year or so. However, I am trying to see it in a helpful way! The studio is now watertight and I am getting used to the new space and I am very lucky to have one of these studios.

During the renovation you lost a third of the space, what was it like before?

It was like a barn! It was a very messy barn; it was like the difference between having to put your clothes away and being able to leave them out everywhere. So I am one of those people who likes to know what they’ve got, either to wear or to paint. I have to get used to putting things away, but by stacking the paintings up against each other I then forget them and I have a dig around and find something I have forgotten about.  Whereas before they were just everywhere and I was surrounded by the inside of my brain. A scary place!

Packing up to move to your temporary studio whilst they renovated yours must have been a nightmare?

Yes, all the lovely builders who were working on the building were great, cheeky, funny and lovely, they would come in all the time and give me lots of advice on how to paint which of course was much appreciated! When I had to move I decided no one else should carry my large canvases but then I managed to pull my shoulder so they took over and were very matter of fact about it all and moved me very quickly.

What was the studio like before?

Freezing! It often rained inside and it was completely normal to have buckets everywhere. Once hailstones actually came inside, so you can guess at how large the holes in the skylights were. It was very, very cold, it still wants to be as we face out to the beach towards the North West but thanks to the wood burner we now have ways of heating it.

How did the builders work with you to renovate your space?

I think they were respectful without being silly. Everyone’s studios are different and they approached them all singularly and dealt with them differently. In mine they were very careful about keeping the batons which I paint and hang my paintings on. I have spent so many years painting at this certain height that they made sure that were put back exactly like before.

So it felt quite individual to your requirements?

They listened which is a great thing as these studios have to work for all different kinds of artists well into the future. Lots of little things have made such a difference, I especially like the 8 foot high doors so we can now make work which is much larger without wondering how we are going to get it out. They asked me what colour I wanted the walls and I knew if I was working on a wall which was in its natural state it would throw me so they painted it white for me, I think that there is enough chaos going on in here without the addition of chaotic walls as well, saying that though I seemed to have made a complete mess already!

Since the renovation there has been an influx of artists into the buildings, what has that been like?

All the new tenants have given the studios new energy and it’s great to see everyone working away. Its nice to lock yourself away when you are busy but as soon as the sun comes out I am sure the courtyard and of course the beach will spring to life as everyone gets together. Check out Naomi’s work

Porthmeor Studios

More about Porthmeor Studios...

The building is dual use, comprising of 13 artists’ studios and has historic significance for the creative arts industry. The ERDF Convergence investment among others has brought this building back to life with the improvement of existing employment space and the addition of five extra studios.

ERDF Investment: £643,901

Total Investment Package: £2,437,695

For more information about Porthmeor Studios click here.

Thursday 25 April 2013