Hester Berry

© Hester Berry, 'Summer Evening', 2014, DIEP.org.uk

Hester Berry (UK, Brighton)
Summer Evening (2014)
Oil on board


I was fiercely adamant that I would not let my painting slip once I became a mother. I had a week off from my work after the birth, and then I launched back into making paintings with a feverish immediacy and economy of time and mark-making. This was for me a necessary new way of working. So the constraints imposed by motherhood have actually benefitted me artistically and made me a much better painter.

As well as a fresh and urgent working method, I have found myself attracted to the warm, dark and disorientating ‘interiors’ of foliage, almost abstracted by shadow and containing beautiful subtleties of colour within darkness. This new subject matter came about intuitively, but I have since realised that there is a strong link with the idea of the womb, the encircling safety provided by a mother and the process of flourishing and growing new life,

Summer Evening was a starting point for this instinctive shift for me. This, my first painting as a mother, was an honest and innocent rendering of a moment I had while recovering from the birth. On reflection the colours have a comfortably warm and natural feel, while the composition and marks remind me of the dappled and conical ultrasound image, which was my first view of my baby. I have come to see the painting as an unconscious expression of my feelings about pregnancy and early parenthood. It is also an important symbol of my reclaiming my body and time and using them to make paintings.

In 2014, Hester Berry was shortlisted for a BP Portrait Award and Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year. Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout the UK.