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Kane Cunningham - 2019 North Yorkshire Open Studios.

PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 June 2019

Kane Cunningham in his studio at Scarborough station

Kane Cunningham in his studio at Scarborough station

Louise Downall

Kane Cunningham is an artist whose latest studio is located in the renovated Old Parcels Office in Scarborough railway station. This month, he opens the space to the public as part of the 2019 North Yorkshire Open Studios. He spoke to Tony Greenway

I've always been an artist - although I used to teach, too, at Scarborough Tec (formerly Yorkshire Coast College). When I retired in 2017, I was finally free to concentrate on painting full-time.

What I knew I couldn't do, though, was paint at home because I'm a messy bugger. I needed a place to go to where I could turn the radio on, chill out and relax, have all my stuff lying around and think about things. It's important for artists to dispense with the outside world for a little while and get on with what they want to do. I'm no exception.

So it was great to find this building at Scarborough railway station. It was built in 1883 as a general waiting room for third class passengers with three other rooms for guards, carriage inspectors and cabmen. The building was also used as the station's parcel office for many years. The bit I'm in used to be the third class passenger toilets, which is why the walls are that sort of 'public toilet' brick yellow.

I love it because it's a space with a real sense of history; but what's really beautiful about it is the sunlight that floods through the windows in the early mornings. It's best suited to early morning painting. In winter I only have about five hours before the natural light goes. There's no electric lighting in here.

There's no heating in the studio, either, so it can be quite cold. I really like that, though, because I'm a landscape painter and a big part of the job is being able to fully experience the environment, the light and the temperature. I'm not a painter who's inspired by the sun and trees and sky. That's as boring as hell to me. What I'm interested in is the landscape's history, so I spend a lot of time finding out what it is I'm looking at and getting to know it. I paint in the landscape first and take photos; then I come back here and try to replicate the experience on canvas. I'll play around with perception by pushing things in the foreground further back or bringing things in the background further forward. There might be a mountain top or ridge that's recognisable in the finished work; but the rest is essentially an abstract response to my time in the landscape.

This isn't my first studio. I used to paint in the baiting sheds on Scarborough pier, which I liked because of the smell of the sea and the sounds of seagulls. After that I became famous for having a studio in a house on top of Knipe Point in Scarborough. The view there was to die for, because you could see right across the bay towards Bempton Cliffs. The building wasn't safe, though, and the council put a demolition order on it. It was about 15 feet away from the edge of the cliff when I first bought it. When it was knocked it down it was about two feet away from the edge.

All three studios have been special for different reasons and affect what and how I paint. For instance, someone noticed that elements of yellow have started to creep into my work. Whether that's a direct influence of the yellow bricks, I'm not sure.

Being in the station means I hear the sound of the trains coming every 30-40 minutes. You can set your clock by it. I love that sound. It builds and builds until I hear the brakes and the noise of the train pulling into the station. When a steam train comes in, that's a different sound altogether - and if I have the doors open I can see the engine and the billowing smoke. I find it relaxing and it makes this space special. When people come here to see exhibitions or visit as part of the North Yorkshire Open Studios, they're amazed by the studio and fascinated by it, because it's part of railway history. 

North Yorkshire Open Studios involves more than 100 artists on June 1st, 2nd, 8th & 9th. For full details visit nyos.org.uk

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