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Jeffery Camp: ‘land meets sea, sea meets sky’

— January 2014

Associated media

Jeffery Camp. Beachy Head Drop

Landscape art comes in more than one shape, in the work of an innovative British painter, as Ian Jones reports

One of the most commonly reported dreams involves floating or flying in the sky, high above the ground.  They have been interpreted as joyful, exhilarating and liberating feelings of freedom.  Jeffery Camp has appropriated this dream many times in his paintings.

Born in 1923 and still actively working in his 90th year, Camp has produced several paintings of the views around Beachy Head in Sussex. A beauty spot popular with sightseers, birdwatchers, sunbathers and hang gliders, it is also a notorious suicide spot.  The oil on canvas, The Way to Beachy Head, Holywell (1990) forms part of the Jerwood collection of 20th- and 21st-century art and is one of a number of Camp’s paintings that revisit this part of the coast. Appropriately, last summer Camp’s work was the subject of a special exhibition at the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings.    

 Jeffery Camp lived in Hastings for many years and Beachy Head is less than 20 miles away.  Figures sunbathe in one painting; sleep in another and attempt to film a scene in high wind in a third.  The artist and his then wife, Laetitia Yhap, appear in the very edge of the canvas in several works, the artist explained that he sees the inclusion of himself in a painting as a way of establishing a kind of contact with the spectator.  In his more recent work, figures appear to embrace and float in the sky above the coastline. 

Jeffery Camp was born in Oulton Broad, Suffolk and studied at Lowestoft and Ipswich Schools of Art before moving to the Edinburgh College of Art.  He went on to teach at the Chelsea School of Art for a short time and at the Slade School of Art for the next 25 years.  His work has been exhibited in many galleries, including the Serpentine Gallery, the Royal Academy of Art and the Art Space Gallery.  Many major public collections hold examples of his work, including the Tate, the British Council, the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Government Art Collection (the government department tasked with collecting works of art to display in British government buildings around the world) and the Jerwood Collection.

Jeffery Camp’s paintings have been described by the British Council as being ‘preoccupied by the possession of landscape, a landscape of horizons and meeting points, where land meets sea, sea meets sky’.  At least one of these meeting points of land and sea or sky and sea can be seen in many of his paintings. 

Another recurring theme of his work is the use of uneven and odd-shaped canvases.  Some are shaped like diamonds, others like a cross.  This technique extends the canvas both horizontally and vertically, and suggests the vastness of the landscape. 

Camp also extends the canvas by adding borders to many paintings. The Tate Gallery explains that the coloured border down two sides of Beachy Head, Brink (1975) ‘is used to expand the scene spatially and temporally’, in a suggestion of extended peripheral vision.  This technique can be seen in many works, most successfully in Beachy Head, Night (1973) and Beachy Head, Drop (1989).

Like that of  Jeremy Gardiner, Melanie Coleman  and Noel Myles featured recently in Cassone, Jeffery Camp’s work  forms a body of work engaged with landscape in the 21st century and is well worth seeking out.


Ian Jones
National Army Museum, London.
Head of Photography

Background info

For more on the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, UK see Cassone, April 2012.

Editor's notes

Jeffery Camp’s painting, The Way to Beachy Head, and paintings by other 20th-century and contemporary artists in the Jerwood Gallery’s permanent collection  can be seen Tuesday–Friday 11a.m.–5p.m. Saturday–Sunday 11a.m.–6p.m. Closed Mondays (with the exception of Bank Holiday Mondays). Please see the Gallery website  for more details.  Thumbnails of all the Gallery’s holdings can be seen on the BBC ‘Your Paintings’ website.
Tate holds four of Jeffery Camp’s paintings. See the Tate website for details.

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