Samuel Bassett was born in St Ives and he has recently returned, and the town has been his family’s home since 1695. The artistic traditions of the town had an undoubted influence over him as a young boy, but his Grandfather, a fisherman by trade was also a keen painter, as was his other Grandfather in Newlyn. They supported him with encouragement but also with painting materials. He now occupies a studio above his Grandfather’s former net loft.
His work is autobiographical, cataloguing the day to day of his life with honesty – both humour and pathos. Providing an insight in to his fast paced unique mind, the work displays enormous energy and experiment. His paintings could be described as a ‘psychological cubism’, where the inner and the outer self reveal themselves and coalesce.
Over the last few years his life has had significant highs and lows. Much of his work, writing and research has been an attempt to seek guidance and clarity during this time. The period of lead up to the making of this exhibition, he recalls reading Dante’s Inferno as notable in his attempting to deal with navigating an unfamiliar personal path. This coincided with a rediscovery of the paintings of the Sienese School and in particular Duccio and Botticelli from the Florentine School. Looking at paintings and diagrams benefited Bassett’s greater understanding as he drew ideas from these works and delved deeper in to wider symbolism. He began replicating contemporary versions of the stories illustrated in these works; creating personal parables or parodies, the process bringing a cathartic understanding and balance, and guide to where he wants to be, as a person and an artist.
Some works also take influence from closer to home specifically the artist Peter Lanyon, in particular his work ‘The Yellow Runner’ from 1946. Lanyon painted this having just returned home to St Ives, it is warm, energetic and joyful and Bassett felt an immediate connection. His most recent works imbue a celebratory connection to his home – his landscape, its community and his heritage.