Basma Ashworth

A Life of Colour from Nature, Tradition and Science

My work has been greatly influenced by my unusual and rather exotic background. Born in a remote area in the mountains of Kurdistan on the border between Iraq, Turkey and Syria, I spent my childhood living in a community with ancient Assyrian roots. The climate changed dramatically from barren and hostile in the winter to flower-covered and glorious in the spring and summer. The people I saw around me every day responded to this environment by wearing the most brilliantly coloured hand-dyed traditional clothing, whether as velvets to wrap up against the cold or silks to keep cool in summer. They were also decorated from head to toe with elaborate gold and silver jewellery.

The shapes of the mountains and countryside of my homeland, contrasting against the arched cloisters of the Christian monasteries set within it, have stayed with me and continue to contribute to the images I use in my paintings and textiles today. Even the sounds of the bells and the chanting of the monks from the monasteries remain with me to complement my creative memory of that special place. Those images of my distant home combine with memories of my visits to the ancient cities of Syria and Iraq, and together they enrich the content of my work.

Travel and science

Through my worldwide travels, particularly in Europe, the USA, South America and Australia, I have discovered a great variety of Western art, and this has deeply influenced my work. Perhaps surprisingly for some, even my background as a scientist has contributed to my exploration of all things natural. In chemistry, microbiology, and even in corroded metals, the shapes, constructions and remarkable colours seem endless in their diversity, and my fascination for them makes them a continual source of artistic inspiration for me. In the past, artists were inspired by scientific discovery and learning, and depicted it in their works. Art and science were natural partners. My paintings and textiles continue in that tradition.

A new home in Cornwall

In 2005 I graduated from Falmouth College of Art – a course I took merely by chance as a way of developing ideas for using some brightly coloured silk fabrics I had bought. Through this course I discovered the style of painting that I am recognised for today.

I now live and work in the far west of Cornwall on a small farm in the quiet countryside, where I grow vegetables and raise pastured special-breed hens and other poultry. Here I can enjoy the same pure light that has influenced artists for hundreds of years, and especially those who first appreciated its magic in the late 19th century.

My work continues to develop as all my life’s influences are combined with this coastal landscape and its unique clarity of light.

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