"I want my art to move people. To resonate with them and bring them joy." This is the bold mission statement of Prestbury artist Stella Lightheart, a talented abstract expressionist painter with a love for all things quirky, writes our art critic Malcolm Storer."
Her brightly-coloured canvases, like mini universes, swirl and coalesce into a multitude of rhythms and forms. Some are painted as a series, others are large stand-alone works, their intense acid colours akin to the palette of Russian avant-garde artist Marc Chagall. I went to visit Stella in her studio to find out more.
Over a cup of tea I ask her how she comes up with her ideas. "I generally start with a theme. A lot of galaxies come through in my work. A lot of where I am as a person comes through. Cheshire is incredibly inspiring. I don't want to sound airy-fairy, but there's a magic in the air here, what with Merlin and Alderley Edge."
So spirituality, legend and myth are major inspirations then?
"Absolutely! I'm working on a spring collection and a Celtic Legend Collection at the moment to bring that magnificent energy and mythic cornerstone of psyche into your home, including a series of works based on Celtic goddesses."
"Twenty two pieces make up each collection, with a limited edition print run of each painting - only 111 printed to collect worldwide, alongside the originals."
As well as her paintings, what's intriguing about Stella is her unusual accent - a mixture of down-home New Zealand and laid-back Californian drawl, a consequence of her career as a globetrotting film editor, working with director Sir Peter Jackson on the The Hobbit and spending a number of years in Hollywood.
"Though I don't sound like it, I was born in Macclesfield. The amount of comments I get like 'you're not from here, are you?' are quite amusing. I've ping-ponged around the world a bit - editing other's voices in the film industry and collecting up pieces and parts of myself - but it was just time to come home and use my own voice. I'm so excited about the path that is unfolding."
"I am to live in 'Transatlantica' - dividing my time between Cheshire and California. Cheshire for the magic and Hollywood to take that magic global."
I ask Stella how she started painting. "It's very spooky. I never considered being a painter. I've always been artistic, but it's only in the past couple of years that I decided, OK, I can do this. It's been really helpful having that Hollywood editorial background because you know wheat's needed to package up a message; to get it out clean and clear to the masses."
"The strange thing is, a lot of my first works were compositionally the same as a doodle I did on a blackboard on Guy Fawkes Night when I was 18 months old. It has lots of upward swooshes - like a firework burst - but I like to think it's a message of encouragement from my old self saying to keep going."
Stella gets up and shows me the very blackboard. Its freewheeling style is reminiscent of American Abstract Expressionist Cy Twombly. Not bad for an eighteen month old child! On the subject of famous artists, Stella counts Salvador Dali and William de Kooning as major influences.
I finish by asking Stella how her career as an artist is progressing.
"I paint every day and I'd be happy to chat about custom commissions for your space. A few have been coming in recently which has been wonderful and really fun - people show me a photo of their room, tell me the colours they'd like, size and theme, and off I go. I'll send progress pictures and incorporate feedback to create a bespoke original. I'd love to expand and collaborate with interior designers."
"I currently have two art exhibitions running in Macclesfield - one at Sarturday Gallery in Brunswick Mill and the other at Amy's Cafe and Gallery in Chestergade. I pop-up at the Maker's Market (in Wilmslow and other locales) with prints as well as the 'No Place Like Home' gift shop in Macclesfield.'
'Originals are always available through my website. Long term, as well as climbing the gallery ladder, I see my art as a home decor and giftware line - giving beauty to this world in an affordable and creative way. I have a few print-on-demand product options available on my site - cushions, mugs, phone-cases - and have just secured my first worldwide licensing deal with Caseable, a technology accessory company, so I'm on the way!"
Photos by Ailsa Bee Photography.