Maggie and Helena Cochran are having their first joint mother and daughter exhibition at the little art gallery in Rookwood Road, West Wittering running until July 25.
Following a lifelong love of the coast and the sea, artist Maggie and photographer daughter Helena are offering a show revolving around the beaches that they love.
Helena said: “A mother and daughter show seemed like a fantastic way to combine our work. We work in very different ways and obviously in different mediums, but our inspiration is the same.”
Maggie added: “The vastness of the sea puts problems into perspective and it is also a contact source of fascination. It looks different every time I see it. There is something magical about the boundary between land and sea, and between sea and sky.”
Maggie comes from a naval family so she grew up in various seaside locations, before the family settled on the south coast for good. “The sea was my constant, so it always feels like home” she says.
When Maggie started her family with her husband it was less than a year before they were out of London and back down on the south coast, where they have been ever since and where daughter Helena also grew up.
They share a love for Cornwall, with both of them spending as much time there as possible. Helena has recently moved to the creative hub of Falmouth, and Maggie is on the Porthmeor Programme at the St Ives School of Painting for the next year.
Maggie’s approach to becoming an artist was not a traditional one, and it took her until her 50s to be able to pursue it full time. Her decision to complete an art foundation course coincided with Helena’s college applications, and they nearly attended the same college for the next two years.
Maggie completed her foundation year part time, so after two years she was ready to apply for university, as was Helena.
“It was actually really nice going through the UCAS application process together”, remembers Maggie. “We received our UCAS letters in the post on the same morning and opened them together.”
With Maggie going down the fine art path at Chichester University, Helena decided to stick with a more academic route and headed off to Bath University to study business.
“I spent the next four years very jealous and wishing I had chosen something more fun!” says Helena. “I would be home for a week with essays to write and statistical course work to complete, and mum would be making felt and painting with her fingers!”
Maggie points out: “The degree was probably one of the most challenging things I have ever done. It frequently reduced me to tears and feelings of inadequacy but ultimately it gave me the courage to put my work out there and say ‘This is me – I’m an artist.’”
Since graduating two years ago it has been non-stop for Maggie, with gallery representations, sales and exhibitions around the country. She also won the accolade of Cornwall Landscape Painter of the Year 2016 in association with Cornwall Life magazine.
Maggie really pushed herself for her final degree show and was astounded at what she achieved – four huge canvasses, two of which sold to a London collector. “It made me feel anything was possible and achievable.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to seize the opportunity, later in my life, to make art my career. Now I can say I’m working when I’m in my studio!”
Meanwhile Helena has always loved photography, but became particularly inspired during her travels after graduating. She created images while living out of a car and working on a farm in Australia.
The quality of light around the coastline there differed from her hometown and really drew her in.
“You can be out in the water, floating on your surfboard and look back at a beach surrounded by national park, with no sign of civilization anywhere. It’s endlessly beautiful and there are just so many beaches to explore!”
Maggie persuaded Helena to print and exhibit some of her photography as part of the offering at her home studio for Hampshire Open Studios in the summer that she returned from her trip. The feedback was lovely and Helena was delighted to make some sales – since then she hasn’t looked back.
This will be the first time that Maggie and Helena have collaborated on a show together and they are very much looking forward to the final exhibition.
“Mum has always been an inspiration to me, especially her commitment to her art and how much she has developed as an artist over the last five years” says Helena. “I am always so proud of her successes and can’t wait to share this journey with her”.
Maggie added: “Helena inspires me as well, with her constant encouragement and support.”
On The Beach is running as a part of The Festival of Chichester, a four-week celebration of the city including arts and community events. The exhibition runs from July 4-21 from 10.30am-5pm, Thursday-Sunday.