The human condition and the question of personal identity: Shelly Tregoning

Richard Bright, Interalia Magazine, March 21 2020

Shelly Tregoning’s work is a response to the intimacies of her life – “an emotional connection to those closest to me and to fragments of the everyday that I encounter. I am trying to make sense in some way, of life and personal identity – through conversations with friends, places I have been and the things I see along the way. Visually gathering ‘moments’ which inform my work, these drawings and scribbles create a scaffolding upon which I build my images”.


Richard Bright: Can we begin by saying something about your background?


Shelly Tregoning: I was born in Mauritius, spent most of my early childhood in the West Indies and have been living in Cornwall for over 30 years. My father is English and my mother Jamaican. My dad’s work with Cable and Wireless meant that we lived in many countries – the ones that probably had the most impact on me in terms of my art practice were Barbados and Bahrain. From the West Indies, the use of the silhouette in traditional West Indian art has seeped into my work, the ‘cartoon-ness’ and immediacy of simple drawing, the use of primary, bright colour, the sense of humour, and a sense of the naive. From Bahrain, the strangeness of it all; the fact that people are ‘wrapped’ in cloth – completely (so very different from the comfortable show of flesh in the west indies), the stark nature of the light, the emptiness of the landscape, the simplicity of the lines in the architecture, the exotic nature of pattern, the embellishment, the intricate filigree and repetition pressed into material, copper and stone. And from both, the recognition of the ‘otherness’ of human features (other meaning other than the European features). And perhaps because I experienced these anthropological forms early on, they are written onto my retina, and as I get older I seem to be drawn in by the physical differences in facial structures between three cultures. I moved to The Lizard, in Cornwall, in 1989 and have been here “every since”, as the Barbadians say. Although I studied Art at A level, it took a while to get back to it, completing a degree in Fine Art at Falmouth University in 2011. (. . .)