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Fred Ingrams

Fred Ingrams: The Edge of Landscape

Stretching a vast area of some 1,500 square miles The Fens, also known as the Fenlands, are one of the most recogniseable landscapes of the East of England – flat as far as the eye can see. A marshy region saturated in history, awash with wildlife and a sanctuary to birds, this richly fertile land has been drained over the centuries and is now one of Britain’s foremost agricultural regions – a major producer of grain, fruit, vegetables and flowers.

So how did the artist Fred Ingrams, who back in the 1980s was one of the wild, bohemian set of London’s Soho come to fall in love with a landscape that many view as dull, bleak and inhospitable?

Fred Ingrams

As the eldest son of one of the country’s most colourful and outspoken journalists of the day Richard Ingrams, (of Private Eye fame) Fred Ingrams’ childhood was never dull. He grew up in rural Berkshire, was educated at a Catholic boy’s boarding school and then headed off to London where he studied both at Camberwell College of Arts and St Martin’s School of Art. He left the former for refusing to use oil paints and was expelled from the latter as a ‘disruptive influence’. Renting a studio above the Coach & Horses pub, Fred Ingrams could regularly be found drinking at the infamous Colony Room Club, alongside the feted litterati and artistic milieu of the day, which included the likes Francis Bacon, Damian Hirst and other irascibles. Bacon became a regular drinking partner and, against Bacon’s usual credo “of owning virtually nothing”, bought one of Ingrams’ large oils.

Fred Ingrams

Alongside his painting and to supplement his income, Fred Ingrams also worked as a graphic designer and art director on many magazines including: Sunday Times, The Field, Tatler, Vogue and House & Garden. It was while working for House & Garden that he met, his wife Laura Arie the magazine’s Decorations Editor.

It was Laura’s strong family connection with Norfolk that brought Fred Ingrams to the East of England. Fred Ingrams said: “I’d never really given any thought to the Fens until I happened one day to look on Google Earth at Norfolk and my eye was immediately drawn to the long green feature which predominated surrounded by orderly fields. I was intrigued and set off.

“I had always had a niggling feeling that I wanted to paint landscapes but I had never found the landscape that had that irresistible, magnetic pull. But standing there on the 100 foot bank of the Ouse, looking out across flooded washes with teeming with wildlife and birds – I was blown away.

Fred Ingrams
“It was stunning and I knew I had found that landscape that, until that point, had alluded me. Except it wasn’t the nature reserve it was the more ‘boring bit’ – the regimented, intensively farmed fields to the sides of it, with its black soil, straight lines, sugar beet factories, water towers, ditches, roads, droves, telegraph poles, barns – that’s what I wanted to paint.”

“To start with the appeal was simply the very graphic and geometrical appearance of the Fens, with its mainly straight and converging lines, and always a flat horizon. Perhaps this resonated with my experience as a graphic designer?

“Admittedly at first the Fens simply provided a hook to hang a painting on. Likewise my original perception was that no one loved the Fens. They are flat, featureless, grim and hardly fit the romantic ideal of a rolling “green and pleasant land” and there is always a cold nagging East wind to boot.

Fred Ingrams

“That view has now changed and I have grown to really love this landscape with its fascinating history and the people who live and farm there. My work has definitely become more and more entrenched into this landscape. And I have also come to realise, that like me, there are so many people who have a strong, deep attachment to the Fens. Even if they have moved away – it is still part of them. I know this as I am constantly contacted from people from all over the world who want one of my Fenland paintings to keep that memory close to them.”

“It has also strengthened by belief that landscape painting really matters. It’s peculiarly British – it exists deep in our psyche and is very important and very emotive.”

In the tradition of the great British landscape painters before him, Fred Ingrams paints “en plein air”. Sitting in front of his portable easel he deftly creates small sketches of the view before him. Then, back in his studio, the studies are used as the starting point for a large finished painting. To this day Fred Ingrams still refuses to work in oils, preferring acrylic paints for their intensity and clarity of colour and quick drying quality.

Fred Ingrams

Fred Ingrams explains: “I do not set out to slavishly paint a view in a photographic sense. My paintings are more about the Fens not of the Fens. Likewise the memory of the feeling I had when I painted the original sketch is an important element which I seek to transmit into each of my works.”

“The Fens provide one of the few landscapes where one can be totally alone. When I am out painting the only sounds are distant tractors, the call of lapwings, warblers and the cry of marsh harriers. I find I now need that space and solitude the Fens offer. It is both a physical and spiritual need, to be totally immersed with no distractions. It is for all these reasons I feel so at home painting in this landscape, that has the sense of being at the edge of everything.”

When he’s not out painting the Fens, Fred Ingrams lives and works in a modernist glass and metal roofed pigsty conversion in Norfolk, with his wife Laura and their children.

After four previous sell-out shows, his latest exhibition Fred Ingrams: The Edge of Landscape, features more than 20 new works, which celebrate the raw beauty of The Fens, East Anglia’s iconic coastal plains. The majority, painted in acrylic (Fred Ingrams’ preferred medium) are large in scale, varying from 4 to 6 ft.

Fred Ingrams: The Edge of Landscape
With Nick Holmes Fine Art
26-29 June 2019 at Iris Studios, Adrian Mews, Ifield Rd, London, SW10 9AE

Iris Studios

Fred Ingrams

100 Foot Bank in The Fens