know from my own experience that a man’s life-work is nothing
but a long journey to find again, by all the detours of art, the two
or three powerful images upon which his whole being opened for the
Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Cheepen was born in 1946. An introverted and impressionable only child,
he grew up in the outer suburbs of north-west London, where a maze
of quiet streets and parks, overlooked by low hills, provided him
with an infinite wonderland worthy of thorough exploration.
a boy, he became aware that, for him, certain locations exuded
their own special atmospheres or ‘spirits of place’.
At such spots – hill-tops, airfields, deserted railway
stations, for example – he would frequently experience
moments of serene detachment and heightened awareness. Time
seemed to stand suspended and commonplace objects appeared
to acquire mysterious significance. Such ‘epiphanies’,
David feels, were the seeds of his later work as an artist…..
and of his future spiritual development. They established,
too, his life-long fondness for ‘vast spaces and special
the age of five years, David produced from memory, a stream
of intricate pencil drawings inspired by his suburban wanderings.
Broad panoramic ‘roof-scapes’ appeared, punctuated
by specific landmarks, above which low-flying aircraft traced
their various paths.
the early 1960s, David recognised the essential flavour of his youthful
‘peak experiences’ in the spacious and numinous symphonies
of Anton Bruckner (1824-1896). He detected it, too, in the paintings
of the German Romantic, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) and the
Italian ‘proto-surrealist’ Georgio de Chirico (1888-1978),
whose example inspired him to begin painting in earnest. Later influences
included the early Renaissance masters Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) and
Piero Della Francesca (1415-1492).
the Slow Lane
on board 5 1/4" x 8", 1993. Private Collection, Stanmore,
self-taught artist, David slowly developed his own method of combining
precise draughtsmanship with meticulously applied acrylic paint, so
as to produce ordered, often symmetrical, compositions. Clearly delineated
elements derived from the external world, from memory and from imagination,
would be juxtaposed, resulting in images redolent of stillness, expectation
from a few experimental by-ways, David’s work has remained stylistically
consistent, although his brushwork has become steadily more refined.
Compositionally, especially in recent years, his pictures have become
more pared-down, essential and minimalistic. Nevertheless, each painting
requires, nowadays, over two hundred hours of patient concentration.
subject-matter, or content, of David’s work has always reflected
his various and successive extra-painterly pre-occupations. In it,
he has addressed social, ethical and ecological issues and the nature
of consciousness and perception, while charting the ups and downs
of his personal life. For many years, his approach could be described
as primarily ‘conceptual’ in that ‘the idea preceded
the 1970’s, while living in Hertfordshire, David’s paintings
expressed his concern for the fate of the planet and his love of animals,
especially cats. In the early 1980s, ‘earth mysteries’
claimed his interest, recollecting the intensity of his childhood
responses to the landscape. Later, into the 1990s, both explicit and
implicit religious symbols appeared, following a series of visionary
experiences and auspicious encounters.
David moved to Penwith, West Cornwall, in 2002, he was immediately
and inevitably drawn to the interior – the high hills,
expansive moors and enigmatic stone antiquities. In this environment,
especially on calm, clear days, (rare in the ‘wild west’)
he has been privileged to experience an overwhelming sense
of timelessness, peace and sanctity, similar to that which
graced the ‘magic moments’ of his suburban childhood.
As a result, David was moved to embark, consciously, for the
first time, on a thematically linked series of paintings focussing
on aspects of the West Cornwall landscape, in which such sensations
could be encapsulated and shared with others.
1967, David Cheepen’s work has been shown in over eighty
mixed, group, and one-man exhibitions in Great Britain, Norway,
Germany, Italy and U.S.A. From 1975 he has been a regular
exhibitor at London’s Portal Gallery (Britain’s
pre-eminent showcase for self-taught, ‘naïve’
and ‘idiosyncratic’ artists), where he has held
eight solo shows. He has also undertaken many private commissions.
four hundred of David’s paintings, drawings and prints are now
in private collections in many countries. His work has been reviewed
and reproduced in numerous newspapers, magazines and books, and has
been featured on BBC television. Paintings by David Cheepen have also
appeared in the form of posters, postcards and greetings cards.
well as having devoted himself to his painting, David has worked as
an architectural draughtsman, a civil servant and a local government
clerk. He studied Education at Hertfordshire University in the 1970s
where he graduated with First Class Honours in 1979. He then went
on to teach Art, part-time, at Watford Grammar School for Boys until
Since 1980, David has conducted many adult art classes and has given
illustrated lectures about his own work to schools and art societies
in Hertfordshire – and more recently, in Cornwall.