Alex Coppock-Bunce, 59, is one of the artists taking part in this year’s Swindon Open Studios during the first two weekends of September.
Alex, who is also a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist, lives in Old Town and is married to Brian, who works with people recovering from brain injuries
“WE tend to be what we think we’re going to be,”
said Alex Coppock-Bunce.
It’s a principle she applies to the people she helps to clear psychological hurdles, but also seems to be a personal philosophy.
Alex is among more than 50 artists taking part in the eighth Swindon Open Studios.
On Saturday and Sunday between 11am and 4pm, she will welcome visitors to her home studio in Avenue Road.
“There’s going to be a lot of cake,” she said, “so if they don’t like the art they can get cake, sit in the garden and look at the fish!”
She loves the open studios concept.
“I think it’s a wonderful organisation. It’s time Swindon was able to blow its own trumpet about being an absolute hub of creativity.
There’s been so much effort and good will put into creating it.
“Swindon Open Studios is an absolutely glorious opportunity to have people looking at different work and different styles and making friends.”
A member of Artsite, the Experimental Drawing Hub and a mosaic group, Alex encourages everybody with the slightest interest in creating art to get started. She reassures potential newcomers that there is no cliqueness or snobbery in the Swindon art scene.
“Anybody who is interested is welcomed, encouraged and critiqued in a mature way. They’re not treated like a child – they’re genuinely helped to go forward and optimise their own ability and achieve things they perhaps didn’t know they could, and yet there’s no pressure.”
Alex was born in Oxford, raised in Wantage and can trace her ancestry back through more than a millennium of Cornish mariners and miners.
Her favourite artists include Peter Lanyon and Christopher Wood, both of whom are known for Cornish landscapes and exploring the boundaries between ‘conventional’ and abstract work.
Alex’s career saw her rise to senior roles with the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell and then BT, and moved to Swindon in 1988. By 2003 corporate culture had left her feeling burned out. A redundancy payment helped her to change direction.
“It had to be something meaningful.
“I spent the next three years training to become a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist, and figure out what was wrong with me, so I could learn to help other people.
“I like the deeper, more complicated stuff, because it’s much more challenging and you’re working with much more subtle things than straight hypnotherapy.
I work with people who have severe anxiety, depression, eating disorders, severe phobias and OCD.”
“To see somebody who’s really fragile and crumpled coming in and – it may be only a few weeks but sometimes it’s much longer – to see them gradually getting stronger and stronger, their self-esteem really beginning to build, and having a sense of belief that they’re entitled to have the same kind of life as other people that they see as being very successful.
“I don’t mean ‘successful’ in a materialistic way; I mean something much deeper – a positive self-regard.”
Alex has been fascinated by art since childhood. She recalls a book called Thorburn’s Birds, packed with works by nature painter Archibald Thorburn.
“It was a big encyclopaedia that a neighbour lent me. I was fascinated by nature and I just used to draw the birds in there. I’ve still got some of those drawings somewhere. I just loved all that detail – it was so perfect.
“It’s strange now because my work is the opposite.
It’s gone through all sorts of different stages and now that I’m really interested in experimental art. It’s much more of an expression of emotion and sometimes total subconscious stuff.
“I don’t even know what I’m painting sometimes. I just switch off completely and the lines come just as they do when people go and do some free writing.
“It’s a kind of stream of consciousness. You look at it afterwards and you just make decisions about the different marks.
“When I first came to Swindon, even though I’d been doing little bits of drawing through much of my life, I wasn’t painting.
But I came to Swindon and I painted my first picture with paint. That was at the Jolliffe Studios just above the Wyvern Theatre.”
The piece showed a pier at St Ives in Cornwall, and Alex realised it was a view of the same pier shown in a work by Christopher Wood, which is part of Swindon’s extensive collection of 20th Century British art.
Her move into abstract work in about 2009 was a happy fluke involving an injury and a suggestion by a fellow local artist.
“That was the day that I hurt my right arm. I went down to do a class. It was something to do with an open day at Artsite.
“Vicky Silver said to me, ‘If you’ve hurt your right arm, use your left.’ I did and that was the moment that things started to change.
“It stops you being so intensely gripped by the fear of failure. You stop worrying about the fact that it’s going to be rubbish, so that gives you freedom to express what’s going on – and it turns out to be really good!”
Alex sells some of her pieces but takes no commissions.
“I don’t like the pressure.
It becomes like a chore.
I’d rather they fell in love with something that means something to them – and I wouldn’t have painted it if it didn’t mean something.
“Switch off the thinking, get on with the doing and then it’ll tell you what it’s all about afterwards. It’s totally subconscious.”
The Swindon Open Studios website is swindonopenstudios.yolasite.com, and Alex herself is on Facebook and Twitter.