Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
All through The Fortnight, we marvel at the way tennis players open up spaces on court to put away their winners. Fittingly, it turns out that opening up space is the trademark of Jeremy Houghton - a British painter specialising in creating a true reflection of movement through space – who has been commissioned by the All England Club to be the official 2017 Championship Artist.
His roving brief is to focus on match play which he describes as “a fantastic topic”. If you bump into him around the grounds you will see him making detailed observational sketches with pencil. He goes on to make several more sketches of a scene, gradually eliminating more and more detail from each version, until he completes the final work in watercolours. “It is all about the space. White is the colour,” he says, flicking through his A3 sketchbook for wimbledon.com, after a morning spent observed wheelchair competitors on Court 16.
“The bits I leave in my works say more when there are these white areas of nothing. It allows the viewer to engage with the painting. Each work involves a long process of elimination as I work out what to leave out. Initially I draw to get the details. Sketching is important because it makes you think about the geography, the context, what’s what and what’s where. Gradually the picture becomes looser as I decide which bits are important and which aren’t. The finished version is just on the edge of abstraction, on the cusp – that’s where you get the kinetic energy. And those are the moments I try and capture.”
Jeremy’s commission follows on from a series of sports-related residencies at the America’s Cup and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He has also been artist in resident at Windsor Castle for HM The Queen and at Highgrove for HRH The Prince of Wales. He has depicted the action at British classics such as Royal Ascot, Silverstone and Goodwood but deems Wimbledon the best sporting event because of the intimacy of the spectator experience. “The crowd are so close, so involved. The spectators are so knowledgeable. They have come for the tennis, not just a day out, and the atmosphere is electric. They feel they are in the presence of rock stars. Sitting courtside, they live every moment with the players, they see and hear everything, and it’s interesting how the players feed off that energy.”
Other scenes he has committed to paper so far include depictions of Centre Court, Federer, Nadal, Konta, the showcourt atmosphere of Court 18, the crowd on Henman Hill and the corral in the morning before the gates open. “I try and make no reference to time. In fact, some of my work looks like old photographs,” he says. The Championships are an international competition known throughout the world for upholding traditions while looking to the future, and the same can be said of Jeremy’s style and technique. “It is contemporary art but with traditional angles. I am using watercolours to play on time and play on movement. It is about a journey through time, through the history of the Championships, through the unfolding of the tournament, through the player’s journey.”
Jeremy is the 12th Championship Artist since the Club began to make annual appointments in 2006. After the refurbishment of the Clubhouse at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in 2002, it became evident that the Club had relatively few paintings or photographs that illustrated its history other than those exhibited in the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. Since then, several major pieces of art have been commissioned. Outside the Clubhouse are busts of the five British lady champions since 1922, sculpted by Ian Rank-Broadley. Inside is a beautiful inlaid console table made by David Linley which was presented to the Club by the family of Herman David (Chairman of the Club from 1959-1974). There is a large oil painting by Andrew Festing, depicting the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony held here in June 2004 for the Athens Olympic Games – and also a collection of paintings, drawings, glassware, sculpture, paper art and poetry from the diverse range of artists commissioned to create their individual interpretation of The Championships.
He travels in from Chelsea each day on a scooter (changing legs on Wandsworth Bridge Road) and has a pop-up studio down the road where, after the last 2017 trophy has been lifted, he has six months to continue to hone his sketches into beautifully distilled images of Wimbledon tennis which will add to the visual celebration of The Championships.