John Caple (b.1966)Contact the gallery for available works
Somerset - b.1966
John Caple was born in 1966. He is entirely self-taught and as untroubled by contemporary art as he is unbothered by academic training and his work requires neither. In the twentieth century the folk tradition was often confused with naïve art, yet an important distinction exists between the two and that distinction in many ways helps to understand John’s work. Whereas a naïve artist paints entirely from within a private, enclosed world, an artist like John Caple is expressing stories and sentiments that have a shared ownership. In the twenty-first century he is an oddity amongst painters – though that is an observation that will trouble him little.
John Caple has exhibited with the John Martin Gallery in London for the last 18 years and held two solo exhibitions with the Everard Read Gallery in South Africa. In 2011 he completed a cycle of three triptychs based on A Midsummer’s Night Dream for the Glyndebourne Festival. His works is held in collections throughout the world.
John Caple says Mendip is a hard county. His family have farmed and quarried in this corner of Somerset since the eighteenth century and certainly the quarrymans life was, and remains, a tough one. Old pagan traditions survived despite the concerned attentions of nineteenth century missionaries and even the strict sect of Plymouth Brethren, who maintained a strong foothold in the Mendips. The tight community in which John grew up has a rich history of remarkable people whose stories were pased down through successive generations. They and their history continue to be as much a part of the countryside as his own.
His knowledge derives mainly from family tradition and his Great Uncle Orion Owen Caple, who wrote a brief set of memoirs in old age. Orion Owen also learnt some of the wider history and folk-lore of the Mendips through his encounters with the antiquarian, Francis Knight, whose books The Heart of Mendip and A Corner of Arcady were published at the beginning of the last century. Orion Owen recalled meeting Knight: “I used to deliver milk to Wintrath, the home of Francis Knight, and on a few occasions he would open his little glass house door, which was set back in the rockery for to do most of his writing in quiet and peace, and he would invite me inside to have a little chat; as he would put it, to have a few moments relief from writing. He was an interesting old man”.
Yet Orion Owen and John Caple both have a direct role in Mendip history in a way that an antiquarian like Francis Knight never could. John Caple is the most recent link in a chain that stretches back centuries. His art represents the collective memory of generations of Mendip land-workers; as such his paintings present a rare and important survival of folk art. It is a living art and the more one becomes familiar with it, the more one finds the reality of this community emerging out of the shadows of his extraordinary and powerful imagination.
John Caple’s paintings, all done in mixed media, feature re-occurring faces of his mother, grandparents, uncles and others in scenes derived from his imagination through stories he is told of their pasts. Each painting describes specific episodes in the lives of these characters.
2016 This Common Wild
2014 In the Midnight Wood
2012 Paintings from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Glyndebourne Festival, Glyndebourne
2011 The Light, The Dusk, The Dark, John Martin Gallery, London
2010 The Thorn Tree Cycle, John Martin Gallery, London
2009 The Nightgale’s Song, John Martin Gallery, London
2008 To the Quiet Moon, Everard Read, Johannesburg
2007 Sea and Hill and Wood
2006 The Silent Supper, Everard Read, Johannesburg
2005 The Greenwood Tree, John Martin Gallery, London
The Heart of Mendip,
2003 The Ashen Tree, John Martin Gallery, London
2000 John Caple, John Martin Gallery, London
2007 London Art Fair, John Martin Gallery
2006 London Art Fair, John Martin Gallery
2006 Into the Jungle – A Homage to Rousseau, John Martin Gallery
2004 The Stuff of Magic, John Martin Gallery