Christopher’s sculptures are born at the end of the garden in a spacious, airy studio. Shelves and tables are strewn with an eclectic array of casts and sculptures of figurative animalsEva Weinstein with permission for Varsity

Elaine and Christopher’s house is nestled outside of Cambridge, and getting there involved riding a trundling bus down rapidly narrowing country lanes. Though in reality not far from town, the village they live in couldn’t feel further from the mediaeval Cambridge skyline, burrowed in a wide expanse of fresh green. Their home- because it is much more home than house- is a reconverted pub, a light, airy, white-washed space that Elaine tells us is inspired by the soothing interiors of Kettle’s Yard. Peaceful it is, and as we settle into a plump sofa having been laden with coffee, biscuits, a book about their upcoming exhibition, and fistfuls of postcards, the balmy tranquillity of the space washes over. Sipping our coffee, we gaze around at the walls adorned with clashing works of art, that somehow reside harmoniously side by side. The difference works, and we tell them so. “Kettle’s Yard taught me that placement”, Elaine replies knowingly, “is an art form too.”

The couple were friends of art collector Jim Ede, former director of the Tate gallery, regularly visiting his home at Kettle’s Yard: “When you rang the bell, he’d open the door and you’d go in and you could smell breakfast in the air because he’d just had bacon and eggs. It wasn’t a rarefied museum; it was a house”. Kettle’s Yard influences are everywhere in their house, from the furnishings to the harmonious mix-match of artwork sprinkled across each room: “I wouldn’t think of having printed curtains! It’s a kind of way of life” Elaine says, referencing Laura Freeman’s ‘Ways of Life: Jim Ede and the Kettle’s Yard Artists’, balanced on the coffee table in front of us. Encouraged by Ede’s stories of Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis, Elaine and Christopher moved to St Ives - the vibrant epicentre of British Modern Art - where they spent 25 years before returning to Fulbourn, Cambridge.

"Though their art is completely different, both in form and style, their work sits alongside each other in joyful symbiosis"

Elaine Pamphilon and Christopher Marvell are two Cambridge-based artists, respectively known for their painting and sculpture that conjure up the playful whimsy of the British day-to-day. Christopher’s sculptures are born at the end of the garden in a spacious, airy studio. Shelves and tables are strewn with an eclectic array of casts and sculptures of figurative animals, while Elaine’s paintings decorate the walls. Though their art is completely different, both in form and style, their work sits alongside each other in joyful symbiosis, having balanced a living and working relationship that is now crucial to their creative processes: “Both of us being artists has been amazingly helpful because we can be really critical of each other’s work”. There is a playfulness in both of their art, present in the writing scrawled over the youthful colour and print of Elaine’s paintings, and in the inquisitive look sported by Christopher’s dog sculptures, or his birds, poised with wings outstretched, ready for take off. “We have the same eye for line, texture, style…it’s very sympathetic”. Christopher reveals that recent experimentations with colour and patternation on his bronze sculptures are inspired by Elaine’s colour palette, as the hues of his patternation are tonally similar to Elaine’s paintings. It’s no wonder that they frequently exhibit their work together, with their first joint exhibition having taken place at our very own Newnham college in 1986.

Their art tumbles out from their studios into the gardenEva Weinstein with permission for Varsity

Elaine’s in-house studio is bathed in natural light: white walls lined with artists’ accoutrements, neatly stacked, and large windows opening up onto the garden. Their art tumbles out from their studios into the garden, where sculptures are carefully placed among well-kept flower beds and vegetable patches, seemingly springing from the land itself.

The calm atmosphere of her workspace seeps onto her canvas – paintings of Cornish seascapes or Cambridge landscapes have a soothing quality as Elaine is drawn towards softer tones and colours. Ceramic mugs and figurines line the windowsill, miscellaneous objects sit atop the piano and fresh flowers from her garden or daily walks at the Fulbourn nature reserve are carefully placed in jugs and mugs. Intimate pieces of the everyday which often go unnoticed become Elaine’s primary subject matter.

Sitting there, our admiration for their art is swiftly supplanted by an interest in the artists’ lives. As Elaine speaks (peppered with contagious laughter and frequent inquiries as to whether we want more biscuits) we learn that there are many strings to her bow, or in her case, harp, which she learnt to play at the Royal Academy alongside the likes of Elton John.


Mountain View

Art close to home

Despite her glowing talent for music, she has always loved painting, a passion that blossomed during her time as an au pair in Paris for the family of artist André Hambourg. The love for painting took over, and she decided to switch from music to art whilst studying at Homerton; at the time a teacher training college. “Being at Homerton was such fun” Elaine tells us, “it wasn’t as serious as it is nowadays.” She left the year the college officially joined the University. By then, she was playing the harp in college halls, at society events, and playing it well enough to make a living. Art remained a hobby, one that existed alongside a successful musical career. That is, until she met Christopher, soon-to-be partner in both art and life who encouraged Elaine to apply her creative prowess to painting. “He told me”, Elaine says, “you could make a living out of this”. It appears he was right, with the artists’ long term success recently culminating in the form of an exhibition at the Portland gallery in London.

Placing our empty mugs back on the table before saying goodbye, we couldn’t help but liken these paintings and sculptures to herbal tea for the soul – calm, soothing, and utterly refreshing. Their work reminds us that art can be found in the simplest of places – the figures of nature and the colours of everyday life.