Elizabeth Waggett, artist in residence at Chalet Saunton in Devon, on how the stunning surrounding light and landscape has inspired her work

Chalet Saunton is a development of seven contemporary apartments on the stunning North Devon coast. Designed and built by property developer Tim Fleming on the site of his original family home, its slick, minimalist interiors are set against a backdrop of what has to be one of the most spectacular views in the whole of the UK – views that have inspired many artists and writers over the years. So, it seemed natural for Tim to have an artist in residence to create works for the apartments themselves and the person he chose was British artist Elizabeth Waggett.

Elizabeth describes how the collaboration came about: “Tim is a collector and has acquired a few pieces over the years that hang at Chalet Saunton, in the Penthouse and Studio. As I made more work, he reached out via Instagram and I immediately knew I wanted to visit this place.

“The process was natural – just chatting about the works and his life in Saunton and London, we began to realisethat we had many of the same values and outlooks on life. When Tim invited me to be the first artist in residence I was thrilled. I wasn’t even aware that he was running a residency and it felt right.”

Elizabeth then did a week-long residency at Chalet Saunton. “It was enough time to truly step into the area yet be able to take my sketches and sample back to my studio where I could work on this vast scale without losing the momentum of the inspiration,” she says.

These days, Elizabeth spends much of her time in the US but her artistic lineage is rooted in her British heritage. Often incorporating 23-carat gold leaf and other precious metals, her work is infused with a nuanced sense of cultural identity and historical continuity. She also explores the natural world and humanity’s intricate relationship with it.

But it was the lighting and landscape of the area around Chalet Saunton that provided the perfect backdrop for her to explore different concepts.

“It was a winter residency which was spectacular for the light and dramatic changes in  weather,” she says. “I’ve lived  and worked all over the world and I am always interested in the way in which the sunlight changes from place to place. The first time you see light in a new place for the first time, you can tell you are somewhere different with the light alone.It not only looks, but feels different.

“The light at the Chalet is again different to anywhere I have witnessed. It was also very different in January than I imagine it will be in the summer when I return. But it’s also very dramatic, the proximity to the ocean plays a huge part in that. The water which you wake up to everyday hits that light and it becomes this magical space which radiates. That’s rare, and I think that I can draw a parallel to the gold leaf within my work, in that it’s out of my control and the light will reflect from it in the way that it wants in this very nuanced way. It’s never going to be able to be captured in the same way again, much like each hour and day with the light at the Chalet. It’s truly magical.

The large-scale works Elizabeth has created for Chalet Saunton wouldn’t have been possible without the residency, she says. “I experimented in a new way while there, because a residency is truly a place that you can play, forget about all the everyday pressure of life and the studio and it’s a complete escape to just let the workflow. So you become completely enveloped in your surroundings. That’s all there is to do – translate what you see into your own visual language.”

Elizabeth will also be returning to Chalet Saunton in July for another week to finalise some details and hang another original work for Tim. I’m excited to see it in a different season and take my family there.

“The peacefulness and drama, to be next  to the Atlantic with the Unesco-protected sand dunes and the incredible beach, it really has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Those sand dunes are phenomenal – I’ve never seen anything like them on that scale.

“The inspiration of light and textures in the geography have held a huge amount of direct  inspiration for my latest body of work. You can see the textures I’m building that represent the natural landscape with a strong British heritage within each piece. Not only that, but the natural materials I work with are echoed in the nature all around the Chalet.”

Tim is, naturally, delighted with the result. He says: “Elizabeth’s work is so intricate – a draughtsman’s levels of detail with a cheeky monochromatic palette, mocking the consumerism of the modern day. I smile whenever I see them – apposite to the character that she is.”