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Painter Winston Branch
Visiting Artist Shares His "Great Love" for Painting and Education

By Julia Sommer, Public Affairs
Posted March 10, 1999

Photo: Winston Branch

Peg Skorpinski photo

Walking into Winston Branch's studio in Kroeber Hall, you are met by a burst of color, light and warmth. Pinned to the white walls are multicolored abstract canvasses, including his new "Berkeley Muffin Series," named in honor of Berkeley's plethora of muffin options.

The biggest wall is almost covered by a huge canvas in the beginning stages of creation -- large splotches of pink, blue and yellow combining to produce flaming orange. Branch climbs a bright blue ladder with a small broom-turned-large brush to reach the painting's farthest corners.

Later he will lay the canvas on the floor to finish his exploration of color, atmospherics and light.

Just down the hall his "Language of Drawing" class patiently, silently draws a nude model. Few of the 25 students are art majors. That's new for Branch, who taught at the Slade School of Fine Art in London for many years.

"Even if they don't become artists, they will develop an eye, an appreciation and enjoyment of art. They may even become collectors," he says, flashing an infectious grin.

When asked how much his paintings sell for, he will only say, "they're affordable."

Branch arrived in August to spend a year painting and teaching at Berkeley as an assistant adjunct professor. At 51, he is especially well known in England and Europe, where his works are part of many collections, including those of the Kunst-halle in Hamburg, Germany and the Victoria and Albert Museum, British Museum and Arts Council of Great Britain, all in London.

Originally from St. Lucia, a tiny island in the eastern Caribbean, Branch was sent to London at the age of 12 "to become an Englishman," as he puts it. "My parents saw I had an aptitude for art and wanted to give me the best opportunity."

After graduating from the Slade in 1970, he was awarded a year at the British School in Rome. "I had a lovely studio and traveled around Italy, seeing all the paintings I had studied," he recalls. "The Campanile here reminds me of Italy."

That was followed by a year at Fisk University in Nashville as artist-in-residence, four years in West Berlin on a DAAD Artists in Berlin fellowship, and a year in New York on a Guggenheim. Commuting between West Berlin and New York became too much, so he settled back down in London.

In 1994 Branch returned home to St. Lucia after an absence of 30 years, attracted mainly by a Peace Corps volunteer he later married.

This is his first time in northern California. "I thought it would be lovely and hot," he lamented on a cold, rainy February day.

In April several of his paintings will be shown at the Townsend Center for the Humanities, 220 Stephens Hall. Then, on April 29 at 4 p.m., the Townsend Center will present Branch in conversation with Wendy Martin, chair of American Literature and American Studies at Claremont Graduate University.

"Berkeley has been inspirational," says Branch. "I'm painting like crazy. I love my studio here, the light is wonderful. I try to pass on my great love for painting and my great love for education."



March 10 - 16, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 26)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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