Kaffe Fassett, Californian artist and textile designer, lives and works in London. Trained as an artist, his paintings have been shown and collected in London, New York and San Francisco over many years. His murals, too, feature in many homes and commercial enterprises. The decorative arts and the objects we collect around us have, from early days, been his particular passion. He has published ten books on design, from knitting and needlepoint to patchwork and mosaic. It is doubtful whether there is one designer in the land who does not keep some or all of his books on their shelves for inspiration.
All this then, and a working artist? How is this possible? There could be two explanations for such creative energy, beyond unquestionable natural talent: Kaffe’s trans-Atlantic sense of urgency (once fired with a creative idea there is no stopping him – he wants to make it manifest “now”!) and his extraordinary passion and insatiable appetite for colour. When you stand surrounded by his work his message is clear: colour lives for him.
Kaffe is cunning with form. His ability to compose a picture makes it all look disarmingly easy (which those who know, know it is not), but it is in his handling of colour, the way he arranges objects, how he sees them, and his handling of the paint itself that conveys to us his own delight in what he is looking at. He can make the objects appear empowered with the joy of being, as if they have a wish to express themselves. Their seeming vitality can reach you even (or particularly?) when you stand back from his work. That vitality sings out at you. It is clear that Kaffe lives by and for colour. It would not be far-fetched to say that for Kaffe, colour is his very medium, whatever the substance he uses. In everything he creates he consciously sets out to make us aware of the delights of our physical world. In trying to convey his extraordinary perceptivity with regard to colour, I think of a Welsh countryman who, once asked to describe what a poet was, replied after thought: “…well a poet is someone who sees and sees and SEES..”. That definition would be equally appropriate for Kaffe the artist
ANNE JAMES Producer/Director, BBC and Channel Four