I am delighted to be part of ‘When the Land Rested’ exhibition curated by Claire Scott.
This exhibition reignited my excitement for one of the central aspects of my art practice, namely making visual responses to landscape that draw upon both observation and memory. Although I love to be sketching outdoors, I have come to realise that time away from a specific landscape can be as valuable as time immersed in it. Detail tends to fade from the mind as shapes become simplified and colours intensified. As I pondered the title of the theme, with no prospect of sketching on location, I began to visualise reds and oranges, browns and blues, a landscape hunkering down, conserving energy for renewal in spring. Subsequent rare journeys into the local landscape allowed me to scrutinize mood and atmosphere and focus on nature as a source for optimism. Spring, both in a literal and metaphoric sense, would eventually return. The process of attempting to distil this mass of sensory information, bringing order from chaos, and align it with my thoughts and feelings, is what makes painting such a daunting yet compelling activity.
The painting process is never static, and sometimes a combination of trying a different technique and colour combination might, of necessity, generate a new approach that becomes an ongoing part of the process. This was the case in ‘The Fields are Frosting Over, Now’, which is very finely balanced in terms of composition and colour; one small change would alter the outcome significantly. I wished to retain the balance of warm and cool, of transparent and opaque, and not lose the liveliness of the paint application. What I learned in resolving this piece fed into ‘An Energy Remains’ and ‘A Slow Cooling’, which exemplify that rare but exciting time for the painter when a rightness emerges as if by magic.
The paintings ‘It Lies Low and Whispers’ and ‘The Land’s Heartbeat Can Still be Heard’ underwent many transformations from their inception on an early morning walk on Cors Caron. My first sketches of this raised bog date back to the mid 1990’s, and it seemed that once in the studio my memories resurfaced as I worked through the layers of paint. Over many hours, the composition and palette became more cohesive and balanced until the paintings themselves ‘told’ me to stop. Painters often entering describe entering a dialogue with paintings, and this requires an element of patience that can be difficult when in the throes of the process. I let the paintings rest for a few days and when revisiting the studio, I could see at once that it was a good decision, having achieved in the work something approaching an equivalence of my landscape experience.
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