Dean Clough, Halifax Studio Eleven, Hull Bede Gallery, Jarrow Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries The Ropewalk, Barton on Humber
Jake Attree Jean Davey Winter David Fulford Richard Hatfield Patti Lean Rob Moore
Living Landscape â€œLiving Landscapeâ€? brings together six artists all who are inspired by working in or with landscape in their work as painters and printmakers. The work on show represents diverse conceptual and technical approaches to working inventively and passionately from landscape as subject matter. Weather, climate, sounds, surfaces, feelings, observations, colour, mark, horizon, high places, beauty, awe, the sumptuous, the desolate and much more are present here in these paintings. The artists represented all find relevance and intrigue in making work about landscape through painting in a contemporary creative environment where digital arts have increasingly
made their presence felt. All the artists underpin their work through an interest in drawing and enjoying the qualities of paint in giving expression to shaping their thoughts. In parallel with the exhibitions the artists will be offering talks and practical workshops at most venues. We are grateful to all of the people in the galleries showing the work for their enthusiastic response to the idea of the exhibition, Richard Hatfield for his design of the catalogue and also special thanks to the writer, curator and critic Lynne Green for providing an insightful text to accompany the exhibition. Rob Moore. Artist and Curator.
Bearing Witness: Lynne Green
It is necessary to mark the greater from the lesser truth: namely the larger and more liberal idea of nature from the comparatively narrow and confined; namely that which addresses itself to the imagination from that which is solely addressed to the eye. J M W Turner Travelling north through the Scottish Borders the landscape emerged and receded through a fine opaque, white mist â€“ distant hills emerging as if from a coastal sea. As it rose, the sun began to filter through, illuminating the mist from within, spectral forms emerging and then lost again. Suddenly sunlight burst through, washing across the land, highlighting and revealing form: the detail and colour of ditch and track, ploughed and fallow field: their tapestry
of repeated pattern rising to softly rolling hills and higher peaks beyond. Every growing thing had taken on its own sculptural quality as the hoar frost caught and held it fast. The detailed tracery of hedge and tree (the fine twigs of this yearâ€™s growth) was etched against the sky. The clarity of light brought every detail into focus: the geometry of upright stands of silver birch; the sparkle of flooded fields now become glass; the dark form of a small raptor trying to blend with the bough of a tree. Here and there tufts of firs punctuated the skyline; rich brown earth contrasting with the pale yellows and greens of dormant pasture and last summerâ€™s crops. Lines of definition and articulation: planted avenues of beech, roads, lanes and paths, field boundaries and divisions, fences and walls, agricultural buildings and small groups
of houses: all the grammar and syntax of cultivated, managed land. But above all the light: bringing definition to form, emphasising contour, texture, colour and warmth. In this country we have an exceptionally rich tradition of creative response to and celebration of, landscape: as true for the visual arts as it is for poetry, literature and music. In this time of global warming and dire predictions of the destructive consequences of human activity upon the planet, it is increasingly urgent to be reminded of the depth of meaning the landscape holds for us, both collectively and individually. There is a growing need for us to be drawn back to our physical and emotional roots: to the land, in all its varieties and richness, that has nurtured our species
for the entirety of its life on Earth. In all periods of human history, for every culture past and present, landscape has been, as it remains still, a repository of psychological, emotional, symbolic, moral and spiritual significance. It reflects also â€“ is an indicator of â€“ social and political structures, both historical and contemporary. There are few of us who do not respond to the beauty of what we think of as the natural scene. In the United Kingdom little of our landscape remains untouched by human intervention, but in so being it presents a perceptible and tangible record of our shared heritage, of the amalgam of peoples who have shaped these islands. All have left their mark on the land. Much of their evidential traces are substantial, others are slight, some fugitive, revealed only in raking light or by drought. All
contribute to the thin patina of human history, but they are nothing compared to the overwhelming, awe-inspiring evidence of the natural forces that forged and articulated our diverse, and spectacular landscape. An astonishing variety of land-forms and habitats are to be found in these small islands, reflecting the geological character of what lies beneath. The layering of landscape is both natural and historical. Landscape is the stage and backdrop to our history and to our present. In the visual arts it was not until the seventeenth century that its depiction was treated as anything other than a background to the human: the setting for figure painting or classical and historical subjects. A relative newcomer as a subject in its own right, Landscape Painting rapidly became a major element in the artistic
canon. In nineteenth century Britain, the genre enjoyed a spectacular flowering â€“ with John Constable and JMW Turner at its heart. In revolutionising the nature of landscape art, they also changed the way we as a culture see and understand landscape. They themselves were influenced by romanticism in contemporary literature and poetry, which advocated the expression of feeling in the arts. Close engagement with the natural world was also a central tenet of the Romantic Movement, itself a direct response to an increasing sense of alienation from nature: a consequence of the rapid rise of industrial, urban society. This powerful emotion of loss and estrangement continues to be felt today â€“ it is part of our contemporary psyche. As the language and materials of visual art have expanded and diversified during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries
artists have increasingly engaged with our socio-economic, emotional and symbolic relationship with the land. The language of painting and its vocabulary are multifaceted and nuanced. The figurative and the abstract are different ends of the spectrum. Artists have always translated and distilled the world through the lens of their creative sensibility, consciousness, and imagination. There is a fine line between the actual and the invented. In this exhibition six painters offer very different ways of seeing and responding not only to the physicality of landscape, but also to issues of meaning. Implicit in the work of all, is an acute awareness of value and significance: the more vital to acknowledge and convey in this age of increasing environmental crisis. Each artist celebrates (from individual
perspectives and vantage points) landscape in its diversity of character and mood. It is revealed as vital and animate, charged and changed in the drama of light and evolving weather conditions. While these artists have in common an engagement with landscape, their interests and responses are specific. They share an obsession with the vocabulary of painting: with line, form, space and colour. In evoking and giving visible form to their perceptions, impressions, feelings, memories, and associations, each employs the vocabulary with their own intonation and emphasis. It is a process of exploration and discovery, of give and take between their intention and the materiality of paint. The marks they make convey not only physical activity, but also â€“ crucially â€“ emotion.
Jake Attree I am not exclusively a landscape painter; from the outset I have made a wide variety of images. But the initial impulse that made me a painter were the landscape paintings of Constable, Cezanne and Bruegel. I have subsequently looked at a wide variety of painters, including Joan Eardley and Sheila Fell but Constable, Cezanne and Bruegel were there at the absolute beginning of this journey. I first encountered Constable in an educational magazine when I was 14. Bruegel I then discovered in my school library. Cezanne entered my consciousness as if by osmosis about the same time. I was born and brought up in York and Baile Hill has always been important to me. This earthwork originally had a bailey tower. Sunday morning walks with my father when I was a young boy
would gravitate there. The Bruegel in the school library I was particularly struck with was “The Gloomy Day”. Looking at the reproduction of that painting clearly brought back the experience of standing on Baile Hill many years before. The two paintings “Baile Hill, Morning” and “Baile Hill, Evening” are part of a continuing series of works about that place and memories associated with it. I draw on site and from reproductions of the Bruegel. These two things then fuse in my mind. When making the paintings, I am conscious of trying to make the work an autonomous object, one that is both completely reliant on and yet completely independent of its sources. I don’t think there is anything new about this. What one hopes may be new is the quality of one’s responses. Similarly, with “Landscape with Distant
Crowds” and St Nicholas’s Tree”, the former began as a painting made from a series of drawings from Bruegel’s “The Road to Calvary”; the idea of the little figures working as accents of red, black, etc, on a subtly varied ground of beautifully modulated earth tones fascinated me. Elements then crept in from drawings of Finsbury Park in London, and Central Park, New York. The painting is a composite but, above all, a painting. St Nicholas Fields in York is now a nature reserve; I remember it being a landfill site, and prior to that it had been the site of brickworks that provided the raw materials for the local housing stock. “St Nicholas’s Tree – A Study” speaks for itself. “Durham” was made from drawings taken just above the railway station on a
cold, overcast, late autumn day. I hope it suggests something of the vast distances of that beautiful county and the elegance of the city’s cathedral. I am frequently asked about the paintings’ surfaces and their limited palette. I strive to give the paintings a sense of inevitability; I want all the forms to fit together, looking as though their disposition were the only one possible. This takes a long time and the surfaces accrue as the process progresses. I don’t do a lot of scraping back; I like the surface to develop a kind of organic history. I like close toned painting and hope that my limited range of colour has a wide spectrum within its framework. I believe it doesn’t matter whether paintings are thick or thin, prismatic or monochromatic. If they have integrity and authenticity that is all the validity they need.
Durham Oil on canvas 74.5cm x 92.5cm
Baile Hill, Evening Oil on canvas 89cm x 69cm
Baile Hill, Morning Oil on canvas 89cm x 69cm
Jean Davey Winter My work is an ongoing exploration of our relationship to the land as seen from above. The starting point comes from aerial photographs. Until recently all photographs were taken from the windows of passenger aircraft. However in 2014 during a trip to the volcanic island of Lanzarote I was fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph from a microlight. I have included the most recent work from Lanzarote and also several pieces inspired by the landscape of Southern Spain. Although both locations are viewed from an aerial perspective they each have their own quite distinctive qualities. The Spanish photographs were taken on a conventional flight. When photographing from a plane oneâ€™s viewpoint is to a great extent defined and restricted by the size and shape of the cabin window,
we are quite literally â€˜distancedâ€™ from the landscape and despite our actual speed we are less aware of a real sense of movement. From this altitude the fields below appear quite flat, they lack surface texture. They have an almost graphic quality, strong abstract shapes of rich golds and ochres overlaid with the dark geometric grids of olive and almond groves. The initial images have been digitally manipulated to evoke my personal response to this particular region. Through the process of painting, combined with digitally printed collage, these qualities have been enhanced, taking them beyond the limitations of the original photograph. In contrast the land seen from a microlight has a very different feel. One experiences an extraordinary sense of
freedom: there are no windows to restrict the view, no feeling of separation and a powerful sense of connection with the earth below. Flying at a much lower altitude there is also a greater sensation of movement, perspectives shift and tilt with changes in direction and this combined with the stark interplay of light and shade contributes to a strange spatial ambiguity. Being so much closer to the ground there is also a heightened awareness of the earth’s surface. Marks and traces reveal evidence of man’s intervention past and present and of long gone geological activity. Lanzarote is often described as having a ‘lunar landscape’. Fields of dark grey/ blue-black volcanic ash contrast with areas of pale sandy earth, much of the landscape has a monochromatic quality. Being such a dry, arid land unusual
measures have been taken to combat these problems and to protect crops from wind and drought. This has produced vast areas of landscape covered with low walls in what appear to be decorative patterns. Many of these, called ‘zocos’ are roughly semi-circular in shape, whilst others form blocks of lines and curves which have the appearance of quite random patterns; one can only assume that these relate to protection from prevailing winds. Once more the initial inspiration comes from photographs. However, here the intention is to explore ideas relating to movement, shifting perspectives and the surface of the earth. The use of mixed media: paint, sand, pigment and collage allow for a gradual building up of layers, textures and marks which parallels the way in which the landscape continues to change and evolve.
Aerial 1 mixed media with oil and acrylic paint on canvas 76cm x 121cm
Landmarks - Spain 3 Oil paint and collage on canvas 50cm x 70cm
My first real encounter with art was when, as a twelve-year-old boy, I visited an exhibition of Van Gogh’s paintings at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle. It was a profound experience, and it has stayed with me for nearly 60 years. That’s where I understood just how powerful a painted mark could be: the feeling of contact with paint, with the artist’s hand, and with the subject. What Celia Paul describes as “making immediacy immediate”. I was involved in art education for many years but throughout that time I never stopped painting. It has always seemed natural to me to respond to my environment and my experiences, so my first exhibitions were of paintings of urban environments in the north east of England, where I grew up. Later, after four years teaching in Jamaica, my work changed to reflect the land and the lives
of country people. To me the strongest experiences of being in the world are bound up with being in the landscape – with travelling, walking or simply being there. I am an enthusiast of the process of gazing, which the photographer Thomas Joshua Cooper describes as his primary activity. My artist website is called “slowlooking”. I have travelled widely. My most recent work has been informed by visits to Alaska and Iceland. The ice landscape is full of paradoxes: shrinking alarmingly yet beautifully, in motion yet apparently still. The sense of energy in a glacier is overwhelming; there is no term of reference as to scale or distance. It is ineffable, and possibly unpaintable. I work in my studio, where I keep a big
jumble of photographs and drawings that I refer to. These overlap like a Hockney joiner, but are unrelated, making fictitious spaces. In walking between the easel and the photographs I can establish the authenticity of my activity. Sometimes I can paint an experience without these props if the feeling is strong. Things barely glimpsed can sometimes leave a powerful memory. On a trek coming down from the Annapurna Sanctuary I was involved in a multiple avalanche drama. Back home I painted several large canvasses until I found one that was right. When I paint I try to make something that is true to my experience of a place, true to the feel of it. Things evolve out of process – through an improvisational struggle, a kind of stumbling exploration with the paint. The painting that emerges from this has to be an image, not an
imitation. And it has to be as much about the paint itself as the place. I am a member of the John Muir Trust and believe in Thoreau’s maxim, that “in wildness is the preservation of the world”. Now that I have four granddaughters I feel strongly about what is happening to the planet. I am not a climatologist so I will not preach. I can only do what I do as a painter.
Denali Oil on Canvas. 130cm x 130 cm
Top: Jokul Oil on Canvas. 76cm x 152 cm
Bottom: Lagoon 2 Oil on Canvas. 20cm x 100 cm
My paintings are a reinterpretation of the landscape I see every day, reflecting its scale and the colours of the changing seasons. I am concerned with our growing alienation from nature and its disconnection from our daily lives. I was born into a farming family and spent my early childhood living in the rural fenlands of South Lincolnshire on the edges of The Wash. The sense of attachment to the land has always been a presence in my work and the particular landscape of Lincolnshire is a constant source of my image making: The flat, sparse lands of rivers, fields and marshes provide an endless theme of work. The landscape is open and the horizons are distant with little to interfere with the feeling of space. This impression of scale is something I aim to convey even in the smallest of paintings.
The subjects are the amalgamation of the remembered, the fleetingly observed and the repeated, emblematic motifs left, like an afterimage imprinted on the retina. I look for a sense of the unfamiliar in the ordinary â€“ a gentle disquiet. Some pieces recall a particular moment or episode, often dramatic and transient such as the effects of light or weather, frequently in the extreme. It is at these times that nature can reassert itself into our consciousness and provide us with a taste of something that is awesome in the true sense of the word. Other paintings are less dramatic and conjure up emotions and associations of particular memories and universal fears from early childhood. For the past fifteen years I have worked from my studio in the north of the county on the banks of the River Humber. Paintings are produced in the
studio without any reference material or preconceptions and are started as an intuitive process of arbitrary, almost automatic mark-making. As they develop associations occur which determine the outcome. I am fascinated with the formal process of painting: the behaviour of suspended pigment, the gesture of the brushstroke - that combination of chance and causality that gives the work actuality. Although obviously rooted in abstraction, I am interested in how the marks can be interpreted (by me and others) within the context of a landscape painting. I strive for simplicity in the paintings: extraneous details are removed as I aim to reduce to the essence of an experience â€“ that first emotional impression - the concept of the sublime, where the human element is subordinate to the
landscape. I work with a limited palette of predominately earth colours in the anticipation that they seep from the landscape onto the canvas.
Inland Oil and Acrylic on Canvas 122cm x 61cm
Pool Oil and Acrylic on Canvas 90cm x 90 cm
For the walker, movement is not ancillary to knowing â€“ not merely a means of getting from point to point in order to collect the raw data of sensation for subsequent modelling in the mind. Rather, moving is knowing. The walker knows as he goes along. Tim Ingold, 2015, The life of lines. p.4 In the last two years Iâ€™ve undertaken two month-long residencies in northern Iceland with two artist colleagues, and, through this, walking has become intrinsic to my practice, both as a tool for unlocking ideas through repetitive physical movement, and as a whole experience of an environment: sight, sound, temperature, movement, social issues, environmental issues. When you walk, you can get to places at your own pace and in your own time, and you can follow chance and randomness:
an unexpected waterfall, a snowfield, birds, animals, a conversation with other walkers. At night we camp in small tents and absorb the sense of place that camping brings. During walks we collect information in the form of paintings, sketches, photographs, objects and sound recordings. I normally carry a watercolour kit, pencils, pens and ink, sketchbooks and clips. Painting kit has to be light and portable because itâ€™s important also to be prepared for mountain conditions, with waterproofs and thermals, a survival bag, a first aid kit, phone and spare batteries, maps and compass, food and drink. The cold, wind and rain encourage quick decisionmaking when noting information in a painting or drawing.
While painting I’m interested in artistic representations of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’, and take the view that these are inextricably linked, to the extent that we are often looking at representations of nature when we think we are looking at ‘true’ nature. Nowadays in Iceland, as elsewhere, there is unequivocal evidence of man-made climate change: in Bill McKibben’s words, We have changed the most basic forces around us. We have changed the atmosphere, and that is changing the weather. The temperature and the rainfall are no longer entirely the work of some uncivilisable force but instead are in part a product of our habits, our economies, our ways of life. B. McKibben, 2006, The End of Nature, p.47.
In Iceland we were witness to glacier retreat, meltwater floods, drastic reduction in seabird numbers, pollution and soil erosion due to increasing pressures of tourism. These are difficult, but not impossible, things to express in paint, and I think that painters can move from ‘window-on-the-world’ representations of nature, towards a questioning of encounters with ‘nature’ and ‘environment’. Back in the studio, I’ve found it useful recently to introduce other visual modes like maps, plans, prints, rock pigments, found objects, 3-D work and a performative element, in mono-printed traces of walks and footprints: so, in these and other ways, Iceland continues to inform my practice, and I plan to return again to develop work in the near future.
Snรฆfellsjรถkull: what you have stolen can never be yours. (After Halldรณr Laxness 1968) 2015 Powdered carbon and earth pigments, carbon transfer, carbon paper, hand-made Japanese paper collage, ink, ink marker pen, posca pen, acrylic paint, oil on canvas. 170cm x 190cm
Deluge I, Newtonairds Wood (Limnology/Oceanology Series) 2014 oil on canvas, 90cm x 80cm
In recent years after moving North I found myself moving away from totally abstract painting into a more lyrical abstraction. This change coincided with living and working in the beautiful Yorkshire Wolds and in parallel having some time to travel to other places where the landscape seeped into my soul. I found myself not just enjoying walking in landscape but taking along sketchbooks and drawing materials and making notes, images and poetry in response to wonderful places. Since childhood I guess that I’ve always been at home walking along tracks, ridges, streams and fields and having moved to The Wolds I allowed feelings and observed places to emerge in my paintings. The imagery was often taken from high places and expansive spaces to which I seem to be drawn. My studio
work began to reflect my feelings of awe, history, beauty, weather and other small noticed incidents. I had a large retrospective exhibition at Beverley Art Gallery in 2011 followed by shows at Duckett and Jeffreys Gallery, Ropewalk and Dean Clough Galleries. The paintings although abstracted from observed sketches were obviously using landscape as the source. Mountains, weather, hedgerows, tracks, trees, light and space combined in work that was largely understated in terms of colour and mark. This understatement was I think an attempt to suggest the fragility of apparently timeless landscapes. In the book “Landmarks” published about my work in 2011 there were three insightful essays by other artists that articulated far more eloquently than I the ideas and thoughts that I was dealing with in the
work. The paintings were not dogmatic and invited the viewer to be in that landscape and to explore those places using marks and signposting within the works. The work in this exhibition has in many ways departed from the paintings made up to my one-man show at Dean Clough Galleries in 2014. The recent paintings are now not observed or from sketches done in situ on my travels but are â€œromancesâ€? in that they appear invented. I am aware however that the paintings are accumulative and that imagery and ideas from the previous work insinuate themselves still in this new non-linear work. The planetary concerns of the effects of climate change occupy my thoughts and the stronger colour and bolder compositions are a result of my thoughts about the increased fragility of
the places that we inhabit. Burning Suns, landscapes and earth cores, skeletal trees, contrasted against metaphorical safe harbors, rushing waterfalls and rivers, arid plains and stormy skies appear in these works without comment. The paintings are abstracted and can appear sensuous and even beautiful. This too contrasts with the intention to touch upon more worrying matters. This new work is at the start of its journey and included in this exhibition as a chrysalis rather than a butterfly. It remains to be seen how I will develop the ideas and the look of the paintings as I try to understand more and explore more in the paintings, prints and drawings.
Unnatural Imbalance Oil on Canvas 96cm x 106cm
Core Oil on Canvas 51cm x 66cm
Published on Mar 21, 2016