On display at the Hanbury Cafe in Spitalfields, London (E1 6LY) is a chronology of pleinair (landscapes) paintings and drawings made between 2017 and 18. Pieces range from early oil pastel studies through to final pieces, painted using acrylic.
I have been painting and drawing with intent over the past two years. What started as a way to complete the work I should have done whilst studying art at school is now in its third year and I thought it necessary for me to get some defining pieces of work up for the public. A defining factor of my practice over the two years has been about throwing myself into things before I have thought I am ready. I have participated in 3 exhibitions at Candid Arts in Islington and dived into the world of the Art Fair at the Parallax event in Chelsea (Feb 2019). As I prepare to move to Bulgaria this exhibition marks the end of one chapter but I am in way intent on vanishing.
Works on display
Early Tenby sketches
Two early plienair studies, made in Tenby, Wales (2017). It was during this week holiday I felt a flow emerging, which was working in parallel to me feeling a competency I was happy with.
‘Atop the Tenby cliffs’
I visited my friends in Bamwell with the desperate urge to draw all the countryside all the time. I was almost feverish with desire at this point. Lucky for me my two friends were willing to draw with me and the weather was amazing.
Whilst on one of our walks we stopped at this stunning view through cheddar gorge and over the town of cheddar itself. All three of up sat for an hour to capture the view as fellow walkers stopped and took pictures and drank in the scene.
‘Autumn dawns on the Islington canal’
My favourite haunt for drawing this year (2017) has been the canals of Islington. It is on the canals that I can see vividly the battle ground between light and shadow. It is where I have delved to the depths of representing the darkness of dark and the lightness of light. This was my final outside, canal drawing of the year. An image I feel is a good conclusion to the years’ work on capturing the beauty of this particular stretch of canal.
On the Island of Kaoh Rung I managed to find a handful of opportunities to sketch. These two pieces were both made relatively close together but the conditions were very much different. Drawing from a pier by the shore was cooler and fresher compared to the insect laden air and irritable humidity of sitting at a lagoon.
Aberystwyth is etched on my being. It has influenced my connection to landscape and the elements through my childhood with family holidays, my young adult life whilst at university and I have returned since regularly.
My pleinair painting practice has roots in a souring relationship with mobile phone/device photography, digital imagery filtering and image effect/glitch application. I am aware this may be down to my own mis-application of the technology. When selecting a scene to paint I will focus in on these areas of frustration, usually looking through the screen first. It is only when I notice this conflict that I settle to paint/draw. Many things can trigger this but primarily it will be distant scenes or conflicts in light and shadow. Choosing to approximate what I see I have been working towards rendering a truth.
The view of Aberytwyth from the top of Constitution hill contains a dizzying amount of visual information. Due to the distance, capturing its essence photographically has always been a frustration of mine. On the initial sitting of this piece I focused in on a small frame and but also took into account surroundings in the wider view in an attempt to capture the Aberystwyth I have failed to do so through photography. Many ideas have been approached in this piece, all of which were underpinned by an intense few minutes of rapid mark making. This helped me define the paths taken by the observer. This work is steeped in memory, which has massively impacted my representation and its various points of focus.
This boat has been present in Aberystwyth harbour from when I first lived there (2000) until when I returned to paint it (2018). It is etched in my memory as unaged. I have many photos of it, taken from my undergraduate life through to the present and it feels as if its a question from Aberystwyth itself but it’s more likely a command.
Whilst painting on location people always stop to talk to you. During this sitting a group of walkers stopped and asked if I was commissioned to paint the boat. On replying no I was told that it was in owned by an retired nurse who’s belated husband had owned it and that she had never wanted to remove it. These are the wonderful splatters of existence that painting on location provide and what started as a study of form became something else entirely.
‘Waiting for her to arrive’
This image of a Viennese canal, made as dusk crept in, was a treasure trove of forms. I settled to create this so that I could be in the environment and study the water and the canals shadows.
I have taken a distant frame of reference, which my camera phone failed miserably to capture and pulled in my surroundings into that spot.
‘View into Graz’
Standing on a bridge looking into Graz I noticed this frame, which perfectly captures a lot of what I liked about this city but in the context of its very Austrian setting. There is harmony between nature and architecture here, which pleases. I want people to see this ideal. Ironically, whilst painting this there was construction going on under me to narrow the river. People walking past would stop and watch the work in progress and passing locals would exclaim their disappointment. Some of this works impact can be seen on the right-hand side of the water, which is in contrast to the left side which is untouched. I was lucky that the position of the sun that day enhanced the darkness form the construction side with the light of the non construction side.
Late afternoon I was out with a photographer friend in Graz, Austia and we both found the light and shapes in the square outside the Franziskanerkirche fascinating. From my easel I selected a frame with a focus on the dome. I found all points landed on it from my specific spot that and I set about laying triangles in homage. As I lay paint my attention shifted from the dome to the lowering light, to a triangle of pure orange light basking the sun in the center of my composition. As I have continued work on this piece my focus has shifted dramatically to the impossible colour and tone of this central aspect. I wanted to bring forth this through the application of gold foil.
In this scene we see the view of Tenby from the hill as an almost impossible patchwork stack. Painted at 10am through a light fog the colour of the buildings
still pushes through relentlessly. Painted on location Tenby – Wales (2018)
South beach was raw that day as the wind swept across it at low tide. I wanted to capture and expose the true beauty of the Welsh elements.
An iconic Tenby landmark, where there is so much to examine and represent. I puzzled for a time at the tide levels and as a result shifted the rock to the right of the frame to paint the left waterline. The beach to the left slopes downwards and my perception of the level of the rock with the waterline was so perplexing I decided to block the colours, leaving a thin horizon line between water and sky.
Painting the rock itself I hopped and skipped my brush over the light and dark created by the warm light and shifted this through to the cold of the rocks cave. The cave is significant in the sense that this is where children hide from parents and explore. There is a freedom in that cold light that I have perhaps now left in adulthood.