Road 7 (going home) Oil on canvas, 2012. 150cm x 130cm
There has always been a perception that train travel is romantic. The distant sound of soporific rhythms across a darkened landscape that accompany strangers as they journey through uncharted landscapes is something that has inspired poets and writers. The hard cold road travelled by speeding cars has inspired a grittier type of writing. A modern tarmac-smooth, fast track to somewhere possibly soulless, an urban landscape peopled by uninspiring vernacular architecture. This imagery is the starting point for Natalie Dowse’s new body of work. However the title of this sadly short-lived exhibition “Going Home” at GASP, Art Space Portsmouth attempts to pull a metaphoric comfort blanket around these unyielding landscapes, offering an alternative interpretation which is not evident from the image itself. Dowse has never been afraid of narrative but even as the images step back from imposing her interpretation, the title here invites the viewers to take ownership of the story being told. The acute perspective leads the eye inwards to the back of the picture plane but stops abruptly, preventing the viewer from seeing what is over the horizon, what the future holds. In this new work Dowse has changed direction. Gone are the anonymous faces and city dwellers that peopled paintings that she showed at the culmination of her year long Jonathan Vickers Award Residency. These stark works rely on the absence of human presence, albeit their presence is strongly suggested by the rigid road furniture of crash barriers and straight white road markings. Occasionally there is a car but no people.
Road 11 (going home) Oil on wood panel, 2012. 30cm x 40cm
Dowse has consistently experimented with alternative ways of making images. Her interest in the dichotomy between painting and photography has led her to focus on the pixelated image and the graininess that is apparent in newspaper photographs, security camera footage and on film. The large and very small paintings in Going Home are crystal clear in their execution; more photorealist than her earlier portraits and the blurring has disappeared. Where blurring of the image appears in this work, although it owes something to the acknowledged influence of Gerhard Richter, it actually has its genesis in intentionally poor quality photographs snatched on the move often on a mobile phone. Her interest in the breaking up of images into pixels has led her to show two small experimental pieces using cross-stitch on tapestry canvas creating a further link from painting, this time to craft rather than photography.
Given the gender specific nature of the materials she is using, and the way they are displayed, unframed, pinned to the backing board with steel dressmaker’s pins they struggle to escape a feminist reading. The smaller, in fact tiny, cross stitched image is simple, just a road disappearing into the distance and much more abstracted than the larger one and consequently appearing to be the more successful of these two experiments. However she is clearly aware of the dangers of mis-interpretation and in the larger, more complex and ultimately more interesting, Petrol Station she counteracts this potential gender orientated reading by introducing archetypal male iconography. The density of the image and the separation of its components into cross-stitches make it tantalisingly difficult to read, a further nod to Richter. Another dimension is added by the entirely process-based making. Once the image is set on the canvas the stitching becomes mechanical, very different from the constant decision-making in her painting.
A small quartet of monochrome paintings is the most abstract and most recent work in this exhibition. They revisit earlier ideas by muting the tones in a way, which, if pursued, would eventually achieve a visually destabilising opacity similar to that seen in some of Richter’s work. The largest painting in the show Road 7 (going home), shares with the four small paintings on wood panel Road 1 3 4 and 5, Dowse’s signature visual language. A smooth paint surface characteristic of the type of photorealism in which she indulges, but which magically manages to retain a painterliness, which seems a contradiction in terms but somehow is not.
This is in the nature of an interim exhibition, part of the process of exploring complex and challenging ideas and deciding which aspects to pursue. These works need to be seen in the flesh, since the beautifully painted surfaces are both sumptuous and seductive, qualities that are flattened and destroyed becoming too photographic when viewed on screen. They cry out deservedly for a wider audience.
Road 6 Wood on panel, 2011. 60 x 80cm
Going Home Oil on Canvas 2005. 80 x 142 cm
© Fiona Robinson 2013
Exhibition at GASP, Art Space Portsmouth
until 2 March 2013
Exhibition Installation shot
The sea in all its moods, complexities and challenges is an obsession for artist Janette Kerr. She is well known for dramatic expressive paintings that border on abstraction but more recently she has been making large figurative drawings of Norwegian fishermen.
Sea of Fish. Charcoal and graphite on vellum, 80 x 100 cm. 2013
Janette has always worked outside in extremes of weather and light using oil on small boards to record her instant impressions, as well as filling sketchbooks with charcoal responses full of movement. Markmaking regardless of surface or media is part of her language.
Spume and spindrift. Charcoal, chalk, graphite on paper, 58 x 120 cm, 2010.
For her recent drawings she has been working on what the Americans call Mylar, an opaque film similar to tracing paper in its slippery smoothness, but tougher. She likes the surface, in particular the way she can work into it with a rubber. Working for weeks at a time at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen in Norway she has gradually been absorbing other types of language into her paintings. The tumbling lines of a graph drawn by a professor of mathematics recording the flow of water, currents and waves at different levels in the sea, set her off on this trajectory. She now incorporates equations relating to tidal motions and dynamics of fluid flow into her work, viewing them as another form of mark making: “which are as descriptive of sea as my paintings”. She is fascinated by the way oceanographers and meteorologists view the sea and how they analyse it, charting extreme wave movement, recording salinity, temperature and weather conditions. HMSO pamphlets of ships logs from the 1860s of journeys across the South Atlantic are another rich source of information.
Four square towards the land. Mixed media on board, 30 x 30 cm.
We the undersigned. Oil on canvas with photographic element, 100 x100 cm, 2011.
Recently she has been working on a new aspect of the project. Returning to Shetland, one of her favourite haunts, she has been immersing herself in observing the sea in all weathers from the land and surrounded by the water, from a boat. Moving to a different location every day she had accumulated written and visual observations of the longitude and latitude, photographs and water samples and intends to marry all this information with weather reports and emailed satellite images from the Oceanographers in Bergen. The results of these researches will be exhibited in April 2013 in the Coastal Museum in Bergen.
It was during one her frequent visits to the research centre in Norway that she came across a box of 19th century photographs of Norwegian fishermen taken on boats in the 1920s. The limitations of contemporary cameras meant that they were unable to freeze movement in those conditions. Consequently there are double images, blurred areas and confusion between the men and their catch so that “the fish and the fishermen almost become one and the same thing”. Intrigued by these images Kerr started her series of charcoal and graphite drawings, deliberately merging the fish and the figures.
Fish-men. Charcoal and graphite on vellum, 80 x 100 cm. 2012
Shocked by the number of hand injuries she had come across in the photographic material she talked to men who are still fishing in Shetland and took photographs of their hands. These pictures are now being incorporated into a book. They are also appearing with increasing regularity in her paintings, printed on Japanese tissue paper. The tissue paper is so fine it fuses with the paint, so the photographic image has a barely suggested presence.
Hold fast the sheet. Oil on canvas with photographic element, 100 x 100 cm.
All of this is leading to ways of bringing together the different strands both of her practice and her research. She is making connections between the Norwegian and Shetland fishing communities; interweaving scientists’ data from Norway with that of her own records and research and combining information from historic weather maps and charts with contemporary ones. In her use of materials she is merging paper with canvas, abstract with figurative, and potentially interleaving drawing and hand written text by the simple device of layering sheets of tracing paper. She doesn’t yet know where all this is going but she sees it as a way of connecting the historic and the contemporary, the two locations of Norway and Shetland and the men who fish the sea with the scientists who record it and “Trying to put my visual description of the sea with theirs.”
Brimfooster 1. Oil on canvas, 122 x 152 cm, 2010.
Fingers curled into the waves.
* Header Image: Battling with the villains of Ure. Charcoal, chalk, graphite and gesso on canvas, 116 x 200 cm, 2011.
© Fiona Robinson 2012
Edited version of article first published in Evolver 60 September/October 2012
Fran Norton arrived at Fine Art via graphics, film, photography and 8 years in the music business but it was during her Postgraduate studies at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London that she finally managed to embrace the open mindedness required for successful studio practice. Her interests there were body related and medical photography but it was, “when I started drawing that I felt that my work was really beginning to take off”. The combination of fine strands of hair with shellac varnish in her drawings of 2010 onwards unapologetically suggest bodily fluids and lead, with a certain logic, into the use of sheep’s tongues as printing plates, blood fused with ink. Her work has a history of references, intentional or not, to the body. In her 2007 piece ‘Unfilled” made from graphite on polymer clay, the object is organic and disturbingly suggestive of unidentified body parts.
Print and bradawl drawing
Lick 1. Print
The tongue prints came out of her interest in behaviour, particularly with the processes of licking within the context of maternal grooming. In French the word for window-shopping is lèche-vitrine, literally licking windows, with all the connotations of drooling over objects of desire. For Norton the concept of licking and tongues, became so invasive of her mind-space, that she was impelled to invest in sheep’s’ tongues, in the absence of any human ones to examine in such detail. She became aware of what powerful muscular organs they were and that the part used for taste, sensation and licking is literally just the tip of this large structure. The prints that she made, rolling ink initially onto the top surface and then the sides of organs that had been torn, ripped quite brutally from the body of a dead animal was an extraordinarily physical experience. The marks created by the printmaking process had a clear relationship to her earlier work and she worked further into the prints with a bradawl returning them to the stable of drawing from which they had come. So although she almost succumbed to the seduction of printmaking she remained committed to drawing. Despite the visceral nature of the subject and method there is an extraordinary delicacy, which is imparted by the tortuous marks of the bradawl, itself an instrument associated with holes, gouging and piercing. Visually, the pockmarked upper surface of the tongues related to the bursting bubble type marks of her bradawl drawings. The later prints, where she has rolled cow tongues from side to side arrive at further references to human backs and garments. The phallic references in these images are inescapable although it seems almost trite to draw attention to them.
Universality (detail) Bradawl drawing
There is a clear trajectory from the delicate bradawl lines which she had been making in earlier drawings, to the added marks in the sheep’s tongues prints. “A dialogue began to be played out between the visceral prints and the aesthetic qualities of the marks drawn through them into the paper surface.”
In her embossed paper works, it almost appears as if bubbles have burst on contact and left little craters, whereas the drawing is actually made using a much more grounded, physically exacting process, very different from their apparent airy lightness of touch. So what does her process say about her intention when its physicality produces something so evanescent. As she explains, “Literally drawing in, into and on the physical environment, my mark-making develops the interrelation of sculpture, found object and artist with the material world.”
In her new work, repetitive drawing is continuing as she pursues ideas of interior space examining the poetic in domestic life. How error is developed through repetition is an important area of this exploration and she is interested in examining this in the context of the crossover between domestic and working spaces. The physical space, the space accorded to her ideas and the marks that she makes on the surface of the paper, all become part of the same thing.
Initially she was working in books, unpeeling the layers of pages, cutting and tearing, to reveal an idea of the merged spaces where she lives, works and draws. Now she is starting to examin the traffic from one area to another and the obstacles whether, walls, doors, windows, funiture or human interaction, which impede this free flow.
Active Drawing. Ink on paper
She talks about space that she inhabits as being ‘physical and walled’, but it is clear that ultimately it is defined by its function and the function is fluid, constantly changing depending on who is in that space with her. Whether is is herself, family friends or strangers and this leads to the sense that she has of overlapping boundaries. For her research she sometimes records her space in a way that does not have her personal markmaking on it, ie pressing paper into the gaps between tiles on her kitchen floor, and yet ultimately she will select from these a ‘drawing’ which pleases aesthetically and which works both artistically and compositionally.
Rooms, windows, tables and me. Pencil on tracing paper
Within Fran Norton’s domestic space, private and public, professional and personal are all interlinked. She has been working on exquisitely beautiful graphite drawings on tracing paper using the pressure of the pencil to create secondary embossed drawings on the layer of paper underneath. These small, intense pencil drawings, little squares and rectangles delineating different areas and furniture are dark and shiny and confrontational because of the physicality of their making. They are like the public face of her work, whereas the hidden, secret drawings created by the pressure of the pencil are intriguing, quiet, private and they could, potentially, stay unseen and undiscovered. Possibly inadvertently, these drawings in two layers on two sheets of paper; have started to create a sense of separation into the public and the private, the visible and the almost invisible.
Untitled. Pressed paper
© Fiona Robinson 2012
Veil – cement, polythene, house paint, acrylic and graphite on paper, 11 x 12 inches (28 x 30 cm)
Painting is a meditative practice for Andrew Crane. He is fascinated by the space in between things: the pause between words; the gap between numbers; the split second that is the present rather than the past or the future. He is intrigued by number, “both its mystery and completeness”, but there are inherent contradictions between his obsession for the tidiness of mathematics and the randomness of his working method. The surfaces of his canvases are littered with letters, numbers and scribbled bits of handwriting. He uses them like notation, borrowing their respective languages and appropriating them into his own visual language so that they come to mean something different. However all of these things “are incidental to my search for a certain energetic truth in my paintings”.
Basta – cement, varnish and acrylic on canvas – 30 x 30 inches (76 x 76 cm)
At first glance much of his work appears monochrome but subtle modulations of tone are enlivened by understated pale ochres and colour greys. He believes strongly in the energy of marks and their potential to draw a response from the viewer. Crosses double as multiplication or plus signs and arrows direct the eye across the composition. His surfaces with their scrubbed out areas and obliterated fragments of text are like the complex workings of a mathematician solving an equation.
He arrived at his present way of working by chance. Struggling with an unresolved painting he took tile cement and trowelled it over the canvas. He discovered that he “loved the surface” because it “had a bite to it and it took the paint really well”. He “likes working outside with the canvas flat” and the “imperfections and scars” left by the trowel become part of the composition. He is an instinctive artist rarely planning in advance, often being led by the process. Unsurprisingly he is strongly influenced by Antoni Tapies who worked with similar materials.
Outcrop – cement, polythene, house paint, acrylic and graphite on paper, 11 x 12 inches (28 x 30 cm)
Most recently, again by chance, a piece of discarded black bin bag has entered centre stage in his latest series of paintings. There are seven in all. It is still all about process and materials and the numbers are ever present, like characters in a play, part of a darkly present chorus, sounding only when necessary but always to great effect. Crane works fast. He has to since the cement starts to go off very quickly once he has trowelled it onto the support, accident is an important element. The combination of speed and chance, “forces me into the moment, I am not thinking about anything else, it really focuses the attention”. Andrew Crane moved from the soft South to the ruggedness of Northumberland three years ago and he has become increasingly influenced by the wild and beautiful landscape on his doorstep. He wakes everyday to spectacular views across the fields; he can just see the top of Hadrian’s Wall from his window. The weather is stark and windy and he is often to be found up on the leaky roof of the shed, which serves as a studio, making repairs.
Ocean Perk – oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches (92 x 122 cm)
There is a spiritual element to Crane’s work. His interests in dowsing, meditation and mathematics filter into his work. He reads widely across philosophy and religion picking ideas from sources as diverse as the Gospel of Thomas, the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Zen Buddhism. The bust of a Buddha accompanied by colour strips inspired by a Tibetan thangka which hangs on his studio wall has appeared in some paintings. In others, ‘Happy in my madness’ he plays with the meanings of numbers and words like four and fou, and juxtaposes scribbled charcoal marks with carefully hand-painted type traced from computer printouts. In ‘Phi (Approx)’ the proportions of the golden mean, seen in plants like passionflowers, become a structure for its numerical equivalent. Crane’s philosophical approach allows him to detach himself from the process and observe. “When the mind is still, without past or future, this is the place of true creativity”.
89-8 – oil and water-based paint on canvas, 40 x 50 inches (102 x 157 cm)
©Fiona Robinson 2005-2012
Andrew Crane’s next exhibition, ‘Two and a half dimensions’, will be at the Kihle Gallery, Horten, Norway – March 2nd to 25th, 2012
This Text is an updated version of an essay published in Fifty Wessex Artists by Fiona Robinson, published by Evolver Books, 2006.
Standing in Gerry Dudgeon’s remote studio the overwhelming sound is of birdsong. The walls are lined with paintings in his very distinctive palette. Terracottas, pinks and oranges sum up the pulsating heat rising off the deserts of Morocco.
Moroccan Hinterland. Acrylic, 76 x 86cm
Vibrant blues: ultramarine, cerulean and cobalt, suggest the cool underwater world which he encounters snorkelling off the coasts of the Greek islands and subtle muted hues express the cool landscapes of West Dorset where he has lived and worked for twenty five years.
West Dorset Snowfields. Acrylic, 51 x 61 cm
Down in the Valley. Pencil, 60 x 84 cm
The view from the studio double door is magnificent. Straight ahead, across lush fields, rounded hills cut into the sky and to the side the fringes of an ancient wood are undoubtedly the source of all the birdsong. Dudgeon loves this countryside and walks it endlessly, stopping frequently to make small drawings of his impressions in landscape-format spiral bound sketchbooks. His studio drawings are not topographical, they are “an amalgam of different sensations”, a record of his impressions of a place and the emotions it evokes. However he is a wanderer at heart and much as he finds Dorset entrancing the adventurer in him searches out the edgier more inhospitable landscapes of places like Morocco and India. As a student he hitched across the Alps into Italy in freezing December weather. He wandered the dark forests of Bavaria and encountered excessively decorated rococo churches. Now he travels to Morocco and Greece regularly and he made several trips to India in the 1990s. Attracted to North Africa by the exoticism of Matisse’s Moroccan paintings he researched Berber culture and delved into the complex history of the area. His repeated visits have developed in him a deep passion for the land and its people. His drawing of the stone vats of the leather Tannery in Fez, an aerial view of great pots of colour, carries the poignant undertones of his knowledge, that these workers will die young because of the caustic chemicals in the dyes.
Fez Tannery. Pencil, 25 x 19.5 cm
He finds the plateaus with their huge vistas of space, and the dramatic colour changes between river valleys and oases in the desert, extraordinarily beautiful. Fascinated by Islamic design, particularly “the way they handle geometry in ceramics and in ironwork”, he says of the Moorish vernacular architecture, “I love the way the buildings are crumbling and returning to nature because they are made of mud.”
Merzouga Mirage. Acrylic, 76 x 87 cm
Dudgeon’s work encompasses an exploration of pictorial space, form, tonal mass and line, but his investigations of these formal concerns are deeply rooted in a sense of place regardless of where he finds himself. Working exclusively in acrylic these days, “The paintings are studio based involving imagination and memory as well as perception”. The little drawings, done on location, which spill out across the pages of his sketchbooks are used as a basis, along with colour notes, for more abstract works which combine elements from different studies.
He works with graphite sticks and charcoal on cartridge, a surface that he likes because of the way that the graininess of the graphite picks up the texture of the paper. He finds that charcoal is altogether softer, complementing the hardness of the graphite and he often rubs back into the surface to reveal what is underneath the layers of drawn marks. This process of peeling back the layers in his paintings and drawings ties in with his lifelong interest in archaeology, revealing an equal concern with what is below the surface of the land and the sea, as much as what is immediately apparent.
Rockpooling. Pencil, 23 x 30 cm
The Chase. Pencil, 21 x 30 cm
A Walk in the Snow. Pencil 60 x 84 cm
© Fiona Robinson 2011
Gerry Dudgeon’s Drawings are on show in a group exhibition, Drawing: the visual representation of thought at Bridport Arts Centre, Bridport, Dorset, until 18th February 2012.
Silver Casts. Wall, Ellis Island Step, Broom Stitching
Meryl Ainslie’s small, quiet works have a profundity that belies their diminutive size, addressing issues of value, beauty, legacy and scale. Based on detailed observation of her surroundings her work is about experience rather than mere recording of an image. “I see drawing as a period of time and not a moment in time`’ During a recent boat trip in Croatia she made sketchbook drawings of rocks and crevices. Drawn on the move, sight-size, these finely observed studies extend across the paper occasionally continuing on to the next page.
Croatia Sketchbook Drawing
India Cochin 10.5 X 15cm watercolour, pencil, collage and Silver MSA 17A Boat Stitch
In the last few years Ainslie has travelled extensively, India, Croatia, America, but it is indicative of the intimacy of her work that she journeys just as far in her imagination within the confines of the family farm in Wiltshire where she lives and works. It is the nature of her response to the tiny unremarkable things that she encounters that links these places. Her response to place, is immensely significant. The physical act of drawing locks her into a particular time and location far more so than if she had taken a photograph. “ When you make a drawing you remember the experience of the place”.
Croatia Sketchbook Concertina
Guggenheim NY 10.5 X 25cm watercolour, pencil, collage and Silver MSA36
Her sketchbooks are multi sensory containing 2D and 3D drawings, combining pencil, wash, pigment, self adhesive polaroids, and collected objects. Tucked into the back of each sketchbook are pieces of prepared paper. Japanese waxy tissue, squared paper, card, pieces of ‘found’ paper, many primed with gesso. Proper gesso, she is keen to point out, made with rabbit skin glue which provides a beautiful sensuous surface. “I like to work on a prepared surface. It is to do with the quality of the mark, particularly with brush drawings”. In India she also sources 18th century document paper, which is still used locally for miniatures. Sometimes she takes little brown envelopes with her which not only provide a drawing surface, but also portable storage for her treasure trove of findings and, “I just quite like the way a brown envelope knocks the colour back a tiny bit”. She is drawn to investigate anything which catches her eye. Often something just at the periphery of her vision and which appears to have no value whatsoever. She takes impressions of objects, surfaces: a door stud, a seed head, the claw of a dead songbird. These are then cast in silver using a lost wax process. One of her most emotive objects is a cast of part of the bottom tread of the stairs at Ellis Island, a step on which millions of immigrants trod on their way into America. This translation of ostensibly insignificant objects into items of worth is part of her process of investigation into what makes something precious apart from the obvious aspect of monetary value.
Ellis Island Leaders NY 10.5 X 25cm watercolour, pencil, collage and Silver MSA87
She will take her investigations to extraordinary lengths sending a little drawing back to the place where it was made or where the idea for it originated. She hopes that someone will take the drawing in, almost like a stray, and by doing so, by treasuring it, give it an intrinsic worth which is part of its own history. She doesn’t mind that she has no idea what happens to these little works.
Meryl Ainslie dares us to reconsider notions of value in art. Her pieces of silver are her currency, prized according to weight and the current value of raw silver. She takes something of apparently no value and imbues it with worth, by creating something beautiful out of it. By casting it in a precious metal, she turns it into something which can be judged by a different set of criteria. However her little drawings are just as beautiful and also have a value, despite the fact that they are made using one of the cheapest materials available. Through the intervention of an artist, these works become objects of desire, a legacy, a history of experiences, hers and someone else’s, to pass on.
Silver Cast Broom Stitching
Best Boys Kerala Boats 10.5 X 25cm Etching and Silver MSA16A 1/25. Edition of 10
© Fiona Robinson 2011
16 November – 16 December 2011
Meryl Ainslie – Silver sculpture, drawings and etchings
Susan Preston – Paintings and works on paper
Susan Preston Drawing
Boat Detail III 16 x 13.5cm, graphite on prepared paper
Scroll down for an earlier piece on Susan Preston published September 2010
‘Re-collect’ reunites two artists in an exhibition of 100+ pieces of silver sculpture, drawing, painting and etching. Meryl Ainslie and Susan Preston crossed paths in India, and here they co-inhabit the gallery space with certain individuality and a shared experience.
16 November – 16 December 2011
Open Wed – Friday 10.30 – 3pm plus
‘Special’ open weekend 3 and 4 December 10.30 – 3pm
Other times by appointment
Telephone: 01672 511999
Coastal Light Works on paper No. 7
Martyn Brewster spent the summer of 2011 drawing intensively. In a new departure he worked indoors rather than going out and making observational drawings in the landscape. Sketchbooks of all shapes and sizes are piled in his studio containing hundreds of little drawings in pen and wash, which tumble from page to page of the thick creamy paper. Although suggestive of boats, islands or still lives these are linear abstract forms which generate a great sense of space and are an immensely rich source for the small works set out on tables and the larger canvases that lean against the walls. A recurring motif is the square, which Brewster says is “a device that I have used all my life and which now underpins work which is much softer”. Over the years he has often veered away from using blocks because they are associated with artists like William Scott, Hans Hofmann or Josef Albers but ultimately he feels that you have to go with what works for you within the context of your personal visual language.
Coastal Light Works on paper No. 15
Coastal Light Works on paper No. 11
On a table adjacent to the sketchbooks are a group of small works in acrylic and collage. Dissatisfied with the flatness of acrylic he started adding collage and he has now moved this way of working into larger paintings on canvas. He is somewhat surprised to find himself using acrylic but is finding that he is revelling in its potential: the looseness of the paint and the transparency, which produces beautiful watercolour effects. Brewster views his most recent work in terms of three distinct strands but linked by his perennial modes of enquiry. “Rich oil paintings; drawings in their own right; then acrylic with collage added, to give a little bit of texture to the paleish colours and greys.” His abstract works are rooted in an exploration of the landscape and informed by his process of moving from drawing through monoprint to canvas, following line, form and colour. His work is thematic and numbered within a particular theme. Viewed as a group reading from image to image one can see his thought processes as he inches forward moving the ideas on from work to work. Martyn’s most recent paintings, the result of an incredibly focused period of work, has a new freedom and a lightness of touch which is reflected in a change of palette to paler hues which make the intensely-coloured small shapes sing out. He still continues to work with his signature strong colours in some works: vibrant passionate reds with daring touches of purple or hauntingly beautiful, dark crepuscular blues. He no longer feels compelled to lose the underpainting as the work progresses, which leads to softer edged shapes and a greater sense of fluidity. This new approach is evident in the recent “Coastal Light” series in which he exploits the sense of light and space which he experiences living on the edge of the sea.
Coastal Light No. 15
Oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm
Coastal Light No. 24
Oil on canvas 50 x 50 cm
Coastal Light No. 18
Oil on canvas 150 x 150 cm
The intensity of the drawing experience and the large number of drawings which he completed before moving into paint has led him to look again at the divisions between drawing and painting. The importance of the small sketchbook drawings and works on card both as compositional studies and as works in their own right is leading him to consider the genesis of the works on canvas. He has moved into colour because it is such an integral part of his practice but he still has a sense that essentially he is drawing but with colour rather than monochrome. Both the oil and the acrylic as media are now working so well that he feels that they are almost interchangeable. He says, “Whether they were drawings, or big oil paintings, or acrylic, or works with collage, there was a consistency coming out in the work which was very satisfying”.
Coastal Light Works on paper No. 17
Coastal Light No.26
Acrylic on canvas 20 x 20 cm
© Fiona Robinson 2011
Martyn Brewster’s exhibition ‘Coastal Light’ is at The Arthouse Gallery, Bournemouth until 18 October. He has been represented for many years by The Jill George Gallery but is now represented by Waterhouse & Dodd, Cork Street, London, UK and his first solo show with his new gallery will take place in February 2012.