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Gerry Dudgeon

January 24, 2012

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.




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