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Jim Hunter

November 5, 2015

‘Hydra- To Neokosmidis’, Acrylic, watercolour and collage on paper, H96 x W96cm 2015

Travel has had both a formative and an enduring influence on Jim Hunter’s practice. Sense of place, in terms of location, as well as in the positioning of shapes on a surface are important concerns. As a student at the Royal College in the seventies he was awarded a bursary to study in Paris. Following in the footsteps of so many young artists who migrated to that city to paint, he spent four months working in a studio in the Cité des Arts absorbing the culture and the ambiance of Paris.

In 2007 Hunter was granted a three-month sabbatical from his job as Head of Art at the University of the Arts Bournemouth. He chose to go to Venice, a place which is “a metaphor for painting: all surface, depth of surface and reflections”. There, he made dozens of little sketchbook studies. These fleeting images floating across pages of translucent water-colour are punctuated with ink lines which run and smudge leaving a beautiful unexpected residue of liquid marks. The addition of collage using the paint-splattered newspaper protecting his working surface placed these little drawings firmly in the present moment. Snippets of text, images and spilled paint preserve the randomness and unplanned nature of these pieces.
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Sketchbook studies on Hunter’s studio wall

Architecture as well as landscape interests Hunter and many of his studies contain images of arches and pillars, “openings which are like looking at and looking through a window”. He uses an archway as an excuse to play around with perception. Both the Matisse Chapel at Vence near Nice and the magnificent cathedral at Aix en Provence have been sources of inspiration.

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Venice, the city that attracted Ruskin and Turner, proved to be the catalyst that changed his practice and it was the start of making large work on paper. However it is Hydra, an island off mainland Greece, a place that immediately resonated with him, which is the focus of an exhibition at the Slade Centre in Gillingham. On Hydra, Hunter was entranced by the shifting shapes on the water, observed from the balcony of his apartment overlooking the bay.

‘Large Harbour’, Acrylic and watercolour on paper, H81 x W135cm 2015.

Large Harbour, Acrylic and watercolour on paper, 81 x 135cm. 2015

He filled three sketchbooks in as many weeks. It was through his process that he established a connection between these two islands, engulfed by water and full of flickering light. There is a slow progression from small drawing, through collage, exploration of shape and colour, to large paintings. Hunter’ s use of colour is unerring; vibrant and intensely clear it nevertheless retains its subtlety. Initially related to the original motif, the changing hues become part of the developing abstraction whilst retaining a relationship to their starting point, the artist’s experience of place.

Watercolour, acrylic and collage on paper, H96 x W96cm 2014

Hydra – Black and Violet Watercolour, Acrylic and Collage on Paper 96 x 96 cm 2014 Jim Hunter

Hunter listens to Contemporary Jazz and he identifies close links between the elements of improvisation inherent in both music and painting. He draws parallels between the way he uses colour, in particular the floating and layering of shapes, and the composing of music. He finds that paper as a support leaves an image seductively open to interpretation. On paper, a painting has the potential to be continued, to be taken to another state, it allows a pause for reflection. There is perhaps a suggestion of waiting, a sense of a continuing beginning rather than the closing in of an end. The white space both within the image and surrounding it creates a dialogue, a feeling that there is a conversation here that is ongoing and could be continued the next day.

Acrylic and watercolour on paper, H80 x W135cm 2015

Acrylic and watercolour on paper 80 x 135 cm 2015

© Fiona Robinson 2015

Feature published in Evolver 90 November and December 2015

Header Image  Hydra to Neokosmidis, Acrylic watercolour and collage on paper, 96 x 96cm.  2015

Jim Hunter’s exhibition of new paintings ‘PLACES’ is at The Slade Centre, Gillingham, 10 October to 8 November 2015  www.sladecentre.com

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