Seascapes and Landscapes
9th November to 11th November 2000
Oona Campbell's new work, both large oils on canvas and smaller studies
on board, continues her exploration of rapidly-shifting weather patterns
and changing light effects. The emphasis is on turbulence, expanses
of open space, and the exhilaration of the open air the artist's
powerful response to the distinctive climate and topography of the
Isle of Mull.
Campbell's landscape painting emerges out of a process of observation
and analysis. She begins by sketching on site. Calligraphic drawings
in watercolour pencil record the linear framework, distinctive as
a finger-print, of the landscape around her. These lines, in turn,
become the armature around which the finished paintings are constructed.
In her studio, Campbell prepares small oil studies on board. In these,
she evokes all the colour and movement latent in the earlier sketches.
Larger works may begin on the floor, as she builds up layers of translucent
colour, moving around the canvas. Eventually a rich, complex surface
develops, marked by subtle tonal shifts and powerfully expressionistic
brushwork. Campbell continues to develop each work until she feels
that it in some way captures the sense of astonishment which she first
felt when surrounded by the particular scene.
While line is the starting-point, strong, jewel-like colour is also
central to Campbell's work. To move from an urban street-scape into
a room filled with Campbell's paintings is to experience their visceral
impact at firsthand the light, the temperature, even the quality
of air, seem to change in front of their brilliant surfaces.
The impact of Scotland is evident. The iridescent blues, flashes of
yellow and frothy white impasto which characterised Campbell's earlier
paintings are still present, and still remarkable. Yet Mull has encouraged
her to expand her palette to include a range of tones redolent of
the Scottish islands lavender, soft greens and blue-greys.
In several of these new works, there is an increased sense of openness,
of distance see Blue Sky I, with its expanse of blue sky, recalls
the exhilaration of distant horizons and the open air, while Rain
captures the grandeur of a sudden storm. Often, the painted surface
almost seems to develop a life of its own, approaching the boundaries
of abstraction before resolving itself once again into a discernable
rhythm of sea, sky and hillside.
Campbell's paintings are made in response to specific places, but
they are in no sense literal topographical accounts. Rather, they
are the means through which Campbell explores the aspects of the natural
world which she finds most compelling: depth, scale, and the continual
process of transformation achieved by shifts in light and weather.
These are the qualities which she translates into her work. The end
result is a haunting series of habitable dreamscapes unique,
and not easily forgotten.
Critic & Historian
London, September 2000