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Oona Campbell
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.

Bunny Smedley
Critic & Historian
London, September 2000