19th March to 24th March 2001
Arndean Gallery, 23 Cork Street, London W1
Paint, oil or acrylic vibrant or subdued, built up through
accumulated transparent washes or smeared across the face of the canvas
with a palette-knife, tightly controlled or exploding with cathartic
Paint is the language in which these nine artists, drawn together
by MacLean Fine Art, respond to the light, colour, and movement of
the world around them. While their responses are as individual as
they are, there is a freshness in all this work an avidness
of visual exploration, a frank passion for their chosen medium
which sets them apart from many of their contemporaries.
For some painters, the challenge lies in interpreting the visible
world in terms of simplified forms and distilled colour. Simon Laurie's
personal iconography has evolved out of the landscapes and everyday
objects of his native rural Scotland: lanes and footpaths, the peaked
roofs of oast-houses, hay-ricks and agricultural implements. Blocked
out in bright acrylics the flatness of their shapes reminiscent
of collage these basic forms, apparently simple yet charged
with meaning, achieve balance within rhythmic, deeply satisfying compositions.
Pattern-making a fundamental artistic impulse transcends
anecdote, ensuring that these works have a relevance much wider than
the specific events that inspired them.
ANDREW SQUIRE, a Scottish artist, trained and still practices as an
architect. As a painter, he remains deeply engaged with the treatment
of space. His work is poised on the boundary between description and
abstraction. Working in acrylic and gouache, he builds up fields of
intense colour pink, tangerine, indigo which resonate
against each other, striking up complex relationships of their own.
Objects, reduced to their visual essence, flicker between the imagined
pictorial space they inhabit and the two-dimensional surface of the
panel; this tension is central to his compositions, endowing them
with a distinctive energy. His most recent work is inspired by time
spent on the coast of Newfoundland.
Others find inspiration in the human face and figure. JENNIFER ANDERSON,
a Scottish painter, combines clear-eyed examination with formidable
illusionistic skill, producing sensitive, haunting portraits. Within
tightly-cropped compositions, illuminated by unsparing mid-winter
light, she conveys the real, weighty physicality of her subjects
friends, lovers, strangers while at the same time hinting at
the inaccessibility of their inner lives. Her work explores with candour
the complexity of visual experience, enumerating the tiny shifts in
colour that we read as warm skin, lank hair, or pale fabric. The blue-green
tonality lends these works a very distinctive coolness, which somehow
suits their theme: the artist's intense observation poised against
her subjects' reserve.
English artist NOEL BENSTED paints male and female nudes, viewed under
strong lighting; these paintings are executed in an earthy, subdued
palette. While his work is informed by close study of European traditions
of figure-painting, it also depends on thorough, first-hand scrutiny
of his subject; the result is less a 'classical nude' than a searching,
convincing portrait. Painted from life generally in only one
or two sittings, making it possible for paint to capture the freshness
of first impressions these works benefit from a rigorous understanding
of the human body, a sharp eye for tonal modulation, and stunningly
confident brushwork. These paintings record individuality expressed
through gesture, weight, visage, while at the same time seeming to
revel in the inherent qualities of the paint itself.
Some artists are at their best when exploring the play of light on
surface, and the way in which objects nest themselves in enveloping
space. Scottish artist KIRSTY WITHER paints flowers, nudes, and landscapes
in oils, working largely from memory. Vibrantly chromatic underpainting
is gradually covered with layers of contrasting colour, which is then
scraped back with a palette-knife or re-worked with a brush. The end
result is allusive subject-matter depicted with jewel-like clarity,
and executed with obvious delight in the sheer physicality of the
paint. A recent move to the Sussex Downs has brought about a shift
towards softer contours and slightly more subdued colour, particularly
in the treatment of landscape.
PATRICE LOMBARDI, an American-born painter who works in Lucca, Italy,
suffuses superficially simple compositions two pears, blue
carnations placed in a vase, a green bowl with an aura of mystery.
Painting in oils (sometimes on canvases of varying sizes, sometimes
on tightly-grained old wooden panels, and always with masterfully
controlled brushwork) she builds up subtle, shimmering fields of light
and shadow, using as many as twenty or thirty layers of paint in order
the achieve an overall richness of colour. Delicate tonal modulations
are brilliantly observed, but not necessarily in a literal way. These
paintings emerge as much from inner vision as from external observation,
giving them an air of heightened reality.
And for some artists, paint takes on a life of its own, creating 'open'
canvases which evoke meaning, rather than asserting it. LOUISE RITCHIE,
a Scottish painter, transforms the motifs and sensory impressions
recalled from her travels to distant places Andalucia, Venice,
Jerusalem into points of embarkation for dramatic, almost theatrical
oil and mixed-media works. Fragments of memory become caught up in
the choreography of swirling, rhythmic compositions, expressed in
richly luminous colour and loose, expressive brushwork. There is so
much energy in these paintings that they almost seem to emit light,
rather than reflecting it, bathing the room in the warmth of their
own chromatic glow.
English artist LUCINDA WHARTON has developed a unique personal vocabulary
of richly-impasted surfaces, warmly earthy colours given drama by
deep shadow, or washed in the lustre of opalescent glazes. Her paintings
are built up gradually, almost organically, layer after layer; by
placing objects under the canvas she expands even further the range
of surface texture available to her. Individual paintings develop
under their own logic, each revelation opening the way for the next.
The resulting works recalls fragmentary glimpses of the natural world,
but always in a richly allusive way: shimmering and shifting, full
of shade and ambiguity, always resisting simplistic identification.
Italian artist FABIO CURTO creates minimal, intensely contemplative
works in oil on canvas. He builds up subtly-textured, darkly nuanced
planes of colour, onto which he inscribes a series of silvery, ghostly
vertical lines. The resulting paintings make direct allusions to the
art-historical traditions which have inspired him ranging from
the Italian Renaissance to Australian aboriginal art and American
colour-field abstraction while at the same time functioning
as front-line reports from his own explorations of visual experience.
The scale of the paintings is carefully judged, in order to intensify
their relationship with the viewer. These are haunting works, capable
of exerting a powerful, almost hypnotic presence.
Paint is a medium as old as mankind. For thousands of years it has
been central to human self-expression, human communication. Yet in
the right hands as these nine artists demonstrate it
is still more than capable of providing fresh insights, fresh surges
of surprise and delight, fresh evidence of its unflagging vitality.