In an exhibition of contemporary landscape, artists explore rugged and mist-shrouded hillsides, far flung expanses of wilderness, and gentler pastures found closer to home. Each of these contemporary painters is drawn to the landscape in differing ways, exploring light, texture and atmosphere through paint and gestural mark making. Much of the work is about the artists’ emotional response to a particular location, rather than painting a likeness, allowing the viewer room to imagine and explore.
‘The gallery is located in Oxford, a city famously surrounded by rolling countryside, as well as having large expanses of green within the city itself, so living with nature and landscape is very much part of local life’ explains gallery director Sarah Wiseman. ‘We wanted this exhibition to reflect this, but also focus on contemporary artistic responses to landscape.’
One of Sarah Wiseman Gallery’s most sought-after artists, James has established a career as a landscape gardener and artist to critical acclaim. His interest in re-wilding of landscape is very much a contemporary issue and his paintings reflect this passion to revitalise exhausted and intensively farmed land. They have a raw, almost ephemeral quality; delicate, detailed imagery is mixed with more abstracted marks and textures. Nature is ever-changing and adapting; James Fotheringhame’s work reflect this perfectly.
Elaine is inspired by wilderness, her work often taking her to remote and largely uninhabited locations. Over the years, she has visited Antarctica, Latin America and California. Using organic shapes as a starting point, Elaine pours, scratches and rubs paint over her working surface, allowing colours to mix and pool together. She says ‘My paintings evolve, a little bit like nature itself; structures are formed and then repeatedly broken down, changed, obliterated and then rebuilt.’
Landscape painter Peter Kettle creates his work by immersing himself in landscape. By taking planned journeys around his native Wales, he will explore the remotest regions with his sketchbook, recording colour, texture and weather elements. Back in his studio he will work these studies up into ambitiously scaled, expressive landscape paintings, using paint and other media poured, rubbed and splashed onto the canvas. By using mixed media, the various reactions between combinations of textures, pigments textures, the surface of the painting is as inherent as its image. His paintings go through a number of stages, with Peter taking his canvases outdoors during the process, allowing wind and weather elements to batter the surface, creating unpredictable patterns and texture.
Striving to create a sense of journey in her paintings, Fiona Millais relates the physical experience of moving through the landscape as well as changes brought on the land by the passing of time, her paintings have a layered, indistinct quality. The forms of the land are often simply rendered in broad brush strokes, semi-abstracted shapes, patterns and lines indicate fields, wooded areas and mountains in the distance, at times contrasted with more detailed studies of flowers or natural objects found on her walks.
Jane Skingley is drawn to wide, expansive skies and dramatic cloud formations, but also more hidden forested pockets of landscape, sheltered by trees and filtered light.
‘My work is about capturing moments,’ she says ‘It could be the beach that I went to as a child, or on a family holiday, or the view from my daily country walk. Images may be based on a fleeting memory or a place that is visited over and over, each time seeing something different.’
Using oil and wax on aluminium panel, Zoë’s work is a response raw emotional power of the land, its intense elemental energy and unpredictability. Using lavish, gestural marks, she describes a dramatic landscape from an almost elevated perspective, so the viewer feels as though they are standing upon a high view point. She hopes these images will key into a personal bank of landscape memory held by the viewer.
‘I don’t tell the viewer where they are [painted from], it is for them to feel that place and find it in their heart,’ says Zoë.