Colinton Arts is a well-established gallery and framing business, owned by Bill Alexander for over 40 years, now taken over by his son, Lindsey with his wife Catherine. Last year Lesley Briggs became the new gallery manager following a prestigious career in fashion, fine art and studying Art Business at Christie’s, and the gallery re-opened last October after refurbishment.
The Light Surrounding Us, a solo exhibition by Gill Knight, focuses on the land and sea, a recurring and vital inspiration for her paintings. Having grown up in various rural locations around Scotland and now living in South Queensferry, her artistic vision is ‘to transfer memories and experiences of the natural world into something tangible.’
Working mainly in oils, with a limited colour palette, the emphasis is on the contrast of dark and light, night and day with extraordinary dramatic effect. Take a tour from the Lothians to the Highlands and Islands through the seasons including a calm, blue sky day at Kiloran Bay, Isle of Colonsay. The finely layered perspective places the viewer on the beach, leading the eye over the gentle waves and rocks to the shimmering silhouette of distant hills. The blustering flurry of clouds and soft glimmer of sunlight, through smudged streaks of paint, has such delicate quality.
In contrast, Sky, Sea, Sand is powerfully impressionistic, the rain clouds and splashing surf crisply crafted in thick, brash, brushstrokes with energetic movement and depth in muted hues of grey, brown and blue.
Luminous tone and texture is brilliantly observed in Perfect Storm in which the pale light struggles to break through the black mass of thunder clouds, softly reflected along the barely visible line between sea and sky.
With her own cool contemporary style while following in the Romantic tradition, Gill Knight clearly shares the same masterly technique as J M W Turner. He was also constantly fascinated by the sea, such as Snow Storm – Steamboat off a Harbour’s Mouth, where the vessel is being battered by a wild maelstrom of rain, wind and waves.
Ruskin’s description of Turner’s seascapes as ‘stirringly and truthfully measure the moods of Nature’ can be echoed here in Gill’s mesmerising composition, Rough Sea, Low Moon. The thick impasto layering and showering splatter of paint illustrate the treacherous waves juxtaposed below the hazy golden glow of moonlight. ‘Dark, moody, atmospheric and emotional… I draw on my love of light and shade to immerse the viewer in a world of possibilities and occasional peril.’ – Gill Knight.
Strolling around the spacious gallery, one is indeed totally immersed in this collection of large and small scale paintings, from the representational to semi-abstract. Labradorite Dreamscape is named after the bright turquoise, spiritual gemstone and here the aqua-tinted sky appears to be dripping with rain drops, the sun shining on a tranquil loch. A magical, surreal scene of such peace and tranquillity.
Back to the Hebrides, Eigg, Muck and Rhum also has a dreamlike quality in a panorama of billowing, blowing clouds and the constantly shifting, four seasons in a day, weather patterns around these islands.
And finally in this overview, we move from seashore to a woodland, to study Autumn Birches: it cleverly transposes the realistic slender shape, texture and touch of the black and white bark into a fantasy, fairytale setting.
These inspirational land and seascapes are both painterly observations of a physical sense of place as well as the emotional response of being there in that moment. Like painterly poems, they convey the artist’s – and thereby evoke the viewers’ own – ‘memories and experiences of the natural world’.
With thanks to Artmag contributor Vivien Devlin for this review.