Located in the cultural heart of Stockbridge, Edinburgh, Graystone Gallery specialises in contemporary Scottish artwork and sculpture. The Colour & The Shape showcases four artists who observe the natural and urban environments with their own unique perspective.
Hetty Haxworth specialises in printmaking to explore the lines and textures of the Aberdeenshire countryside, and the exhibition shows a selection of her photographs of these scenic views, which Hetty re-imagines in abstract form.
‘I return to my studio each day and turn my memory into a collage or drawing and then eventually into a print. The intensity of colour requires the overlaying of several flat tones to build up vibrancy. For me the simplicity of the work comes from a direct feeling, a response to a moment.’ – Hetty Haxworth
For instance, a thawed circular pool in a frozen pond is transformed into White Moon to visualise water, grass, trees, moon and sun through bright circles, triangles and oval shapes, linked together or floating across the composition.
In other vibrant prints, a scattering of ‘jigsaw pieces’ within rectangular blocks symbolises a patchwork of fields, fences, river and sky, through recognisable patterns of the natural world.
‘Everything starts from a dot… analysis of the basic elements in order to arrive ultimately at an adequate graphic expression.‘ – Wassily Kandinsky. ‘Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see.’ – Paul Klee.
With a hint of Kandinsky and Klee, Hetty distils the reality of a landscape down to basic geometry, exaggerating colours with imaginative expressionism. This is illustrated perfectly in Frozen Trees in which we can ‘see’ a woodland of tall, thin trunks, waving flags of bare branches and flurry of Autumnal leaves with a flowing sense of movement and musical rhythm.
Connie Liebschner is influenced by French Impressionism as well as the Romantic artists Turner and Friedrich who sought to depict nature as a ‘divine creation, to be set against the artifice of human civilisation’. More than just sketching en plein air, Connie enjoys cold-water swimming, literally to immerse her within the landscape.
The perspective of Splintered offers such clarity to study the geological contour of grey rocky hill, carpet of green heather, the sea and horizon under billowing clouds. Richly-textured, the mixed media of ink, gesso and acrylic give the effect of dripping rain splashing over the surface with a misty, mystical light.
‘The light is constantly shifting. The watery surfaces play, reflect and refract the land and sky and transform the work into a simplified study of line, shape and colour. I use translucent layers of chalky gesso, glossy inks and acrylics to paint, rub and scrape, mimicking the contrasting textures of the landscape.’ – Connie Liebschner
A more impressionistic seascape, Into the Blue, gives the chilling experience of being physically there in the swirling, grey-green translucent water: the shimmering burst of sunlight, perhaps at dusk, is most evocative. Through this wild, empty, rugged environment, Liebschner creates lyrical, allegorical landscapes – meditative observations of ancient times and places of solitude with surreal vision.
Richard Marsden draws influences from the stark simplicity of Brutalist aestheticism, (French, béton brut – ‘raw concrete’) and modern architecture. He specialises in screen printing to depict the line, shape and structure of the city environment.
‘I love to watch a building being constructed, where they put the framework, functional parts that are then covered up. So that’s where the first ideas come from and then I start mixing them up.’ – Richard Marsden
Reminiscent of Mark Rothko’s rectangular, colour-field paintings, Marsden focuses on bold colours, sharp lines and precise composition as illustrated in the screenprint Untitled II. (Linear Forms 1). Studied up-close at the gallery, the sheer blackness creates a dramatic mood, yet softened by grey, sage-green and yellow stripes with an emerging glow of light.
Several bold, bright red prints here too, while black and grey are a recurring feature, to reflect hard steel, stone and concrete. In contrast, a broad white block dominates Linear Forms II, developed through a slow process of layering and a subtle blending of colours to echo the gradual construction of a building. However, it is for the viewer to infer their own meaning – the horizonal lines could visualise the shoreline, sea and sky. In these cool, crisp, clean compositions, the creative concept of balance and symmetry are so pleasing to the eye.
Bronwen Sleigh moved from Wales to study art in Glasgow and was quickly fascinated by the shipping industry on the Clyde, juxtaposed against the natural beauty of the riverside. Through printmaking, drawing and sculpture, she is inspired by man-made urban and industrial environments.
‘Architects design our world and my work is a response to the work and the way that different ideas combine to form the urban environments we often take for granted.’ – Bronwen Sleigh
Based on a Canadian dam, La Central Jean Lesage is a photo-lithograph – a drawing applied to a transparent film is then exposed onto an aluminium plate with a light sensitive coating. This diagram of criss-crossing, interconnected geometric forms creates a complex optical illusion. With delicate shades of coral and pink, the focus is on the light and open spaces between the building blocks.
With her background in sculpture, in her two-dimensional compositions Bronwen has a masterly, signature technique of arranging thin parallel lines to create a three-dimensional perspective with the precision of draughtsmanship. Most titles refer to real places and buildings, such as Klaudiastrasse, a towering apartment block in Dornbirn, Austria.
Woodall Rodgers Freeway III, a highway completed in 1962 cutting through downtown Dallas, is depicted here in a more freely distorted, abstract illustration. Bronwen Sleigh’s unique artistic-architectural vision is like a choreographed medley of graceful line and geometric shape, flowing with a delicate wash of colour.
With thanks from Artmag to Vivien Devlin for this review.