‘The appreciation of natural beauty and the painting of landscape is a normal and enduring part of our spiritual activity.’ – Landscape into Art, Sir Kenneth Clark
This exquisitely-curated exhibition presents six artists, based in Scotland and Northern England, featuring their contrasting approaches in depicting the natural landscape.
The American artist Janise Yntema is inspired by the changing light and energy of the Scottish landscape. Combining the Old Master technique of encaustic painting with modern photography, her digital images of seascapes are beautifully enhanced with the ancient craft of hot beeswax, resin and pigment. Under a threatening rain clouds, you can just see the gentle curve of the Tay Bridge in the distance with just a faint glimmer of light reflected on the river. The west coast port of Oban is lost in a thick misty smirr, powerfully atmospheric. Here too are tranquil coastlines dominated by the vast expanse of sky with perfect perspective. The use of wax gives a glossy, textured glow to enhance the luminous quality of these seascapes.
‘Isolation in lockdown has meant I’ve been creating from memory, sketches and photographs. My imagination has been freed to allow for more ambiguous paintings to emerge.’ Alison McGill
Memories of familiar walks along the East Lothian coastline and in the Scottish Borders are the focus of Alison McGill’s abstract land and seascapes. Her time-consuming method involves numerous layers of blended oil paint and paraffin wax, used with masterly effect to denote rippling waves and shimmering light in Shore, Sea and Sky. With soft muted colours, impressionistic images of sandy beach, fields and hills have a rich textured surface to capture the interwoven geological lines like a tapestry, such as in Across the Land. Here too are naturalistic pastel sketches of seashore and countryside, bleak but beautiful places to experience silence and solitude.
Escaping to remote places is also at the heart of Helen Glassford’s quiet, reflective, moody landscapes. Sitting outside with her sketchbook, the actual scenes are transformed through other memories and imagination into abstract expressionist oil paintings. There is real sense of experiencing the wild environment in Spectator with looming grey cloud above a rocky moonscape shoreline. The chilling icy blue in Trace captures the merging flow and fluidity of sky and sea.
‘The edges between shoreline and water, hill and horizon, cloud and skyline all soften into an unfolding diorama.’ Helen Glassford
Behind the soft, subtle palette, Glassford creates a dreamlike, hypnotic sense of time and space: the physical structure of landscape enriched with emotional geography.
Martin Greenland lives in Windermere, Cumbria, a timeless, wild and rugged region, which inspired Wordsworth, Coleridge et al, and the birth of Romanticism. With similar poetic and philosophical sentiment, the natural beauty of Lakeland is also his muse. The majestic panorama Whitbarrow from Lindale is an intricately-observed composition from lapping waves, a tiny dot of a red boat on the beach to the distant hills. Here are dark and moody rural scenes, from a rosy dusk in Evening Landscape to cool white moonlight in winter. Greenland paints both realist landscapes and romanticised, invented places, drawn from memory and imagination. Through verdant woodland and pastoral meadows, he presents an artistic narrative reflecting on its lyrical, natural heritage, past and present.
Originally from Japan, Masayuki Hara has lived in Scotland for fifteen years, specialising in photo-realist painting: ‘Drawing everyday scenery is, I think similar to when a poet writes haiku.’ As if captured by a camera lens, the depth of detail observed in The Road to Dawyck is simply uncanny. The late afternoon sun peeps through the bare branches and glistens on puddles and grass, the perspective drawing the eye along the wet road to the copse of trees and billowing clouds. Hara is an artist of emotional, aesthetic vision with the aim to capture this moment, in the dying light on a rainy day. Another placid, rural scene, Sheep Bridge, creates a melancholy mood, changing seasons from golden autumn to grey winter. Poetic artistry indeed.
Childhood memories form the impetus for the similarly powerful photorealist paintings of the sea by Dawnne McGeachy. Brought up in Campbeltown, her father was a fisherman and she recalls numerous boat trips on which she would watch the wake of the surf.
‘This fascination led me to study the science of waves… looking at the sea from the perspective of a boat, seeing the white foamy paths it makes cutting through the water.’
This series of paintings entitled Dear Sea, incorporates text from letters her father sent her when she studying at the University of Ohio. Using oil, ink and cold pressed wax, 55.4241 N. 5.605 W is a magnificent depiction of swirling, churning, frothing waves like a dangerous whirlpool. Checking these geographic co-ordinates on Google Earth pinpoints the location as just off shore beside Campbeltown harbour. So realistic, this could be a still from a video film.
An accompanying catalogue can be purchased, and a 30-minute Meet the Artists session will take place on Wednesday 16th September at 17:00. Telephone 0131 558 1200 to book a place. Images of the works and video films with each artist can also be viewed on the website.
Main image: Helen Glassford, ‘Trace’, oil on board.
With grateful thanks to Viv Devlin for this review.