Winifred Hodge’s Big Nature at Upright Gallery Edinburgh

Winifred Hodge, 'Wild and Noisy', mixed media and wax on board
Winifred Hodge, 'Wild and Noisy', mixed media and wax on board

Winifred Hodge: From Here to Distant Horizons

Wed - Fri 11:00 - 17:00, Sat 11:00 - 16:00

From: 17 Sep 2022

To: 7 Oct 2022

Upright Gallery
3 Barclay Terrace
Edinburgh & the Lothians
EH10 4HP

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Winifred Hodge was brought up on a farm in Galloway which instilled a love of wild, open spaces and the seashore. Now living in Edinburgh, she often returns to her rural roots,  spending January or February in a cottage by the beach. She studied at the Froebel Institute in London and received a distinction in Textiles.  

From Here to Distant Horizons is an evocative collection of land and seascapes depicting a range of her favourite scenic views – Galloway, Wensleydale, Scottish islands, Firth of Forth – although the location is not revealed in the title. This is about an emotional sense of place to represent ‘the whole experience of an environment and its integrity’.

Winifred Hodge, 'Just Listening', mixed media on paper
‘Just Listening’, mixed media on paper

Winifred loves to be outside, looking, listening, totally absorbed in what is around her, the weather, the sounds. the birds, trees, wildlife. The visual and aural depiction of waves on the shore is evident in Just Listening, placing the viewer right there on the sand, the eye drawn over the sea, flecked with surf, to the horizon and the streak of clouds across the sky.  

This is one of a mesmerising series of small, unframed paintings placed on a rectangular box frame. In soft muted Autumn colours, Land Lines is a dramatic and moody panorama over rolling fields dipping down into a low valley lined by wooden fences and scatter of trees; a soft amber glow in the sky suggests the sun is slowly setting at dusk.  

Winifred Hodge, 'Land Lines', mixed media on paper
‘Land Lines’, mixed media on paper

The artist’s method and technique involves sketching and painting outdoors, ‘en plein air’ as pioneered by the Impressionists, in isolated, empty environments… ‘trying to capture that sense of wonder and the effect of ever changing clarity of light is a constant challenge’. With an almost abstract form of a curving coastline in shimmering shades of grey and bronze, Low Light Sparkle focuses on the swirling grey clouds with a glimmer of pale white sunlight in the distance.  

Winifred Hodge, 'Low light sparkle', mixed media on board
‘Low light sparkle’, mixed media on board

Rugged landscapes and remote islands such as Fair Isle, Shetland, provide constant artistic inspiration. Winifred probably stood on the beach for hours in windy weather to depict the flurry of frothing surf in Wild and Noisy. The rich texture of the natural elements is brilliantly crafted using mixed media and wax to create the effect of hard rock, pebbles, sand and the crashing splash of seawater. 

Winifred Hodge, 'Wild and Noisy', mixed media and wax on board
‘Wild and Noisy’, mixed media and wax on board

The quiet, sunny rural scene in Yellow Fields is, at first glance, reminiscent of Joan Eardley’s views of the countryside around Catterline such as the golden corn in Summer Fields. Also akin to the recurring theme of wheat fields and stacks by Van Gogh. 

Hodge’s cool composition divides the scene in two distinctive blocks for land and sky. The mustard yellow of ripe rape or corn is sprinkled with tiny dots for poppies and daisies, the field sliced with a straight line on the horizon. In contrast, a mass of grey cloudy mist almost envelops the dark shape of distant hills. Again, the glimmering glow of soft light in the sky is so atmospheric. 

Winifred Hodge, 'Yellow fields'
‘Yellow fields’, mixed media on board

Using watercolour for a tranquil view, Sea meets sky, the subtle palette of grey-blues and coral-yellow presents a delicate luminous sheen across the blurred horizon, a silhouette of islands and the slow sinking of the sun. 

Winifred Hodge, 'Sea meets sky', watercolour on paper
‘Sea meets sky’, watercolour on paper

Also on show at the Upright Gallery is a selection of Winfred’s small Artist’s Books, neat concertina-folded layers of handmade paper painted with watercolour, decorative cards illustrated with colourful flowers and a series of geographical maps. 

Winifred Hodge clearly expresses the wonder and wildness of the natural world, from dramatic, shifting light and weather to quiet, calm observations of a moment in time.   

With thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.

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