This September I finally got to Newlyn School of Art for Anita Reynolds’ excellent short Abstract Landscape course. It was refreshing to be at a coastline with such different geology, to leave old mark making habits at home and spend a bit of time in a learner mindset being overwhelmed by a new landscape before the big shapes revealed themselves.
I intend to continue with some of the approaches to making images and the processes Anita encouraged us to try, and to build a new body of work over the next few months in which I might use a few core images to explore different processes and colour palettes. A brilliant experience, well worth the journey!
It has been a while since I painted with the west coast in mind, so I was pleased to be able to show the two big sky paintings of Arisaig and Achnahaird so perfectly framed by Camserney framing, at City Contemporary Art gallery in Perth, alongside the large cradled panels ‘ Green Isle of the Great Deep’ and ‘Seal Skerries’.
This year’s course taught by Eleanor K White at the brilliant Bridge House Art, was all about size and scale, near and far and looking at the detail. A really good change of focus for me – both the horizon and the foreground packed with differences to home. In the distance the imposing, muscular mountains and in the foreground delicate flowers suspended in the kind of air that rarely exists in Orkney. Now and then I explore ways of drawing the botanical elements into the landscape, so this was a chance to consider ways of achieving that again and adding to the repertoire of ideas to try back in the studio.
Of course a week at Bridge House Art is also a social event so meeting up with old and new students, talking about our art journeys and responses to the course tasks was, as ever, hugely valuable and rewarding.
This summer I am delighted to have six paintings at The Torrance Gallery in Edinburgh.
In the 70s mum had a few exhibitions in Edinburgh and more than one at The Torrance Gallery. I clearly remember everyone meeting up at Hendersons after the openings… so it feels great to have some paintings there myself. Perhaps they will bring some of Orkney’s cool, soothing sea air to the hot city.
Orkney is a place of two seasons – Winter and Summer – more defined by extremes of available light than temperature and weather. Though it continues to be particularly windy so far this summer I am grateful to have spent a fair amount of time in a kayak. Like going to the art store for paint, time has to be made for swimming and kayaking. Painting has slowed down, paddling has picked up. I have been taking the place in, situating myself in the space between islands and circumnavigating my neighbourhood by sea.
As in painting, sea kayaking can be a challenging process. Rather than just a means of getting from place to place, paddling a kayak in an environment that pushes you out of your comfort zone is often an end in itself.
I’m looking forward to my annual trip to Bridge House Art, leaving my studio comfort zone behind, meeting up with new and old art friends and finding the beginner mindset again in painting too.
Curated by Zanna Wilson, the show had a theme of new life emerging after a long winter and celebrating shows returning to galleries after covid. Certainly painting for this show through the winter I felt as if I was furiously summoning Spring.
The sense of the seasons turning, the light gradually returning and colours becoming more vivid, infused the process of making these paintings. They are about that time of year when the cliff paths in Orkney are flushed with wildflowers.
From each set in the series there were two which earned their place in a frame. This has resulted in three sets of ‘siblings’.
Two wintery paintings in the small works show at The Whitehouse Gallery in Kircudbright are called Hiemal – old Norse for ‘home’. Winter at 59 degrees north can be long and dark, these two paintings feel chilly as the fresh breeze during a few brief hours of midwinter light.
The Whitehouse Gallery showed my mum’s work so I like having a connection with them. Although I was unable to visit Kircudbright I did manage to get a look around mum’s most recent studio space on an unplanned, storm induced extension to a recent visit south.
This year I delivered two larger paintings to the Pier Arts Centre annual Open Exhibition, and was very happy to see them both exhibited in a show crammed with Orkney made art and craft.
‘Green Isle of the Great Deep’ was a made a while ago but has stayed in the studio – it is one of those ‘sentinel’ pieces which I had a few things to learn from before I could let it go. It is more representational than many of my paintings but has a magical quality suggestive of the island in Neil Gunn’s book of the same name, or perhaps Hether Blether the mythical island west of Rousay.
‘Infinity Pool’ recalls swimming in tidal pools when the tide has fallen, leaving a still surface with the imminent return of waves over the brink of the reef. The water beneath is still and deep, and for a short while sheltered and enclosing.