‘Landscapes’ – eleven large scale canvases saturated with colour and memory – is the concise and quietly imposing result of around four years of travel and painting. Verging on the abstract, these are landscapes that capture the essence of a place, its atmosphere and the emotions it provokes.
Rapeseed Field Slovakia
There is a significance, then, in the titles: the abstract becomes landscape for the uninformed viewer by this means, and this adds immeasurably to the experience of looking. Details can be glimpsed and the tonal shifts and subtleties gain meaning. Yet these are as much dreamscapes as real landscapes; the blurring of forms – as if seen through a smeared window, a heat haze or half-closed eyelids – enables the viewer to see what they wish to see, to conjure their own landscape from an emotional subconscious.
The starting point for many of these images was a photo snapped through the window of a train, speeding through Eastern Europe or India. The haziness of detail thus also hints at the notion of speed, a momentary impression on the retina (questioning the very way we see things and piece together a landscape in our minds) – the skill of the artist lies in rendering such intangible notions in a solid, static, timeless medium.
Edges play an important role: the edge of the train window or the aperture of the camera frame the landscape, echoing the edges of our vision. Correspondingly, in many of the paintings the pigment deepens towards the edge of the canvas – to a deep Prussian blue in Scotland II. In this image, and in others such as Heatwave, there is an inner ‘frame’ too that gives an increased sense of depth and recession.
Heatwave has the pulsating depth of pigment of Rothko or Kapoor; yet as one stares there is the sense of looking at a very bright light from behind the eyelids, the intensity of the blackness shifting, a throb of luminosity at the centre. In Scotland II a pure clear light is just breaking though chinks in the heavy cloud, or through a veil of rain. Scotland III, however, seems to stand apart; its overt, slashing brushstrokes and drips seem harsh in comparison to the softer marks of other images that almost melt into the canvas, melding colour and light.
The collection of paintings that form ‘Landscapes’ are less dark in subject matter than Foyle’s previous exhibition, which touched on the holocaust and the fragility of the human form. However, themes of history, identity, memory – and most importantly humanity – all remain at the core of these new paintings. Landscapes, even when reduced to their essentials, are imbued with the people who make them and pass through them, through whose eyes they are seen and interpreted, and with their struggles and pain, hope and redemption.
A train, passing over innumerable invisible borders, calls to mind the vast movements of peoples over history, creating a palimpsest of ethnicities and cultures that refuse to be confined by imposed boundaries. This is brought to a sort of clarification in images which use layer upon layer of paint to produce a deeply harmonious final composition.