Articles and Blogs
Nature Walking Far and Near
This title reflects that the paintings derive their source from places that are often far away or near to ‘here’, wherever that may be in this ever-shifting world of ours.
We are near to nature in terms of our innate connectivity, in that we arise from nature itself. Unfortunately, as 21st century beings we are also far away and disconnected from it. In the past, nature was sublime and humans trembled in its awesome presence. Now it is diminished and exploited by our attempts to conquer and harness it.
In terms of artistic practice, I try to show our connection through a representation of landscape as poetic and beautiful. Sometimes the disconnection creeps in, indeed it can arrive unannounced! Paintings often assume a life of their own and I let them hang in there. You will find some of these paintings in this exhibition.
I attempt to show landscape as a liminal space, far away in time and intangible, like the act of painting can sometimes be. The artist is a far away detached observer who brings the viewer nearer by relating observation to emotion, mood or memory. Inspiration and creativity do not fall onto our palettes but has to be worked at. Sometimes what we want to express seems so near and yet so far away……..
“In art there is only one thing that counts; the thing you can’t explain” Georges Braque
Sylvia Wadsley May 2023
Fear and Consolation in Landscape Painting
Have you ever contemplated a view and wondered what is actually going on underneath it all? Or been suddenly struck by the sheer fragility of our environment?
This happened to me after revisiting my childhood home after many years, prompting my environmental concerns to come to the fore. I grew up on a riverbank in the Fens. On returning I saw that the river was still as beautiful as I remembered; the skies still big and the soil black; but I also saw how industrialised the farming had become and how nature and wildlife have been pushed to the margins. This coincided with me starting the mentoring course at Newlyn School of Art. I decided to try to make landscape work with a message about my concerns for the environment.
The art critic and historian Simon Schama expressed the idea that the act of landscape painting was a consolation, making us yearn for an arcadian world. Some artists believe that highlighting the beauty and mythology of landscape will encourage people to appreciate it and look after it. Although this was something I wanted to do too, I wanted to go even further and hint at the dangers from advancing urbanisation and climate change.
How to do this without overkill, seeming preachy or too doom-laden? This was a difficult challenge. One of the key painters I looked at was Arnold Bocklin (1827-1901). He was one of the first artists to show how landscape could be manipulated to have an effect, speaking to the anxieties of the day. His prolific printed versions of the ‘Isle of the Dead’ were eagerly snapped up. Even Freud had a version in his office. I also looked at the solemn works by Franz von Stuck, Munch, Hugo Simberg and others, mainly Scandinavian artists. I studied their subdued use of colour, darkness, stillness and veiling but evolved my own way of working with bright colours, reflecting, I feel, a more contemporary world. Throughout my time on the Newlyn School of Art Mentoring Programme, during a trip to Norway and working up ideas from observation, I developed an approach that is consolidated in this series. Eventually, using sketches from Norway and the brighter palette I had explored, my first large painting ‘Thaw’ emerged. This is the signature piece for the series.
Over the last three years I have added to this theme of global warming and rising waters. I set the scene as sublime and beautiful, but with a feeling of unsettling calm. During the making of this series, I have had moments of doubt and crisis of confidence. Taking risks with your work often causes anxiety to well up. The research into climate change can be emotionally tough. One can no longer belong to the ‘I’d rather not know club’.
Pink Ocean Sigh with Me
I find my consolation in seascape painting. I paint the sea and its moods, emphasising our connection with it. I have found that this other thread to my art practice has provided me with a sense of balance. I have kept these two ways of working separate and exhibit them in different places.
I hope my series ‘Thaw’ affects how people think about what is happening to the natural world in some way and how nature itself is facing the void.
I will be showing a few pieces from the ‘Thaw’ series in the Stroud Select Arts Trail over two weekends, May 14th, 15th and 21st, 22nd. I will be a guest artist at Three Storeys in Nailsworth. I am actively looking for a gallery to show all my work from this series.
Watch this space! May 2022