stillness and flow
Peter davis susan macintosh
6 APRIL TO 19 MAY
A list of the works on show is available here.
Two artists whose work evokes the power of northern landscapes through watercolour open an exhibition of their work at An Talla Solais this weekend.
Peter Davis, who is based in Shetland, and Susan Macintosh, who lives in the north east of Scotland, both use watercolours enhanced with natural pigments, chalk and inks to explore the light, weather, rock and earth of their respective landscapes. The results are simple and graceful.
Both artists are attuned to the nature of watercolour as a medium and what can be achieved when the relationship between paper, pigment and water is allowed to behave by its own rules.
Peter, who has exhibited widely across Scotland for more than 30 years, describes his continuing development with a medium that has a reputation for being exacting. "The process of watercolour, the effects it produces, and its symbiotic relationship with the natural world fascinates me. Watercolour plays by nature’s rules; it obeys gravity, in most cases, flows, puddles, desiccates, and finally dries.”
He concludes that while he uses various methods in his work to produce effects on the pigment and paper there is always an element when “watercolour with its characteristically unpredictable behaviour does the rest.”
The pair are showing a combination of new and older work inspired by their surroundings. Although they haven't previously worked together, Susan also speaks of the specifc nature of watercolour and its extraordinary quality. "Zen Buddhist art manages to capture that evergy - its brushwork renders in the vitality of marks the very quality of the its subject's essential character," she says.
As well as the 'stillness and flow' between the materials the artists use - the wet and dry, the bringing together of elements - Susan says the landscapes she paints also contain these qualities. "Feeling the flow of energies from deep with the earth pushing up and similarly, energetic particles reaching us from deep space, interpenetrating us and the world. The seeming stillness of mountains and continents is actually a flow. The apparent motionless stone, a dynamic movement of atoms when viewed from a different perspective
Geraldine Murray, An Tala Solais
There's a point at which the act of painting and the inherent action of nature align themselves and that frequently happens in watercolour. It’s the most natural of all the painting mediums, comprising pigment, a binder which is mainly gum arabic, and water, the drying process leaving the pigment on the surface.
The two extremes of stillness and flow, and the myriad activity between the two, are part of the nature of watercolour and also characteristics of the Northern landscapes. Weather and the seasons, in particular, play a crucial role and have always influenced my response to landscape.
Recently I have become fascinated by the many local words used to describe weather. However, I have no wish to simply record what I see. Often the action of the watery paint mirrors the external natural effects I want to re-present and the result is usually an uncertain balance between abstraction and reality.
The process of watercolour, the effects it produces, and its symbiotic relationship with the natural world fascinates me.Watercolour plays by nature’s rules; it obeys gravity, in most cases, flows, puddles, desiccates, and finally dries.
I employ various methods and materials in my work including handmade paint, bodycolour, spray bottles, scrubbing brushes, pipettes, airbrush. I also use a number of different techniques - snow, ice, raw pigment, and also chalk, which not only adds highlights to the texture of the paper but also an element of movement over a dried wash. Together these methods and techniques enhance my approach to, and my re-presentation of, my chosen subject.
And watercolour, with its characteristically unpredictable behaviour, does the rest.
One of the joys of painting (particularly for the linguistically challenged) is that it allows many different influences to interact.
The weather, light and geological foundations of the Scottish landscape offer a material image around which my own ideas can coalesce. The layering of rock strata is a physical record of time, with ‘now’ being the topmost level and exposed fully to the vagaries of weather from above, tectonic movement from below and man’s attentions at the interface.
At that interface, the flow of energies from deep within the earth pushing up and similarly, energetic particles reaching us from deep space, interpenetrates us and our world. The seeming stillness of its mountains and continents is also a flow and the apparently motionless stone, a dynamic movement of atoms when viewed from a different perspective.
Our contemporary reality is dominated by its need for a rational and scientifically validated perspective. In contrast, the work of cultural philosopher, Jean Gebser, suggests that, historically, humans have engaged with life through very different models of reality. For example, the earliest humans explained the world in terms of magical correspondences as revealed in the caves of Chauvet. Early civilisations explained it in terms of dynamic myth.
Gebser’s own model requires us to maintain a mystery at the heart, a mystery he called ‘the everpresent origin’. Zen Buddhist art manages to capture that mystery and energy, its brushwork rendering in the vitality of marks the very quality of the subject's essential character.