Culture: New Perspective on the Lie of the Land; Landscape Has Been a Favourite Subject for Painters for Centuries. Andrew Davies Looks at a New Exhibition That Displays Four Very Different and Innovative Approaches to a Traditional Theme
Byline: Andrew Davies
Along with still life, the nude, the portrait, religious painting and history painting, it's difficult to get more traditional a genre than landscape. However, with the possible exception of history painting, the different genres adapt and survive.
Look at the landscape paintings of Emma Archer, Eleanor Bourmistrov, Myfanwy Johns and Gavin Lockheart, currently on show in the Custard Factory Gallery's latest exhibition, The Shape of the Land, and you could hardly see four more different responses to the subject.
Archer looks to the skyline of the city for her subject matter, abstracting the railway arches and roof patterns, the line and colour in the cityscape for her often recognisable views in acrylic of Birmingham or Barcelona, while Bourmistrov maps the land via the psychological landscape of her own mind into abstract landscapes that resemble views of deserts or forests seen from the air or space.
Johns blows up on tiny details from previous landscape work she has done for her high-tech approach to the genre, while Lockheart's canvases are almost lyrical in the way the landscape emerges from his patterns of Impressionistic light painted with the help of photographic projections.
Curator Simon Meddings of design agency Lionart says the aegis for the exhibition was a desire to make connections.
'My background is in art publishing in London before moving here, and I wanted to make use of contacts I'd gathered over the years,' says Meddings. 'A nice part of getting older is you see opportunities to make connections between people.
'Being based here has exposed me to people like Eleanor, Emma, and, historically, Myfanwy, who used to have a studio in the Custard Factory.
'The idea for the show really came about after I'd put Gavin's work on in two other shows - one in London in May and one here in July. That was verywell received, and the idea started to formulate that I'd like to do a group show. I'd seen Eleanor's work during her exhibition here in the summer and thought that would complement Gavin's work, so I asked the four artists if they would show together, with a brief to make it small work. They all seemed to be working in a square format - I quite like that as a basis for the interpretation of landscape.
'Landscape is a broad description because these are cityscapes as well; it's all interpretation of the environment, of the spaces we inhabit, and the scope, the limitations that throws up.
'If you look at Eleanor's work, they're imaginary landscapes, aerial views - I like that interpretation. 'Myfanwy's are based on colour paintings from her work a couple of years ago - she takes her older, abstract landscape paintings and drawings, making them into other landscapes through an exploration of surfaces and detail, exploring it through digital media.
'The whole idea of the square shape came through Gavin, who was starting to work in that format, and I thought I quite liked that confinement as well.
'Think of landscape and you think of paintings with horizons - you know where exactly you are. 'These glimpses are paintings without edges, works without horizons. Traditionally, you think of landscapes as a view where you could place yourself - you could see a horizon, a sea and sky - but these are very closed in snippets of views.
'These are snatches, glimpses or fragments of memory - it's mapping from memory. They aren't factual representations, but working from memory is as real as working from factual representations such as sketches or photographs. …