LANDSCAPE OF THE GODS
JULIAN COOPER, MARK FAIRNINGTON, ALEX GILES, MARTIN GREENLAND, LEE MAELZER,
BEX MASSEY, MICHAEL PETRY, REBECCA SCOTT AND ALUN WILLIAMS
25 January to 29 February 2024
Gallery is open on Thursdays 12-5pm or by appointment
The exhibition brings together the work of nine artists to explore an interconnection with the landscape, the ceremonial, the mythical, the man-made, the dystopian, the inhabited and the emotive.
The idea of the exhibition, curated by painter Rebecca Scott, initially developed from a conversation with the artist Michael Petry, in which they discussed Petry’s ongoing visual investigation into the places of the Gods, and Scott’s own emotive exploration of the Cumbrian landscape which surrounds her.
Through his paintings, Michael Petry celebrates the ceremonial, memorialises the mythical, and acknowledges, honours, and explores the deeper spirits within us whom we all feel and hear, yet have found hard to name. For Petry, our belief (or disbelief) in the Gods is of no importance to them, for we are mortal whereas they are divine.
Following his own investigation into characters from history and religion is Manchester born Alun Williams, whose paintings mix figuration with abstraction to challenge our perceptions of the way we imagine these figures. Williams is interested in a kind of in-temporal aspect; taking historical characters and finding a way of making them exist in any kind of time. He places his portraits into extensively researched backgrounds, his characters acquire newfangled abstract forms that match the unstable circumstances of their rediscovery.
Mark Fairnington’s landscape paintings began as a commission for Cherryburn, the birthplace of the artist Thomas Bewick, reflecting the landscape and its history. The works connected with the historic context of Cherryburn evoke a sense of local identity and cultural continuity. They examined how a subjective response to the landscape can be framed within a collective experience, shaped by our knowledge of the history of landscape painting.
Alex Giles’ post-painterly abstract paintings are very personal, they are an extension of who he is: colourful, upbeat, outspoken. The source material for the work is grounded in the dewy-eyed nostalgia the artist has for the graphics of the 80’s and 90’s, subliminally archived, yet always available. Giles’s paintings start in geometry but introduces the organic, that the gesture adds life, and the hard edges exist to emphasize his colour fields. He use this style guide in combination with a narrative that expresses a love of movement, humour, natural forms, and the incidental beauty of the mundane.
London based Bex Massey examines the role of painting and the language of display in the face of popular culture. She amalgamates simulacra and allegory to investigate notions of ‘worth’ via motifs extracted from her childhood. Canvas therefore straddles the hyper real and erroneous as she imagines pixels into existence from low res files. Each coat of British nostalgia risks the ruination of the last, which to a degree mirrors the zeitgeist of post Brexit ‘Great’ Britain and her unease in this milieu.
Rebecca Scott’s series of paintings emerge from the inherent conflicts surrounding the notions of ‘the romantic’ and ‘the real’. The works take reference from the rolling hills and lakes, an idealistic ‘picture-postcard’ view of the Lake District. A scribble, a random spontaneous line cuts through the surface of paint representing a disruption, an interruption of the reading of the images. Scott primarily sees her work as a continuation of a feminist dialogue with the tradition of oil painting. Whereby the use of particular topics are employed to disrupt the expected reading of the chosen subject.
When Cumbrian based artist Julian Cooper finds himself walking among the fells, he is drawn to signs of quarries or mine workings, even going out of his way with hope of finding an evocative crater, tunnel, wall, or cave among these abandoned industrial landscapes. There’s an ambivalent grandeur in these abandoned sites that impels Cooper to make paintings – especially placed as they are within the romantic landscape of the Lake District – and perhaps part of their function is to peel off an outer layer of these perceived landscapes to reveal the further possibilities beneath.
The London-based artist Lee Maelzer is also well-known for putting used things and redundant sites to poetic purpose on canvas. Maelzer remains interested in the significance of matter and site to the common experiences and signature rituals that connect us. Encouraging one to linger in a cinematic twilight, contemplating the curious stylistics of the frozen image that can imbue the everyday with melancholy or wring a creepiness from the most mundane of details.
Martin Greenland’s painting has always stemmed from memory and imagination. The Cumbrian based artist aims to make his work a very delicate balance between the believable, based very much upon what is seen, and the unbelievable, which is about the unseen, the imagined. He also makes it a delicate balance between appreciating the physical beauty, the technical craft of paint and the concept; subjugating the paint to make it do the job of creating the illusion to carry the meaning behind the imagery.
Text extracted from Rebecca Scott‘s introduction to the exhibition Landscape of the Gods, featured in the catalogue alongside original texts by Michael Petry and Matthew Bowman.
All works copyright the artists.