‘The only true voyage (…) would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others…’ Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
Echoing Marcel Proust, Halcyon Gallery’s exhibition Seeking New Landscapes explores the development of landscape art from the plein-air painting of the Impressionists to contemporary interpretations of the landscape through the eyes of seven artists ranging from the 19th to 21st century.
Seeking New Landscapes includes Chemin dans les vignes, Argenteuil (c.1872), a seminal painting by the ‘father’ of Impressionism, Claude Monet (1840-1926), which was exhibited at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2010 for the first major exhibition of Monet’s work in over 30 years. As Paul Hayes Tucker, one of the curators, notes:
‘Monet’s views… at Argenteuil in the 1870s have long been seen as constituting a classic phase of Impressionism, a period in which Monet developed a formal vocabulary of heightened colour and broken brushwork which he wedded with dynamic compositions and modern subjects.’
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Monet’s contemporary and a senior figure of the Impressionist movement is also represented in this show. Like Monet he painted principally out-of-doors, and made significant developments in the technique employed by the Impressionists to record different lights and weather conditions. Pissarro’s idyllic paintings of rural life reveal the detailed observation of nature that would characterise his output: countryside scenes of fields, haystacks, river valleys and peasants.
Pierre Bonnard’s (1867-1947) Paysage au Cannet (1938) represents a view favoured by the artist during this period. Inspired by the colours and light of the Mediterranean, Bonnard expresses his pleasure in the moment as the evening sun settles over the valley in pinks, blues and brilliant yellows.
H. Claude Pissarro dit Pomié (b.1935) emerged from the dynasty of his grandfather, Camille Pissarro, to develop a range of expression that bridges traditional landscape painting and modern realism. In the works in this exhibition, paint is squeezed directly from the tube to create tactile, textured finishes that are modified by scraping away. Landscapes transmute into dramatic cloudscapes, while the introduction of modern imagery, such as cars, into scenes that might otherwise echo landscapes of the past, bring the viewer into the present.
Bob Dylan’s (b. 1941) raw, fluid depictions of outdoor spaces and everyday scenes record his experiences while touring between 1989 and 1992. Part-personal, part- imagined scenes of landscapes encountered, these powerful compositions offer glimpses of a life on the road that invite the viewer to participate in Dylan’s journey.
Simon Gudgeon’s (b.1958) evocative bronze sculptures, placed within a video sound installation by Pablo A. Padilla Jargstorf, capture the spirit of Sculpture by the Lakes, the artist’s sculpture park and source of inspiration. With sound and movement the film invites the viewer into Gudgeon’s landscape to engage in a subjective understanding of the abstracted bird forms, created through working directly from nature.
David Wightman (b.1980), a recent graduate from the Royal College of Art and winner of the Hunting Art Prizes Young Artist of the Year at the RCA in 2003, will be exhibited at Halcyon Gallery for the very first time. Paintings combining cut wallpaper that is applied in a technique akin to marquetry and brightly coloured paint, Wightman’s paintings synthesise contemporary and traditional methods of working. In a reworking of the clichéd and banal rural scenes so often found on the lid of a chocolate box, Wightman reinvigorates the landscape to create images of haunting beauty and power.
There are very few, if any, landscapes on this earth that have not been viewed by the human eye and yet the primal urge for exploration remains. Seeking New Landscapesis a group show that seeks to fulfill this desire, however, exploration is, as Proust suggests, a mental rather than a solely physical act of discovery. Seeking New Landscapes is the first of a series of exhibitions to be held at Halcyon Gallery that explores traditional genres.