Approaching Storm Over Talyerac
Oil on Canvas 30 x 24 ins
Memory and Place
I make paintings that have a direct connection with memory and with the feeling for particular time and place with the intention of going beyond simple depiction. When interpreting a Southern European landscape I bring a Northern sensibility, not brash, vivid hues, nor excited, flamboyant mark making, but modulated tones and composed, organized spatial arrangements. For me this prevents the work becoming too dreamlike or vague.
The aim of this series is to make a connection with the inhabitants of the Cevennes region- mainly reserved protestant Huguenots, who have worked the land to scrape a living since fleeing the Low Countries and Northern France in the 17th Century. In 2009 a film was made by Magnum photojournalist and filmmaker Raymond Depardon, entitled Modern Life. It took as its theme an exploration of the hardships and working methods of these people. Time and ‘progress’ have taken their toll on their culture and the environment, even in the short period of my acquaintance with it.
I would like to think that the images have retained an unsettling stillness, perhaps reflecting sparse habitation, or maybe reflecting the ghosts of disused buildings and redundant methods of farming.
Photographs as well as drawings have been used to record this material; these are often then taken into etching. Through the use of this traditional process one is permitting the possibility of accidental solutions and surprises to be introduced with the objective of keeping the subject of the painting live and fresh.
An ongoing concern of these paintings is that of the buildings in the hamlets and villages scattered around the region and integrated into the natural landscape. Some are in use and serve the purpose of a dwelling, a place of work or of worship, acting as shelter for people and their activities in what is, at times, an unrelenting climate. These habitations constructed from the local schist limestone have, to my mind, been absorbed into the fabric of the landscape and created a patchwork of surface layers and patina, traces left by people as they gradually change their use of the landscape, eroded and fashioned by the natural elemental forces of nature. To me they are marks left by man on the canvas of the land.