Saturday, 19 August 2017

Poem on plaster

There is something about the work of Graham Sutherland that has seeped into my bones. I encountered his work when a young man in Swansea. There was an exhibition of work by various artists at the Glynn Vivian gallery depicting the world of coal extraction from South Wales, which included some drawings by Sutherland.

I was captivated by the almost sculptural feel of his work using pastel and resist techniques. He lived and worked in Pembrokeshire for a number of years and was inspired by the landscape and the natural forms of trees, rocks and the effects of light and shadow - carving out paintings and drawings into three dimensions. It is the visceral and tactile that I love in his work.

In June this year I walked in the hills at the head of the Swansea Valley, with friend and fellow artist Eleanor Greenwood. Penwyllt is a strange place - post industrial, a landscape shaped by quarrying. There is a pavement of millstone grit which has been split and formed by ice and rain over millennia. There are huge blocks of stone like monoliths scattered about the landscape.

It was on one of these blocks that I came across a dead ram some weeks later on a lone walk with my dog. I am always conscious of our fragility and brevity - mainly because of many years working as a nurse and seeing the results of disease and accidents upon our bodies. I am also keenly aware of our search for meaning to make sense of this strange existence - being a product of the natural world but somehow separated from it.

With all that in mind I did a sketch and wrote a scrabbled poem.

This week I translated the sketch into a painting on a casting of plaster that had failed and broken when lifting it from the rudimentary mould. The shapes the broken casting suggested were the shapes made by the hills, and it reminded me of the sketch. So here is the work - it is not pretty but speaks of deep and anchoring things.

Hope this makes some sense,


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