Trees & Landscape at Mall Galleries
Used since the dawn of time, watercolour has probably remained one of the most prestigious and purest of artists’ materials. The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours has celebrated this medium since the early 19th century, and recognise its qualities through their annual exhibition, holding some of the best examples of contemporary watercolour in Britain. Approached with such imagination, the works go beyond what is usually associated with the paint and produce a wide variety of landscapes. Robin Hazlewood’s use of abstraction is refreshing to see, flickers of light caught on card through geometry and blocks of colour, while Bob Rudd brings the trees of Wiltshire Avon to life with vivid oranges and blues.
However beautiful these works may seem, there does exist a worrying underlay. The once luscious landscapes captured by Turner and Gainsborough now become a depiction of dwindling trees, feeble streams and turbulent beaches. Jean Robinson illustrates the chaotic landscape through brass brushstrokes, her vigorous use of watercolour creating a thick layer of rich purples and blues, almost emulating the qualities of oil. Robert Cunnew’s High Noon, Chiddingstone is joyous in its vibrancy, yet a dismal pile of tree cuttings remind us of the dangers that come with deforestation.
A prestigious amount of work on show in such limited space is rather overwhelming, making it difficult to appreciate the genius of each artist as an individual. However, the situation also imposes a sense of unease – it is intimidating and engulfs the viewer, making it difficult to escape the realities of our waning woodlands. Charles Bone illustrates this well as a man is bound to a tree, a dark landscape connecting the two beings. Defeated, beaten down and disheartened, it comments on our inexplicable relationship with nature, suggesting that by destroying our forests, we will in turn destroy ourselves.
It is ironic how such distressing scenes are captured through such a delicate medium. Trees & Landscape really demonstrates the endless possibilities of watercolour through its innovative approach to the material. Overflowing with talent, it serves as an interesting visit, one which will get you reconsidering your position in the natural world.
As part of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, Trees & Landscape will run from 5th to 18th April 2013. For more information about Mall Galleries and the exhibition, visit here.