Leo du Feu, Susan Smith and John Williams: the natural world in paintings and prints @ The Life Room, Edinburgh
Half way down Dundas Street, Edinburgh is a hidden gem of a gallery – a pop up space for artists to showcase their work as well as art class studio. With vintage lamps, a Chesterfield sofa and ornate fireplace, it’s like being invited into the living room of a friend’s home. Hence the name, The Life Room.
Leo du Feu graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2006 and now enjoys exploring the natural environment is his passion with a special interest in ornithology, armed with his binoculars, sketchbook, pencil and watercolour box.
“People often only find time to look quickly then move on .. we forget to study and wonder; Drawing forces you to absorb your subject. Scotland – a wealth of landscape and wildlife that needs to be appreciated and protected.” Leo du Feu from “Landscapes and Birds of Scotland, an Artist’s View.”
Discovered Worlds is the title of Leo du Feu’s selection of landscapes, birds and animals observed with imaginative vision. Two intriguing images, a Tiger’s Eye and a Penguin’s head, close up and personal, enhance colour and contour to create a different abstract image.
Panoramic views depict the geological shape and texture of a dense forest, desert, islands, a valley of hills. There’s a dreamlike, surreal otherworldliness in these empty, tranquil spaces and places, immediately characteristic of Salvador Dali: likewise these are stunning in their bold, bleak, melancholic mood.
Several charming small abstract landscapes too – a crimson-tinted sky and a gold sunset featuring a tiny fir tree. These these miniature paintings are superb.
Du Feu is an artist with the eye of a botanist and geologist, going off on rambling trips in the countryside and beachcombing for leaves, seeds, fir cones, pebbles, seaweed, drift wood. These jars of found treasures of all shapes and texture then inspires the decorative design in his artwork such as “Celery Moon.”
Susan Smith studied Fine Art under Sir Robin Philipson at Edinburgh College of Art and specialises in painting, printmaking and sketches. Bringing a glimpse of the countryside into the gallery, here are charming floral paintings, fields of bright poppies and elegant tall tulips. Pretty rural scenes too featuring a peacock displaying flamboyant feathers and a kingfisher perched beside a river.
An impressive selection of lino-cuts illustrate rabbits, hares, sheep, foxes, owls, crows and herons – taken from memories of her childhood, playing in the fields and meadows around her farmhouse home in Aberdeenshire.
These are exquisitely crafted, capturing the cheeky characterisation of these birds and animals in their wild habitat.
A publisher should commission Susan Smith to illustrate a children’s story book featuring a cunning fox, a cute wee rabbit or a wise owl – or a menagerie of her meticulous sketches of animals and birds.
“For my tenth birthday I received a box of watercolours and I’ve been painting ever since – in 2013 I began to pursue a full-time career as a contemporary Landscape Artist. I would describe my painting as impressionistic with degrees of abstraction.” John Williams
A selection of evocative land and seascapes by John Williams draws you into the scene with their dramatic depiction of light and darkness, from day to night.
A most effective figurative painting is called “Meandering” in which a young woman stands, with a shy, yet joyful smile around her mouth, as if looking directly at a camera lens – and therefore looking at us, the viewer.
Wrapped up in a cosy turquoise sweater, you can almost feel the winter chill in the air; look beyond to a corn field, purple heather-clad hills and bare trees with the glow of a salmon pink sunset in the distance.
“The Lighthouse” is wonderfully atmospheric, with wild, sweeping storm clouds and jagged slash of coral across the sky. Such fine detail here in the composition with the splash of white surf over the gentle rolling waves. Look carefully at the far horizon to see the tiny glint of a red light and the white tower of the lighthouse on a rock.
Williams says that he learn in his craft by following the work of such masters as Van Gogh and Gauguin and here you can see the same impressionistic flourish of brushstrokes for a swirl of colour to add tone and texture with a shimmering blend of blues, grey and indigo.
“I absolutely want to paint a starry sky. It often seems to me that night is still more richly coloured than the day having hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens” Vincent Van Gogh
A more naturalist image depicts the iconic pudding shape of the “Bass Rock”, with glistening streaks of green and turquoise; it’s almost as if the island is placed within a Rothko abstract of horizontal stripes, where sea meets the sky.
As well as this extensive collection of paintings, sketches and lino-cuts, there are small prints and cards by each artist, at very affordable prices. Do visit The Life Room soon to explore the beauty of the Scotttish landscape, animals and birds, travelling from the countryside to the seashore.
The Life Room
23b Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QQ