The art of observing distant Horizons, real and imaginary @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh
Horizon: ‘the line where the earth and sea seem to meet the sky; the range of perception or experience – e.g. to broaden your horizons.
Four artists who all studied at Edinburgh College of Art have collaborated in this exhibition, exploring this theme to take us on an evocative journey through place, time and imagination.
Let’s take a browse around a small selection of the diverse artwork on view:
Soosan Danesh specialises in perfecting abstract Rothko-esque landscapes depicted through the repetition of striated rectangles of unequal measurements, which subtly represent earth, sea and sky. The Colour of Horizon is a made of interconnecting bold blocks and thin lines to reflect the rich hues of nature and the elements, perhaps grey-black stone, olive green trees, azure blue water, illuminated by a coral red sunset.
‘This fresh new way of looking at the Scottish landscape, expresses my response to the memory of places and appeals to both emotions and senses’. Soosan Danesh
Using acrylic on canvas, see how the paint has been paired down in overlapping layers, the green blending with red – minimalist in detail but with geometric depth and shape through the light and shade of muted colour. A meditative landscape of the mind, indeed.
Many of you will have travelled by train along the East Coast Line between London, Newcastle and Edinburgh; as you approach Berwick on Tweed, look out for the spectacular views of the craggy cliffs along the coastline.
In this painting Danesh has constructed a more representational landscape to illustrate a shimmering blue sky merging into the waves, the sandy beach, railway track and green fields. Just like the rhythmic motion of a train, there’s a tangible sense of movement amidst the fresh breeze, as we look out to the horizon across the sea.
Beach scenes around Scotland and New South Wales is the recurring subject for Australian artist, Ruth Thomas in paintings, prints, drawings and watercolours.
“Nature’s calligraphy: the myriad of lines on windswept beaches, tiny barnacles in rocks, the delicate structures of shells and seaweed.”
With an exemplary eye for geological detail, Tidal Flow focusses on the etched, criss cross patterns on multi-coloured, smooth pebbles, fossilised stones, tiny crusted shells against the translucent fluidity of salt water in a shallow rock pool. A most innovative touch is a sprinkling of salt engrained in the paint to represent tiny particles of sand.
Along the East Lothian coast is the village of Aberlady, known for its nature reserve and as the home of the historian and novelist, the late Nigel Tranter. He began each day by crossing over what he called, ‘The Footbridge to Enchantment’ for a walk along the beach, stopping to jot down literary notes and pick up shells.
Here too Ruth Thomas has been inspired to capture the enchantment and solitude of Aberlady Bay, focussing on the brown, grey and lichen-covered rocks on the grassy sand dune. The perspective is as if snapped through a fish eye camera lens – drawing the eye to the seashore and the low hills of Fife. It is so atmospheric, from the tide-smoothed stones to the billowing clouds reflected on the waves.
Inspired by contemporary urban environment, Marion Barron has a fascination with Brutalist architectural lines to create meticulous collage artwork. The precise selection of media and materials is the starting point using inks, acrylic, handmade paper, linen or reclaimed wood.
Most effective is Peeling Plaster which captures with uncanny realism, the tangible rough, hard surface of scratched, cracked paint revealing old layers of plaster on a concrete or stone wall. The two contrasting. juxtaposed sections are beautifully crafted with feather-light tones of cream, mushroom, cafe latte. But it is the softly textured linen backdrop which gives the perfect balance for this crisply composed, finely integrated collage.
The tactile feel of fabric is central to Marion’s collages as illustrated in Fissure with its carefully placed scraps and strips of tobacco brown and fawn paper on a grey embossed backdrop, with torn ragged edges and a long split through the centre. The delicate, thin ink-marked lines, grid and curves creates such a precise abstract shape, so mesmerising in its detail.
Influenced by the American Abstract Expressionists, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler. Also with minimalist creativity, Mary Mackay aims to capture the raw essence of natural world. As art is a silent way to communicate meaning, she is also interested in trying to express the space between words and language.
‘Typically, I start by applying a light colour wash to the canvas then add seemingly random marks using stronger colours … to give more prominence to the expression of landscape and plant forms. At this point the really creative work starts!’ Mary Mackay
With bold, brash brushstrokes in black, with flashes of blue and red in a mustard gold setting, Conversation beginning clearly shows her method of spontaneous mark making, with jagged scratches and a series of white circles, floating over the calico canvas.
The theme of talking and speech is expressed again in Conversation in a landscape, composed of an enigmatic pattern of tiny black dots like hieroglyphics, visual symbols of language.
Forming an abstract pattern is again observed in A Wander Around the Garden this time with a more representational and charming image of what would appear to be a flourish of white daisies, blossoming buds, green leaves and a sense of glowing rosy pink sunlight.
Horizons is a most inspiring collection of complementary artwork to express the beauty of nature and human experience with fine crafted imagery and symbolism. It’s about deconstructing realism to express the pared down purity of shape, colour and light with imaginative, atmospheric vision.
Just like a quartet of musicians, these artists have created their own artistic concerto of free flowing movements to denote luminous, languid reflections on the horizon. They look towards the distance, past and present, the passing of time within the peaceful permanence of place.
Marion Barron, Soosan Danesh, Mary Mackay, Ruth Thomas
Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6HZ
28 May – 3 June: 10.30am-6pm. Sat 4 June: 10.30-4pm