“Sleep when you’re dead” – mystical, dreamlike landscapes by Adrian Gardner @ Whitespace Gallery, Edinburgh
The American rock singer, Warren Zevon is often credited with coining the mantra, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” or as Bon Jovi stated, “Gonna live while I’m alive, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
Adrian Gardner graduated in Fine Art at the University of Central Lancashire as well as studying at the University of Lisbon, and now lives in Edinburgh. After a difficult time during lockdown when he could only exhibit work on line, this showcase of new paintings and prints is based on a narrative theme – the importance of living life to the full:
‘I try to express what it means to be alive, connections, love, tragedy, existence .. I’m keenly aware of the magic and fragility of it all – a connection to the past and hopefully the future’. Adrian Gardner
Walking into the Whitespace gallery, a lush, languid landscape on the far wall stands out: Off Grid illustrates a couple of hikers trudging downhill towards, perhaps, a Highland loch, with rugged mountains beyond. An intriguing colour palette, switches from soft pastel pinks to shimmering green hills and dark grey clouds with an evocative sense of escape.
A snowy winter day in Wish You Were Here depicts a fun family day out with the artist sitting on a sledge as his son, Charlie stands beside him at the top of the hill. The ice-blue snow is criss-crossed with tracks while the skeletal bare trees are bathed in a rosy glow at dusk.
Observing the panoramic view of jagged, rocky mountains in Transitions, it’s reminiscent for me of a majestic cruise on the Silver Spirit while circumnavitating South America, gliding gracefully along the Glacier Valley, Patagonian Fjords.
However, Gardner explains that this is based on the dramatic Himalayan mountains in Nepal, although he has never actually travelled here: ‘I paint what I see, what I imagine, places I have been and places I haven’t.’
The Himalayas stretch across Nepal, northeast India, Tibet and Myanmar – as well as the land of the mythical Shangri-La.
James Hilton imagined Shangri-La in his bestselling novel Lost Horizon (1933). After a plane crash in the Himalayan mountains, British diplomat Hugh Conway claims to have found the utopian world of Shangri-La where the people live in perfect harmony with nature, a paradise on earth.
People make mistakes in life through believing too much, but they have a damned dull time if they believe too little.” James Hilton
Shangri-La is often used as an analogy for a life-long quest for something elusive. As well as the fictional Conway, only intrepid mountaineers are ever likely to visit the remote, hidden valleys of Nepal.
Transitions is a spectacular, mesmerising landscape of the mind, portraying perhaps his own elusive, lost horizon, conjuring up memories and dream-like imagination.
The mirror image of the mountain range delicately coloured in pale pink and glistening gold, is like a glimmering reflection on water, a view which is similarly described in painterly fashion in Lost Horizon :
‘The whole range paled into fresh splendour; a full moon rose, touching each peak in succession like some celestial lamplighter, the long horizon glittered against a blue sky.” James Hilton
The soft shades of oil paint in all these landscapes give a luminous effect on the textured quality of the linen. Gardner has a particular technique, priming and sanding the paint with several coats for a smooth finish.
One wall features a series of Op Art decorative designs in Bridget Riley-styled geometric stripes and circles with the addition of miniature sea and landscapes in the bullseye centre. Sleep when you’re dead’ has a whirring, whirling sense of movement while the tiny image of a winter tree and snowy field is all about rural peace and tranquillity.
Another illustration is Seascape, a miniature painting of calm waves and distant horizon as if to say, forget the flurry of life’s problems surrounding us, to focus on the beauty of nature beyond.
As a pure abstract, Bright Futures is aptly named, depicting the warmth of summer sunshine and happier times ahead.
This is an enchanting, inspirational exhibition of mystical, magical places expressing moments of silence and contemplation. Gardner is an artist and also a philosopher whose evocative, rose-tinted vision of the world may encourage us all to dream a little more and find our own personal Shangri-La.
‘It is an innate human condition to imagine and explore in our minds. The world seems small with modern technology, but is immense, giving a perspective on the now’. Adrian Gardner
Sleep when you’re dead
Adrian Gardner – a solo show of reasonably priced, original paintings, (oil on linen), large and small scale; Limited edition prints.
30 July to 3 August, 2022: open 11am- 5pm
Whitespace Gallery, 76 E. Crosscauseway, Edinburgh EH8 9HQ