En plein air


- Credit: Archant

Four Seasons is more than just an exhibition, runs the marketing copy for the exhibition of the same name. Arts editor CAROL BURNS discovers why


- Credit: Archant

Painting en plein air means brav ing the elements to record the drama and light of the outside – and a group of Devon artists have been braving our varied seasons in 2013/14 for an exhibition at Kingsbridge’s Harbour House Gallery which reveals their response to the great outdoors. The art of plein air is in danger of becoming a lost one. Although there are many artists working in the South West, few can be spotted out and about sketchbook in hand, paint palette resting on the knee, while seagulls wait at a safe distance for any thing remotely edible to appear.

But working in the ‘open air ’ offers a unique opportunity to record ‘live’ the surroundings. It not only affec ts the way in which you see - the subject, the light and the environment, but also forces you to make quick decisions: before the light changes, before the subject moves! And certainly I knew more than one art lecturer who refused to look at any painting created from a photograph - and yes, he said he knew the difference. Perhaps that’s why I’m inspired by the Four Seasons.

“During an August day, at a hot and sunny South Milton Sands, we drew, talked, painted, threw colours around - and still found time for a refreshing dip,” says artist Hazel Strange. “Autumn found us at the Erme Estuary, chasing runaway paper across the sands...we spent a couple of days of sharing ideas and working alongside each other, each in our preferred medium.”In February they worked in the Art Studio at Harbour House, and in the spring headed to Dartmoor. Other visits have included Thurlestone, Wonwell B each Tacket Wood, Kingsbridge Estuary and Dartmoor. And the exhibition, running 3 - 15 June, is the culmination of the year ’s work - and w ill include sketchbooks and preparator y work offering a fascinating insight into their work.

“I’ve enjoyed painting en plein air, as it’s necessary to work quickly, making decisions and boldly using colour,” adds Hazel. “ This is in complete contrast to the slow and metic ulous way I usually work.”

“We have sketched and obser ved together during each season, sometimes in sunshine, often in driving wind and rain, and never has it been predictable,” adds fellow exhibitor Lin Cudlipp. “I have found the extremes of weather and light inspirational.

“Mist, mizzle, fallen trees, torrential rain and then sudden dramatic outbursts of sunshine reflected on water and wet sands provided ample material to work with. I am interested in the vast and sublime, the power of nature. My observations have developed into a body of work that I hope captures the essence of these places visited and particularly the light. There are some large and medium scale works, all on canvas, some mixed media and some acrylic.”

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The exhibition will include work in a range of mediums including paintings, sketches, montage and ceramics in the gallery space at Harbour House which boasts a café, yoga studios and classes in a range of disciplines.

“It is always inspiring working with other artists on a project, whether it is researching an area or working on a piece together,” explains artist Maggie Smith who plans to show a montage of drypoint prints and monotypes of each season. “Meeting during different seasons has helped me to focus my mind, and to produce sketches, notes and ideas for later use.”

The Promenade, Kingsbridge, Devon, TQ7 1JD


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