BRIDGET MACDONALD  
         
 

 

Statement

Bridget Macdonald is an artist capable of integrating autobiography and myth to create subtle images that are suffused with quiet mystery. Large scale charcoal drawings which first attracted the attention of museum curators and collectors, have been joined in recent years by luminous landscape paintings. Together they form a body of work in which she continues to explore her chosen themes. These have developed from the figure, to the figure in the landscape and most recently to the landscape itself and its place in our imagination. Her subject matter often has poetic sources and in an earlier phase she worked directly from the poems of Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound and Basil Bunting, responding to their vivid imagery and many layered, cross referenced autobiographical works.

This link between literature and the visual arts has been a characteristic feature of her work. Over the years she has used the classical literary concept of the pastoral as a framework on which to build her particular way of working with landscape. Her own farming background and present life in the country around the Malvern Hills are blended with references to Virgil, Claude, Poussin, Samuel Palmer et al to make an allusive and resonant mix of the real and the imagined. As Sheila McGregor wrote in a recent catalogue essay, ‘It is the tension between things observed and things remembered, between the immediacy of a specific visual stimulus and a process of retrospective distillation, that gives her work its power’. The lighthouse at St. Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight, which lay just beyond the farm where she was born, recurs in her work, accurately rendered but also associated with an archetypal tower. An image of a white farm house on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire borders, seen from a distance across an idyllic pastoral landscape, summons up the deep nostalgia which is so much a part of the English view of rural life. Like many of the handsome farmhouses which sit so harmoniously in the landscape it is no longer inhabited by a farmer but this paradox only increases its fascination for her. It is important to Macdonald that her paintings hint at the darker realities of loss, dispossession and death which have always been part of the myth of Arcadia.

Formally her work reflects her abiding interest in the art of the Italian Renaissance and she employs certain techniques absorbed from her study of that period – in the paintings thin glazes create deep pools of shadow, and contrast with light filled skies; in the drawings the feeling for light and dark is typically achieved through the use of charcoal with its range from velvety black through silvery mid tones to the contrasting white of the paper.

Biography

Born in 1943 on the Isle of Wight, Bridget Macdonald trained in Fine Art from 1983 to 1987. Since then she has built up a career which has been marked by major solo exhibitions in public galleries such as Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Worcester City Art Gallery, Derby Art Gallery, The Rotunda Gallery at Birmingham University, and QuayArts on the Isle of Wight. She has also shown regularly with Art First since its inception and has participated in many projects and group exhibitions which the gallery has initiated.

In 1990/1 her series of drawings based on the beekeeping poems of Sylvia Plath were included in Mothers, an important survey exhibition at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. Large scale charcoal drawings, often based on art historical or literary sources, were acquired by Wolverhampton, Worcester and Birmingham Art Galleries and entered several corporate collections including Barings International Art Investment Ltd, NatWest Group Art Collection and the Arthur Andersen Foundation . She has been included in national survey exhibitions such as the Hunting Art Prizes, Cheltenham Open Drawing and the Cleveland International Drawing Biennale. She spent three seasons as an invited artist at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1998,1999 and 2000 and again in 2007.

From her major 2006 Inland I exhibition at Worcester City Art Gallery, the arresting painting of Winter Cattle, set amongst snow dusted Malvern hills, was acquired for the permanent collection.

In 2011 three of Macdonald's key landscape paintings of the Malvern Hills and the Isle of Wight were acquired for the House of Lords' new building at 1 Millbank.