Day Bowman, Elizabeth Hannaford, Philippa Stjernsward
11 January - 24 February 2005
Art First is pleased to introduce three new painters for a fresh, stimulating start to 2005.
Intuitive mark-making, a sense of drawing in paint, rich subconscious evocations of place and a sensuous, exquisite quality of surface underpin the paintings which combine three strong particular visions for the first time, in this exhibition.
The artists were not known to one another at the time of selection, but have been brought together by Art First to explore aspects of their practice that they share. Their work will fill the entire gallery, to create an exciting formal dialogue. Hannaford and Bowman are engaged with contemporary music and regularly work on collaborations with composers. In 2003, Philippa Stjernsward won the Dupree Painting Award for a woman artist at the Royal Academy Summer exhibition.
London-trained and based, these three artists have exhibited throughout the nineties and have worked on exciting projects, remaining resolutely independent of any specific gallery, while attracting the attention of serious critics.
The starting point for Sandmarkings, the new works on canvas, are the lines written by Paul Gogarty in his book The Coast Road: "...inside each of us there is a seaside all of our own. We carry it with us like the buckets of sand we once used to build doomed castles".
"My seaside is the place of my childhood, the sun drenched or bleak grey skies and sands of the north Somerset coast where the tide rolls out for a mile or more.
"Marking the sand became a favourite hobby. We would run with our sticks to create huge lines, curves or checkerboards, thinking we were making signs and messages for the birds and passing aeroplanes. The beach at Minehead, stretching from North Hill to the distant golf course, became our constantly refreshed canvas.
"In these works large swathes of paint traverse the canvas to indicate a tidal wash; etched into the paint are the same large marks once made on the Minehead beach. Some are meant as pure play, others represent a sign, a note, or a memory."
Andrew Lambirth described Bowman's work from the Compass Series as sibilant curves that "seem to contain the roar of the sea". For him, "these forms are like fast-moving climatic fronts sailing over distant lands and seas". Luminous and poised, the beautiful work shows Day Bowman's hard won maturity at its best.
Rock, (Iceland) is a key to Elizabeth Hannaford's art. Divided across a diptych, its dark organic form emerges from an Arctic white space. The painting is crisp and exquisite, a concentration of geological time caught in a clear light and rendered as an object of startling beauty.
From places such as New Zealand, Hong Kong, Iceland, Norwegian fjords and the Languedoc, remote volcanic outcrops or the huge scale of sweeping mountain landscapes and wide open terrain inform Hannaford's vision in the creation of space, energy and movement in her work.
This also stems from a profound interest in music. More and more she makes diptychs and series paintings where the viewer is invited "to read" the work like a line of poetry, or to spend time following it as you have to with music. Her recent collaborations with musician Christopher Bowers-Broadbent have inspired free, abstract paintings such as the ten panel piece Duets and Canons.
Art Historian Elizabeth Mortimer describes Hannaford's deeply felt response to the physical world as a distillation of elemental forces into marks and washes that communicate their essence. "...the intense colours within ice fissures or in the petals of a flower are transmuted with a disciplined emotion into paint".
"I do and I undo. I might begin with a red, then wax, then a black... so beginning a journey of building and destroying, exploring the different qualities of the materials and turning them into space, form, weight and light. Through these layers I try to find the fleeting sense of a place, an emotion or a memory."
Philippa Stjernsward describes the intuitive process involved in abstraction. As a painter she creates sensuous surfaces with paint and wax into which she draws or scratches, articulating shapes or marking out the textures that correspond with what she holds in her mind's eye. Often she lets an idea make its own way, for she is fascinatied by the unpredictability of paint, and the pure magic of creating an illusion. Each
work is allowed its individual identity with a sensibility of its own.
For her, a painting is an object of physical beauty. Perhaps this is why there is often a sculptural aspect to the work, as in Relic or Stone Ground. The very small paintings have the delicacy and timeless quality of Indian Miniatures, translated into a contemporary context through different materials. White Heat and Pink Shimmer hint at exotic climes - Africa and India - where Philippa travels. But in the end all her work emerges in the magical domain of the studio.