Exhibitions About Contact



Most of these paintings were made between May 2018 and the present. If some have a lightness and feeling of warmth it is hardly surprising given the weather we all experienced during the past year. While strictly speaking not 'plein air' a large number were painted outdoors, initially near Mt Ventoux, in France and later in south Norfolk and Yarmouth. With no observable subject they do respond very directly to light conditions, time of day and, for me at least, heat.

The nature of the paint has changed: strong saturated colour has given way to paler, at times pastel tones, frequently quite heavily thinned, adding translucency and often with marble dust and other additives to slow the paint down and animate the surface.

Likewise in application: the scoured impasto has gone, giving way to a flecked oil surface managing to be both calm and busy at the same time. While some acrylic under painting is broadly applied by brush the real painting is variously flicked and spattered. Some are layered in what may resemble a traditional glaze, others are painted wet into wet with results that are both less easy to control and more difficult to predict.

Unlike my old friend, James Hugonin and his close friend, Ian Stephenson, there is very little 'system' or 'process' to these. The geometry is at times strengthened and reinforced, at others it fades and becomes ambiguous. However vague and ill formed the making of decisions are wholly aesthetic, at which point I find myself deeply unfashionable, but firmly in Keats' camp: 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty...'

Influences come from all over and along with the two already mentioned I have to add another northerner, Winifred Nicolson, who even as a relative youngster had developed an extraordinary understanding of the 'behaviour' of colour in relation to light (she used to carry a prism in her handbag so she could observe these things at close quarters). James Turrell may not seem an obvious name that springs to mind but his combining of formal rigour with real space in real time makes for a compelling experience.

The elephant in this particular room is George Seurat who despite his youth managed to rewrite the language of colour and light while still in his twenties. Much of his more formal 'set piece' work I find difficulty to respond to but his four late Gravelines paintings would have to be on any desert island with me...luminous, space filled and despite lack of people or incident full of breath and life.

Martin Battye
December 2018