VANESSA GARDINER : Classical Elements
New paintings of the Aegean Coast
18 August to 7 October 2012
Vanessa Gardiner returns for her second major solo show at Sladers Yard with an exceptional and mature body of work inspired by Greece and the Aegean coast. Full gallery of pictures in the show: click here
In 2009 Vanessa was awarded the Prince of Wales Bursary for the Arts by the British School at Athens enabling her to embark on a series of trips to Greece. The purity and crispness of the light on that ancient rocky coastline has been the source for an immensely rewarding and productive process of drawing and painting watercolour notes onsite followed back in her studio in Dorset by the long slow period of painting. Her first exhibition of paintings from Greece showed at the Hart Gallery, London, in 2011 and proved immensely popular. More trips to Greece have followed and a maturing of her relationship to the subject matter. ‘I find a composition from the landscape in the first paintings in a series. After that I can concentrate totally on the paintings themselves, their opacity and transparency, the abstract elements of the shapes and surfaces of the paint.’
Vanessa’s technique of painting exposes her work to an equivalent of weathering. She applies layers of paint which she will then work back over time, scrubbing, sanding and scouring the hard surfaces of the board, scoring the lines that divide the areas of colour until she reaches exactly the textures and forms she wants. She works on a number of paintings at a time and they may take months to complete, time being an essential part of the process while the acrylic paint truly hardens. The longer she leaves the paint the finer and denser it becomes, allowing her to take it off very precisely.
She does not impose on her work but approaches it in an exploratory way taking risks, based on experience, and then rubbing off the paint to find the elements as they develop. ‘You need to paint every day because you don’t know when something will become clear to you.’ With time the pictures take on a life of their own. ‘It is only by constantly working that you have those moments when something appears that seems to come from the other side of the painting and will be a crucial element in a picture. You have to be alert to seeing what you have and keeping that while bringing the rest of the picture up to the same level.’
The places she has chosen to paint have different characteristics. The Peloponnese has a warmer-coloured, softer, wilder landscape where the sea is more turquoise than around the Cyclades and Sounion on the Attica coast. These are surrounded by light giving them a crystalline purity and sharp precision which speaks to the way she paints.
Gardiner works on a number of paintings at the same time, often using the same colours in different ways across more than one. Her ideas develop through the series as she slowly works them out over time with layers and layers of paint in her small powerhouse of a studio. When they are ready she will bring them to the time-battered walls of Sladers Yard and show them like newly exposed geology. For that brief period they will all be seen together before the end of the exhibition when they will be broken up and swept off into the world.
Always interested in the natural architecture she found in Cornish cliffs and rocky edges, for Gardiner Greece has the added inspiration of weathered ruins of ancient classical architecture perfectly positioned within the rocky landscape. She is able to evoke the fundamental natural beauty of the landscape through the physical fascination of texture and surface of paint. Her planes of colour and incised lines lead the eye through the rigorous clean clear and confident paintings of an artist firmly moving forward in the path of her work.
Vanessa Gardiner was born in 1960 in Oxford where her father was a tutor of philosophy at Magdalen College. She did her Foundation year at Oxford Polytechnic going on to study fine art at the Central School of Art and Design inLondon. At first she had to work in offices to earn her living and paint in every spare moment but in 1991 she had her first solo show with Duncan Campbell Gallery in London and has been able to concentrate on her painting fulltime ever since. In 2001 she joined the Hart Gallery and has had six major solo shows there. In 2008 she had her first solo show at Sladers Yard which very nearly sold out. Her work is in private collections around the world and in public collections including Exeter Hospital, Bournemouth University Collection, Carlow Collection Ireland, the Archive of the Ballinglen Arts Foundation Co. Mayo, Cowley Manor, Huddersfield Art Gallery, Fidelity International, New Hall Cambridge, Magdalen College Oxford,the British Academy London, and the British School at Athens. She lives in Charmouth, Dorset, with the painter Alex Lowery and their daughter Jessie.
For more information and images please contact Anna Powell at Sladers Yard.