In the Mind’s Eye
30 January – 12 March 2021
Rachel Fenner painted most of her paintings as a release after lockdown last summer, when she was finally able to visit ancient woodlands and the coast. Rachel was one of the first environmental sculptors in the seventies and eighties, working for councils all over Britain making public spaces into artworks relating to the natural world. She has always had a passion for nature, particularly its detail and the processes of growth, decay and regeneration. Many of the works in this show are inspired by the ancient original woodland Ty-canol in Wales, of which very little remains, but which comes to us in these paintings as a powerful and precious resource. When she visited Ty-canol it was, she says, ‘intense, like a revelation. I felt surrounded by personalities who were interacting with each other. I thought, I love this place and these paintings poured out in the following weeks.’ Rachel’s way of painting relates to the Modern British painters pre and post WWII, with elements of Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland coming into a voice that is nevertheless absolutely her own.
Rachel Fenner’s paintings are in gouache on paper framed with oak or ash. We also hold stock of Rachel’s work as Giclée prints in the browser at the gallery priced from £190. Please get in touch on email@example.com or t: 01308 459511 with any enquiries. We are happy to sell paintings online and ship them to you.
“Rachel Fenner makes paintings which make one wonder if she has just this instant invented abstraction, all by herself. Like much English abstraction, hers seems to be landscape-based. That is to say, one can suspect that one is seeing a transmogrified cornfield, branches against the moon, cracks in the ice and such, without ever being able to pin down these associations unequivocally. But what is important is that they exist, and give Fenner’s gouaches a grandly romantic, faintly melancholy quality somewhere in the same emotional area as late Paul Nash.” – John Russell Taylor
“The paintings … stand firmly in the tradition of modern British neo-romanticism, with their visual echoes of Paul Nash’s pastoral surrealism, or the vigorous and dramatic Welsh landscapes of Graham Sutherland. But she remains quite herself for all that.”- William Packer
“These paintings are so fresh that they seem almost alive.” – Fenella Crichton
Rachel Fenner is an established environmental sculptor and landscape painter. Throughout the 80s and 90s she worked prolifically making public art. You could say that Rachel Fenner invented environmental sculpture or at the very least she was a strong and highly creative influence. Throughout her career she has also always been a highly respected painter. Her paintings follow in the English Romantic tradition of Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland and are mainly inspired by the coasts of Pembrokeshire and Dorset.
Showing at Sladers Yard for the first time in 2019, Rachel Fenner’s gouache paintings seem to concertina time by combining the moment in weather, light and mood with geological time in rocks and a great fascination for significant. prehistoric sites. Born in Yorkshire, Rachel was the daughter of a watch-maker who died when she was ten years old. She used to watch him work and he would take her to earthworks in Yorkshire and around Salisbury Plain. Rachel loves maths, geometry, music and philosophy. She studied art at Wimbledon College of Art, graduating with a double first in painting and sculpture. When she got into the Royal College of Art she says it was like winning the lottery. There she found Iris Murdoch who taught her philosophy. The two maintained a correspondence until 1993 which is held in Kingston University’s archives.
In 1979 she won an Arts Council fellowship to work with Portsmouth City Council to develop ‘Art as Environment’ exploring the parameters of environmental art, This project subsequently led to a large number of ground-breaking projects in which she collaborated with public bodies to produce works that were not simply integral to public spaces but were those spaces. Her public spaces have included earthworks, carvings, cast bronze, mosaic paving, brickwork, gates, seating, railings and trellises and have also featured innovative use of water and lighting. Many of the projects have been developed as ‘markers’ of former archaeological sites within the built environment.
Simultaneously, she continued to paint and to exhibit, her paintings expressing her love of the coastlines of Dorset and Pembrokeshire. Rachel’s landscape paintings are filled with abstraction, pattern and organic forms, through which she conveys a dynamic energy.