Using the accompanying exhibition Turner and Constable: Sketching from Nature as a catalyst, this exhibition provides a contemporary response to depicting and exploring landscape. It brings together works by six diverse contemporary artists: Simon Faithfull, Julian Opie, Jo Roberts, Paul Ryan, George Shaw and Sarah Woodfine. These artists have used a variety of media – from traditional sketchbooks to digital animation – to explore the notion of landscape which is physically around them, from their imagination or from memory.
The artists’ different creative processes, media, explorations of ideas and celebrations of spontaneity evoked in the preparation for a final piece ultimately lead the viewer through the journeys these artists have made in their individual work.
Faithfull, like Turner and Constable, sketches his landscapes en plein air, although on a digital device, such as a palm pilot. He then disseminates his work, either via social media, website, email, or physically in the form of an etching. During the run of this exhibition Faithfull will create Landscapes live from Berlin, a series drawings of the landscape around him, of moments in time, or of something which just catches his eye. He will email the drawings directly to his laser etcher in London. The etcher will transfer the drawing onto cherry wood and send them directly to Compton Verney. A drawing will be received once a week and as the show progresses the shelves in the gallery will be filled with the new works. In total sixteen new drawings will be created. It is not known what they will look like until they arrive in the post.
“Some of the most exciting times are when I leave my internal world and spread out into a landscape.” Julian Opie
Opie’s computer animated landscape Summer. 2012 offers the opportunity for the visitor to take a walk through the tranquil pastoral farmland landscape of central France. Each individual image is after a photograph taken by Opie when he walked through the landscape, capturing the moment of his journey, whilst embracing the beauty of a summer’s day. There are clear parallels here between Opie’s use of photography and Turner or Constable sketches to capture a moment in time. The medium demonstrates the influence of advertising and signage on Opie’s work. He was drawn to the vertical format for this work because of the well-known Japanese landscape prints by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858).
Roberts will be The Contemporary Surveyor of Compton Verney, which she defines as “one who views or looks at something; a beholder; a mental view”. Roberts has undertaken a period of research in which she considered how Turner and Constable recorded the landscape through sketching, and how the grounds at Compton Verney have changed since landscape designer ‘Capability’ Brown re-designed them in the 18th century. Her resulting work is a survey and mind-map of Compton Verney, encompassing view points, sketches of people in our landscape, hand drawn maps and vocabulary used to describe the landscape. These amalgamate into a work which shows the past, present and future of this landscape.
Every Tuesday and Sunday from 30 July until 1 September Roberts will be the artist-in-residence in Compton Verney’s grounds. Visitors will have the opportunity to join her for a creative walk to specific viewpoints, which show off the idealistic features of the grounds.
Ryan uses sketchbooks to creatively capture the world around him. Featuring sketches of Compton Verney’s landscape, his new work Tableau Vivant: Draws, is a living picture, where his sketchbooks take on the attributes of a physical space and role of the performer. In this way Ryan’s sketches are the antithesis to Turner and Constable’s. Their on-the-spot studies were essential to developing their finished work; in contrast Ryan uses these on-the-spot studies, as his final work.
2011 Turner Prize nominee George Shaw is primarily known for his naturalistic Humbrol landscape paintings of his childhood home of Coventry. This exhibition includes his large ‘six-footer’ sketch produced in response to a visit in 2006 to the exhibition Constable: The Great Landscapes at Tate Britain. Displayed alongside are his watercolour preparative studies for final pieces, Study for ‘Your End’ and Untitled Study. Shaw says “When painting outside in watercolours I use it more often than not as shorthand for a British sky and as such it has the quality for looking permanently wet. It always seems to want to fade away to the blank dryness of the paper… In fact watercolours themselves are positioned in a netherworld of neither drawing nor painting… The paintings I am most drawn to are the sketchy studies as opposed to the finished masterpiece. Some little Cox or Cotman or Girtin can look as if the weather has just fallen on and stained the paper as it passed through the day, the artist a middleman twixt’sky and paper.”
Woodfine uses a traditional medium, the pencil, although her work extends the conventional definitions of drawing. Recipe for a Kiss of Shame is a three-dimensional drawing taken from the artist’s imagination and inspired by Tatton Park Mansion’s botanical collection. Woodfine uses motifs from nature inspired by the botanical collection, which runs in parallel to Constable’s use of recurrent motifs for their symbolic meaning throughout his later work.