Now that most of our stuff is unpacked following the move and the rest is stowed away in the big shed that will be my studio when we get organised, David and I have been able to get out and about and explore. Yesterday we drove to the Colne Valley, with its magnificent 32 arch viaduct, to visit the Chappel Galleries
The reward for all the hard work and stress of moving is the opportunity to explore and discover new places. This lovely art space, in the pretty village of Chappel, currently has an exhibition of the work of contemporary British artist Liam Hanley from the 1960s to the present. I was thrilled to discover an artist whose highly individual work using a limited palette (just four colours) and fluid line and pattern, I found both subtle and evocative. The gallery describes it as lyrical and romantic. Hanley is self-taught and, until he took early retirement in 1988 to paint full time he was a TV journalist for ITN.
“Hanley paints in oil and draws in pencil on linen laid down on to paper. He has for many years been obsessed with a tract of land near the A10 in north Hertfordshire, and in particular with half-a-dozen huge fields that he loves to paint in mid-August when the crops have been harvested and the land ploughed and harrowed. Recently he has made of these fields a series of striated paintings, pattern-led designs, which transform the furrowed fields into more abstract arrangements of angular parallels. These delicately delineated but robust compositions capture something of the landscape while formally translating it. Hanley’s most recent paintings introduce another source of pattern: the shadows of clouds on the ploughed land, a further complication which adds to the beauty of his lines. Modest work, but of genuine achievement.”
I was interested to see how the artist’s work has evolved from the 1960s through to the present day, becoming increasingly abstract over time but retaining the luminous tones and characteristic patterns and lines.
The gallery’s introduction to the artist mentions an affinity with the work of 1950s American realists such as Grant Wood (think of the dour couple with the pitchfork), Thomas Hart Benton and John Rogers Cox. I’m not very familiar with these artists but for me Hanley’s landscapes recalled the sweeping views of the South Downs by Eric Ravilious and the abstract landscapes of Ben Nicholson.
All the paintings in the exhbition are available to view on the Gallery’s website (no substitute for a visit as the website can’t capture the detail of line and pattern). A few that particularly called out to me include:
- Cloud Shadows II – a most original way of depicting shadows on the fields.
- Misty landscape – the fluid lines and gentleness of it
- Urban landscape and Brick – near geometric / semi abstract townscapes that recall Lowry but remain a thoroughly individual interpretation.
The exhibition runs until 29th May 2016. Check the Chappel Gallery website for opening days and times. It’s well worth a visit. And if you can make time combine your visit with lunch at the Thatchers in Mount Bures and enjoy the view over the valley and some good homemade nosh.