31 invited eminent and emerging artists make a new work in response to the theme.
Candida Stevens Gallery in the UK presents its major show GOOD NATURE this September. It celebrates the natural world through the observations of some of the leading artists working in the UK today who awaken our senses to the abundant beauty of our planet.
They take inspiration from the warmth of the sun, the green lungs of the forests and the dark depths of the oceans, alongside all life that teems in and under them. We are reminded of the changing and fragile state of Earth and are invited to reflect on how it is necessary for all these elements to interconnect in order to exist.
GOOD NATURE – a celebration of our planet, its beauty, its fragility and the essential part we all play in its preservation.
31 invited eminent and emerging artists make a new work in response to the theme.
16 September to 28 October 2017
Tuesday- Saturday 10am – 5pm
CANDIDA STEVENS GALLERY Chichester West Sussex PO19 1BA
Sunbathers, 2017 by Alice Kettle
Candida Stevens, curator of the gallery has invited 30 artists to contribute and respond to the theme with new work. "I chose to bring together these artists to concentrate our thoughts around the planet at a moment when its beauty and fragility are deeply affected by our treatment and explorations of it” she said.
GOOD NATURE is curated to be a thoughtful and probing look at place in the natural world and her hope is that in asking artists and thinkers to respond to this important theme it will create positive reactions from those who come to see the work and encourage them to make changes for the long term conservation of our world.
Holey Holly, 2017 by David Nash RA OBE (The sculpture will also be shown during the exhibition)
The theme has captured the imagination of several eminent British artists including highly acclaimed Royal Academicians, environmental sculptor David Nash RA OBE with a new piece created from a Holly tree, charred in his distinctive style, Eileen Cooper RA OBE, and this year’s curator of the RA Summer Show, with a painting inspired by the domestic use of nature and Stephen Farthing RA who contributes a new print about the escapism nature provides.
Perfume, 2016 by Eileen Cooper RA OBE
Other notable responses come from Stephen Chambers RA and Nicola Green who both return from highly successful exhibitions at Venice Biennale with new work that probes the acts of humankind on nature.
Chambers humorously comments that “When Professor Sir David King in 2001 incensed George Bush by saying that global warming was a greater threat than global terrorism he was not kidding” and adds that his painting is “… not to attest to that truth. It is an image to acknowledge that were all things equal the result would be: Nature 1 Mankind 0”.
The Sense of Humour House, 2017 by Stephen Chambers RA
Nicola Green meanwhile has made a series of silkscreen prints in response to deforestation that she says she has “…always wanted to do but never had the right opportunity to create until now”.
Sin Wati & Golden, 2017 by Nicola Green
Candida felt that this year seemed a pertinent moment to choose to look at nature. Not only is it a source of inspiration for many artists with whom she works, and a place she says she personally goes to for rejuvenation, but it is also a subject at the heart of the global agenda. She comments “We find ourselves in a profound moment, where this vital, if conflicting, conversation is taking place and choices are being made about how we use, and protect, our planet for the future”.
For her though, despite this being an age where our tendency is to sensationalise the horror stories about our environment, she wants to offer a positive message and show that there is still much to celebrate.
This was thought that grew during the course of her research for the exhibition when she discovered that there are also reasons to be hopeful. “Whilst I know that there are plenty of pillagers burning the Amazon forests and vast over fishing of our oceans, there are also those who can inspire. In preparing for this exhibition, I have met, read stories about and been motivated by people who fight their corner and dedicate their lives to studying, conserving, recording and ensuring that we continue to preserve and care for our natural world”.
It is in this spirit that she has curated GOOD NATURE. It seems that these good vibes have rubbed off. Tom Hammick, responds with an atmospheric painting inspired by the power of what lies beneath the Earth’s crust, pioneering textile artist Alice Kettle makes a piece about the power of the sun, whilst in contrast the photographic lens of Maciej Urbanek draws attention to the beauty found in the shade of the forest.
Smoke II, 2014-15 by Tom Hammick
Wildlife observations include a new bronze of boxing hares, by award winning sculptor Hamish Mackie. The vulnerability of natural materials is addressed with an inverted marble sculpture from Almuth Tebbenhoff. Planetary landscape artist Michael Benson investigates new worlds with a look at Earth from the Moon.
Boxing Hares, 2017 by Hamish Mackie
One interesting creative development came from science inspired Briony Marshall who ended up going on a new exploration with her work as a result, of the theme. Taking inspiration from the words and work of influential conservationist Rachel Carson “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter” she created a sculpture out of compacted earth, a medium that is directly from nature, and one in which she has not worked before.
Earth Time & Disruption, 2017 by Briony Marshall
In all, the work of over 30 selected artists can be seen, each individual but responding to a common theme. It is one that is undoubtedly an important and increasingly relevant theme for our time. Candida comments of the artists responses that “many common themes pervade and I noted that the desire of the artists’ was to expose not only the vulnerability but also the constancy of nature”.
The gallery has also invited natural world explorer, and author of Natural Navigation, Tristan Gooley to write a foreword to the exhibition and provide a talk. He knows, from his years of experience, that giving talks that lecture people on the environment is not the way to engage them rather it is inspiring them that elicits enthusiasm to be proactive. “We shouldn’t lecture people into changing behaviour, it is almost always ineffective. Instead of saying, “Bird numbers are decreasing, this is terrible, we are all wicked and our lifestyle is an abomination,” we could try saying something very different. Maybe: “Have you noticed how the birds on trees and rooftops face into the wind? When they change the direction they are facing it means that the wind direction has changed and there may be rain on the way.” A person who enjoys this sign will come to notice the birds and any change in their numbers and behaviour.” Tristan Gooley, extract from the foreword written for the catalogue.
GOOD NATURE is a major show that unashamedly aims to take inspiration from all that is good about nature and hopes to bring out the good in all our natures to positively play our part in its preservation.
- ENDS -
An interview with the UK's foremost wildlife sculptor
HAMISH MACKIE ( b.1973)
Interview by Kerry Betsworth
Photography on site at the foundry in Oxfordshire by Dan Stevens
“Sorry, can I call you back I’ve got a tractor just arrived who’s delivering a horse”. It turns out later that this is one of his spectacular, bronze sculptures of an Andalucian Stallion which is going off to be placed at Stowe House. When he calls me back, we clear up the confusion – no not a real live horse - and laugh about how every artist needs a tractor. The quick-speaking, energetic and affable Mackie then begins to shares his thoughts on taking part in GOOD NATURE.
Hamish Mackie is an artist who doesn’t skate on top of nature, he is deeply rooted in it, experiencing and in contact with it on a daily basis. He grew up on a farm in Cornwall and has the practical knowledge of what it is to be part of and survive in nature. He tells me of early memories of a cockerel’s death where he became mesmerised by the anatomy of the bird, and was moved to sculpt it at school. He tells too the tale of a calf with a twisted gut that his father gave him responsibility to care for and rehabilitate. The 12 year old Mackie remembers fondly how the calf would follow him all over the farm, even up to the top of the hay stacks – ‘besties’ he says.
Later, his fascination with wildlife grew and became the major influence for his work as sculptor. Since 1998 he has travelled widely to observe, draw and sculpt wildlife in some of the world’s most remote landscapes. He lists Africa, Australia and Antartica as continents he visits to observe a vast array of wildlife. He is a 21st century explorer with an aim to capture a moment of a wild creature’s existence in its own environment.
This is something Mackie considers himself lucky to be able to do. Artists in the past would have to go to the zoo but now he can observe animals in the raw, living and responding to the natural world around them. He sees the landscapes as fundamental to how an animal exists and survives. Both co-exist and when it is correct “Nature is nature” he states “It is neither good nor bad, it just is”. The essence of his work is capturing this honest, if fleeting, moment.
He is not apologetic in that he believes there is a need to conserve the wildlife and natural kingdoms. He talks about his long and deep interest in the elephants he has observed in Liuwa, Africa. He comments that huge strides have been made in environmental practice from the days when he first travelled there over 20 years ago. Then they were unreconstructed cattle farms, driven by commerce. Now those farms have become environmentally focused, empowered to conserve and protect. TUSK is an organization that he has always supported, driven by his experiences and observations of human and wildlife in conflict there.
The natural world outside our shores may seem spectacular with its powerful tigers, lions and rhinos but he comments that there are wonders close to home too. We talk of his recent trip to the Isle of Ulver, where he took time to study deer.
His piece for GOOD NATURE is a pair of boxing hares. For him, hares are an enduring and much loved image of the English landscape and one that is as important to him as the elephants in Lowea.
He tells me that he regularly re-visits the subject, attracted by their dynamism and athletic shapes. “I use my interpretations of hares as a benchmark for my artistic development and technical scope”. This piece has provided him with an opportunity to ‘take bronze casting to its structural limits’. The light-footed hares are mid-kick with limbs only contacted in two places.
I ask him if the he thinks artists have a role in bringing nature to our attention and highlighting its shifting affects. “Yes” he simply states. Artists have long taken inspiration from nature and the natural world and without it there wouldn’t be a channel through which to create. He feels they have a duty of care to reveal its beauty and fragility. In doing so the next generation too can find inspiration - “It would be criminal to let it go on our watch” he says.
He does though hold out some hope for the future and thinks that the human race is slowly waking up to the realities and consequences of preserving nature. For him, the demands of his studio and the making of work in the foundry have meant that he cherishes his time in the wild all the more. In his view there’s too much rushing today and it can mean we miss out on what’s going on in the environment. Humans need to get back to the place they originated and take stock.
27 May - 17 June
Touched by the pathos of humanity in the world we inhabit, here is a body of work deeply felt and observed. ‘Yearning’ is a word that resonates with nomadic artist Pippa Blake, and it’s not hard to see why when you view her soulful, touching paintings. Her work often lingers in the darkness, as small pools of light appear and illuminate or ignite a curiosity about her chosen subject. Blake is constantly searching as she investigates and explores her vision of the world.
QUEST, seems an apt title for her solo show, which takes a look at a body of work from the last ten years. Her subjects are inspired by dramatic geographical and man-made features; from gorges and wastelands to figures glimpsed. Her enigmatic paintings evoke a sense of mystery and mood and for her they “are outer expressions of her inner feelings”.
Blake’s work is immensely atmospheric, perhaps melancholic but there is something always exquisite in the moment or scene that she captures – a soulfulness. Her work is able to suspend us in a place where reflection and stillness can happen. “I have always felt deeply. Light and dark is integral to my work. I look to the horizon and am fascinated by what might be beyond”. Many of her pieces are observed from a distance, often on travels – in cars, aboard planes, on walks – the world Blake shares with us is one that is seen to be going on about us but one in which we only watch, peripheral, not disrupting, hidden.
This is in contrast to the way in which Blake makes her paintings. She comments that she “loves the physical process of gestural mark making”. She tells me that she puts her whole body into it – left to right, up and down - the larger the canvas the better. For her painting is a very visceral and immersive act and this commitment remains vital to her practice. Music too fuels her creativity and she has a passion for blues, jazz and Bach. Her current obsession, in the studio, is Wagner’s overture to Tannhauser.
Art has always been part of Blake’s life. Her grandmother and mother were both potters and artists and she was encouraged from an early age to be creative. Her childhood on the shores of Chichester Harbour was spent messing about in boats, walking on the South Downs, and today remain places that fuel her work. She attended both Camberwell School of Art and later West Dean College. She sites Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Richard Diebenkorn as influences and her early abstract art school work was influenced by an exhibition of Islamic art at the Hayward Gallery.
A critical moment came for her when her then tutor squared off an inch of wall “and made me sit and paint it”. I suddenly realised I was making a painting and that it was totally valid as a piece of work”. Later, her MA tutor Dr. Ed Winters was pivotal to her artistic development as she began to move towards an aesthetic inspired by words shared with her “The landscape can be but a metaphor for the mind and its contents”.
Blake is something of a rover and adventurer so it was no surprise when life found her criss-crossing seas and continents, at times living on boats and making other lands her temporary home. In this time, she experienced both deep personal joy and pain, which has sometimes spilled into public life, with the tragic death of her much admired husband, yachtsman Sir Peter Blake.
Throughout her life though, she tells me that she has always felt drawn to the darker side of the human experience. She was much affected by the poetry of the war poets, particularly one of her literary heroes Wilfred Owen, at school. A line from his poem Strange Meeting has long resonated with her and war is a theme to which she continues to return. She was recently appointed artist in residence for Chichester Festival Theatre to respond to the play Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me that explored a hostage experience. Today she continues to watch, collect and remain fascinated with the images of conflict in the Middle East and the response and reaction of the people it affects and the adversity they face.
Journeys are also a repeating theme for Blake. Her Road series, was inspired by drives at night to and from West Dean College. She was touched by the loneliness of travelling in darkness. Recent travels have led to the creation of her newest series Flightpath. She comments that so often “we zoom past the world but for me, when I’m in the air, I am acutely aware that there is a whole world down there and people getting on with their lives and dramas”. The poignancy of this thought, and the unknown circumstances or conditions of the people below, are what she feels moved by and is expressing when she paints.
Blake’s mastery of mark making, gestural strokes and the suggestion of form and line are evident across the work. She tells me that she has a sheer love of paint, always oil, for its “…quality, richness and texture” and intuitively mixes her colours to get the tonal effect that helps to give her work such mystery. For her painting is not easy and she comments that “I constantly question why I do it. People often say it must be relaxing to be able to paint but for me it is a struggle but one that I can’t help doing’.
This show may be something of a crossroads for her as she contemplates where she will go next, not just in the world but also with her painting. She sees it as a wonderful opportunity to overview her work and is curious as to what questions or answers it may draw out. So, just for a moment, we shall suspend here, somewhere between the light and dark, and take time to see what might be revealed before this remarkable painter continues on with her quest.
In Seven Days... & The Dance of Colour
We are delighted to welcome back to the gallery Nicola Green, a contemporary artist with a unique eye focused on the movements and people that lead and represent us in modern times. She is forensic in her observation, questing in her curiosity and unceasing in her commitment to creating and gathering vast visual records on each of her subjects before she enters her studio to create the portrait, or series, that she seeks.