Tuesday 27 January 2015

Reviewing 2014

It’s a while since I posted on my blog, so here’s a brief review of 2014.

After my Lithography sessions working at Edinburgh Printmakers in January and the preparations for the Lit&Phil exhibition in April, we sailed away to the Outer Hebrides for a short break exploring the islands from Lewis, through Harris, then North and South Uist and down to Eriskay.

My head was filled with memorable colours and textures, wonderful coastlines and skies, always with Kathleen Jamie’s beautiful descriptions of the islands in mind. I also had fun spotting the locations in Peter May’s ‘Lewis Trilogy’!  Mixed weather sent us back to Skye in search of some mountain views - but the weather closed in even more - so no drawing from this trip.

Back in Newcastle, we installed my exhibition, ‘Mountains in Mind’, in the Lit&Phil main reading room - a wonderful space.


It was great to be able to show a lot of my drawings alongside some amazing early mountaineering books from the library’s collection.

The symposium, ‘Mountain Legacies,’ organised by Drs Abbie Garrington (Newcastle University) and Chris Donaldson (Lancaster University) and the opening of the show were well attended.

My presentation, ‘Meditations and Inspirations’, about spending time working in the high mountains was also very well received. To my delight, someone fell in love with my monotype of Island Peak in the Khumbu, having stood on the top of it himself, and took it home with him.

At the end of June I had an exhibition at the lovely Customs House gallery by the Tyne at South Shields. This was part of the International Print Biennale which is organised by Northern Print. My large monotype triptych of Ama Dablam was on show for the second time this year!

Then it was time for our annual trip to the Alps and Dolomites. Unseasonable weather again limited my drawing opportunities, but I did make some work in the Chamonix valley.

Recently a visit to Barter Books in the old Alnwick rail station yielded some inspiring mountain books.
In the introduction to his book, ‘Peaks and Valleys’, published in 1938, wonderful photographer, Frank Smythe writes:
‘..there is no more difficult subject for the artist than a mountain, for mountains are essentially static…. They are inimical to life, and the movement is restricted to clouds, streams and the play of the wind, whilst the scale on which they are built is as deceiving to the eye as to the brush. A skilful drawing or painting of hill scenery needs no justification, but the daubs that find their way…even into the Royal Academy…are proof that to any but an artist of exceptional skill and experience, who must perforce devote himself to his subject, hills are better left alone.’
No pressure then!
Autumn found me back working at Northern Print at last! (More of that later).

 The year began with inspiration from William Tillyer’s amazing watercolours in his exhibition at MIMA. ‘Against Nature’,
and from Ornulf Opdahl’s magnificent Nordic landscapes at University Gallery in Newcastle. It ended with the equally inspiring late Turner watercolours at Tate Britain and the enormous Anselm Kiefer paintings and sculptures at the Royal Academy, topped off by the moving late self portraits by Rembrandt at the National Gallery.

But now I’m off to read some more of Mrs Aubrey Le Blond’s collection of colourful accounts of ‘True Tales of Mountain Adventure’ published in 1903, courtesy of the Lit and Phil. With chapter headings like ‘A Wonderful Feat by Two Ladies - a Perilous Climb’ - the ladies being Miss Anna and Miss Ellen Pigeon of London, in 1869 - how can I resist!