Exploring the Land – Two Ways of Seeing is the summer exhibition at Moncrieff-Bray Gallery, Woodruffs Farm, Woodruffs Lane, Egdean, near Petworth.
Opening on May 13, it brings together work by John Hitchens and Anthony Garratt.
Elspeth Moncrieff, who runs the gallery, said: “This joint exhibition will explore the way two artists have responded to the landscape of Sussex, both of them painting en plein air in an expressive spontaneous manner.
“John Hitchens’ work in the exhibition spans a 45-year period from the 1970s to the present day and presents a retrospective of his evolving style.
“Anthony’s paintings were all completed over the last year.
“Although he has painted much further afield, John’s work is deeply influenced by the landscape surrounding his home in West Sussex. He also spent several weeks each year staying at Pagham Harbour and in the 1970s created a series of paintings capturing the atmospheric effects of the beach and salt marshes especially at dawn and dusk.
“The paintings in the exhibition begin with his early representational works in the 1960s through his increasing experimentation in abstraction where sky and horizon are lost in broad gestural brush strokes.
“In John’s latest work, gestural evocations of the land are expressed in complex compositions of flat articulate colour. Reuniting these works separated by so many years reveals fascinating connections and relationships.
“The paintings display recurring themes; the rhythms of the seasons, the structure of the land, vistas glimpsed through deep woodland, lines of strata and sediment, contour lines of hills and fields. The exhibition is an homage to John’s continuing absorption with the organic, changing nature of the landscape whether on a grand sweeping scale or reduced to abstracted patterns of plough lines and hedgerows. The artist’s eye is continually searching and exploring, never content to stand still. As John himself says ‘everything that has gone before is part of what is now’.
“Anthony’s work by contrast is concerned primarily with the weather and the physical experience and impact of it on a landscape.
“He is well known for his spectacular out door painting installations which have featured on national television. His latest project High Low completed last summer consisted of one enormous outdoor painting which was left floating on lake Llyn Llydawand and a second painting suspended in a nearby disused coal mine.
“He researches his paintings by exposing himself to the elements, winter storms, summer heat, racing tides, scudding clouds and eerie moonlight often painting outdoors in all weathers. A trip to Sussex last year inspired him to return and create the work for this show.
“For Anthony, West Sussex from the downs to the coast offered an abundance of sensory information. Starting at Petworth House, what immediately struck him was that the grassy hills and lines from pathways excavated by Capability Brown were echoed naturally further south as he headed through the Downs. As the light hits and shifts around the lake in front of Petworth House, one’s eye is naturally led from tree to curve, to water, to sky.”
Anthony explained: “Painting the coast from Selsey to West Wittering is a fascinating and atmospheric journey which feels far removed from the rolling hills of the Downs. Massive vistas and salt marshes enable the experience of raw weather where the continually changing landscape is molded by the tidal state and weather.
“The paintings are an impulsive reaction to visiting somewhere for the very first time and capturing the most immediate senses; the sound underfoot, the movement of the weather and land, the smell of the marshes and sea.”
Anthony works by splattering and dribbling paint across canvases, sometimes mixed with earth and sand, and rust. Often working in the open air, brushes, knives, fingers, palette knives, all play their part and from the seeming chaos an image gradually emerges, Elspeth said.
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