“Growing surrounded by the silent bogs, lakes and halted railway line in Co Donegal, I am interested in nature…”
would have been enough of an introduction to Scott’s peaty paintings. Nevertheless the young painter feels the pressure to propose an instrumental value to his art – to cure elements of today’s rash visual culture.”
Is it a call for the “spiritual in art” a la Kandinsky? Or….? After all, learning to see is not an innate gift; it is an iterative process, always in flux and constituted by the culture in which we find ourselves and the tools we have to hand. Whenever I ask another viewer whether they see in/on a given work of art what I see – there is some difference, sometimes a resolute and confident: No, I do not see that.
Scott does not paint pastoral qualities of unsullied heritage. His paintings have a schizophrenic attitude to the past and present, while fighting against nostalgia the love of nature shines through. Something old comes in when he reduces the palette – giving the tenor of the visual thought to the tonality. Like in the less dramatic branch of chiaroscuro (more Leonardo than Caravaggio) – the accent on light and dark tamely distributes saturation and translucency avoiding dramatic contrast. The compositions appear enveloped with a light modulated, yet not sharply different. Even appearance of another hue loses its alien character by miming the dominant tone of the whole. The blue in the geometric form below is softly mapped in a tiny register between high and low light, pushed into transparency in carefully chosen details, as if in dignified respect of the dominant hue. These paintings whisper about volumes and distances like a light in caves. There is a drawn entrance and no exit for nostalgic memories. The brush is promiscuous – it suggests the real world and then subverts it by liquidizing some of the definitions. The shape echoing Mount Errigal is shredded into pieces reminiscent of peat cut to dry.
The light behind the “curtain” if raining brushtrokes appears reminiscent of the dissolving sun in Grunewald’s Ressurection (Isenheim Altarpiece at Colmar, 1517). The space in both two small paintings below is built by slow gradation applied in fast parallel strokes. As if illustrating Scott’s verse “…fragments of a holy land…”
This art, perhaps accidentally and with preference for sharp angles (below) , evokes a theme that appear also in Zhang Zhaohui’s Soul Mountain Series, 2012 ( ink on paper, Michael Goedhuis Gallery).
Application of multiple hues – but nowhere near the whole spectrum – introduces melancholy as if pushed towards to picture pane by the threedimensional rectangular tunnel, reminiscent of industry. Or a train. Scott mentions the railway line elsewhere.
However, it is the “soul” of the mountain that dominates by being central to the image and being unbelievable. I am reminded of a manuscript illustration of Dante’s Purgatory, with similar modeling of rocks in layer after a layer.
When the painting deals with atmospheric change caused by a powerful natural force, it becomes amenable to less strict limitations of both means and application. Below, the storm introduces greater number of hues, modelling obeys the rationale of the observed forms, sky evaporates, the ruin assumes defined shapes. And the purple foreground washes away the monotony with newcomer hue and lines of drawn debris. Two chords, blue and gold, green and red purple submit to the narrative.
The diptych below similarly does not diminish the narrative elements , even when it introduces sample of the real – bottle with water collected in the natural environment. The combination of panel painting and installation appears in four exhibits.
The largest painting cum installation introduces peat and words as if the painted surface could not hold the thoughts mute. Scott’s paintings evoke tactile association effortlessly, so addition of real peat and a page with words appears superfluous.
However, the haptic value of the habitually cut peat acts as a ground on which the visual thought can indulge in freedom from logic and static laws allowing the industrial forms to float on water… and to reflect in it. The tonality moves towards heat, reminiscent of burning peat.
Scott writes: ” Deep thickets of pine, endless continuum of water and turf coexist with architectural ruins and remnants of the tragic Donegal’s railway line.” He thinks of the paintings as ” reconstruction of spiritual landscape” , the insight that made me think of medieval illustrations…
These landscapes are neither illustration, nor romantic dreams – they connect to the memory, avoiding the illustrative sentiment. Even if the memory includes potato famine… and mass emigration.
Images courtesy Charlie Scott.