Charlie Scott, What Fell From the Mountain, The Georgian Gallery, Newtownards, 19 April – 24 May 2018

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.

Memory Trap, 2018 Oil on canvas 90 x 130cm

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…”

Time (and what it left us) |’ 2018 Oil on canvas (shelf with ink bottle and pine needles) 34 x 46 x 56cm

‘Time (and what it left us) ||, 2018, Oil on canvas (shelf with bottles and lake water) 34 x 46 x 56cm

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.

First Slate at Min a Lea, 2018, Oil on canvas, 90 x 130cm

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.

Dante Alighieri, Comedia Divina, Purgatorio XXV, The lustful in flames

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.

After The Storm, 2018, oil on canvas, 162 x 203 cm

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.

From the Water, From the Bog 2017 Oil on canvas (With wooden frame and bottle) 90 x 137cm

Between the Water and the Pine 2018 Oil on canvas 137 x 90cm

Fallen Spectre 2018 Oil on canvas 85 x 120cm

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.

What Fell From The Mountain 2018 Oil on freestanding canvas (With turf, cog, heather and text) 164 x 220 x 250cm

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.



Detail of the What Fell From the Mountain


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.



About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
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